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

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.

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  • 1
    Cuppa
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Another leftist at the ABC! …Oh, wait, scratch that. The tired old myth of the ABC as a leftist hive does not fit the facts.

  • 2
    Same Stale Shoes
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    …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?”

    Shockingly homophobic. That’s a factual statement and a legitimate question god damn it.

  • 3
    Malcolm Street
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Wait for Bolt and co to come out claiming that Ms McGill is the victim of a witch-hunt from those ABC Leftists…

  • 4
    LJG..............
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I would hope it is poor judgement on her part - but as another part time employee who has one of these clauses in my contract it would put her in a difficult situation.
    As the ABC could offer her only a part time job of course she had to get work elsewhere - and is she meant to take another part time job as a cleaner so it doesn’t conflict with her ABC announcer?
    I think it’s a little sad that someone so far down the food chain gets the hit.

  • 5
    Mack the Knife
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    And yet Their ABC can have IPA paid casual commentators on the Drum that never have to announce their political and corporate affiliations when commenting on relevant issues.

    Same with OneSiders

  • 6
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Shockingly homophobic. That’s a factual statement and a legitimate question god damn it.”

    Idiot.

  • 7
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    @ Malcolm Street

    The WA journalist is a victim of a leftist witch hunt.

    But…..she will win. Its Restraint of Trade - so many precenents in IR courts, it will last 2 minutes in front of a judge

  • 8
    Alfonse
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    One can lay a large wager on the fact that had she “voiced over” a local charity promotion, no-one - lastly the ABC would bother to have any interest in whether she has breached an alleged policy.

  • 9
    Lyn Gain
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Yes, LJG and Mack the Knife. While Katter’s ad is really low, how dare the ABC withdraw work from a casual employee for not obtaining permission to get some casual work elsewhere. And what purpose did Crikey have in drawing the ABC’S attention to the matter - was this instrumental in getting McGill investigated and probably further casual work withdrawn? Doesn’t Andrew Crook have anything better to do.

  • 10
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Had she been a tenured/permanent employee one would expect such a clause but a casual? What if she’d done some bar tending or croupier shuffling to meet her bills, would that also have been deemed to detract from the ABC integrity?
    Leaving aside the tacky nature of the ad., she woman is a professional voice and, like barristers having to take the next job in the list, however loathsome, this seems very much like some Jobsworth in HR being too big for their boots.

  • 11
    Mal White
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    It does not follow that that by doing the voice over she agrees with the ad. She may have done it for the money to compliment her part time job at the ABC and may actually support Gay marriage.

    The real issue is that she disobeyed a clause in her contract.

    A few questions can be raised.
    Is the ABC decision to suspend her an over reaction since she did not put her name to the ad?
    If she had informed the ABC of her extra work would they have stopped her?

  • 12
    Mal White
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    My mistake, she did put her name to the voice over, although spoken so quickly it is not easy to pick up.

  • 13
    Andrew Lindner
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Whether or not we agree with the message of the ad, I thought that this was Australia and we could not be fired from our jobs because of our political views. This isn’t even to say that she agreed with the message. perhaps she just needed the money.

    Does this mean that the ABC is leftist or at least pro gay marriage?

  • 14
    Monash.Edu
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Fair call, SSS. I think the ad is one of the most vicious, homophobic thing I’ve seen in ages, but the voiceover is pretty tame.

  • 15
    Monash.Edu
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Which is not to say that she isn’t guilty by association. I usually oppose censorship on principle, but this is really nasty stuff.

    I say let it run, and let the people of Queensland understand what a joke Katter and his spiteful ‘party’ really are.

  • 16
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Wednesday, 14 March 2012 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    It does not matter what is in her ABC contract, if it prohibits other work, it is retraint of trade. She will win easily in any Australian IR court, if it goes that far.

    I have seen these cases, been an expert witness at one.

  • 17
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Wednesday, 14 March 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Actually I reckon as far as a political hate ad goes this is pretty lightweight. Not even remotely vilifying … no claims about gay predators in our schools and the sort of appalling stuff that gets run in the US.

    This is what happens in the ugly world of Orstrayan politics. So far I reckon we’re getting off light. But if you want to run a political campaign you can’t complain when the forces of darkness mount a retaliatory campaign. That’s how it works.

    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.

  • 18
    mikeb
    Posted Wednesday, 14 March 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    It’s a no-brainer really. For an on-air presenter (particularly from the ABC) to participate in a paid political advertisement without permission can only result in disciplinary action or at least investigation. Where it ends after that is yet to be determined, but all you pseudo-lawyers pre-empting the motives and outcomes need to get a dose of reality.
    @suzanne blake - you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. Restraint of trade (if this case is an example of it) is clearly enforcable provided it is reasonable. Without seeing what was in her contract or conditions of employment I’d suggest it would have been well and truly legalled before hand. It’s not as if this is an unusual situation for a media organisation.

  • 19
    Blair Martin
    Posted Wednesday, 14 March 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    If you are so sure, Suzanne, why don’t you offer to represent her? I doubt your confidence is that well founded in the real world. If you’d like to quote the judgements of which you have been a part to show that she will win then we are all ears.

    If this is such a heinous restraint of trade, then why have there never been actions before?

    I’m sorry but as someone who does voice-over work on ocassions, I do have standards, and Ms McGill shows by accepting this ridiculous gig that she has few save the one to have money and damn the consequences.

  • 20
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    @ mikeb

    Suggest you look at case law on Restraint of Trade in Employment Law in AUSTRALIA.

    It has only been held to be enforcable where the employee has commercially sensitive information. This is not customer lists, but generally secret IP.

    She was part time, its even less enforcable.

    She would win with any half wit representing her, it would last minutes in an IR court.

    This female journalist has been unfairly dealt with.

  • 21
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    @ Blair Martin

    I am not talking about the rights or wrongs of who she did voiceover for.

    I am talking about employment law and “restraint of trade”.

    Google it, 100’s of cases are listed. The fact that she was part time at ABC is even stronger for her position.

    Just because you do a voice over, does not mean you support or do not support an issue, product, service. Same with an ad. Yes there maybe moral issues for you and future career impacts, eg Carbon Cate etc, but that is a personal choice.

    The WA part time ABC journalist has been dealt with unfairly and I hope she takes legal opinion.

  • 22
    Alfonse
    Posted Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Still, is anyone addressing the real issue ? If you are pro gay marriage or against gay marriage - it matters not. You are entitled to put your point of view forward in response to alternative views AND in the public arena. Whether you are appalled at homosexuality or merely amused by the antics of mardis gras participants matters not - in Australia you are entitled to your point of view and entitled to discuss it publicly. The ad itself merely asked a question. You can debate the politics behind it but not the content. Not too many gay people I know were anywhere near offended - they just laughed at it and rightly debated the issue of State vs Federal issues. (in this case the futile attempt at blending both). Smart people, no knee-jerk reactions and no inquiry as to whether the cameraman may have been moonlighting. Strewth, aren’t there better things to throw molotovs over ?

  • 23
    kate
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    @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.

  • 24
    kate
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    @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.

  • 25
    Alfonse
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    @Kate, - Yes of course you are free to debate both the politics and content. What you cannot debate is the right to voice your opinion, position, feelings, intentions in spite of opposition or in spite of politics or indeed, in spite of the views of the ABC on workplace relations. Each of us has a position on most issues - none of us is always right, despite our self-preserving egos telling us we are. Let us be free to speak AND be howled down - but never silenced.

  • 26
    mikeb
    Posted Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    @Suzanne Blake - “Suggest you look at case law on Restraint of Trade in Employment Law in AUSTRALIA. It has only been held to be enforcable where the employee has commercially sensitive information”. No No No.
    Have you actually looked at commercial law in Aust? I’m no lawyer but I certainly covered this in Uni and as part of subsequent employment. There is NO qualification that “sensitive information” must be involved. The main proviso is that the restraint must be reasonable and, therefore, the test would be whether the ABC employee agrred to employment conditions which were not reasonable. You nor I can’t come to a conclusion one way or the other without seeing all the facts but I’m sure that ABC legal would have a very well vetted standard agreement that they think would hold up under examination. This link has the best summary that i could find quickly on google. http://www.aussielegal.com.au/informationoutline~nocache~1~SubTopicDetailsID~831.htm

  • 27
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    @ MikeB

    Yes I am very familiar with IR law, have been expert witness at IR cases with restraint of trade. First, please don’t confuse US case law with Australian.

    In Australia it has only been held where:

    1. Information or IP is extremely sensitive

    2. Some payment or garden leave in the case of post employment (not case here)

    3. Less enforcable for part time / casual and she was part time.

    4. There are other rare ones as well

    Many employers stick clauses in contracts as a catch all / scare tactic. When push comes to shove in Court (if it goes that far) they fail.

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