Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard visits the new Bass Strait Maritime Centre in Devonport / Pic: Ross Marsden Source: The Daily Telegraph

PRIME MINISTER Julia Gillard swung by Tasmania’s new $4 million Bass Strait Maritime Centre last week. This low-key visit set in train a sequence of events that led to an extremely rare media event: an excellent Fairfax headline.

The Maritime Centre features a simulator that allows Bass Strait transport enthusiasts to experience the challenges of docking a 1925 steam ship. Considering Tasmania’s unemployment rate – the highest in Australia – this also allows locals to experience what it’s like to have a job.

In any case, the Prime Minister gamely stepped up for a try. You’d think the PM or one of her advisers might have thought twice about this, what with the Gillard’s government’s unfortunate maritime history.

Hundreds of new asylum seekers were heading towards Australia as the PM took the simulator’s controls and attempted to manoeuvre the SS Woniora along Devonport’s Mersey River.

Naturally, Gillard sank the thing immediately.

“I think she took the challenge on very well,” Devonport City Council staffer Evonne Ewins said.

“At the end of the day, although the vessel did sink, she had a great time.”