On the weekend at the 2020 Summit, GetUp! members were everywhere, an orange tsunami, representing over 10% of delegates. Perhaps inundating the organisers with nominations was the strategy, if so it worked damn well. If not, then be scared by how far into the up and coming intellectual capital they have penetrated. Their presence gave them a loud voice in all sessions in all groups so GetUp! can proudly tell their members that the ROI was high.

The influence of stakeholder groups has long been an issue in Australian politics. Some stakeholder groups have direct influence on the formulation of not just party policy, but party administration, choice of candidates and campaigning. The union movement still exerts a tremendous influence on the Labor Party and there is no doubt that business groups such as the Business Council of Australia have a direct influence on the Liberal Party.

Even the so called minor parties are not free from the influence of stakeholder groups – the Greens are influenced by the larger organisations in the conservation movement such as the ACF, the Nationals by the NFF and Family First by the new religious churches such as Hillsong.

Rank and file party members across the political spectrum now realise that in the modern Australian political market that they will never influence government policy unless they can count on the influence of a large stakeholder group to back them up. Witness the actions across the weekend of local ALP branches in NSW passing motions against the Iemma Government on privatisation.

So what do you do if you want your voice heard and haven’t got the backing of the local union or business group?

Enter GetUp!. In its short three years of operation GetUp! has grown more rapidly than any other political organisation in Australian history with its simple product offering people everywhere to have a say on the issue of their choice. Their only stakeholders are their members so if you join you know that your voice is as powerful as everyone else’s, nor are you signing up to a political party with its rituals and prescribed policy positions. The best products are simple so no wonder it’s worked well.

And they are smarter than your average political organisation. They know their power is their massive membership base, particularly in the critical 18-39 age middle class segment. Ask any consumer goods marketer and they’ll tell you that if you can crack this segment then you can nearly control the market.

No surprise then that this is now the hottest segment to control in politics. Win this segment and you win elections. GetUp!, with so many of its members falling into this category, has suddenly won a lot of friends and learned how to influence people.

It isn’t all milk and honey though. GetUp! are seen by some as being too Labor friendly, which of course Brand Rudd would love as it reinforces to Gen X and Gen Y that their purchase decision was the right one so no need to change next time around.

But GetUp!’s key strength is that it is seen as not being politically aligned by its members so it will need to ensure that it doesn’t become addicted to influence and power too much. Dinner at the Lodge can do strange things to normal people so Brett Solomon should perhaps say no to an invite.

GetUp!’s first big test is also yet to come – wait for Budget night in a few weeks and the first scandal of the Rudd Government. If it fails to act impartially then GetUp! will notice that the 18-39 segment is also fickle and will leave it in droves. GetUp! is also benefitting from the Rudd honeymoon period. At the moment Rudd is listening with open ears to their ideas, but what happens when those ears start to become hard of hearing?

But one thing is for sure though – GetUp! and other stakeholder groups are a fixture of Australian politics whose true influence we are only now beginning to see.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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