The GetUp activist group has claimed credit for winning billions of dollars in government relief spending to combat the coronavirus crisis, telling supporters “we’ve won some tremendous victories”.
An email from the left-wing group told supporters the Morrison government’s doubling of the Newstart job allowance, the six-month ban on evictions caused by financial hardship and the deal with private hospitals to share the public system’s load were the result of its efforts.
The GetUp email, headed “We won — BIG” and authorised by national director Paul Oosting, claims Scott Morrison made concessions only after GetUp organised “tens of thousands of petition signatures”, “emails” and “a flood of Facebook and Twitter posts”.
“Incredible, Friends!” it says. “Hundreds of thousands of us have taken action, and together we’ve won some tremendous victories. At the start of the coronavirus crisis we set out three immediate priorities to help communities face the oncoming hardship: guaranteed liveable incomes; a roof over every head; and access to healthcare for all who need it.”
GetUp claims “before we blinked” the government had doubled Newstart after years of pressure from unemployed activists. It says it set its sights next on ensuring no one was evicted during a public health crisis, and the Prime Minister made a previously “unthinkable” concession after GetUp-backed petitions and emails.
According to GetUp, it then “swung into action” on healthcare “with tens of thousands of petition signatures and a flood of Facebook and Twitter posts that the government couldn’t ignore”.
Adding, “And we won,” GetUp claims credit for intensive care beds in private hospitals coming under public control, private hospitals made flexible to the needs of public health and job guarantees for private hospital workers.
The email signed by GetUp team members Ed, Rafi, Charlie, Tessa and Oliver says, “these victories don’t belong to us alone” in instances where unions “fought and won wage subsidies”, unemployed workers won “suspended mutual obligations” and students won more “income support”.
It concludes with a new appeal for supporters to sign a GetUp petition “to guarantee jobs with dignity for everyone”.
Government ministers declined to comment, but some senior federal and state officials called GetUp’s assertions “ridiculous” and “delusional”. One noted the email was sent on April 1 but did not seem to be an April fool’s joke.
Queensland Liberal senator Amanda Stoker, a fierce critic of GetUp’s election tactics last year, accused the group of falsely claiming credit for government policy and then exploiting it for campaign purposes.
“GetUp threw all the resources it had at preventing the re-election of the Morrison government,” Senator Stoker said. “It lied to donors, spending over 70 per cent of the $12.4m it raised last year on admin and salaries for themselves.
“Now GetUp are claiming credit for government policy and using it to swindle more money from naive Australians. Can they go any lower?”
GetUp’s Mr Oosting stood by his group’s position, but appeared to water down the credit claimed.
He told The Australian: “Far from claiming credit, the email … acknowledges the amazing work being done across the progressive movement by unions, students, frontline social service organisations as well as many thousands of GetUp members who have supported hard, long-fought campaigns for the positive reforms the government has adopted.”
Mr Oosting congratulated Mr Morrison for “reacting decisively” with measures including doubling Newstart and free childcare.
Published in The Australian by Brad Norington on Wednesday 8th April 2020.