There are many perennial stories on television news services. Every year, we bring you yarns about bog snorkelling, tomato throwing or cheese rolling. Perhaps the most popular is the strange places babies are born: in a tree to avoid floodwaters, in a gallery as performance art, or on the floor of a bathroom at McDonald’s.
Well, I’m about to become the story by giving birth on set. An elbow is sticking out of my stomach. Like John Hurt in Alien, it’s going to be messy. And like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, it involves adrenaline. But there’s no need for a shot to the heart because this rush is natural.
The contractions come during an interview with the prime minister in the lead-up to the 2004 poll. For political journos, election campaigns are like footy finals. According to John Howard, this one’s about trust (same as in 1917, 1937, 1943, 1951, 1972, 1977, 1984, 1987 and 1996).
‘Who do you better trust to keep living standards high and the economy strong?’ he asks voters. ‘Who do you better trust to keep your interest rates low? Who do you better trust to lead Australia in the fight against the peril of international terrorism? Who do you better trust to keep the budget strong and in surplus so that we can better afford to spend more on health and education and defence?’
It’s a hard row to hoe after he’s accused of lying about the ‘children overboard’ affair. A former government adviser says he told Howard there was no evidence of asylum seekers throwing their kids into the sea, despite these allegations helping the Coalition to victory in 2001. (Tampa, September 11, border protection, you get the drift.)
A political reporter races over with a script. Upon further inspection I’m mistaken. It’s a green salad: the questions are as limp as warm lettuce. I don’t know whether to read it or eat it. The PM will feel like he’s being ‘mauled by a dead sheep’, as Paul Keating once said. ‘Hey, thanks for that,’ I tell the reporter. ‘I don’t want to be rude, but I’ve got my own questions prepared.’