It was only the first contribution by Kirsten Drysdale (The Checkout, Hungry Beast, The Hamster Wheel) to 7:30, but her “shirt-fronting” prize-fight parody between Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin has already raised eyebrows.
The ABC has defended the brief report, introduced by Leigh Sales as a “lighthearted look at APEC,” following criticism by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and some viewer complaints.
Sales even offered an introductory “warning”: “I think her tongue’s firmly in cheek”.
In the segment Drysdale joked that a looming battle could see “Our very own cyclist taking on a bear-riding, sports-fishing, gun-toting, judo-wrestling, tiger-slaying, dolphin-wrangling former KGB spy.”
Footage of the two leaders was accompanied by sports-like commentary, teasing a wrestling brawl was about to break out.
ABC defended the segment, mindful that Bryan Dawe and John Clarke’s satire had been absent from the show for some years. Drysdale was recruited for two months.
“We have been exploring new ways of including satire in the program,” a spokesperson said.
But Malcolm Turnbull said, “It would have been a pretty pathetic segment on The Chaser.
“To include it in the national broadcaster’s leading current-affairs program is a baffling and disappointing error of judgment … The ABC is independent of government and its board of directors is ultimately responsible for its editorial decisions.”
ABC has indicated the piece was followed by a back-announce outlining the serious side to the story and the nature of the meeting.
“It was conveyed very clearly to viewers that it was a humorous take on APEC.”
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be working at 7.30,” Drysdale said earlier this week.
“It’s my dream job, I hope I can meet the program’s high journalistic standards and only resort to silly costumes in extreme circumstances.”