05 April, 2017
Meredith Booth & Michael Owen
Courtesy of the Australian
John Opie says he was paid $1800 to say “my business depends on it” in a $500,000 South Australian government advertising campaign spruiking Jay Weatherill’s new energy plan, which the baker was never shown.
Mr Opie, a small-business owner in a blue-ribbon Liberal electorate, says he was never told what “it” was in the slogan he was paid by the taxpayer to repeat for the Labor government’s cameras.
He is yet to even read the Premier’s $550 million six-point “self-sufficient” energy plan on which his bakery apparently “depends”, despite the plan being released three weeks ago.
Mr Opie said electricity was a big expense for his suburban bakery and costs had risen 33 per cent during the past year, from an average of $910 a month to $1216.
His revelations came after he was approached by The Australian at his Unley bakery yesterday.
Mr Opie’s statements confirm Opposition Leader Steven Marshall’s concerns that the everyday people who appear in the government’s advertising campaign were not given details of the energy policy before endorsing his new plan.
“They didn’t give me any written information or explain anything to me. Mind you, I didn’t ask,’’ he said.
The producer of the advertisement, Mark Evans, is a regular bakery customer and one day offered to pay Mr Opie for four hours’ work.
Mr Opie, who appears for a few seconds in the television commercial and on two big billboards near his bakery, thought the job would be an opportunity to promote his small business.
Mr Weatherill also paid for morning tea at Mr Opie’s bakery with the other “actors” in the advertising campaign — an elderly woman and a mother and child — after the shoot, Mr Opie said.
Mr Marshall said the payment was equal to “cash for comment” and has questioned the taxpayer-funded campaign’s legitimacy.
South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis told ABC radio on Monday that he didn’t know whether the people in the advertisements were paid. “But they are all real people involved in real industries. Whether they were paid to be in the ads I don’t know but I can find out and I’ll let your listeners know,” he said.
Yesterday, a government spokeswoman told The Australian that money paid to those involved in the campaign was “commercial in confidence”.
“Instead of attacking hardworking South Australians, Mr Marshall’s time would be better spent developing an energy plan of his own,’’ she said. “As previously disclosed, $500,000 has been budgeted for the development and production of newspaper, radio and television ads.”
Yesterday, deputy Liberal leader Vickie Chapman said the ALP was “so desperate in South Australia that they are using public money to buy friends”.
“Paying someone to support a plan that they have never read is one of the most ridiculous tactics that I’ve come across … If Mr Weatherill and Mr Koutsantonis think that this is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds, their Labor colleagues should remove them.”