In an era where political parties and policy advocates on the right are struggling to find new ways to engage and mobilise voters in the face of insidious and well-funded progressive lobby groups like GetUp, The Australian Taxpayers Alliance, a 75,000 plus member strong advocacy group representing the interests of Australia’s taxpayers, made headway during the campaign thanks to an unlikely and unusual ally.
The ATA launched its new OzTaxpayers App, to support its Stop Shorten campaign against the onslaught of tax hikes that the former opposition leader promised if elected. The App itself helped bring Sydney volunteers to key marginal seats like Wentworth to drive a grassroots campaign against Labor’s tax hikes on renters. This was done through the App’s ‘gamified’ user experience that rewards those who engage with it, share content, and invite their friends, through a points system.
Such an experience provided a handy platform to let users engage with each other, share ideas and content, get involved, and take crucial calls to action at the right time to put pressure on those in power.
Both outlets published stories which linked the app to other apps used to mobilise voters in support of Donald Trump, the anti-abortion campaign in Northern Ireland, and the National Rifle Association, despite the app and the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance having nothing to do with any of these groups or causes – simply an example of the ‘guilty by association’ fallacy.
Indeed, even the title of the ABC article was misleading, “The app that helped Donald Trump win is targeting Australian voters in 2019.” The apps were not the same; rather both apps were built using Ucampaign.
Ucampaign, as a company is neither affiliated with the left nor right as can be understood by their website “Customizable iOS/Android Apps that deliver really awesome results for causes like yours”.
In reality, Ucampaign has one point of difference from other app builder platforms, and that is the ease which it attempts to gamify the experience so individuals can compete with one another.
While the company may have been founded by a self-professed conservative and counts conservative causes as many of its clients, it has also provided a platform for the left-wing Dominican Liberation Party, which was not included in the ABC or Daily Mail coverage.
Ucampaign’s service is not dissimilar to services like Nation Builder, a site used by the Australian Labor Party to manage their Twitter, and President Macron’s Campaign during his French Election of 2017. Yet, undoubtedly the ABC hasn’t run a piece saying the Australian Labor Party uses the same or a similar platform as Macron- nor should they. In any case, the outcome of slanted coverage against an App that voiced and mobilised concerns of the silent majority of Australians was positive. Nearly 500 concerned Australians across the country signed onto the app in the immediate wake of the news coverage downloaded it before the election.
Successful grassroots campaigns like those of the ATA helped to drive political outcomes that the establishment didn’t expect. Shorten was stopped. There will be no tax hikes on retirees, and Wentworth returned to a candidate who unequivocally opposes any change that could drive up rents or smash home values.
Louis Williams is a Research Associate at the Australian Taxpayers Alliance.
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