Who said young people are not engaged with politics? Whoever it was clearly hasn’t attended a uni Politics in the Pub night in Canberra.
Clashing events at UC and the ANU last night attracted capacity crowds. The ANU Labor Club pub talk featuring Federal Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten was a completely full house, with dozens of attendees standing or sitting on the floor once all the seats were taken.
The Uni of Canberra function across town was not quite as crowded, but there were only a handful of spare seats and everyone in the room was focused on the conversation between Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek, Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh and the pub-goers.
There’s an election in the air, and Shorten mentioned in his speech that this was the first of many such events in the lead-up to it.
We promised to choose a winner between the two events in our preview article The great ALP Politics in the Pub-off and having raced across town last night to spend half an hour each assessing the crowds and vibe, I’m probably the only person crazy enough to be able to do that.
On a simple headcount basis, there were around 160 people crammed into the Wig and Pen to about 100 in the event room at Zierholz. Points to ANU.
The fact that the UC event was held in a separate function room at Zierholz lost it some points too. It didn’t feel like Politics in the Pub. With the bar nowhere in sight it was more like a lecture hall. Don’t the students get enough of that during the day? I reckon Zierholz should host such events in the main bar in future. It was practically empty so they would be unlikely to lose trade over it. The vibe at the Shorten event was much more relaxed and intimate. Points to ANU.
While Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann was on hand at Shorten’s event, she didn’t join him on the podium or answer questions and this was a good thing. Andrew Leigh sat next to Tanya Plibersek and was given equal footing, having his say on each question from the audience once she had completed her answers. The students weren’t there to see him and would have preferred to have the opportunity to put more questions to the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, I reckon. Points to ANU.
Plibersek completely avoided the emotive question about keeping asylum seekers who attempt to come by boat in offshore “concentration camps” to the frustration of the questioner and many others nodding furiously and calling hear, hear as he asked it. I’ll give the UC crowd some serious points here. They were more vocal and activist-like than the ANU attendees in their reactions to answers and in the questions they put. Which is not to say the ANU students didn’t ask tough questions. They also opened with a question about offshore detention, which Shorten answered more directly than his deputy across town. But they were more reserved and grown-up. Double points to UC.
But all in all, the ANU/ANU Labor Club/Wig and Pen/Shorten combination easily defeated the UC/UC Labor Club/Zierholz/Plibersek line-up.
Clichéd as this is going to sound, the real winner last night was us Canberrans, spoilt for choice in terms of access to beer and political leaders on a weeknight. Gotta love this city.