GetUp is the Australian franchise of American multibillionaire currency-speculator George Soros, reflecting his agendas all the while claiming they are set by supporters. Or so said Liberal backbencher Eric Abetz in a speech to the Senate yesterday. GetUp’s Soros links are a persistent feature of right-wing criticism of the organisation, but in Ms Tips’ opinion there’s been rather more smoke than fire in the allegation. In a 17-minute speech to Parliament yesterday, Abetz set out the most comprehensive examination of what links do exist we’ve seen yet.

There are three planks for Abetz’s argument about Soros’ influence. Firstly, GetUp’s founders, David Madden and Jeremy Heimans, learnt the ropes with Move On, the American digital activist organisation on which GetUp was modelled. Move On has in the past been funded by Soros. Abetz says Heimans and Madden once met with Soros (citing an SMH article), and the billionaire funded the Win Back Respect anti-Bush campaign, which both founders worked on. The second link is that two years after founding GetUp, Heimans and Madden co-founded Avaaz, which, Abetz says, received seed funding by Res Publica, itself funded by Soros (Abetz also identifies some staff movement between the two organisations). Thirdly, Abetz points out that Soros is a firm supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. So is Sara Saleh, a recent addition to GetUp’s board. Ipso facto “the appointment of Sara Saleh to GetUp’s board reflects George Soros’s agenda”:

“In its personnel, its operating model, its financing, and, more particularly, its agenda, GetUp faithfully perpetuates most of the worrying concerns of its progenitor, George Soros. GetUp has now been fully exposed as Soros’ local Australian franchise, operated as a joint venture by the Greens, Labor and the unions.”

Labor and the unions aren’t mentioned until the very end of Abetz’s 17 minute speech, which is funny, because it’s much easier to draw links between GetUp and the Labor Party than it is between GetUp and Soros. GetUp launched with Bill Shorten and Evan Thornley on its board — both quit when they became Labor MPs. Most of its biggest donations have come from the union movement (its single biggest donation was $1.2 million from the CFMEU, Avaaz has contributed just under $200,ooo). Former GetUp head Simon Sheikh became a Greens candidate.

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“The question GetUp participants must ask themselves next time they are ‘consulted’ about what GetUp’s priorities should supposedly be, and next time they receive GetUp’s slick social media content or glib takes on topical issues, is: do they reflect the agenda of GetUp participants or George Soros’s agenda? Be assured, it will be the latter,” Abetz said.

As for GetUp, here’s what they told us:

“It’s clear following GetUp’s success at the recent Federal election unseating hard-right colleagues of Eric Abetz he is running a baseless smear campaign against GetUp.

“George Soros has never donated to GetUp. The claim that GetUp has received funding from George Soros has become a lukewarm conspiracy theory in recent years popular among a subset of right-wing internet trolls.

“As far as we’re aware, George Soros funded a project unrelated to GetUp prior to GetUp’s existence, in which two of GetUp’s founders were engaged, before they were GetUp’s founders, because GetUp didn’t exist yet. You’d have to confirm that with MoveOn or others involved in the project, because GetUp wasn’t involved in the project, because we didn’t exist yet, and so have no records of that project.

“As far as we’re aware, several million people globally have given funds to Avaaz, as its a global, member-driven organisation. You’d have to ask Avaaz if George Soros was among them. If George Soros was among them, his donation to Avaaz was not in any way tied to the project GetUp worked on with Avaaz, any more than any donation from the millions of other Avaaz donors was.

“Every corporation and NGO has board and board members with diverse range of views.”