He may not have made an international box office hit since the Crocodile Dundee series, but Paul Hogan has certainly proved one thing over the last couple of weeks — he still knows how to win over a crowd.
Hogan has been waging a media war against the taxman for a fortnight now, after the ATO grounded the seventy-year-old as part of Operation Wickenby for allegedly skipping the bill on millions of dollars of unpaid taxes. Guilty or not, the PR war paid off yesterday, as Hoges — complete with fake moustache — flew out of Sydney airport after his classification as a flight risk was rescinded.
Mike Smith, director of Inside PR, told Crikey that Hogan’s handling of the media during the stand-off was a “big success” and that his use of a disguise to leave the country was a “nice touch”.
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“Hogan has always been pretty good on the PR front, but I think he’s done especially well in the last week,” Smith told Crikey. “He’s got a pretty decent well of good will to tap into and he sure did tap it.”
Hogan has been unambiguous about his efforts to cash in on his public image during the two week stand off. When quizzed this morning on why he was allowed to leave the country, Hogan told reporters that the ATO let him go “…because of the bad publicity around the world.”
Hogan is right about the bad press. For the ATO, not him, that is. The Logie-winning actor has been a fixture in tabloid and broadsheet papers both in Australia and overseas since the order was handed down.
Mike Smith said that most Australians had a soft spot for Hogan and that he had used mockery as an effective tool in his battle with the taxman.
“Nobody likes the tax office, they’re an easy target and he walloped them,” said Smith. “If there is one thing bureaucrats like the ATO hate more than being made fun of in their own country, it’s being made fun of abroad and being made to look like hicks from Down Under.”
The Charlie & Boots star also took part in an extended interview with Tracey Grimshaw on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair last week, where he took the extraordinary step of thanking the Daily Telegraph, The Australian and Channel Nine at the start of the show for telling his side of the story.
“I just want to push out a thanks to a couple of people,” Hogan said before naming the outlets. “Thanks very much, good on ya. I will not embarrass you or let you down.”
Mike Smith said that the Hogan star had touched all the right “ocker Australia buttons” during the interview and that Hogan’s contribution to Australian tourism was another factor.
“It’s indisputable that his advertising campaign for Australia has been one of the most successful campaigns ever,” said Smith. “What he’s reminded Australia of constantly is that this country owes him a lot.”
While the ATO are still pursuing the matter, Smith said that Hogan was not getting the same bad publicity as convicted tax cheat Glen Wheatley, in part because he was a “more likable character.”
“Of course we still don’t have a lot of facts about what Hogan did or didn’t do,” said Smith. “Wheatley had a trial … where with Hogan we still don’t know what exactly went on there.”
Correction: An original version of this story suggested Paul Hogan praised parts of the media for “telling his side of the story”. The phrase was not actually a direct quote and has been corrected.