August 01, 2005 | Graham

Howard only has to GetUp to get lucky

Looking at the disasters of the first half of John Howard’s career, who would have thought that second half would be so fortunate. Howard’s latest stroke of good luck is the new website The site claims to be part of “a new progressive movement in Australia” and is fairly transparently modelled on in the US.
The site is the creation of “Jeremy Heimans and David Madden, two young Australians who have worked at the vanguard of the new online organising and campaigning techniques in the US” and boasts Evan Thornley, John Hewson and Bill Shorten on its board.
The reason why this site is likely to be good news for Howard is the same as the reasons why MoveOn was such a boon for the Republicans. By giving voice to left-wing opinion they exert a force on centre left parties which pulls them away not just from the centre, but their own working class constituencies. MoveOn was run by people who thought the reason that they lost the first time was because they weren’t singing the song stridently enough. Turn-up the volume, they reckoned, and people would vote for them. Voters didn’t. They changed stations instead.
GetUp’s site is slick, and to my eye, appears to be focus-group driven. It’s first campaign is called “Now you answer to us”. Australians are asked to sign up and send the URL for an online ad to their local member. The ad features a number of individual Australians warning the government that while it now has a majority in the senate, it must still answer to them, the people.
I’ve been saying for quite some time that the government has no illusions about what a majority in the senate brings (things like Barnaby Joyce – now there’s an intimation of mortality, or at least vulnerability). They know that a senate majority doesn’t give them the ability to do what they want, irrespective of community opinion. But it won’t be sectional online campaigns that they react to, but rather cold hard quantitative analysis carried out in the engine room of Crosby Textor. So what is the GetUp campaign about?
When you look at the site, the ad isn’t really directed at the government at all. It’s meant to recruit the people sending the URL around who will presumably look at the ad before forwarding. It consists of a series of one phrase statements from a variety of mostly young Australians. They say things like “If only one man controls the media, then we get only one side of the story”, “Don’t keep putting George Bush’s interests in front of Australia’s”, and “Australia is still a democracy”. From our focus group research, I’d expect these phrases to resonate with left of centre voters, not Coalition MPs.
So, at least at this stage of its life. GetUp is not about broadening the debate, but intensifying one side of it and recruiting foot-soldiers. Definitely a MoveOn wannabe. That’s not something Kim Beazley needed, but John Howard would be hoping they succeed.

Posted by Graham at 10:31 pm | Comments (13) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. How do you rationalise Hewson’s involvement then Graham? Is he a Liberal party heretic these days? Has he done a Malcolm Fraser?

    Comment by Guy — August 2, 2005 @ 1:37 pm

  2. As a rabid Howard hater, that site was a turn off. I agree with your analysis Graham. Democracy hasn’t disappeared with Government senate control and you can’t even argue that Liberal democracy has been replaced by majoritarian democracy as Australia has never had a liberal democracy, either now or well before Howard.
    The only way to do something useful is to form a successful political party. At the moment there are only two political parties that matter who support the establishment of liberal democracy.
    I would define what I meant by liberal democracy, but that would take all of the fun out.
    My guess is that Graham won’t be forced to ‘rationalise’, maybe explain though.

    Comment by Benno — August 2, 2005 @ 6:19 pm

  3. Guy,
    Hewson was never really of the Liberal Party. He came in from nowhere, won a safe seat, had a meteoric rise to leader (basically because no-one else had any talent), and then crashed and burned, in some ways like Mark Latham.
    I can remember Hewson being at a Queensland Liberal Party convention at The Pines Resort on the Gold Coast. He gave his speech in the morning and went off to play golf in the afternoon rather than fraternise with the delegates. Not something a true believer would have done.
    Hewson also blames Howard for his crashing and burning, not without some justification. Fightback was meant to be released when the election was called. Instead it was released a year early, partly as a result of the undermining of Hewson that was going on at the time. The result was that it became “the longest suicide note in history” when it had the potential to become a political WMD that would have obliterated Labor and changed the way we all do politics.
    So, it’s perfectly natural that Hewson would side with a site that thought it had Howard in its sights, and that it would be the wrong site.

    Comment by Graham Young — August 2, 2005 @ 9:33 pm

  4. Due to entrenched lying by omission and commission there is a huge gulf between reality and general perception on many important matters in Australia (be surprised by the example given below).
    Notwithstanding Graham’s sensible analysis, GetUp may represent an additional if imperfect vehicle for addressing rampant political and media LYING and SLYING (spin-based untruth and unsubstantiated assertion) – remember the “children overboard” and the “Iraqi WMD”?. The seriousness of this continuing affront to TRUTH and REASON in Australia is demonstrated by the following example.
    We are obliged to inform everyone about man-made mass mortality. I recently sent the following humane message to virtually all Senators and variously in essence to many MHRs and media (however the SILENCE has been DEAFENING):
    “The average annual death rate of Australian POWs under the Japanese in World War 2 was 10.4 per 100 (8,000 deaths out of 22,000 POWs over 3.5 years) [ABC Radio National, 2003].
    The average annual death rate of under-5 year old infants is 5.8 per 100 in US-occupied Afghanistan and 2.6 per 100 in US-occupied Iraq [latest UN Population Division and UNICEF data] due to gross Coalition violation of the Geneva Conventions for protection of civilians – terror indeed for the parents.
    The average annual death rate of Western civilians from jihadist violence has been 0.00003 per 100 (last 20 years) and 0.0001 per 100 (last 5 years) [mainstream media and official Israel and US sources].
    Current laws and procedures clearly protect us from evil jihadist terrorism – but Coalition war criminals await justice from the International Criminal Court.
    Please inform Parliament and all your colleagues and associates in the national interest”.

    Comment by Gideon Polya — August 5, 2005 @ 8:20 am

  5. “ANDREW ROBB, LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: It’s first and foremost, let’s not mince word, it is an anti-Government group and it’s not there to keep us accountable. it’s there to run an alternative policy agenda. ”
    If getup was actually designed to make the government accountable, then they would be making sure that the government would fufil all of their election promises and follow through on everything John Howard has told the public he belives in for the last 9 years.
    It is a rort. Whether I like it or not people have voted for this, so to say it is about accountability is a distortion of democracy.

    Comment by Benno — August 5, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

  6. Guy Wrote,
    “Hewson was never really of the Liberal Party. He came in from nowhere, won a safe seat, had a meteoric rise to leader (basically because no-one else had any talent), and then crashed and burned, in some ways like Mark Latham.”
    Not the same in my view… Hewson crashed and burned because his plan was to complex… he is a well educated man… that actually had a plan… weather it was wrong or right…
    But Mark Latham, on the other hand crashed and burned, because the general public are more complex than him… lets face it, in reality he’s a guy the flew by the seat of his paints… and he crashed, because he throught he could not lose… he was a legend in his on mind…
    quite different then john hewson i think…

    Comment by David — August 7, 2005 @ 1:03 am

  7. well said David, i always used to try and imagine Mark Latham trying to negotiate with Blar and Bush and would nearly cry at how obviously usless the guy was

    Comment by meredith — August 7, 2005 @ 1:11 am

  8. Old ROund Kim has not got a hope in hell either…
    he may as well give up now… he knows he’s got no chance… but he’s not as think as Latham… he’s gonna hang in and lapp up the free parlamentary gravy while it’s still avalable… he’s know’s it’s his last crack at the Big Free Publicly Funded Gravy Chain… he’s not going anywhere until he really has no other option…

    Comment by David — August 7, 2005 @ 1:21 am

  9. well yes David…….. hes not as bad as latham, basically untill the muslims are in control Howard will keep power….

    Comment by Meredith — August 7, 2005 @ 1:27 am

  10. My message to Coalition Senators in Victoria as through the Getup site:
    Greetings Coalition Senators,
    I didn’t vote for you and I don’t agree with much of your policy platform. But regardless of my opinions, a majority of the Australian people have elected you to carry out the re-form agenda of your government.
    A majority to implement VSU changes, IR changes, Telstra changes and anything else you can think of that you have vaguely believed in over the last few decades.
    To hold you accountable I ask that you please bare in mind the wishes of the majority when considering your respective postions as ‘balance of power’ senators. Also please disregard the views of the minority of which I am a part as to do otherwise would be a gross breach of Australian democracy, for which the punishment is eternal pain and misery in the bowels of hell.
    Failure to comply with the democratic spirit of Australia will result in the almost certain devastating punishment by me by not voting for you. But then again as you can probably gather I won’t vote for you anyway.
    Good luck in your gallant quest brave knights and please be aware that I will email you all individually because it is more than likely that this email will be deleted before read.
    Please spend much of your spare time listening to Bob Dylan as he is a very impressive and entertaining singer, particuarly after a hard day of Senate happenings.

    Comment by Benno — August 10, 2005 @ 6:58 pm

  11. My email to the getup people:
    I like what you are doing, spam is the only method available to us intelligent people who knew that interest rates would be the same no matter who won government, even the greens!
    Nevertheless as you are probably aware there are contradictions in your philosophy and aims.
    In order to make senators accountable involves letting them know that if they don’t fulfil their election promises, eg IR re-form, then we won’t vote for them.
    Which we as left wing intelligent and frustrated people won’t do anyway.
    Anyway I am satisfied that you are aware of this and are on that basis running a clever and much needed spam campaign.
    Thanks a lot, you have really made my day.

    Comment by Benno — August 10, 2005 @ 7:05 pm

  12. Ahh, the contradictions in “Zen and the art of political whinging”.

    Comment by Benno — August 10, 2005 @ 7:05 pm

  13. Is there a ‘functionalist’ perspective to the government’s VSU policy. I’m supposed to find journal articles and end up here because I enjoyed Gideon Polya’s article in Australian Humanist 2000! Whoa, five years and still so FRESH!!! HowarDareyouJohn!!Is he our new Emporer?

    Comment by eva — August 26, 2005 @ 10:45 pm

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