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Tuesday 20 Feb 2018 | 09:13 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 20 Feb 2018 | 09:13 | SYDNEY

Notes from Hillary Clinton\'s \'town hall\' gathering in Melbourne



7 November 2010 16:02

You'll see this event — which took place this morning at the University of Melbourne — broadcast on the ABC and Sky News early this evening. Some initial thoughts:

  • It was a kind of dull, though it need not have been. There were around 400 politically engaged under-35s in the room, and presenter Leigh Sales, from the ABC, promised something close to Q&A in spirit. But any semblance of Q&A-like spontaneity was lost due to the fact that questions had been pre-vetted.
  • This ABC report about the event says the vetting was done by the State Department, though the emailed invitation, sent out by the US Embassy, says 'Host ABC has indicated it may contact guests in advance to ascertain topics of interest for this interactive dialogue.' Hmmm.
  • There were a lot of softball questions: how do you deal with stress' Other than foreign policy, what do you talk about with President Obama' (raising kids in the White House, apparently.) Any marriage advice for a couple who are both involved in politics' Actually, that last one opened up some delicate territory for Clinton, though she dealt with it expertly.
  • Clinton wasn't even asked that many questions about her actual job; instead, there were queries about the role of media in modern politics, her presidential ambitions, aboriginal issues, and same-sex marriage.
  • Clinton performed well over all, and her best moment was in an answer about the challenges faced by young people. She talked movingly about the sacrifices made by others to give this generation its opportunities, and no doubt a few chests swelled among the students in the audience at the way Clinton talked about the future. Genuinely uplifting.
  • Clinton's weakest moments came right at the end. She was asked what she would like her legacy to be as Secretary of State, and the first (I think only) specific thing she nominated was reform of the State Department. Worthy, no doubt, but perhaps less ambitious and outward-looking than some might have hoped.
  • This was Clinton's list of what she called 'emerging powers' in the Asia Pacific: China, India and Indonesia.
  • Clinton noted the death of the Obama Administration's cap-and-trade bill in the wake of the mid-term results, but said there were 'different ways of pricing carbon'. She offered no details.
  • Clinton somewhat incongruously thanked Australia for its 'leadership' on climate change. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was in the front row so I couldn't see his face, but I assume he had the decency to blush.

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