Australia

GetUp pulls ad depicting Tony Abbott refusing to help drowning swimmer

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The GetUp advertisement, released on Tuesday, shows Tony Abbott sitting on a beach eating an onion as a swimmer drowns.

Activist group GetUp has pulled an advertisement showing a Tony Abbott impersonator refusing to help a drowning swimmer after criticism from lifesavers. 

GetUp, which is aiming to unseat the former prime minister in Warringah, made the decision to cancel planned screenings of the ad in cinemas next week a day after releasing it online. 

GetUp ad screenshot
An actor portraying Tony Abbott enjoys an onion in the advertisement.
GetUp

"We have heard the criticism of the Royal Lifesavers and are pulling our satirical ad about Tony Abbott's inaction on climate change," GetUp said in a statement. 

"We have the greatest respect for Australia's lifesavers and apologise for the insensitivity of the timing and subject matter of our planned ad."

In the video, an actor playing Mr Abbott as a lifesaver remains sitting on the beach chomping on an onion, as a woman begs him to help a swimmer in trouble. 

The woman on the beach tells him "someone's drowning" and appeals to him to "do something". 

But the fake Mr Abbott responds: "I think you'll find the science isn't settled on that".

The phrase mirrors Mr Abbott's recent response to a question about climate change. 

"Why should we act first. I think I have given you the response you deserve," he continues.

The ad, authorised by GetUp boss Paul Oosting, attracted a stream of criticism online with some viewers describing it as "abhorrent" and calling on Mr Abbott's challenger, independent Zali Steggall, to condemn it. 

Mr Abbott demanded an apology for lifesavers. 

The timing of the clip was also questioned, coming after the drowning deaths of two lifesavers in Victoria over the Easter break. 

"No surprise the grubs at GetUp think that it's funny to mock lifesavers and other volunteers only one day after two lifesavers drowned in an accident," one person commented on YouTube. 

It's the latest controversial campaign tactic in the hard-fought battle between the former prime minister and Zali Steggall for the electorate on Sydney's northern beaches. 

Earlier this month, conservative lobby group Advance Australia was condemned for the actions of its mock superhero Captain GetUp, who posted footage of himself gyrating and rubbing up against a poster of Ms Steggall. 

GetUp plans to replace the ad with a "more literal ad concept" featuring Tony Abbott laughing along with Peter Dutton about "water lapping at the door" of the Pacific Islands due to rising sea levels. 

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