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Mar 13, 2012

ABC Radio presenter, the voice of Katter hate ad, stood down

A currently-serving ABC Radio presenter voiced the notorious Bob Katter Australian Party attack ad roundly condemned by all sides of politics and has been stood down by the broadcaster.

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An ABC Radio presenter revealed as the voice of the notorious Bob Katter Australian Party attack ad — roundly condemned by all sides of politics — has been stood down by the national broadcaster.

Suzanne McGill, a casually-employed Saturday breakfast host of ABC South West WA local radio, is named at the end of the ad as the voiceover artist responsible for delivering homophobic lines like “the LNP leader supports gay marriage, just like Greens leader Bob Brown” and “is a vote for LNP leader Campbell Newman a vote for gay marriage?”

After a pro-gay marriage blog speculated over the connection, and following Crikey‘s inquiries to the ABC, a spokesperson said a formal investigation will now be held into McGill’s involvement.

“It can be confirmed that Ms McGill did not seek nor obtain permission for external voiceover work, as required under ABC Editorial and Workplace behaviours policies,” the spokesperson said.

“ABC Editorial and Workplace Policies apply to all staff, regardless of employment status. To that end, the ABC will conduct  a formal investigation. Ms McGill will not be on air while the matter is investigated.”

According to the ABC’s editorial policies covering “independence, integrity and responsibility”, the “external activities of individuals undertaking work for the ABC must not undermine the independence and integrity of the ABC’s editorial content”. Its specific Queensland election policies reiterate its commitment to impartiality and independence given the trust thrust upon the government broadcaster by the voting public.

McGill could not be contacted this morning.

In addition to her ABC work, McGill is employed by Abe’s Audio, doing spots for a range of clients including furniture retailers and flower shops. An Abe’s spokesperson confirmed that the company had been involved in the production of the Katter spot.

Other elements of the ad have also attracted criticism. The pixellated image of the gay couple used in the ad was quickly chased by crafty Googlers to this copyrighted stock image from a French photo house.

The Katter strategists behind the ad depart from the usual Australian template, employing many of the tactics incorporated in US versions including sinister keyboard lines, slow pans and zooming, repetition and horror movie-style cut-ups.

The ad appears to be strongly influenced by this notorious 2008 effort from US conservative political action group the “American Issues Project”, linking Weather Underground founder Bill Ayres to Barack Obama. “Do you know enough to elect Barack Obama?” the haunting voiceover asked.

University of Melbourne political ad expert Sally Young told Crikey this morning that while the US-aping approach was usually a rarity, Australia has a storied history of negativity, including attacks on Robert Menzies, Gough Whitlam and the Libs’ recently-reprised “Kevin O’Lemon” and “Latham L Plates” series.

“It’s very presidential in style … the production values are really cheap and nasty and the use of the image is interesting,” she said. “Obviously they didn’t want to get a real image of a gay couple in case they repudiated them. It’s very American…there’s no sense of humour about it and it’s actually quite vicious.”

Overnight, The Guardian posted a helpful primer to the current slate of GOP primary attack ads which have much higher production values. The all-time best attack ad — so famous that it has inspired its own “index” — is this 1988 George HW Bush spot highlighting Michael Dukakis’ “weekend prison passes” that allowed criminal Willie Horton to commit rape and murder.

Then there’s this amazing mash-up on the 1800 presidential election. “John Adams is a blind, bald crippled, toothless man who wants to start a war with France,” the ad begins. “When he’s not busy importing mistresses from Europe he’s trying to marry one of his sons to a daughter of King George.”

A political insider contacted by Crikey this morning named a classic of the Australian genre as a 2007 NSW election Labor ad targeting Peter Debnam’s ownership of a failed prawn hatchery and a gym.

Andrew Crook —

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

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27 thoughts on “ABC Radio presenter, the voice of Katter hate ad, stood down

  1. kate

    @Peter Ormonde:

    The real issue for me is why on earth any government has any business even discussing marriage at all. Leave that to God and the men in cassocks and silly hats.

    Civil unions – a contractual arrangement – that provides protection for property rights, superannuation, kids and all that sort of thing is quite legit. But marriage is an absurd issue for government to be wasting it’s time on. Got nothing to do with them. Or with any of us.

    I think you have that the wrong way round. Gods and men in cassocks and silly hats have no business even discussing the civil contract of marriage, as defined under the Marriage Act, which provided protection for property rights, superannuation, kids and all that sort of thing. After all, the great majority of marriages celebrated in Australia today have no religious involvement at all, and the religious ceremony has no status unless it complies with the Marriage Act.

    If religions want to formalise religious unions in accordance with their own beliefs and rituals, they can go right ahead (as long as they don’t breach any laws). But don’t expect the government, or the majority of the population who want to get married without the religious trappings, to adhere to their chosen rituals or restrictions. Particular churches can decide to “marry” only people of their own faith, or only straight people, or only people who haven’t been married before, or only left-handed lesbians with a lisp for all I care. If they want to call it ‘holy matrimony’ or ‘religious marriage’ or ‘Shirley’ – whatever.

    Marriage, however, as defined in the Marriage Act, is a matter of secular law, and quite frankly the prejudices of the various brands of godbotherer are entirely irrelevant.

  2. kate

    @Alfonse, “The ad itself merely asked a question. You can debate the politics behind it but not the content.”

    Actually neither of those statements is true. If you want to understand what people’s problem with it is, surprisingly enough I suggest you read Andrew Bolt – everything that follows here is a direct quote from his blog on the subject of why Katter’s ad has been so roundly condemned:

    It’s fair enough to note the flip-flopping on gay marriage by LNP leader Campbell Newman.

    It’s fair enough to raise the issue of gay marriage in the context of a state election, despite it being essentially a federal matter. There’s no law against irrelevance, after all, and Newman’s inconsistency goes to his character.

    But this ad crosses way, way over the line.

    First, why freight the same sex marriage debate with pictures of gay men being physically intimate? The intention is plain and foul: to appeal to the yuck factor with homophobes. Would we illustrate a defence of traditional marriage with a couple of porn stars engaging in foreplay?

    Second, why show a gay couple as a beautiful young man and an older and plainer one? Again, the intention seems plain: to link gay marriage or gay relationships generally to pedophilia – or at least to gay predators. Would we illustrate an argument on the sanctity of marriage by showing a 40-year-old groom with a teen bride?

    Third, what’s with the creepy pixellation on the picture of the gays? The area being covered is a man’s chest, for goodness sake. Again, the intention is plain and foul: to make even the sight of a gay man’s chest seem sinister. To hint at the illicit and disgusting.

    Fourth, what’s with the footage of Newman folding a skirt, after asking in this context: “How well do you really know Campbell Newman”? This time the intention is slightly less clear, even if the malice isn’t. Is this meant to sneer at gays as cissies? Or at Campbell as a closet gay – or even crossdresser?

    Disgraceful stuff.

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