Features Australia

GetUp!’s road to nowhere

1 June 2019

9:00 AM

1 June 2019

9:00 AM

Australia owes a debt of gratitude to GetUp!, the George Soros funded outfit with an almost missionary zeal against conservatism. Early chroniclers of the election have failed to acknowledge how GetUp!’s vulgarity led voters to reject the Left in droves. Many of the independent candidates it endorsed are yesterday’s news. Most conservative MPs it sought to unseat have emerged triumphant. The globalist darling of the champagne socialist set is all washed up.

Few are extolling the virtues of GetUp! after a multi-million dollar campaign using thousands of members and 800,000 how-to-vote cards had virtually no effect. Even traditional allies among the Labor party faithful are shunning the group because they believe it hurt the party’s chances.

MPs’ complaints against the group range from deception to being unrepresentative and undemocratic. GetUp! chief Paul Oosting was widely criticised for using election materials that falsely accused Treasurer Josh Frydenberg of being part of a ‘coup’ against Malcolm Turnbull. When ABC host Jon Faine pointed out it was misleading, Oosting seemed unfazed. His line of defence defied reason. It provided an extraordinary insight into the morality of the group.

From its inception, GetUp! was associated with Labor and its union affiliates. Former Labor leader Bill Shorten was a founding board member. The CFMEU donated $1.1 million to the group. It spent big on advertising during the 2016 election campaign, including attacks on Liberal MPs who remained loyal to first term prime minister Tony Abbott during Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership spill against him.

In the lead-up to this year’s election, GetUp! campaigned against conservatives again. It published a ‘hit list’ of Coalition MPs including Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, George Christensen, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt, Barnaby Joyce, Craig Kelly, Christian Porter and Michael Sukkar. As the campaign rolled on, so did the GetUp! band. It trained its sights on more MPs. It smeared conservative Nicolle Flint, calling her South Australia’s ‘most backwards politician’. Like most candidates demeaned by GetUp!, Flint was victorious.

Oosting has tried to spin gold from straw men, citing Abbott’s loss in Warringah as proof of GetUp!’s success. Yet its Warringah campaign was an example of rank incivility. It ran a sordid television commercial about Abbott, who has spent decades volunteering for service to the local community, including as a lifesaver. The GetUp! advertisement depicted him as a surf lifesaver who refused to help a drowning person. Chief Executive of Royal Life Saving Australia Justin Scarr responded on Twitter: ‘Yeah, nah. @GetUp terrible week for drowning or lifesaving references. Poor taste. Nothing funny about drowning.’

GetUp! has been on a road to nowhere for some time. After the 2016 election, Oosting said the group had taken on conservative MPs to reduce their influence in government. They helped to unseat Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic, but the Coalition got over the line with plenty of conservatives in reserve.

For those tired of the Left’s dirty tricks and protests against secure borders, fiscal repair and Australian values, the electoral success of key conservative Peter Dutton was a relief. GetUp!’s catchy ‘ditch Dutton’ slogan was born in green-left headquarters and died in Queensland. The Home Affairs minister not only retained his seat, but increased the margin. Shortly after news of his victory, he accused GetUp! of undemocratic and deceptive conduct.

If you want to know when GetUp! is in town, just listen for squeals of ‘hard right!’. MPs who support secure borders are ‘hard right’. People who want reliable, affordable electricity are ‘hard right’. Yet radicals routinely fail to define their terms. It is a reliable indicator of the rise of propaganda in the realm of public reason. Speaking to the ABC, former Liberal prime minister John Howard said: ‘I hear expressions like “hard right”. What is meant by hard right? Someone who has got a conservative social position? That is not hard right. That is just being an ordinary conservative who sees value in preserving things from the past that are working well.’ Such common sense unsettles the activist mind.

Attorney-General Christian Porter, another GetUp! target, attributed his electoral success to keeping things local. Like many conservative colleagues, he survived a well-funded campaign by Labor and affiliates. He criticised Labor for relying on ‘outside influences’ to campaign on its behalf, including GetUp! and the unions.

GetUp!’s stance against policies with a clear democratic mandate has led to the charge that it acts against the national interest. In 2018, Liberal MP Luke Howarth expressed concern after data showed the group had spent millions in the lead up to the 2016 election and distributed how-to-vote cards that put Liberals last.

Late last year, the government passed legislation to protect Australia’s sovereign democracy against undue foreign influence. Before the laws came into effect, GetUp! received $92,000 from the European Climate Foundation.

Years of dysfunctional government have left conservatives unable to counter the corrosive influence of soft power on sovereign democracy. Yet already, the Coalition has committed to rationalising the bloated bureaucracies of the public service. It will ignore Labor’s election pledge to increase funding for left-wing media comrades in the ABC. It is considering new legislation to prevent groups like GetUp! from engaging in campaign activity outside polling booths.

Democracy works best when the principle of government by the people is followed closely by government for the people. The Coalition cannot rebuild democracy on a marsh. The time to drain the swamp is overdue.

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