Getup pulls ad showing Tony Abbott refusing to help drowning swimmer while eating an onion

GetUpA still from the now-deleted GetUp ad.

After criticism, Getup has apologised for running an ad that used an actor to depict former prime minister Tony Abbott dressed as a lifesaver, eating an onion and refusing to help a drowning swimmer.

The ad by the Australian left-wing lobby group critiqued the conservative minister’s climate change policies.

Justic Scarr, Royal Life Saving Australia’s CEO, said on Twitter on Tuesday evening the ad was in poor taste.

On Wednesday, Scarr told Business Insider Australia he was deeply concerned with how the ad showed someone drowning and believed it was not appropriate due to the current spate of drownings. Over the Easter holiday period, 7 people drowned in Australia’s oceans.

“I thought it was highly offensive and inappropriate particularly given drowning is a big issue over the Easter period,” Scarr said. “I thought I’d call it out for what it was, for the families of the 250 people who drown over the year. I’m disappointed about the use of drowning and lifesaving in a political context. It was not at all helpful.”

He said despite highlighting the inappropriateness of the ad, he’d prefer to leave the politics to others. “We’ve received personal apologies from their management and we’re more than happy to leave it at that,” he said.

Following Scarr’s tweet, Abbott called on Getup to apologise for the portrayal, saying the ad mocked lifesavers.

In a statement, Getup said they had “heard the criticism of the Royal Lifesavers and are pulling our satirical ad about Tony Abbott’s inaction on climate change.”

“We have the greatest respect for Australia’s lifesavers and apologise for the insensitivity of the timing and subject matter of our planned ad,” it said.

The ad which ran on Getup’s YouTube channel has since been pulled down. But videos targeting the ex-prime minister are still on the platform including one in which Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton and Abbott joke about “water lapping at the door” of the Pacific Islands due to rising sea levels.

A key issue for Abbott is the Liberal-National coalition’s lack of action on climate change. The party scrapped the carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2014, killed the National Energy Guarantee in 2018 and rolled former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull over his attempt to introduce a measure to incentivise cleaner generation.

Abbott is up against high-profile independent candidate Zali Steggall for the Sydney seat of Warringah at the federal election in May. Despite pulling the ad, Getup is not giving up on their fight against Abbott, throwing the organisation’s support behind Steggall.

In a sign of the times and how dangerous Abbott’s position is looking in his seat, both sides have now been stung by poorly received advertising that was aimed at tipping the balance in their favour.

Earlier in April, the conservative lobby group Advance Australia was in the firing line, after footage was posted of a mock superhero, Captain GetUp, grinding and rubbing up against a poster of Steggall.

A key issue for Abbott is the Liberal-National coalition’s lack of action on climate change having scrapped the carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2014 and killed the National Energy Guarantee last year and rolling Malcolm Turnbull over his attempt to introduce a measure to incentivise cleaner generation.

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