Contributed by Jim Hayes
The Morrison government’s campaign to discredit and destroy GetUp has received a setback.
Its campaign rested on the claim that that the activist organisation is a front for the Labor Party and the Greens and is financially dependent on the unions. This accusation is what was behind the ill-fated and politically engineered raids of the Australian Workers Union and GetUp offices.
GetUp has won the ire of the government because it and his members stand against much of it has been doing, stood for a fairer and greener society and waged a string of successful campaigns that have caused the same government, and those who stand behind it, considerable grief.
GetUp stands for people power.
Some of the high-profile campaigns in 1916-17, the period under question, included Save the Reef, Our Clean Energy Future, Protect Medicare, Better Power, and has played an important role in the defence of the ABS, Australia’s public broadcaster.
GetUp has also campaigned against the Coalition parties at elections.
This led to pressure on GetUp to declare itself an “Associated Entity” under the Corporations Act 2001, which means, it has to declare its association, meet certain obligations and lodge financial disclosures with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
It also led to the creation of a counter organisation calling itself Advance Australia, and claiming to stand for “your voice for a fair go.” It has been mostly ineffective.
GetUp refused to submit to the pressure and the AEC was brought in to investigate.
But the result is that the AEC found that GetUp is not an Associated Entity, after considering all the documents submitted by all parties. The government’s side had failed to submit any evidence to back its allegation.
In these conditions, the result is not surprising. For the AEC to come to any other conclusion, would have put the independence of the AEC into question in the public’s eyes, and this would impact on the credibility of Australia’s electoral system. The government’s vendetta against GetUp was not going to take precedence over this, without hard and fast evidence.
GetUp’s national director Paul Oosting commented that this is the third time the commission had ruled in the organisation’s favour.
In a released statement he said: “The hard right forced this expensive two-year investigation on the GetUp movement, in the hope that it would silence all one million of us. But it has done exactly the opposite.”
First assistant commissioner Tim Courtney said in a cover letter with the report: “we have reached a conclusion that there is insufficient material and evidence to show that GetUp was an Associated Entity at the relevant time.”
This victory has vindicated the organisation’s insistence that it is politically independent and financially reliant on the contributions it receives from its members and the public.
The Morrison government comes out of this with its reputation damaged that little bit more.
It does not mean that the campaign to discredit and destroy GetUp has come to an end. On the contrary. Once the authors of the attack have finished licking their wounds, they will be on the offensive again. And this is not only those in the Morrison government. The whole privileged elite straddling over Australia is keen to get rid of an organisation that threatens its cosy privileges and expose the lengths it goes to in order to maintain its position.
One thing is for certain. Millions of Australians will continue to stand up for GetUp. And this is a formidable force.