Friday, March 09, 2007

Howard snatches win out of mouths of babes

A photo-op for Australian Prime Minister John Howard at a school in outer-Melbourne seems to have produced an awkward moment for the master politician. During a play radio interview with a panel of Year 6 students, a young boy threw a question to the PM straight out of left-field.

“I recently heard that a plane crashed,” said young Mitchell. “Are you ready to fly on Garuda Airlines?”

It’s reported that the watching press gallery “let out a collective gasp and dropped their gazes to the floor.” As indeed one would at witnessing a question of, under the circumstances, such poor taste. Of course, the lad was apparently oblivious of his faux pas, as much as of the potential he had innocently created for an international incident.

What would the PM do or say? Even the most hardened Howard-sceptic might have forgiven the man if he’d gently but firmly admonished the little whippersnapper. But if the PM misjudged the situation, it could so easily result in an untoward headline, such as:

PM reduces 11 year-old boy to tears

Happily — for Mr Howard, the kid, and our relations with our nearest neighbour — the PM finally marshalled his native weaseling abilities to skillfully and studiously avoid answering the question at all...

“When I travel overseas I tend to go on a VIP airline,” Mr Howard explained.

“I wouldn’t put a total prohibition [JAS: canny vocab technique, considering the audience] on any airline, it depends on the circumstances. I think it is fair to say though that the safety record of our airline Qantas is a wonderful safety record.”

The kid hadn’t noticed that his question remained unanswered, so it may be safely assumed that a glittering career in Australian journalism awaits.


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