The Federal election campaign has sprung to life, with a suddenly rejuvenated Kevin Rudd edging out a more subdued Tony Abbott in a combative, compelling and sometimes aggressive second debate.
The Prime Minister, who The West Australian rated as having lost the first debate at the National Press Club 11 days ago, managed to get under the Opposition Leader's skin within 20 minutes of the hour-long debate in Brisbane last night.
"Does this guy ever shut up," Mr Abbott asked, in a moment of hostility that surprised the audience.
Mr Rudd shot back, curtly: "We're having a discussion, mate. We're having a discussion and that is a standard debating technique when the questions get a bit sharp."
During the past 2½ weeks of the election campaign, both leaders have told each other to "man up" on various policy differences - a challenge Mr Rudd appeared willing to meet.
And at one point in the debate, Mr Rudd, a self-confessed nerd, moved towards Mr Abbott, an Oxford boxing blue, in a deliberately provocative attempt to needle Mr Abbott on the coalition's policy costings.
Compared with the first debate, which was a dull and more scripted affair, last night's debate at the Broncos Leagues Club had each leader asking the other questions, almost as many as were asked by the audience.
That said, both leaders hit their favoured political turf, with Mr Abbott singling out the carbon tax, boat people and Labor's troubles, while Mr Rudd focused on Mr Abbott's "secret" cuts and the cost of the coalition's expensive paid parental leave scheme.
Mr Abbott admitted a proposed 1.5 per cent levy on big businesses to cover the cost of the PPL would generate half the necessary money.
But Mr Rudd said even on Mr Abbott's figures, the scheme was too generous and costly as it enabled millionaires to get taxpayer-funded handouts.
The two clashed over environment policy and the introduction of an emissions trading scheme. Mr Abbott challenged Mr Rudd over claims he had always backed putting a price on carbon, saying he dropped a proposal for an emissions trading scheme back in early 2010. "You walked away from a price on carbon," Mr Abbott said. "It's one of the reasons why you lost the prime ministership."That prompted Mr Rudd to attack Mr Abbott for his role in voting against the original proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme. "Tony, you voted it down twice in the Senate. And you dumped it as your policy," he said.