Business owner calls out “political correctness” of advertising watchdog after it rules Australia Day ads “ridicule” Muslims

The owner of a fishing supplies shop says he believes the Advertising Standards Board is “falling into line with political correctness” after two of his company’s ads were found to “ridicule” Muslims.

Trelly’s Tackle World Shepparton released two advertisements for an Australia Day campaign in January, one for television and the other for print media.

The television advertisement depicts a man sitting in a chair with a fishing rod surrounded by Australian flags. He says, “G’Day Australia. Here at Trelly’s we welcome all new Australians, especially those ones who assimilate”.

A number of products from the store are then advertised, and the advertisement ends with the man requesting another person, who is off-screen, to get him a beer, saying, “Hey Habib, get me another beer while you’re there”.

A complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) labelled the television advertisement as “discriminatory and racist”.

“In my opinion, the ad is discriminatory and racist. I believe the ad specifically points to ‘the assimilation’ of immigrants/refugees and then asks for ‘Habib’ to get him another drink,” the complainant said.

In conjunction with the television ad, Trelly’s also ran a print advertisement, which featured product advertisements and an offer of free pork kebabs with the tag “1 day only! Halal or Haram”.

Another complainant told the ASB the ad was “incredibly offensive”, due to the complainant’s belief it was attacking Muslims and being Islamophobic.

“The use of the words ‘PORK kebabs’ is offensive because it is well-known that kebabs are a key food in cultures that are predominantly Muslim and that kebabs in Australia are associated with the world halal and Islam in general,” said the complainant.

“This is an initiative to exclude Muslims from Australia Day celebrations and to suggest that Muslims are not Australians and are not welcomed.”

Both complaints were made under area 2.1 of the Advertising Code of Ethics, which relates to discrimination or vilification of religion.

In a response to both complaints, the business defended the advertisements and said they were “deeply offended”.

“[The complainant] remarked as to me aggressively attacking Muslims, yet I have not used the term Muslim at all,” the business responded in regards to the print advertisement.

“[The complainant] goes on to say that kebabs are a food key in some cultures and predominantly Muslim but does not go as far as to say that kebabs are exclusive to some cultures and that a kebab cannot be made out of pork.”

The response then continues to define different types and styles of kebabs, noting, “there is nowhere that I have found that a kebab cannot be made without pork”.

The business also defended the television ad.

“In fact I know of Muslims that eat pork, drink and deal in alcohol and whose families settled in this great country over 50 years ago,” the response reads.

“These same people saw fit to assimilate in Australia and by that I mean abide by Australian Laws. My ad did not in any way suggest that anyone who abides by our Laws is not welcome in Australia as [The complainant] writes.”

Read more: Subaru pulls TV ad deemed “highly offensive” to indigenous Australians

ASB upholds complaints, says ad “humiliates and ridicules”

However, the advertising standards board upheld the complaints, ordering the business to cease displaying both ads.

Noting the offer of free pork kebabs was not a breach of the Code, the board clarified its position that the offer in conjunction with the word “haram”, which means forbidden, “is clearly targeting Muslims in a manner intended to provoke a reaction”.

“The Board considered that the advertisement humiliates and ridicules Muslims in its suggestion that they would or could eat pork,” the ASB said.

“The Board considered that the advertisement did portray or depict material in a way which vilifies a person or section of the community on account of religion and determined that the advertisement did breach Section 2.1 of the Code.”

A similar decision was made regarding Trelly’s television advertisement, with the ASB noting the negative connotations associated with the term “assimilate”.

“The Board noted the strong negative connotations of assimilation and considered that the advertisement’s suggestion that by assimilating (taking on the habits, attitudes and way of life of another culture) you are more welcome in Australia than those who don’t is encouraging unfair or less favourable treatment of a person based on their race or nationality of birth,” the ASB said.

The board also noted the suggestion of Habib getting a beer was vilifying as abstinence from alcohol is a part of Islam and would “incite contempt” for a key part of the faith.

The ASB also upheld the complaint against the television advertisement.

The business expected complaints

Whilst the business committed to not airing the advertisements, Trelly’s owner Steven Threlfall told SmartCompany in a statement he expected to receive complaints about the ad.

“This is only one of many adds [sic] over the last 30 years I have produced, many of which have taken the piss out of political correctness, groups and cultures. I think I’m actually getting better at it and if I haven’t offended you yet wait for my next add [sic],” Threlfall told SmartCompany.

“The advertising governing body are only responding to the complaints they receive but I do feel they are also falling into line with political correctness as to their opinion,” he says.

“It seems that minority groups are influencing these types of decision makers in a way that gives a bad meaning to our Australian Freedom of speech and right to reply.”

Companies should keep on top of recent Ad Standards rulings

Despite the advertisements never explicitly stating they were about Muslims or Islam, advertising expert and academic Lauren Rosewarne told SmartCompany the reference in this case was clear.

“You don’t need to mention Islam for an ad that uses words include Halal and Haram to be understood as a reference to faith,” Rosewarne says.

Rosewarne believes referencing themes like Islam or other religions are “almost never” a good idea when it comes to advertising.

“We’re at a period of time where there are heightened sensitivities regarding hot-button identity issues such as gender, sexuality and, in this case, faith,” she says.

“In light of this, advertisers need to ask themselves whether there is any genuine necessity to reference such themes in advertising: my hunch is that there is almost never a time when such themes are useful in marketing.”

Advertisers should be keeping on top of the cases upheld by the ASB in order to understand what’s on and avoid bad publicity, Rosewarne says.

“Advertisers need to keep abreast of the kinds of complaints the ASB are receiving and to ask themselves whether the bad publicity that often comes from an upheld complaint is, in anyway, advantageous to their brand.

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helma Parkin
helma Parkin
3 years ago

What next as it’s amazing how many Muslums eat HAM and think it comes from Beef…
We have Pork Kababs so what is wrong…do we have to change everything just to suit those who have come into Australia and what it like where they came from.
Go Away this is Australia not Austrasia.

Colin Spencer
Colin Spencer
3 years ago
Reply to  helma Parkin

Quite right Helma. I have quite a few Muslim friends who would laugh at the ideas projected in those advertisements. They are, after all, typical Aussies themselves.

Nathan Dunning
Nathan Dunning
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Spencer

Typical Aussies don’t pray 5 times a day to a false god,believe in Child marriage,slavery,Sharia and to kill all Jews,Christians and Non-believers where ever they find them.

Get Real
Get Real
3 years ago

Sorry I am Australian, so sick of all the PC, and in my Australian culture I was brought up with is that I can have a bacon and egg roll or a beer or pork. If people come here, THEY accept our Aussie standards and live with what we do. Not change to suit the foreign minority or religion which I personally do not believe in any. In history, Religion IS the cause of all evil and constant friction.

Colin Spencer
Colin Spencer
3 years ago

Well the ATSB has certainly displayed bias in its assumption that only Muslims could be offended. Why wasn’t it sensitive enough to point out that people with other religious beliefs also do not eat pork? Jewish people, Seventh-Day-Adventists, and a number of other religious groups believe that pork should not be consumed either. Perhaps the ATSB can ban all ALP political advertisements because most of them offend sensible people, including myself.

Rohan Baker
Rohan Baker
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Spencer

I’m offended that you’re offended, so at the end of the day we’re all square I guess.

I think we should now replace “The lucky country” motto with, “I’m a precious snowflake so demand my gender non-specific safe space now!”

Nathan Dunning
Nathan Dunning
3 years ago

Yahshua Ha’Mashiach (aka Jesus Christ) is the WAY thew TRUTH and the LIFE>He is about to return to destroy all evil and rule the righteous from Israel.I wouldn’t want to be Islamic on that day.Worship the false god and his false prophet and you will perish in Hell.

Graeme Harrison
Graeme Harrison
3 years ago

The logical conclusion of this ASB ruling is that ALL beer, wine and spirit advertising must cease immediately in all forms of media and at point-of-sale. Under the ovetly-PC new approach of the ASB, advertising any alcohol is going to offend that same small fraction of the Muslim 2% who dislike alcohol and see any invocations to imbibe alcoholic beverages as insulting to their deeply-held religious beliefs.

This eagerness to ‘submit’ to Muslim demands that Australian culture be changed to comply with their myth belief system is PRECISELY what builds support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party push to end such submission. The logical conclusion to complying with the push is for Australia to have blasphemy laws whereby it is an offence to insult a religion in any way. The heavy hand of the church was upon European culture (including punishing thought crimes such as those of Copernicus and Galileo) until The Enlightenment. Since then, civilisation has progressed because ALL ideas are up for debate. Any attempt at preventing debate of ideas returns us to the Middle Ages. No liberal Western democracy has blasphemy laws; and those countries which don’t allow poking fun at religion are devoid of many modern freedoms.

Graeme Harrison
Graeme Harrison
3 years ago

After we have removed all alcohol promotion from all media+POS, we can have the ASB outlaw ads containing women wearing immodest attire, as that is a clear insult to Islamic values. Then the ASB can require women’s heads to be covered in all ads, so as not to be ‘intentionally highlighting’ (in the way that pork references in this instance did) the ‘differences’ that have the effect of clearly ostracising Muslims in Australia.

Arguably the French approach of ‘laïcité’ (pride in national value of secularism, ie complete separation of church & state) seems far more sensible, where we insist that ostensible religious garb is not allowed in tax-payer funded public spaces, and religions cannot seek to politically impose their values on the rest of society. Otherwise we face these arguments over discussing pork, alcohol and whether all women in ads should wear scarves!