GetUp donation worries minister
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.”