George Calombaris’ Tourism WA campaign canned in wake of wages scandal

Embattled celebrity chef, restaurateur and Masterchef judge George Calombaris’ partnership with Tourism Western Australia has ended, with the tourism body cancelling the recent campaign which featured him. The news comes in the wake of increasingly negative publicity around the Masterchef judge, after it was revealed he underpaid staff by $7.8m.

A Tourism WA spokesperson told Mumbrella pausing the campaign was necessary due to the community response to the Calombaris controversy.  

Many observers feel his fine of $200,000 from the Fair Work Ombudsman, and his continued presence on Masterchef – ostensibly promoting the industry, its practices and its people – is unfair and problematic.

“Given the recent community response due to Mr Calombaris’ issues with the Fair Work Commission we have paused the parts of the campaign that have featured him and we’re speaking with his management,” the spokesperson said.

The tourism body stressed, however, Calombaris’ small role in the scale of the state’s marketing efforts.

“George Calombaris was a small part of a Tourism WA campaign encouraging people to visit the areas of the State that featured in the recent WA Week on Masterchef Australia,” the statement issued to Mumbrella said.

“This campaign is just part of what we’re doing to promote the state.

“We’re in the midst of arguably the state’s greatest winter of sport with State of Origin, last week’s Manchester United visit and the Bledisloe Cup next month. We’ve also got great events coming up with Fed Cup and the new Western Australia Gourmet Escape in November, and next year we’ve got the new ATP Cup along with great fixtures for men’s and women’s T20 World Cup.

“Internationally, we’re also spending more than ever before on marketing WA as a great holiday spot.

“And a record 2.66m people from interstate or overseas visited WA in 12 months to March 2019. That’s a record for the State.”

WA’s tourism minister Paul Papalia, took a harsher stance, saying Calombaris’ actions are “terrible”.

In the ‘Create Your Own Gourmet Escape in WA’ campaign, Calombaris says: “I believe that nature has as much influence on a region’s food culture as any chef. Great dishes don’t just start in kitchens, they’re inspired by the air, the land, and the locals.”

Meanwhile, Ten, the broadcaster of Masterchef is sticking with Calombaris, saying he has the network’s support.

On Seven’s Morning Show, entertainment reporter Peter Ford said Tourism WA was also ceasing its advertising on Masterchef, and could be reconsidering its future partnerships with the program.


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