FLINDERS MP Greg Hunt says the left-leaning activist GetUp was “completely and utterly engaged with the Labor Party” in his electorate during the lead-up to the May federal election.
“You could see them working with them, talking with them, handing out for each other,” Mr Hunt told his audience at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday 14 August.
In Flinders, GetUp distributed three how-to-vote cards, one with former Liberal MP Julia Banks in the number one position, one with Labor’s Joshua Sinclair first and the other headed by The Greens (Vic) Nathan Lesslie. GetUp placed Mr Hunt seventh in the nine-way contest.
Mr Sinclair has denied working “in any way” with GetUp, saying it was “laughable” to suggest anything else (“Set up by GetUp” Letters 20/8/19).
“They even gave me an amber light rating for my environmental record. Golly gosh, with friends like GetUp, who needs enemies?”
Mr Hunt was comfortably re-elected to the seat he has held since 2001, despite a 3.8 per cent swing against him on primary votes; Labor’s primary vote dropped nearly 3 per cent.
GetUp’s national director Paul Oosting said the organisation’s how-to-vote cards were about issues.
“They’re unique because, unlike [those of] the parties and candidates, ours show voters at least two – and up to four – ways to vote on a particular issue like climate change, not for just one candidate.”
Three days after Mr Hunt’s appearance at the press club, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused GetUp of making “vile personal attacks” on Liberal candidates during the most recent election campaign.
Mr Morrison suggested holding a parliamentary inquiry, which would then present its findings to the Australian Electoral Commission in a fourth attempt to have GetUp recognised as an arm of Labor or the Greens.
Mr Oosting said the AEC ruling in February “confirmed the independence of our 2016 election how-to-vote campaign, highlighting that our voting guides emphasise issues, rate candidates on issues, and feature multiple candidates”.
“Forcing the AEC to once again investigate GetUp’s independence is a political stitch-up and a waste of public money.
“GetUp members are teachers and nurses, mums and dads, students and pensioners. They spent this election campaign having heart to heart conversations with voters about the issues they care about.”
Mr Oosting said the “false and misleading attacks” against GetUp by Mr Morrison and Mr Hunt had led to a “surge in support and fundraising”.
GetUp is no stranger to Mr Hunt, having organised demonstrations
against him when he was environment minister over preserving the Great Barrier Reef and the Adani coal mine. Colourful demonstrations, not always involving GetUp, saw people dressed as reef fish and even angels climbing onto the roof of his Hastings office.
In answer to question from The Australian’s Olivia Caisley, Mr Hunt told the press club that he would not comment on what the AEC “may do as an independent body” if it again investigated GetUp.
“I’ll just make it absolutely clear that my experience is that GetUp was completely and utterly engaged with the Labor Party on the ground in our electorate. You could see them working with them, talking with them, handing out for each other,” he said.
“They obviously cooperate, they obviously act as if they are a part of the Labor Party.”
Mr Hunt said the “common-sense observation … is that GetUp is effectively the campaigning arm of the Labor Party”.
He predicted that people who had joined GetUp “thinking they were just a simple community movement, will increasingly find themselves concerned about what is an extreme and an aggressive and an American-style political action unit here in Australia”.