Dr Karl and the IGR

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Much admired, high profile scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has withdrawn his support for the Abbott Government’s Intergenerational Report, describing it as flawed, despite his appearance in advertisements that promote the report. In particular, the “reduced focus” on climate change has led Dr Kruszelnicki to question the partisan approach of the report.

“The only reason I agreed to do it [promote the report] is because I was told that it would be independent, bipartisan and non-political. … if it turns out to have been fiddled with or subject to political interference from one side of politics I would deeply regret playing any part in it whatsoever” he said on ABC radio this morning.

Dr. Kruszelnicki also revealed that he had not read the report before agreeing to front an expensive advertising campaign that has been shown on TV, in social media and in print. The advertisements encourage Australians to join the conversation about the demands of an ageing population. Mr Hockey’s office will not release the cost of the taxpayer-funded advertising campaign, which it describes as an ‘information’ campaign.

Watch Dr Karl in the ‘Challenge of Change’ ad campaign you have funded.

Hear him speak on ABC radio.

Read a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Opinion: Another celeb endorsement gone wrong?

At one level I feel sorry for Dr Karl – and at another, I don’t. Too often high profile Australians are happy to pocket high fees from companies, brands – or indeed governments – wishing to ‘gild the lily’ on a questionable product, or add some credibility to a questionable proposition. Dr Karl has been caught out.

He is Australia’s favourite scientist who has lent his name to a particularly partisan report, only to discover that it seriously belittles the challenge of climate change. And to his credit, he has stood up and said that he made a mistake and regrets his role. But he has not asked for the campaign to be halted. And whilst he is quarrelling with the IGR’s lack of regard for the importance of climate change, he has basically endorsed the highly political economic conclusions asserted by the Treasurer, as opposed to a non-partisan Treasury.

As we reported when the IGR was released on 5 March, as well as taking the easy way out on climate change, the report simply refused to look holistically at the issue of retirement incomes, ignoring the massive misdirection of monies into overly generous superannuation contribution tax relief. It is not good enough for such an eminent scientist to take money to front advertisements endorsing a report he has not read. It merely reduces the credibility of his endorsement to equal that of a sportsperson promoting a new toothpaste.  

It doesn’t really matter if companies waste their marketing budgets on celebrity endorsements by people who often subsequently fall from grace. But it does matter that the Federal Government is using our taxes to pay a scientist to tell us its partisan report is a good document. And if this scientist now believes the report is flawed, the advertising campaign should be stopped and Dr. Kruszelnicki should think very seriously about refunding his fee.

What do you think? Has Dr. Karl made a mistake? And if so, should the ad campaign be stopped and Dr Karl made to refund his fee? How do you feel about your taxes being spent on such a dubious political promotion?

Written by Kaye Fallick


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