Somewhere out there is a vaguely Left-wing Aussie professor who owes me a hundred bucks. The only trouble is that I can’t remember his name, so I am shamelessly using this column to jog his memory.
Come on, cobber. Cough up. You remember the bet. It must have been about 20 years ago that we were all sitting in a bar in Melbourne, drinking prodigious quantities of Victoria Bitter. I was then a visiting professor of European Thought at Monash University. (I know, I know: I want to thank the academic who invited me for his excellent sense of humour, and I continue to regret that he was mysteriously deprived of his post shortly after my last lecture, a frenzied dithyramb of unreconstructed Euro-scepticism).
On that particular evening, I was teasing some of my colleagues about their ever-so-slightly correct way of thinking. There was a scholar of gender studies and a theorist of animal rights, and there was some tut-tutting when I suggested that Aboriginal art could not really be compared in quality with, say, the masterpieces of the Florentine Renaissance. But what really got them going was when we moved on to the constitution. Tell you what, I said: I bet you the Queen is still the Australian head of state in – and I paused, trying to think of a date so far in the future as to make the bet seem fair – the year 2000! A throaty cackle went up from the group. “No way, mate,” they said, republicans to a person.