|Headquarters||Sydney, New South Wales, Australia|
GetUp campaigns are community based, and are primarily coordinated through the Internet. They involve email, its website, and traditional media. GetUp is a non-profit organisation, and states that it relies on donations from individuals, organisations, unions and community groups for funding.
GetUp describes itself as "a new independent political movement to build a progressive Australia". It identifies campaigns based on the interests of its members, which are usually issues such as "social justice, economic fairness and environmental sustainability".
Founded by Jeremy Heimans and David Madden, the GetUp.org.au website was launched on 1 August 2005 along with a television advertising campaign. Inspired by the American website MoveOn.org, GetUp's initial campaign aimed to help voters to "keep the Howard Government accountable" after it won a majority of seats in the Australian Senate on 9 August 2005, following the Australian federal election, 2004. Although both Liberal-National Coalition parties permit their members to cross the floor to vote against party policy, this was nevertheless the first time an Australian government had been elected to hold a majority of seats in both Houses of Parliament since 1981.
GetUp! encouraged visitors to send an email to Coalition senators that read "I'm sending you this message because I want you to know that I'm watching. Now that you have absolute power in the Senate, it is only people like me who can hold you accountable. And we will."
GetUp! has campaigned vocally over issues such as pressuring the Howard Government to lobby for the release of David Hicks into the Australian community (Hicks had been in detention at Guantanamo Bay for undertaking combat training in al Qaeda-linked camps and serving with the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001); and opposing efforts by the Rudd Government to examine ways to implement an internet filter (Internet censorship in Australia); and has promoted voter enrollment.
In March 2011, Getup! endorsed the controversial decision of the Gillard Labor Government to reverse its 2010 Election promise not to introduce a carbon tax as a means of addressing Australia's contribution to carbon emissions.
While GetUp's primary methodology to date has been to encourage its membership to email or call their elected representatives, the organisation has also employed a range of campaigning techniques, such as taking out advertisements in major daily newspapers, holding local events, running television commercials, and hiring a skywriter to write "Vote No" above Australia's Parliament House in Canberra. Several GetUp-initiated petitions have been presented in the Australian Senate by representatives of different political parties.
Past and current campaigns include:
- 2005: Campaigned against changes to anti-terrorism legislation, against WorkChoices and against racism in response to the 2005 Cronulla riots.
- 2006: Campaigned against proposed changes to migration laws and against Australian involvement in the Iraq War. Campaigned in support of David Hicks, expanding terms of reference for the Cole Inquiry into the Australian Wheat Board and in favour of certain actions in relation to global warming.
- 2007: Campaigned against the Northern Territory National Emergency Response. Campaigned for the repeal of laws that close the electoral rolls the day the elections are officially called, to achieve health equality for Indigenous Australians and for same sex marriage.
- 2008: Campaigned against a proposed mandatory internet filter. Campaigned to raise awareness on pay disparity for female workers, urged Kevin Rudd to take action and stand against China's crackdown in Tibet and to save the Murray River.
- 2009: Campaigned against mandatory detention. Campaigned for same-sex equality, renewable energy and paid parental leave.
- 2010: Placed full page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Times in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and condemning calls for violence against him.
- 2011: Campaigned against mining coal seam gas. Campaigned to create a permanent Climate Natural Disaster Fund funded by reduction of fossil fuel subsidies. Released a video supporting same-sex marriage starring Julian Shaw entitled It's Time that was described by The Advocate as "possibly the most beautiful ad for marriage equality we've seen."
- 2012: Campaigned with Australian Marriage Equality for same-sex marriage by sending 3,000 roses to federal politicians on Valentines Day and by hosting a dinner for three same-sex couples with the Prime Minister. GetUp! also had a Marriage Matters float in the Sydney Mardi Gras. In Queensland, GetUp! commissioned a response to a controversial anti-gay marriage advertisement. In response to Catholic bishops in Victoria asking their parishioners to campaign against same sex marriages, Simon Sheikh of GetUp! said, "every time they act, they only entice our members to do even more". In May 2012, "GetUp slams PM Gillard" for not following the lead of President Obama on marriage equity. In June 2012, at events in Sydney and Melbourne, GetUp! joined with Marie Claire and Sunrise to show support for marriage equality and "everybody's right to say 'I Do'".
GetUp is a non-profit organisation, registered as GetUp Ltd. In the vein of MoveOn.org, much of the organisation's funding comes in the form of small contributions made through its website. Under Australia's taxation regime, donations to GetUp are not considered tax-deductible as the organisation advocates for changes to government policy. GetUp has a small team of staff and volunteers based in Sydney, including National Director Sam McLean.
GetUp's board members are:
- David Madden, a co-founder
- Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder
- Amanda Tattersall, a community organiser
- Anne Coombs, a historian and online opinion author
- Brett Solomon, former Campaigns Director of AVAAZ and former Executive Director of GetUp
- Sarah Maddison, an academic
Madden and Heimans ran campaigns in the United States against President George W. Bush. Tattersall serves as Coalition Director of the Sydney Alliance. Former board members have included Evan Thornley and Bill Shorten who left the board to pursue political party positions, and former Liberal Party of Australia leader John Hewson.
The GetUp! website allows visitors to send pro forma protest emails to Coalition parliamentarians, leading to charges that GetUp! generates spam. Shortly after the first GetUp! emails began to arrive, member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull said that "When you get 1,000 emails, all in exactly the same form, it's not exactly as persuasive as a bunch of emails people have written to independently express themselves." GetUp dismisses this criticism arguing that it rarely allows for form letters or emails, rather it encourages its members to write individual and handcrafted emails. This position is reflected in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which acknowledges the role of GetUp in "an age in which people were interested in political issues but no longer had the time to write letters."
Labor Party 'Front' claims
GetUp has been criticised for being a partisan site because of its consistent opposition to key Liberal Party policies. On 4 August 2005, Liberal Party politician Andrew Robb said on the ABC's The 7.30 Report that GetUp is "a front for the Labor Party, it's a political front. They're quite entitled to do it, it's a free country, but it's a political front. That's what it is."
GetUp has repeatedly rejected this claim, reiterating that they are strictly independent and don't have any affiliation with any political party. GetUp cites a number of campaigns which critique the Labor party, including "Your message to Labor" regarding climate change and also the anti-Gunns pulp mill campaigns. GetUp quotes that "our campaigns target issues and those with the power to make them happen rather than directly for or against a party".
Simon Sheikh was appointed national director of GetUp! in September 2008; four years later journalist Troy Bramston revealed that he had been a financial member of the Australian Labor Party for four years at the time of his appointment. He remained a member for another three months before resigning his membership. This was initially refuted by Sheikh but the General Secretary of the ALP(NSW Branch), declared that party records show Sheikh was a financial member from 2 April, 2004, until the 26 November, 2008. Sheikh later resigned from GetUp! in order to run as a Senate candidate for the Greens in the 2013 Federal Election, resulting in further accusations that GetUp! is a Labor-Green front organisation 
In August 2005, Australian Special Minister of State Eric Abetz called for two Australian regulatory bodies — the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) — to investigate GetUp's corporate structure, donations, and affiliation with political parties. The AEC rejected the call for an investigation concluding that there were "insufficient grounds on which to undertake a formal investigation."
Since the change of Government in 2007, GetUp has criticised Labor Party policies such as FuelWatch.
In 2010 it became public that GetUp received more than $1m in donations from six unions in the course of three weeks during that year's federal election campaign, equal to about two thirds of its advertising campaign expenditure and over half of their total donations. GetUp director, Simon Sheikh, said; "we don't exactly know why they are chipping in, but we are happy that they have."
In 2011 following the Labor Government's decision to seek a swap arrangement with Malaysia over humanitarian asylum seekers arriving by boat GetUp were criticized for their lack of condemnation of this policy turnaround. GetUp director Simon Sheikh stated that "The government would love to see groups like us marching against this plan because that's their strategy". He further explained that the Labor party were attempting to shore themselves up as a conservative force. The refusal to take a vocal stance critical of the new policy came in the face of past criticism of mandatory detention policies (above). Human rights groups have been critical of the Malaysian swap deal noting that asylum seekers in Malaysia live under the threat of human rights abuses including punishment by caning.
During the 2007 federal election, GetUp! published a website at the now-defunct www.howshouldivote.com.au which claimed to generate personalised how-to-vote cards based on the users views on various issues. An investigation by the Australian Electoral Commission after the election revealed that the generated card would place Liberal and National Party candidates last no matter what data was inputed by the user, due to the fact that Liberal and National party candidates did not complete any of GetUp!s questionnaires. The AEC found that GetUp! had engaged in "misleading and deceptive" conduct and had violated S.329 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Dubious membership claims
GetUp!'s homepage states it is a movement of several hundred-thousand Australians. The actual number of members however is debated, as anyone who signs a GetUp! petition is automatically listed as a member. Speaking to the Australian parliament, Kevin Andrews said, "Moreover, the GetUp! petition is open to manipulation. A person can enter any name, any email address and postcode, real or fictitious". Federal politician George Christensen reported to parliament his similar concerns. Writing in The Australian, journalist Troy Bramston has said that GetUp! has 628,000 phone numbers, email or postal addresses, rather than 628,000 members. In GetUp!'s most recently published annual report for 2008-09, the total number of individual donors was 17,295. According to journalist Kieran Morris, "It quickly becomes clear ... that much of the support GetUp claims to have is exaggerated".
Criticism of the No Harvey No campaign
Considerable criticism of GetUp! was generated after they claimed the timber used in the furniture sold by Australian retailer, Harvey Norman contributes to the destruction of Australia's native forests. In response, the Furniture Industry Association of Australia said that, "Get Up! are effectively campaigning for rainforest destruction in other countries instead of sustainably harvested Australian timber". David Penberthy writing in The Punch says, "there have been a lot of dumb campaigns launched over the years but this one is hands down the stupidest thing I have ever seen." The Minister for Manufacturing, Kim Carr has said, "the GetUp! 'No Harvey No' campaign runs the risk of deterring people from buying Australian-made furniture and supporting Australian jobs".
Prioritisation of GetUp!'s campaigns
GetUp! has been described by a critic as a "grassroots democracy as long as it fits in with the agenda of those who run GetUp". When GetUp! surveyed its members asking them what their priorities were, same-sex marriage was not voted within the top-ten issues. Critics have subsequently complained about the amount of time and money GetUp! is spending on campaigning for same-sex marriage considering it is not a priority of its members. Presbyterian minister David Palmer, writing in On Line Opinion, commented on the failure of GetUp! to "get its members to sign a petition in favour of same-sex marriage". In an article entitled My GetUp has got up and gone, journalist Ben Birchall postulates as to why GetUp! campaigns have not "resonated" for him and concludes, "GetUp's arrival was a breath of fresh air on the political landscape. It might be our fault, but it seems to have gone stale".
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