GetUp Advance Australia
Maurice Newman, board member of new conservative activist group Advance Australia (Image: AAP/Julian Smith)

Here’s a great idea — why don’t some conservatives get together and start their own version of GetUp to combat the perceived power of the much-demonised progressive activist group?

In fact it’s such a great idea, the right keeps having it… over and over and over. North Queensland reactionary George Christensen had it in 2016 when he called for expressions of interest “by those interested in financing and forming a patriotic, conservative alternative to GetUp. If we do nothing, we will let the forces of socialism and globalism conquer.”

And great minds think alike because Cory Bernardi was calling for “a similar umbrella group” “to promote conservative views” after the 2016 election. Then there was Mark Latham who, according to former NSW Liberal Michael Yabsley, was going to “set up something that would at least rival GetUp” in 2017 with his “Outsiders” group, launched in true grassroots style at Yabsley’s Southern Highlands estate, Wombat Hollow.

And earlier this year another salt-of-the-earth, anti-elitist outfit, the Business Council of Australia, launched their own version of GetUp, For The Common Good, run by the Liberal Party’s Andrew Bragg, which would “embrace the campaigning tactics of GetUp”. The group has been a massive success and currently boasts 124 followers on Twitter and is best known for being embarrassingly linked to Bragg’s own campaign against industry super funds — which the BCA denied any links to.

Into this crowded field today comes yet another right-wing contender: Advance Australia. According to The Australian’s Simon “Drops King” Benson, it will “rival union-backed activist group GetUp” and campaign against Labor and to protect Liberal-held seats targeted by GetUp — though “Advance Australia would not be aligned to a political party”.

The clutch of angry men involved with, erm, “AA”, is illuminating. There’s — inevitably — climate-denier Maurice Newman, who insisted “we are in the position of the battle of Stalingrad, we have retreated to such an extent we need to hold our ground somewhere and start to push back”. This is the most apocalyptic claim since business doyen Tony Shepherd attacked Industry Super for ushering in “the decline in moral and ethical standards in the west” (also, does that mean AA are the Communists, or the Nazis?). There’s David Adler of the controversial, pro-Israel group Australian Jewish Association. There’s serial Liberal and Liberal Democrat candidate Sam Kennard, who believes Australia will end up like Greece, and beer-heir James Power, best known for offering Catholic priests a 10% discount at his Brisbane pub. 

Newman and co might have a fight on their hands over the name, however, which they claim to have focus group-tested. See, there’s already a far-right outfit that calls itself “Advance Australia” (it’s been used before by a political party, a national awards organisation and sundry projects). Advance Australia is a conspiracy theory mob supporting citizen-initiated referenda (always a dead giveaway) that claims “central banking is designed to subjugate and control the world”, “Vatican city controls it all under the guise of spiritual guidance” and has various policies like a flat transaction tax (another totem of the extreme right) and compulsory national service with everyone required to take guns home with them and “keep them ready at all times to defend our nation, if ever required.”

On second thoughts, sounds perfect for the new outfit. Maybe they can just merge and save themselves the cost of a new website.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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