Online activist group significantly influences Australian political outcomes - idea for Germany?

An online activist group, GetUp!, is having significant impact on Australian political outcomes. With 350,000 members who donate money to various campaigns, it is larger than any Australian political party.


GetUp! voters are thought to have largely helped put Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd into power, and now a poll among them finds them leaving him in droves, disappointed at his lack of performance, particularly his backflip on climate change.

GetUp members have been on a roll in recent weeks, creating national headlines and locking in a big victory protecting native forests.

GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. They use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. They  receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign they run is entirely supported by voluntary donations.

Perhaps it’s an idea someone in Germany should pick up and emulate. Sick of political parties? No time/inclination to attend meetings? Sick of dead-end demos? Get to those holding the power electronically.

1 - The views of GetUp members are creating headlines (and cartoon punchlines)
Every Sunday a panel on “ABC Insiders”, a national TV show on the public Australian Broadcasting Corporation (roughly equivalent to the ARD, although it is taxpayer-funded) review the political news of the week - the buzz amongst politicians and journalists in Canberra. Last Sunday they opened with a 10-minute conversation about the results of GetUp’s monthly surveys of its members which is showing a huge dip in the PM's approval ratings after his backflips on climate change and refugees. And that was just the beginning: GetUp featured in over three dozen news stories this week alone--see below for a full list. The Bill Leak cartoon (above) from Monday's edition of The Australian is one favourite.

2 - An important win for the river red gums on the Murray-Darling.
On Wednesday night NSW Premier Kristina Keneally reversed her position and passed a bill to protect river red gum trees in the Murray-Darling basin. Thousands of hectares of these sacred old trees were set to be logged, but in the last month 11,000 GetUp members faxed, emailed or called the Premier's office asking her to protect the trees. These ancient trees will now be safe from logging.

3 – GetUp is Australia's largest progressive advertiser
This week alone GetUp has an incredible two newspaper ads and three television ads running across the country.

Page 5 of The Australian on Thursday featured their parody ad on the mining super profits tax -- and because members hit the target of $105,000 the ad on Friday also went onto the Oil and Mining Markets page (p. 31) of the The Australian Financial Review, the paper delivered straight to the desks of mining executives.

Three GetUp ads are also running on TV at the moment, funded by donations from GetUp members.

Mental Health: GetUp’s message from Australian of the Year, Prof. Patrick McGorry, will continue running for the next month, with some 400 ad spots booked across the country.
Refugees: the GetUp ad featuring Riz Wakil, an Afghan refugee, is running on Border Security, a TV series about boat people etc (with an audience of 2 million) and SBS world news (multilingual broadcaster) in major cities.
Internet censorship: GetUp’s Censordyne ad parodying the government's proposed internet filter is still showing every Sunday on commercial TV Channel 10.


4 - Making waves in Parliament House
In recent weeks tens of thousands of GetUp members phoned their Labor representatives at their electorate and Parliament House offices to voice dissent over the government's delay on climate action. MPs and Senators were asked to speak up in the Labor party caucus over the back-flip. It worked: "PM tries to pacify worried caucus" read the headline in Melbourne’s The Herald Sun1.

To drive it home, GetUp travelled to Parliament House and hand-delivered a dossier to every parliamentarian showing the number of GetUp members in their electorate, and the total number of actions and donations. One MP in Victoria said he'd received over 150 calls from GetUp members in a day -- more than their office usually receives in months!

GetUp is more than any one campaign or single success. It campaigns on social justice, economic fairness and environmental sustainability. Together the movement, now 350,000 strong, holds power to account, whatever its form, and helps create a fairer, more sustainable and more just Australia.

Now there's an election coming--word in Canberra is that it may be upon us as early as July or August. Elections are moments for movements to bind together to make a difference.



 (Various channels:,1113,1)



1 "PM tries to pacify worried caucus", Michael Harvey, Ben Packham, The Herald Sun, 11 May 2010.