Senator James Patterson during a meeting with representatives of volunteer firefighters at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 10 October 2016. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex EllinghausenA junior public servant who was mocked for talking about “paleo pear and banana bread” in a widely ridiculed government recruitment ad was wrongly blamed by her boss for inventing the line.
The Department of Finance video, which was slammed as cringeworthy and atrocious after it went viral earlier this month, features a group of real-life staff members spruiking the exciting benefits of the department’s graduate program.
In one memorable exchange, a young woman named Claire has a chat to colleagues: “Hey guys, I’m just heading downstairs for my paleo pear and banana bread. Would you like to join me?”
Her offer was rebuffed by an older colleague, who said the delicacy was “a little bit fancy for me”.
The jarring line became a symbol of the awkwardly-scripted video, and even became the subject of discussion at a Senate estimates hearing at Parliament House. Liberal senator James Paterson said the line “stood out to me and struck me as perhaps a little trivial” and asked Department of Finance officials for an explanation.
“I understand the reasons you would be doing this, but it seems a bit trivial for a serious agency of government … to be joking about paleo pear and banana bread,” he said.
David Fredericks, a deputy secretary of the department who also makes a wooden cameo in the video, jumped in.
“I can tell you a small back story on that,” he offered.
“That was a change made in the script at the time of the filming. It was actually made at the request of the graduate. It was basically accepted because we took the view, and I think the agency took the view, that we are possibly not the best people to know and understand how best to communicate to a young generation of graduates. So this graduate, with a bit of innovation, wanted to change the script.”
Senator Paterson responded: “Right. So you are exonerating the agency for having written that line?”
Mr Fredericks replied “yes”.
But Claire never asked for the line to be included and Fairfax Media understands Mr Frederick’s claim did not go down well inside the department.
He has now written to the Senate committee correcting his evidence, noting he has “since been advised that a member of the production crew suggested this change to the script”.
The cafe inside the department’s plush building doesn’t even have paleo pear and banana bread on its menu.
Government tenders show the Department of Finance is spending $37,400 with ad agency Together Creative, which describes itself as a “famously good creative agency” that develops “head-turning campaigns”. The ad cost $4000 to produce.
A spokesperson for the department declined to say whether Claire had received an apology.
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