Just how big a control freak is the Prime Minister? Dip into the Hansard from Thursday and there are some interesting signs.

The Prime Minister was asked a question by Michael Danby on the Newspoll work on environmental issues. The PM opened his response by saying “I think it is the job of political leaders in this country to read opinion polls but to do what they think is right for Australia” and went on to talk about “that online poll”.

It wasn’t an online poll. Just before the House rose, the PM had to come scuttling back into the House and put this down on the record:

Mr HOWARD (Bennelong—Prime Minister) (4.59 pm)—Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the chair to add to an answer.

The SPEAKER—The minister may proceed.

Mr HOWARD—During question time today the member for Melbourne Ports asked me about a Newspoll published today. As I now discover on checking, I erroneously referred to that as an online poll; it was not. There was another poll which was online and it was in the press today. I confused the two of them, and I apologise to the House for that error.

We all make mistakes and the Prime Minister confused two polls. But he confused two very different polls – a Newspoll, presumably conducted to Newspoll’s usual standards, and an entirely unscientific online opinion poll open to manipulation by anyone with a mouse, some time and the inclination.

So why would the Prime Minister want to know about unscientific polls? They are meaningless – but they are still publicly available. Many readers won’t appreciate the subtleties.

Still, the PM looks like an absolute control freak. It looks as if his fingerprints are on everything and he wants to know everything.