Just Another Slip of the Tongue
Monday, 17 February 2003
I don't usually watch Channel 9's Sixty Minutes - the picture quality on my AM/FM clock radio isn't really up to it - so I missed the broadcast of Charles Wooley's interview with Prime Minister John Howard last night. This part of the interview raised a bit of furore on our ABC this morning ("our" as in devotees of over-produced BBC adaptations of second-rate Victorian novelists and anyone well to the left of Mark Latham, of course. The rest of you have three commercial stations to choose from, so quit bitching. And don't give me that crap about paying for it through your taxes: where the hell do you think commercial TV advertising revenue ultimately comes from? There's something to think about next time you're wondering why it's costing so much at the bloody supermarket these days). Sorry about that rantlet - back to the interview:
CHARLES WOOLEY: Sure, but, for a leader of a democracy to go against the perceived tide of public opinion is still a considerable thing to do and it is true, to use the kind of vernacular that you use, "the mob don't like it".
JOHN HOWARD: Well, I don't think the mob, to use that vernacular, has really made up its mind on this issue and it can't really make up its mind until we know what all the alternatives are. Clearly, most people would like the general approval of the UN in some form. I don't know what the … [My emphasis]
I've emphasised the grab that the ABC used. As I said, there's been much furore and the eminently fair-minded Jon Faine had to inform a couple of talk-back callers (who naturally objected to the Prime Minister's apparent reference to mainstream Australia as "the mob") that Mr Howard was simply adopting the words used by his interviewer. Fair-minded lefty that I sometimes try to be, I more or less agreed with him, until I read the transcript this morning.
Granted, the main topic of the interview was Iraq but, even so, I think it might have been better if the PM had repudiated the vernacular that Wooley put in his mouth. It wouldn't take much, just a prefatory remark like: "Well Charles, I don't think I'd call the people of Australia a mob. I don't think they've really made up their minds ..." That's all it would have taken for the Prime Minister of this country to demonstrate that, unlike Charles Wooley, he actually respects the intelligence of ordinary Australians. Is this too much to ask of a man who is so proud of defending mainstream values against out-of-touch elite opinion and political correctness?