Boris Johnson has been described by the Australian media as “hilarious”, “ebullient” and a “blond British wombat” during a visit in which he used a major speech to reveal that his youthful obsession with Australia turned him into “a kind of unconscious Les Patterson”.
But there were no apparent gaffes or misfortunes in Australia – and Mr Johnson appeared unfussed as he admitted that, during his three-mile morning run on Thursday, “everyone was overtaking me”.
He has been the subject of various colourful descriptions in the Australian press, with Fairfax Media presenting him as “a fan of wearing his tie long like President Trump, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and hyperbole”.
Greg Sheridan, a foreign affairs commentator, interviewed Mr Johnson and described him as “built somewhat low to the ground, and possessing a certain, solid quality”.
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“If it is not disrespectful to speak of the distinguished British Foreign Secretary thus, he looks something like a blond British wombat caught in a perpetual storm of his own making,” he wrote in The Australian.
“But there I go making a characteristic journalistic mistake, getting carried away with the charm and wit and fun of the Foreign Secretary, and not paying enough attention to the substance of the many messages he brings.”
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Mr Johnson arrived with tough talk for China and a promise of pursuing a free trade deal with Australia, noting that trade has long been a feature of ties between Britain and its former colony.
“You send us Patricia Hewitt, Lynton Crosby and Germaine Greer,” he said in a speech at a Lowy Institute function. “We send you Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.”
Mr Johnson used the speech to recall his return from a year-long visit to Australia at the age of 19.
“My conversation was studded with words like ‘bonzer, mate’ or ‘you little ripper’, and on the streets of London in broad daylight I insisted on wearing the same ‘Stubbies’ daks – shorts of appalling brevity – that I had worn in the bush until my then girlfriend said that it was her or the stubbies daks,” he said.
“I am not sure how the contest was resolved… My infatuation with Australian dress, manners, vocabulary and general cast of mind was so intense that I had become a kind of unconscious Les Patterson [a coarse character created by Barry Humphries, who also plays Dame Edna Everage] – a self-appointed and unwanted cultural ambassador.”