Virgin Blue’s August Voyeur in-flight magazine features an incredibly soft two-page profile on Deputy PM, National Party leader and – most disturbingly – Transport Minister Mark Vaile in the “Success” section.

Is it just me who finds something disconcerting about an airline running a soft promotional story on the minister who is supposed to be regulating them?

Entitled “Man of the People” it’s an in-his-own-words promo-profile in a format usually reserved for the inspirational stories of self-made entrepreneurs. Mark tells us about his Jackaroo days, how he juggles his different responsibilities, how great this government is to be a part of and of the “enthusiasm and the adrenalin rush you get from being able to improve circumstances across Australia.” To break up the monotony of Mark’s words, they are interspersed with incisive links along the lines of “That sounds like a heavy responsibility to hold…”

An accompanying photo features Mark on a plane casually reading a piece of newspaper-sized National party election guff with the screaming headline “Budget ’06 – Nationals Deliver”. For balance and integrity the feature was roughly on par with the probing exposé on cover boy Richard Branson in the same issue.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it because the flight I was on experienced some heavy turbulence. There’s nothing like a bit of white knuckle flying to encourage a bit of reflection on the arm’s length nature of airline regulation in Australia.

Peter Fray

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