The GetUp activist group is trying to cash in on the popularity of Scott Morrison’s coronavirus measures with a plea for donations that it says will fund a campaign supporting government policy.
GetUp’s vow to spend big on “ads, polling and a comprehensive report” backing the government’s COVID-19 strategy appears a remarkable about-face after years of attacking Coalition policies and urging voters to put its party candidates last on ballot papers.
The left-wing group’s national director, Paul Oosting, tells supporters in an emailed plea for cash that the campaign is needed to help firm the government’s resolve, and counter calls from “hard-right conservatives” who want relief spending scaled back.
Disenchanted former GetUp team leaders and volunteers are sceptical, claiming the organisation has seized on public support for the government in difficult times as a revenue raiser to prop up its own finances as the majority of its spending goes to $7.2m in salaries for Mr Oosting and other staff.
They also challenged how allegedly pro-government donations sent to GetUp might be spent, claiming contributions meant for campaigning at last year’s federal election were often not spent on billboards or ads as many believed.
GetUp’s promised campaign of support for the Morrison government comes just a week after The Australian reported the group had tried to claim credit for Coalition COVID-19 relief packages to double unemployment benefits, stop tenant evictions and extend public health services to private hospitals during the coronavirus crisis.
GetUp critics inside the Coalition say the group was indulging in a fantasy by claiming credit with an email to supporters headed “We Won — BIG” and was now adding to its credibility problems by launching a fundraising campaign that purported to support the government.
Queensland Liberal Amanda Stoker, who spoke out against GetUp tactics in last year’s election, called the group’s latest campaign “bizarre and self-serving”.
Senator Stoker said GetUp could help the community more by leaving money raised in the pockets of donors trying to survive the crisis financially, or giving the money to those in need.
“Last week GetUp were claiming responsibility for the economic measures implemented by the Morrison government, this week they’re asking for donations to fight it,” she said. “GetUp never let the truth get in the way of scamming a buck.”
An ex-GetUp volunteer said: “You can gauge how likely the measures are going to be wound back. This is just another cynical GetUp move to bolster their coffers.” Mr Oosting tells supporters the government’s response has not been perfect, but it has made progress in recent weeks and “we must do everything in our power to defend that progress — including giving credit where it’s due”.
He says GetUp needs to live up to its professed independence with a “massive campaign in support of the government’s recent reforms so they stick” in the face of pressure for funding cuts from “panicked hard-right conservatives”.
Mr Oosting told The Australian that GetUp planned to defend the Morrison government measures because they were “at risk from criticisms from far-right groups” exerting pressure to end protection of people’s income, jobs, childcare and housing. He said these measures were popular and “should become part of a fairer Australia”.
GetUp’s leader singled out for criticism the Institute of Public Affairs, a conservative Melbourne-based think tank, for seeking a return to “business as usual”, and Advance Australia, a conservative group set up in opposition to GetUp, for campaigning against Mr Morrison’s “left wing agenda”.
Mr Oosting’s fundraising email also names News Corp columnist and Sky News host Andrew Bolt for referring to relief measures as a “drastic overreaction”.
He said GetUp would campaign to ensure the “positive economic reforms” become permanent, and were expanded to include those left out.
Published on 14th April by Brad Norrington in The Australian