Cub reporters put PM in the hot seat

He's taken on the toughest in the trade but when Prime Minister John Howard faced a panel of 11-year-old radio interviewers his pulse quickened.

"(I'm) nervous, very, very nervous being questioned by all of you," he said.

Welcome to "Patto PS 104.7 FM School of Rock", a primary school radio station in Melbourne's south-east with a broadcast footprint of about one kilometre.

The prime minister ended his tour of Patterson Lakes Primary School with a visit to its tiny radio studio and an encounter with six Year 6 hosts.

With a hint of what was to come, they introduced the prime minister as "the eleventh most famous person on our show ... just kidding, Mr Howard".

Mr Howard quickly dispatched the warm-up question as he named his childhood idols as cricketers Don Bradman, Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, and rugby league great Clive Churchill.

And no surprises as he added political heroes Winston Churchill and Robert Menzies to the list.

"They sound like very nice people" and "great answer, Mr Howard," came the encouragement from 104.7's cub reporters.

And which three people would the PM have to a dinner party? Cricket captain Ricky Ponting and Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono were first on the list.


"And I'd also have my wife present," Mr Howard said.

"Wouldn't want to leave her out," quipped one interviewer.

"No, I wouldn't want to do that," Mr Howard said.

Another cricket question followed before the pace picked up, with interviewers Chris and Lucy warning the PM he was now in the hot seat for some "challenging questions".

"Are you ready?" they asked.

"No," the prime minister said.

"There's nothing to be really nervous about," Mr Howard was reassured.

"Well I am. I'm extremely nervous."

A dozen or more rapid fire questions followed asking for prime ministerial preferences on a range of subjects - from Coco Pops to Froot Loops ("Froot Loops", he answered) to Bob Dylan or Elvis ("Bob Dylan by far"), to holidays or work ("Both ... actually work").

"Well done Mr Howard. You've successfully completed the hot seat challenge and answered each question very well," Mr Howard was told.

But even a brush with pint-sized media was not without a whiff of controversy as one brave panellist appeared to veer off the script with a final question about Wednesday's Indonesian plane disaster.

Bad taste or just bold, it seemed to take Mr Howard by surprise and left a few of the grown-up reporters, staffers and teachers outside the studio nonplussed.

"I recently heard that a plane crashed. Are you ready to fly Garuda airlines?" one student queried.

Mr Howard diplomatically explained he flew most places by VIP jet, that he wouldn't blackball any airline and then launched into praise for the national carrier Qantas' enviable safety record.

Just another day, another ambush averted.