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GetUp’s charity status deleted

GetUp has removed any suggestion it operates as a charity in a reworking of the left-leaning campaign group’s constitution.

A swag of amendments to GetUp’s internal management rules appear to be part of resistance to efforts by Liberal senator Eric Abetz and other government MPs to end its independent legal status. Senator Abetz is pushing to have GetUp formally recognised by the Australian Electoral Commission as an “associated entity” of Labor, and possibly the Greens, claiming it is a really a campaign front dominated by party operatives pretending to be non-partisan.

A decision by GetUp to abolish in its “objects” that it was formed to advance progressive policy “where that advancement furthers a charitable purpose” follows the Liberal senator’s claim in June that GetUp was “falsely” posing as a charity to help boost its appeal by appearing independent.

GetUp officially made the deletion a month after Senator Abetz challenged its charity credentials and called for an investigation by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission into why documents GetUp lodged with the regulator left blank a page listing full members who “run the show”.

But the changes have come to light only now, with ASIC publishing them online.

Among other changes, GetUp’s revised constitution deletes the previous requirement that full members be disclosed.

GetUp has also abolished an entire category of “ordinary members”, introduced remuneration for directors on its board and eliminated a rule that potential conflicts of interest involving board members must be declared in the minutes of meetings.

Senator Abetz claimed yesterday that GetUp’s removal of its “charitable purpose” was a humiliating backdown, while watering down disclosure provisions contradicted the campaign group’s professed support for transparency.

“GetUp’s attempts to change its constitution to suppress information about its real members — those who really call the shots — is a disgrace and will not withstand scrutiny,” he said.
Senator Abetz said GetUp’s attempt in an email to members to pass off its charitable objects as just “some outdated drafting” was an insult to the intelligence.

GetUp inserted the “charitable purpose” by amendment less than four years ago. GetUp’s national director, Paul Oosting, denies any party alignment. His organisation is fighting to prevent any status change that could undermine its appeal to supporters as “independent” and “non-partisan”.

GetUp has campaigned consistently against the Coalition in elections, most recently urging an anti-Liberal vote in the Longman and Wentworth by-elections. GetUp insists no conflict of interest occurred when a company owned by one director, ALP member and former national ALP digital campaign director Daniel Stone, worked on the campaign of Wentworth independent Kerryn Phelps. GetUp campaigned in Wentworth with some material favourable to Dr Phelps.

A GetUp spokeswoman said the constitutional amendments were made as part of a good governance review, and the vast bulk were “clarifying or streamlining” and not substantive.

According to GetUp, its “charitable purpose” was removed for irrelevance because it was not a charity and had no plans to be one. GetUp also said ASIC did not require the listing of full members.

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