Julia Gillard’s partner, popularly known as the “First Bloke”, is fast turning into Australia’s answer to the Duke of Edinburgh.
“You again?” Tim Mathieson reportedly greeted the Queen on meeting her for the second time at Buckingham Palace. And in his latest gaffe, Mr Mathieson urged men to seek out “a small, female, Asian doctor” to examine them for prostate cancer.
An “ambassador” for men’s health, Mr Mathieson made the remark at a reception for the West Indian cricket team at Ms Gilllard’s Canberra residence, The Lodge, last night. It was greeted, reportedly, with awkward laughter, with which the Prime Minister did not join in.
According to Tony Wright, a political journalist, her face “performed a remarkable transition – jolly, carefree smile to impenetrable stone”. Mr Wright observed: “Tim, Julia Gillard’s merry prankster sidekick, had struck again.”
Precisely what the Prime Minister said to Mr Mathieson after they had farewelled their final guest will, regrettably, never be known. In a radio interview today, Ms Gillard was diplomatic, noting that her partner - a former estate agent and hairdresser - was “very passionate” about the need for prostate checks and that “obviously there’s various ways of getting that message across”.
Amid a storm of criticism, Mr Mathieson apologised for “a joke” which “on reflection I accept … was in poor taste”. He had told the crowd: “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.”
The chief executive of Australia’s Prostate Cancer Foundation, Anthony Lowe, described the remark as “a bit unfortunate”. Dr Lowe also pointed out that men should have both the blood test and the digital rectal examination, as neither was perfect.
Mr Wright wrote: “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.”