Features Australia

Rolf and Operation Gumtree

The UK’s favourite Australian: guilty or not guilty?

25 January 2014

9:00 AM

25 January 2014

9:00 AM

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris is believed to have pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of embarrassing a large amount of Australians.

The embarrassment charges relate to serial offences against good taste, Australian artistic credibility, rock music, national pride, indigenous self-esteem, cartooning and painting and occurred over a period from the late 1950s until quite recently.

One elderly witness complained how he arrived in Britain in 1960 to escape the narrow-minded parochialism of rural Australia. ‘The first thing that greeted me was this dreadful song about somebody tying up — or was it tying down? — a kangaroo. On top of that, everybody insisted on calling me “sport”. I’ve never been so embarrassed in all my life.’

Victim groups said the embarrassment was not limited to the music and chorus of the song, with many complaining of the toe-curling, cringe-making fourth verse:

Let me Abos go loose, Lew
Let me Abos go loose
They’re of no further use, Lew
So let me Abos go loose.

However, others claim to have suffered even greater embarrassments and indignities as Harris set about grooming the entire British nation to view him as the pinnacle of Australian musical talent and creative achievement.

‘You’ve got to remember, this was the era of Bob Dylan, the Stones and the Beatles,’ lamented one victim of repeat embarrassment. ‘Artists and rock musicians were radically transforming an entire generation, with cool, hip songs about the sexual revolution, civil rights and drugs. Yet turn on Top of the Pops in the mid-’60s and the only contribution you ever heard from Australia was Rolf Harris prancing around with a third appendage strapped to his waist singing “I’m Jake the Peg diddle-um diddle-um with his extra leg diddle-um diddle-um” or warbling on about “Two Little Boys with Two Little Toys.” It was awkward, to say the least.’

Harris initially faced only three charges of embarrassing Aussie street cred throughout the ’60s and ’70s by indecently assaulting the hit parade on numerous occasions. Then last year he was charged with another count of performing a tasteless act upon the Led Zeppelin opus ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in the early ’90s.

Footage recovered from YouTube clearly shows Harris dressed in a hideously kitsch jacket of white clouds on a sky blue background wearing an Akubra hat and deliberately violating the credibility of one of rock’s greatest all-time songs.

‘That was the song I grew up to,’ said one distraught victim. ‘“Stairway to Heaven” meant the world to me. I knew every word and I even knew how to play the opening chords. Yet now I can hardly bring myself to listen to it without mental images of Rolf flooding back to haunt me. He stole my teenagehood. He sullied my love of Led Zep IV for all time.’

A similar complainant alleges she never recovered from hearing Rolf Harris’s late ’90s rerecording of the Alanis Morissette classic feminist anthem ‘Hand in Pocket’, and recalls with horror the manner in which Harris manipulated the lyrics to include the hideously embarrassing line: ‘I’ve got one hand in my pocket / and the other one is fingering my didgeridoo.’ ‘I was struck dumb. I just couldn’t speak about it. To anyone,’ she recalls.

Harris was originally questioned under caution last year by the good taste taskforce working on Operation Gumtree, an investigation into the Abuse of Aussie Artistic Credibility Abroad, for popularising the usage of corks dangling from hats — regarded by many as an affront to Australia’s self-esteem.

A string of victims are believed to have quickly contacted the taskforce regarding Harris’s so-called invention of the wobble-board. ‘Talk about embarrassing! Of all the great musical achievements we Australians should have been able to boast about on the international stage, the only thing anybody overseas ever mentions is Rolf Harris and his bloody wobble-board. It’s not even a proper musical instrument!’ said one classically trained musician, struggling to control his rage even after all these years.

Further charges relate to ‘offences against language, tasteful humour and all-round coolness’ which are believed to have been generated by several complaints against Harris’s longtime habit of engaging in quickie, one-handed self-portraits; described by the perpetrator himself as ‘Rolfaroos’.

Harris is also charged with tormenting his viewers by splashing large dollops of paint on a gigantic canvas and excitedly yelling ‘Can you tell what it is yet?’ even though most viewers had no idea what on earth he was up to.

For many, the painful memories of seeing Rolf perform his one-man show, which included lamentable clichés that offended the sophisticated image many Australians have of themselves, as well as irritating ditties played on the didgeridoo and Stylophone, have never gone away. ‘It was the era of Brett Whiteley, Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd, yet the only Aussie painter ever mentioned on UK TV was Rolf Harris. Worse, his artistic catchphrase was extremely embarrassing to struggling Australian paint manufacturers: “Trust British Paints? Sure can!”’

Mr Harris has denied all charges.

Meanwhile, numerous other popular expat artists, aging feminists, pun-writers, human rights barristers, comedians, cross-dressers and gladdy-wavers are also rumoured to be under investigation by Operation Gumtree for having abused their Australian credibility whilst abroad.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • Di Lopez

    This is an appalling and cruel Parady of an extremely serious matter. The allegations against Mr Harris involve disturbing criminal matters and should not be taken lightly.
    Mr Dean’s attempt at humor reveals a warped mind who has little understanding of the effect sexual assaults have on victims.

    As a very long reader and subscriber to The Spectator I am disappointed that you seek Mr Dean’views and trust he is not invited to contribute further articles

    Di Lopez

    • Dryermartinithanyours

      Agreed. I was speaking earlier with Abigail Williams and Ann and Thomas Putnam, all of whom insisted that in the light of the jury’s verdict, Rowan Dean should be made to share a jail cell with the now disgraced Rolf Harris, and be made to understand the nature of evil. One wonders whether, with this attitude, Rowan himself might have something to hide … ?