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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
And the finger goes up as blokey Tim bowls Julia a googly
The Prime Minister's face performed a remarkable transition - jolly, carefree smile to impenetrable stone on the turn of a phrase.
Tim, Julia Gillard's merry prankster sidekick, had struck again.
Tim Mathieson, known for want of a traditional definition as the First Bloke, had been out of the spotlight for quite a while. Some around parliament house had speculated this was a deliberate strategy by Ms Gillard's hard-nosed advisers, who are deeply averse to tempting fate. Tim, a boy from the bush, just looks like a fate-tempter.
Why, this was a fellow who, on meeting the Queen for just the second time in Buckingham Palace, had greeted her with the immortal words ''You again!'' Worse, he'd happily told the tale to this reporter, who'd recounted it across the pages of Fairfax newspapers.
But on Tuesday evening at The Lodge, it seemed the perfect time for Tim to take the microphone. The West Indies cricket team was being feted on the evening of the annual contest with the Prime Minister's XI.
Tim likes his sport and he's something of a blokey bloke, even if he'd been a hairdresser. Plus, he's been a hit as patron of the Men's Shed movement and he's been one of the government's Men's Health Ambassadors.
What could go wrong?
A misjudged joke concerning digital penetration and small Asian women; that's what.
All in a good cause, of course. But.
This is the era of correctness. Ms Gillard's own government wants to introduce legislation outlawing dialogue that could not only be judged discriminatory to just about any minority, but which could prove illegal (and expensive) if someone decided to take offence or feel injured.
Here's what Tim said, while urging the men in the audience to take care of their health and to have their prostates checked: ''We can get a blood test for it, but the digital examination is the only true way to get a correct reading on your prostate, so make sure you go and do that, and perhaps look for a small female Asian doctor is probably the best way.''
Uh oh. In three words, he'd contravened an expansive sweep of the proposed anti-discrimination decrees. Small (sizeist, you might think); female (sexist), Asian (racist). We won't even go near digital penetration.
It was at this precise point that Ms Gillard lost her happy smile. Good Lord, the television cameras were rolling and Tim had turned a serious discussion about men's health into a joke worthy of a prawn night!
You can take the bloke out of the bush, but you can't take the bush out of the bloke, apparently.
Unsurprisingly, with social media in a frothy uproar, a statement appeared on Wednesday morning under Tim's name, declaring it was all supposed to be a joke but ''on reflection I accept it was in poor taste. I apologise for any offence caused''.
It seems a fair bet the unfortunate fellow is unlikely to be undertaking many public microphone duties at the Prime Minister's side for some time. Or, for that matter, sitting down without a cushion.