Several tipsters contacted Crikey this week to tell us they received the following email from Liberal Senator Eric Abetz:
As has been revealed in the media today, your donations to GetUp have been used to endorse a criminal and a white supremacist over the Liberal candidate in the Longman byelection.
This new low which uses your funds to support these kinds of unsavoury people over the Liberal candidate exposes GetUp’s truly ugly underbelly and their real reason for existence — to defeat the Coalition at any cost with any lie and and any excuse for its gross dishonesty.
All balanced people would reject a white supremacist and convicted criminal. But not GetUp. GetUp have now shown that if supporting such a person helps them to defeat the mainstream LNP they will not think twice.
I have demanded that GetUp explain the use of supporters money for this nefarious purpose and as a donor to GetUp I ask that you raise concerns with the organisation.
I am hopeful that all sides of politics, including Labor and the Greens will condemn these disgusting actions by GetUp.
Liberal Senator for Tasmania
The email is in reference to a story in The Australian that alleged GetUp were telling voters to place the LNP candidate Trevor Ruthenberg last — a move that would place him behind Jim Saleam, a former neo-Nazi who had previously been jailed for property offences, fraud and planning the attempted murder of anti-Apartheid activist and African National Congress diplomat Eddie Funde.
GetUp quickly countered with an email to members and a page on their website calling Abetz’s contention a lie — “Jim Saleam … is appearing dead last on our how-to-vote guide in Longman.”
Our tipsters, however, seemed less concerned about the preferencing deal and all had the same question: how did Abetz get their email address? How did he know that they donate to GetUp?
Turns out GetUp just straight up told him — something that they had quite openly said that they would do.
In June the group launched a specific funding drive aimed at getting Abetz to back off: “Chip in and we’ll send an email and tweet to Senator Abetz thanking him for his contribution to GetUp”. Under the text of the form email, it noted that the email will come from the donors’ email address. They also sent a tweet with each person’s name and how much they donated for every single donation in real-time (something that certainly didn’t get irritating for anyone who follows GetUp on Twitter):
The author’s Twitter timeline, June 13 2018
A spokesperson for Abetz told Crikey that, as the contact information was seemingly provided by GetUp, people who had a problem should take it up with them.
“The only reason we were able to make contact with these people is because of their own unsolicited contact with our office,” he said. “If people want to send their names and email addresses expressing an interest in Senator Abetz’s work on exposing GetUp then it’s reasonable to expect that we will communicate with them about GetUp.
A GetUp spokesperson told Crikey the response they’d encountered had been largely positive. “We’ve talked to members about this and in many cases they have upped their donation on the back of Eric Abetz invading their inbox.
“GetUp members have been emailing MPs about the issues they care about for 12 years with the hope that our elected representatives respond thoughtfully and individually. We will continue to promote civic engagement, whether it be by email or ballot box.”
Of course, Abetz has always been particularly offended by GetUp, which is one possible reason why he didn’t make any publication about One Nation preferencing Jim Saleam, except at the expense of Labor.
“If One Nation would like to similarly send us a list of their membership list as GetUp did then we would probably send a similar email,” the Abetz spokesperson said.