eric abetz

Did you know GetUp is supporting progressive political parties? Ultra right-wing politician Eric Abetz didn’t, since the only way he would have would have been to read, say, Twitter. Luckily The Australian‘s Sharri Markson has done that for him.

Abetz yesterday released a statement claiming that the activist group had been “exposed” for “deception” thanks to a series of tweets from GetUp chair Sarah Maddison in support of Greens policies and politicians.

The backbencher fumed in his latest press release:

“GetUp’s so-called independence has always been laughable but this latest revelation just further exposes this grubby organisation for its cynical dishonesty.

“Ms Maddison has brazenly backed ultra-left wing candidates and even supported the Greens taking seats around a Labor government’s cabinet table while laughingly claiming that GetUp is independent.”

Abetz is particularly sour — for so many reasons, judging by Four Corners last week — in this instance because GetUp ran a successful grassroots campaign in Tasmania and had a hand in wiping out three Liberal MPs in the Apple Isle. This has prompted conservative MPs in the Coalition to try to form their own version of GetUp. Senator Cory Bernardi claims to have signed up 50,000 people to his mailing list for “Australian Conservatives”.

But GetUp rejects the notion that it is somehow not independent just because individuals in the organisation might indicate support for one particular candidate or party’s policies. Director Paul Oosting told Crikey that GetUp doesn’t support one political party, just policies.

“This is funny. One week we’ll be told we’re being a front for Labor, next would be the Greens, the next would be Glenn Lazarus or the Nick Xenophon team, or Andrew Wilkie, and so on,” he said. “We have unashamedly challenged the power of the far right. We threw it out there publicly and said we were going after Eric Abetz’s mates in Tassie. We’re politically independent. We will support people based on values and policies. That’s how we judge them.”

Being politically independent doesn’t mean that people working for GetUp cannot have political opinions, he said, adding that GetUp would work and back politicians from all parties if they have progressive policies, including Abetz — if he ever had a “come to Jesus” moment, so to speak.

“We’ll back politicians from any party as long as they’re progressive, if they support action on issues our members care about. It’s hard to imagine somebody as ideologically driven as Eric Abetz ever changing his points of view but I don’t think it is out of the realms of possibility that we could, for instance, support members of the Coalition,” he said. “We would love to be able to support members of the Coalition acting on issues such as climate change.”

Abetz said that he hoped that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters would look at “GetUp’s behaviour” during the election and consider law reform (banning what exactly we are not sure). Oosting said GetUp would be ready for it.

“We would hope Eric Abetz doesn’t abuse the influence of and mechanisms of Parliament to try and push his agenda, or to further the mission of the hard right faction when we go back to Parliament,” he said. “If we’re called in front of a parliamentary inquiry, we’ll happily attend, because GetUp is far more transparent than the Liberal Party in how we approach issues, and how we declare our donations.”

Abetz previously suggested that GetUp should have its charitable status revoked for campaigning against the Coalition, only to discover that GetUp is not a charity specifically to prevent politicians from trying to interfere with its political activities.

The former minister can expect support from one group, though. As Crikey reported last week, Abetz has earned the praise of anti-gay group The Salt Shakers for helping to slow “the tide of evil” in Parliament.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey