GetUp do­na­tion wor­ries min­is­ter

The Australian - - THE NATION - RICHARD FER­GU­SON

Spe­cial Min­is­ter of State Alex Hawke says a $95,000 for­eign do­na­tion to GetUp just days be­fore for­eign dona­tions to po­lit­i­cal groups were banned is “deeply con­cern­ing”, sug­gest­ing the left­wing ac­tivist net­work ig­nored tough new laws just days be­fore they were in­tro­duced.

The Aus­tralian re­ported yes­ter­day that GetUp re­ceived the money from the Euro­pean Cli­mate Foun­da­tion last month, just weeks be­fore a Jan­uary 1 cut­off date for for­eign pay­ments.

Mr Hawke, the min­is­ter over­see­ing po­lit­i­cal dona­tions and a key lieu­tenant of the Prime Min­is­ter, said yes­ter­day’s re­port con­cerned him and he would crack down on any or­gan­i­sa­tion that tried to cir­cum­vent the new laws on for­eign dona­tions.

“Re­ports that cer­tain po­lit­i­cal ac­tors in Aus­tralia have sought to source for­eign funds just days be­fore the start date of this leg­is­la­tion tak­ing ef­fect, are deeply con­cern­ing,” he said.

“It is es­sen­tial that for­eign donors do not in­flu­ence our elec­tions and that or­gan­i­sa­tions in Aus­tralia com­ply with the law. The Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment will en­sure com­pli­ance with this im­por­tant leg­is­la­tion, both in prac­tice and in spirit, as the Aus­tralian pub­lic ex­pects.”

For­eign dona­tions laws passed the Se­nate late last year with bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

GetUp was caught in the changes after al­ter­ing its con­sti­tu­tion last year, re­mov­ing any sug­ges­tion it could be con­sid­ered a char­ity. Con­ser­va­tives have used GetUp as a key rea­son for why for­eign dona­tions rules needed to be changed, after it re­ceived sev­eral dona­tions with Amer­i­can and Euro­pean links.

Mr Hawke said the laws were nec­es­sary to sup­port the in­tegrity of Aus­tralia’s elec­toral sys­tem and its sovereignty.

“We have leg­is­lated to en­sure that for­eign donors can no longer in­flu­ence Aus­tralian pol­i­tics and the way elec­tions are con­ducted in Aus­tralia,” he said.

“For­eign gov­ern­ments, for­eign bil­lion­aires and for­eign com­pa­nies have no le­git­i­mate role in fund­ing any ac­tiv­i­ties that in­flu­ence Aus­tralian pol­i­tics, and that’s why we’ve banned for­eign dona­tions.”

GetUp said the do­na­tion was ear­marked for “re­search” and would not be used for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses in the lead-up to this year’s fed­eral elec­tion, ex­pected in May.

A GetUp spokes­woman said there was no need for con­cern as the do­na­tion was be­fore the cut­off date and the ac­tivist net­work re­vealed the do­na­tion be­fore the laws changed in Jan­uary.

“The grant was re­ceived in early De­cem­ber and we up­dated our web­site with the grant de­tails at the end of that month, not after Jan­uary 1 like Se­na­tor Abetz first claimed,” she said.

“It’s no sur­prise the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is feel­ing threat­ened by Aus­tralians talk­ing more about cli­mate change. What is Alex Hawke sug­gest­ing? … This (do­na­tion) is an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity to im­prove Aus­tralians’ un­der­stand­ing of cli­mate change. The peo­ple most in­ter­ested in this are those who are hold­ing back ac­tion on cli­mate change.”

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