"When Did You Come To Australia?"
Our increasingly gaffe-prone prime minister still hasn't completely grasped the concept that people who look Chinese or Middle Eastern or Japanse or African could have actually been born and raised in Australia.
And, therefore, are just as Australian as he is.
He seems to think if someone isn't white, or at least mostly white, then they must have immigrated here sometime after they were born.
Witness this exchange yesterday at, fittingly enough, the 'Australian Of The Year' ceremony :
At one stage, Mr Howard was heard asking one candidate, mathematician Terence Tao, "When did you come to Australia?"
"I was born in Adelaide," replied Professor Tao, who last year won the Fields Medal, the highest scientific award for mathematicians.
Professor Tao is an international celebrity (as celebrity-famous as a mathematician can get) and was prominently featured across the spectrum of Australian media, for days, when he won the spectacularly prestigious award.
But can he hit a ball with a cricket bat into the stands? That's the most important question.
It's not the first time Howard has had this kind of senility (or ingrained xenophobia) burst through his buffed to a high sheen public persona.
Meeting students a while back, Howard asked a teenage Muslim girl pretty much the same question.
She scoffed at him and said, "I was born here," in an Aussie accent broader than Howard's own.
Her classmates looked on in stunned disbelief, some shook their heads sadly at the prime minister.
"Oh," Howard replied and shrugged, then fear-grinned, and quickly exited the classroom.
You would think that any one of his 50-plus advisors, PR wizards and media specialists could help him come up with a better chit-chat question than "When Did You Come To Australia?"
Welcome to Australia, you Australians!