News Election 2019 GetUp! pulls Tony Abbott ad after backlash from lifesavers

GetUp! pulls Tony Abbott ad after backlash from lifesavers

getup election 2019
Activist group GetUp was forced to withdraw this ad featuring former Warringah MP Tony Abbott as a bored lifesaver Photo: GetUp
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Activist group GetUp! has withdrawn a controversial ad targeting former prime minister Tony Abbott following a backlash from lifesavers.

The advertisement – which was due to air in cinemas next week – featured a Mr Abbott lookalike refusing to save a drowning person while devouring an onion.

A passer-by urges the Abbott impersonator to assist the struggling swimmer.

“Look, I think you’ll find the science isn’t settled on that. Why should we act first?” he responds.


The impersonator’s remarks reflected comments made by the former prime minister during a speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate sceptic think-tank, in 2017.

“So far it is climate change policy that is doing harm; climate change itself is probably doing good – or at least more good than harm,” Abbott told his London audience.

But on Wednesday, the lobby group admitted it was wrong in publishing the ad, saying it had the greatest respect for Australian lifesavers and apologised for the “insensitivity of [its] timing and subject matter”.

Seven people drowned in Australia across the Easter long weekend. They included a father and daughter in South Australia and volunteer lifesavers – 32-year-old Andy Powell and his 71-year-old father Ross Powell – who had rescued a tourist off Port Campbell on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten condemned GetUp! while distancing himself from the “grossly disrespectful” ad.

“Some of the stuff they say I haven’t agreed with, some of the stuff they’ve said in the past, I have, but this ad is well out of line,” the Labor leader said.

Royal Life Saving Australia chief executive Justin Scarr also expressed his distaste.

The GetUp! ad will be replaced with a “more literal” version featuring footage of Mr Abbott joking with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton in 2015 about “water lapping at [the] door” of the Pacific Islands due to rising sea levels.

GetUp! said it believed the new approach would “better accomplish” its goal.

“The intention of our campaign is to focus on Tony Abbott’s callous inaction on climate change, at a time when the World Health Organisation warns the annual death toll from climate change will reach 250,000 a year,” GetUp! told the ABC.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Abbott called on GetUp! to apologise to Australia’s 150,000-plus surf lifesavers “for mocking what they do”.

“Forget me,” he tweeted.

GetUp!’s widely criticised advertisement follows a ‘misogynistic’ video published by the conservative lobby group Advance Australia last week.

The clip showed the group’s satirical superhero Captain GetUp gyrating against a billboard featuring Zali Steggall, Mr Abbott’s main challenger for his seat of Warringah.

-with AAP