“Coal-o-phile Dundee”: Morrison’s climate denial outed in massive Times Square billboard

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The Morrison government’s lacklustre climate policies have been advertised to the world, in perhaps the most prominent location in the world, with billboards labelling Scott Morrison “Coal-o-phile Dundee” playing in New York City’s Times Square.

The billboard, which drew attention to Australia’s weak climate policies and poor responses to last year’s climate-fuelled bushfires, had been arranged by comedian Dan Ilic, and funded by a highly successful crowdfunding campaign.

Ilic launched the crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for advertising targeting the Morrison government’s climate policies in the lead up to the COP26 climate talks.

Initially seeking $12,500 to fund a couple of billboards in Glasgow during the climate talks, the campaign has raised more than $150,000 – prompting Ilic to significantly ramp up his “JokeKeeper” campaign to include targeted advertising in the electorates of key climate recalcitrants within the federal coalition.

Ilic was able to secure a 10-minute slot on one of the most prominent billboards in New York’s Times Square, a 77-foot billboard dubbed the ‘Godzilla’ billboard, which included parody tourism messaging, including “Visit Australia, we’re rich in wind, sunshine and climate denial”, as well as imagery of a kangaroo on fire and koalas in a tree that was in the process of being cut down.

“I’m really pumped we could do this, it’s all thanks to you, regular Australians who are pissed off about the way our government does nothing to take responsibility for climate action,” Ilic said in an update to the crowdfunding campaign.

The billboard ran around 7 pm on Thursday in New York (Friday morning Australian time), with New York-based Australian’s also making the trip out to Times Square to share the billboard on social media.

The billboard featured Scott Morrison as ‘Coal-o-phile Dundee’, with the line: “That’s not climate denial, this is climate denial,” in reference to Crocodile Dundee’s most memorable line in the original movie: “that’s not a knife, this is a knife.”

The signage also promoted a parody ‘Coal-i-con’ conference featuring former resources minister Matt Canavan winning the best coal “cosplay” award.

Part of the billboard also suggested Australia has a target to reach net zero emissions by 2300 – a reference to Australia’s slow pace of emissions reductions.

Ilic’s campaign will run at least three billboards in Glasgow during the COP26 talks, again targeting Australia’s climate stance, including a billboard that invites delegates to “Cuddle a Koala (before we make them extinct)”.

“We’re going to buy three Glaswegian billboards during the Climate talks to set Australia’s record straight and to let the world know that the people at the talks representing Australia don’t represent Australians,” the campaign says.

Ilic is a Sydney-based comedian who has done a range of parody work with various television shows and campaign groups, including GetUp!, and hosts the A Rational Fear podcast.

Ilic has said that some of the funds raised through the crowdfunding campaign will also be used to support the work of other comedians, and has therefore been labelled the “JokeKeeper” campaign.

It’s not the first time Ilic has targeted the work of Scott Morrison, having previously produced a parody of the “Where the bloody hell are you” advertising campaign produced by Tourism Australia while Morrison was its managing director.

The parody campaign was in part promoted by the Morrison government’s own ‘Making Positive Energy’ campaign – which has been launched in the lead up to the Glasgow talks to promote Australia’s progress on reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy sources.

RenewEconomy has sought to confirm how much public funding, but the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has so far refused to disclose that information.

The government’s procurement website, AusTender, lists details of contracts for advertising services worth more than $13 million, secured by the Department and that appear to coincide with the timing of ‘Making Positive Energy’ campaign, but again the department has not confirmed those figures.

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