The partner of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose fiery speech against sexism last year made global headlines, apologised yesterday for joking that prostate examinations were preferably performed by a "small Asian female doctor".
Tim Mathieson made the comment on Monday during a reception at Gillard's official Canberra residence, The Lodge, attended by members of the West Indies cricket team.
Mathieson, who is not married to Gillard, has worked to raise awareness about men's health issues. He brought up the need for men to have regular checks for prostate cancer.
"Go and get that exam that none of us like to have done, but we know we should," Mathieson said. "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[ing] for a small Asian female doctor is probably the best way."
Gillard was standing behind him at the time. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that her smile turned to "impenetrable stone" at the gaffe.
The opposition said Mathieson's remark was in bad taste and he later apologised. "It was meant as a joke, and on reflection I accept it was in poor taste," he said in a statement. "I apologise for any offence caused."
Gillard, the nation's first female leader, caused a global stir in October when she lashed out at opposition leader Tony Abbott in parliament, saying she would not be "lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man".
She said yesterday: "Tim's apologised for a joke that was in poor taste."