Watching pollies and company spokespeople operate at CSG-related “community consultations” and “forums” (fora?) is such an education. After only a few events, I feel qualified to offer this 10-point guide for aspiring pollies and spokespeople.
10-point guide to avoiding all those difficult questions at a “forum” or “community consultation”.
- The idea is to minimise the time you are exposed to difficult questions, while still giving the superficial impression that you have allocated a reasonable amount of time to the event. So, set the meeting to go for a good 2 hours. No-one can complain you’re not setting aside a good chunk of time to listen to them, right?
- Make sure you schedule the event during work hours. It will minimise the number of people who can attend.
- Then, use the “the plane was delayed” excuse to arrive at least 30 mins late. Not your fault the plane was late, right? So now you only have to front for 1.5 hours.
- Make sure you’re allowed to give a speech right at the start, before people start asking questions. If you talk slowly, and talk about yourself and your CV, you can use up another 20 odd minutes.
- When the questions come, best to have a couple of plants to ask Dorothy Dixers. Or someone to act like they don’t know very much at all. You can spend a lot of time explaining to them things the rest of the audience already knows. That way, you appear patient and helpful, and knowledgeable. No-one will see through that, right?
- It’s also good to have the person who is choosing the questioners be both local and on your side. That way, they’ll know who is going to ask a really tricky question, and not pick them.
- If someone does get a good question in, don’t panic. Give your CV, even the bits that really aren’t relevant, and when you can fit it in, say something along the lines of “We’d really like to be doing more, but the previous government made such a balls-up that we’re really in a pickle and our hands are tied”.
- When the audience begins to see through the charade, use up more question time by scolding them for their restlessness.
- If all else fails, have a good chuckle at the troubles of the audience. Make a joke of their hostility. They should take life less seriously, right? After all, you didn’t cause their problems. As you’ve just explained to them, it was the previous government.
- If all goes well, there will be dozens of questions left unasked. You can tell everyone how you’ve had a forum, or a consultation, but there’s just no pleasing those ungrateful dreadlocked hippies. So best go ahead with all the plans for CSG mining, and just bring in the riot squad to deal with all the grannies on the blockades.
Here are some examples of the questions that, if all goes well, you might never have to answer …