GetUp! callers targeted LNP in Longman

THE secret GetUp! call-centre script used in the Longman by-election obliterates the organisation's claim they are independent, with voters told not to support the Turnbull Government candidate to stop "billions of dollars in tax cuts to big corporations."

The activist organisation bought a commercial database of phone numbers for almost 30,000 people in the Queensland electorate and called on 400 people to man a call-centre that encouraged voters to support the ALP or Greens.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives for a press conference outside State Parliament in Sydney on Sunday. Picture: Jenny Evans
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives for a press conference outside State Parliament in Sydney on Sunday. Picture: Jenny Evans

The revelations about the full extent of GetUp!' s role in the Longman by-election comes as the fallout continues within the Turnbull government over the LNP's disastrous primary vote of just under 30 per cent - a 10 per cent swing against them since the 2016 federal election.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained GetUp!' s script that its 400 workers used in call-centres to encourage support for Labor and the Greens in the weekend's by-election in the Queensland seat.

"At the moment the LNP have a plan to give tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts to big corporations - money which could be spent to improve Caboolture State High, or fund Caboolture hospital," the script states.

"I'm going to be a little bold here. But if this billion-dollar handout to this to the big end of town is of concern for you, then I strongly recommend that you put Trevor Ruthenburg (sic) and the LNP last on your voting ballot this electorate."

The calls were made in the final three weeks of the campaign as GetUp!national director Paul Oosting said the group has changed its focus from online activism to person-to-person connections.

A snapshot of the script during the campaign.
A snapshot of the script during the campaign.

GetUp!has long fought allegations that it was in the pocket of Labor and has received union funding, but Mr Oosting insisted the organisation was "fiercely independent".

He said volunteers were encouraged to have a "genuine conversation" with the voters on the other end of the line, which could last up to 30 minutes, about an issue rather than having the feel of a robocall.

Paul Oosting from GetUp! appearing at a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters after the 2016 election.
Paul Oosting from GetUp! appearing at a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters after the 2016 election.

The script, which was regularly updated, was provided as back-up if volunteers struggled with the conversation.

"It can be extremely intimidating talking to someone who is trying to cook dinner," he said.

"We have the script there so if they (the volunteers) want to run through it.

"We're really hopeful that the Turnbull Government will take the right lesson from this (the by-election) and take the right approach to the company tax cuts."

One script change was to advise volunteers to put the LNP as one of their bottom preferences, rather than last, after Dr Jim Saleam, a former neo-Nazi, was announced as a candidate for the Australia First Party.

 

Volunteers dressed as the Bananas in Pyjamas from activist group GetUp! following Liberal candidate Georgina Downer at a polling booth in Stirling. Picture: AAP
Volunteers dressed as the Bananas in Pyjamas from activist group GetUp! following Liberal candidate Georgina Downer at a polling booth in Stirling. Picture: AAP

The change in strategy has also spurred on the creation of "action groups" in 40 electorates it describes as holding Tupperware-style parties where volunteers hosting phone call nights at their homes rather than making calls from a central office.

It followed a "sobering" analysis of the 2016 Federal Election in which Mr Oosting said GetUp!realised that it needed to update its strategy and decentralise.

"In a sense it's less targeted but we're connecting real people with real people," he said.

Liberal strategists said the script "shows what the Government is up against" particularly in Queensland where GetUp!focuses time and resources on trying to bring down Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

 

LNP candidate for Longman Trevor Ruthenberg after conceding defeat at the LNP post election party on Saturday. Picture: AAP
LNP candidate for Longman Trevor Ruthenberg after conceding defeat at the LNP post election party on Saturday. Picture: AAP


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