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Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
Conduct of the 2016 federal election and matters related thereto

OOSTING, Mr Paul Ian Jan, National Director, GetUp Ltd

SMITH, Ms Henrietta Cecily, Chief of Staff, GetUp Ltd


CHAIR: Welcome. Because we have run a little over time and we have a lot of senators here with a lot of questions and issues to discuss with you both, we have agreed to extend this hearing until 4 pm. But it is highly likely, as with some others witnesses, that we will offer you the opportunity to appear again before the committee as our inquiry moves forward.

Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I now invite you to make a brief opening statement and then we will proceed to questions and discussion with the panel.

Mr Oosting : I want to start by acknowledging that today we are meeting on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. I want to pay my respects to their elders past, present and future.

Since we made our submission to the committee, GetUp! has released a report detailing the extent to which the current disclosure system has broken. It found that ineffective disclosure laws see 85 per cent of all private money going into major parties avoiding public scrutiny. Only 15 per cent of all major-party income is transparently disclosed. That is literally tens of millions of dollars flowing into party coffers with no accountability and no public oversight. In 2013-14, 63 per cent of the Liberal Party's income, or $48 million, came from this untransparent dark money. Likewise, 50 per cent of the Labor Party's income, or $23 million, lacked transparency.

It seems that big money donors are making good use of legal loopholes, funnelling money through affiliated entities, earmarking donations as 'other receipts' and splitting donations between party branches, to buy influence with political parties. Using donation splitting, it is possible to funnel almost half a million dollars per year to major political parties without disclosing a single cent.

The voices of ordinary people can no longer be heard over the big roar of money. This money has a toxic, corrosive effect on the policy-making and the integrity of our democracy. Over the last couple of weeks, almost 50,000 people from across Australia have joined the campaign to restore people to the heart of our democracy. They want a system that amplifies the small contributions of everyday people, not one that panders to vested interests.

I would like to table this report into dark money, and the petition of over 50,000 Australians. I welcome your questions and the opportunity to speak today.

CHAIR: So you are formally tabling that to the committee?

Mr Oosting : Yes—formally tabling the petition, a report into dark money conducted by Dr Belinda Edwards from the University of New South Wales, and our submission here, 'Millions vs millionaires'.

CHAIR: Are committee members happy to accept the tabling of that petition?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, can we see it? Do we know what it is?

Mr Oosting : So we have the report, the petition and our submission.

CHAIR: We will come back to that. We will have a look at that, because we have a full procedure now as to whether to accept the tabling of documents. Mr Giles.

Mr GILES: Thank you, Mr Oosting and Ms Smith, for coming along and for your submission and your work in this area. I have a few questions, and I will try and be brief. As to recommendation 4, I am just wondering how you feel we might be able to give constitutional and practical effect to that. I am very sympathetic to it, but it seems to me that there are some challenges at a legal and practical level in making it work.

Mr Oosting : Thank you for your question. We believe that, as we have seen in New South Wales, a corruption watchdog or an ICAC is an absolutely necessary—

Mr GILES: Sorry—this is on the offshore entities buying influence.

Mr Oosting : My apologies; my notes are perhaps out of step with the numbering in the formal submission. We believe that there are a number of simple measures under which we can look at the issue of offshore donations. There are currently over 115 countries from around the world that do not allow other entities from offshore to donate into their political system. So we think that the processes here are actually quite straightforward, and, with 113 countries around the world having already put them in place, Australia is well placed to find the appropriate measures to deal with this issue.

What we think is also the case, though, is that it is important for us to look at the money from within Australia that we have discussed in my opening statement which is flowing into major political parties which is going completely undisclosed. We think that the heart of that issue requires us to look at donation caps, transparency and spending caps.

Mr GILES: On the transparency, I am inclined towards real-time donations, but I guess there are two questions. How have you got to the $500 limit? And are there any good examples that we might have regard to as to how we can actually put in place a good regime that offers effective real-time donation transparency?

Mr Oosting : Donation transparency is absolutely key. If people cannot see where money is coming from and how individuals are contributing to parties, where big money is flowing into the political system, then we cannot judge whether or not there is any corrupting influence over how policy is being formed in our country within the halls of power. So this is an absolutely necessary measure. We believe that, with modern technology, it is absolutely within the realms of possibility for there to be real-time disclosure. We believe that $500 is an appropriate amount because it is the sort of amount that most Australians could probably afford to donate to a political party, and we believe that that should be the test here. What creates an even playing field? What creates a system where any Australian can have their say and have their voice heard with a political party that they want to support or on an issue they want to support? Five hundred dollars, we think, is the appropriate level.

Mr GILES: You say, effectively, that reform should be applied consistently to registered political parties and third-party actors. You do not think there would be any warrant to treat non-registered organisations competing in the political battle of ideas any differently from registered parties?

Mr Oosting : We believe right now the big issue is that decisions are being made in parliament without the disclosure and transparency around how money may or may not be influencing those decisions. As we found in our report, tens of millions of dollars are flowing into the political system undisclosed. That is the heart of the issue that, we believe, most Australians are concerned about. We see trust in the political system at its lowest point in over 20 years. Only five per cent of Australians say that they, on a normal basis, trust the decisions that politicians are making. So we have an issue here with our democracy and we think it is in the interest of all parties to try and seek to see how we can restore that trust in the system. We think that these measures should apply evenly across the board. We believe that that is what is enshrined in Australia's constitution. It should be a level playing field and these measures should apply to major political parties, but third parties like GetUp! would also welcome these constraints being placed on ourselves.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: I bring your attention to 'democracy in crisis', a part of the brief. When you refer to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, there is a comment down at the bottom left. Can I ask you to read that into Hansard please.

Mr Oosting : 'The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has a clear choice: stand with the powerful burgeoning movement of everyday Australians gearing up to rebuild our democracy or back down to the billionaires and massive corporations.'

Mr BUCHHOLZ: Am I to assume that from that statement, you are of the opinion that this committee is influenced by billionaires and massive corporations and, if so, which ones?

Mr Oosting : As has been outlined in the dark money report, what we have found is that when we look at the declarations being made by the parties, there is a huge amount of money that is flowing into the political system that is going undisclosed. The issue with it not been disclosed, as we have seen through political corruption scandals of the past, is that the public are not empowered to make their own determination as to whether or not there is a corrupting influence, so it is our position that we do not know. We would like to know. We think there should be greater transparency. We think there should be caps on the amount of money that can flow into the system so that there is not any temptation put in place.

What we want to do is to work with this committee to see faith restored in the political system because right now Australians do not trust the things that are being done to their interest and those big four banks or the multinational mining companies that are putting in huge contributions to the major parties may be having undue influence. There may be a corrupting influence but we do not know because there is not transparency, there is not a federal ICAC so Australians are not empowered to be able to answer that question. As we have seen with the New South Wales ICAC, it could well be the case.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: What about unions? They are significant donors. You forego any mention of unions in that when you ear tag billionaires and massive corporations. Is there a reason why you did not put union movements on there as well, given your independence?

Mr Oosting : As I have outlined, we think these measures should apply across the board to major parties, to third parties, to unions, to GetUp! and to others.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: But you did not cite unions. My question is: is there a reason why you did not cite unions? In your opening comment, you openly referred to the amount of money that they donate to one side but it is missing from here. Mr Smith, I am quite happy for you to answer the question if you wish.

Mr Oosting : I am happy to take your question. When we did the report, looking at where we think the undue influence is happening over our parliament, we looked back to the examples like the big four banks. They were one of the case studies presented in the dark money report. In 2012 and 2013 parliament was debating financial reforms. At that time, we saw a doubling and, in some cases, a trebling of the amount of money coming in from the big four. They were the case studies that we looked at. What we are concerned about here is the influence. When donations increase, there is an expectation that something is going to be offered from that. As we have seen from our earlier academic submissions here, there is an expectation that policy will change. That is the corrupting influence that we are concerned about.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: Just to respond, two of the four big banks that you just cite in your comment then, at recent shareholders meetings, have indicated that they will cease political donations. Are you aware of that?

Mr Oosting : Yes I Am.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: So why is it that you still link them? Knowing that big banks have not made any recent contributions, why are you still advocating that the banks—

Mr Oosting : The moves by the banks that have voluntarily made these reforms absolutely support the position that we are raising. They are doing so because they think either that there is a perception of bias or corruption or that something else is happening that we are not aware of. So I think the moves by those big four banks absolutely add weight to our submission that we need to have a fair system where every Australian voice can be heard, and we need to put in place the proper transparency and disclosure measures for every corporation and for every Australian to be able to participate. It is not good enough that there are voluntary measures put in place by some people and not others.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: And unions?

Mr Oosting : And unions. As I said, these measures should apply across the board, including to—

Mr BUCHHOLZ: In the report that you have tabled, is there any reference to more transparency around unions?

Mr Oosting : As I have outlined, there absolutely is, because we have said that these measures should apply across the board.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: I also just want to go to your opening line in that document, in and around trust. When we talk about integrity and trust in politics and the virtues and how the Australian public want to see Australian political parties operate, do you as GetUp! have an opinion about the integrity measures where we saw a political party in Queensland recently run a campaign where they falsely and intentionally set out to misrepresent—

Mr GILES: How can you put that to the witness?

CHAIR: Is this a point of order, Deputy?

Mr GILES: Yes, sorry, a point of order.

CHAIR: What is your point of order?

Mr BUCHHOLZ: No, absolutely. My question goes to integrity.

CHAIR: We have a point of order here. What is your point of order, Mr Giles?

Mr GILES: Mr Buchholz is asking the witness to respond to matters of conjecture.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: I am clearly asking—which is a matter of public record—an organisation that has political motivation that has raised the question of integrity in the Australian political system. Why would it be forbidden that I ask a line of questions around integrity in—

Mr GILES: Put the question in the form of facts.

CHAIR: No, you have raised the point of order. Thank you. Please continue.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: Are you familiar with the 'Mediscare' campaign in Queensland?

Mr Oosting : I have read the media reports.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: It is alleged that the Labor Party misrepresented themselves as Medicare and put out a text message to people. Factual? Do you think that has an effect, when you talk about a higher level of standing in Australian politics and you talk about a higher level of integrity? Do you think that has an effect on people's perception of politicians and the political landscape, and, if so, what is that position?

Mr Oosting : Do I think that political communications can influence people's trust in integrity in the system? Yes, I do.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: If integrity is front and centre with GetUp!, do you have any motivation to take a stand on that and stand up for the rights of integrity, stand up for the rights of honesty?

Mr Oosting : Absolutely. The way we determine the issues that we work on is that we engage our million members across the country. Every year we put it out to them through a vision survey to determine what issues they want to engage in. Typically, they vote for the primary issues being climate change and renewable energy, health and education, but also the sorts of democratic reforms we are talking to today, which absolutely go to the heart of democratic integrity. So they are issues that we see as the absolutely crucial reforms that are needed, and our members have voted on these. They are backed in by the public.

I can give you some figures here. This is ReachTEL polling commissioned by GetUp! in September 2016. Eighty-five point three per cent of voters believe the disclosure threshold for donations should be lowered and disclosure made as close to real time as possible.

CHAIR: Excuse me. I am struggling to see the relevance of this to Mr Buchholz's question.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: I just asked about the integrity measures with GetUp!. My office and the offices of politicians here at the table are inundated with GetUp! literature that comes through in the way of forms of emails. In and around Queensland, being a Queensland member, I did not see a GetUp! campaign. Credit to you: you can ramp up on an issue very quickly. I have not seen any condemnation from your organisation about the level of integrity that was carried out by the Labor Party. In fact, I do not remember you ever making any condemnation of the Labor Party at all.

Mr Oosting : It is absolutely the case over the years that GetUp! have criticised the Labor Party on a range of policy reforms, as we have the Greens or the Nick Xenophon Team or the Jacqui Lambie team—we take it to any political party on the issues that I outlined across those key areas that we work on of health and education, climate change and renewable energy, and the democratic reforms we want to see action on. GetUp!'s independence comes from the fact that we will hold any politician or political party to account.

CHAIR: Unfortunately, Mr Buchholz has a flight to catch, so you do have to leave.

Mr Oosting : I appreciate your questions.

CHAIR: From what I understood, the question is in relation to the particular case that Mr Buchholz put forward—the Medicare, 'Mediscare', whatever, issue that we have been talking about—and you said that you did have a concern about its integrity. So did you at any time canvass your members about the appropriateness of that or different types from different political parties about their campaigning integrity?

Mr Oosting : On that particular news item, no, we did not.

CHAIR: I think that was the question. Thank you.

Mr BUCHHOLZ: No, I would not expect it.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Buchholz. Mr Dick, do you have questions?

Mr DICK: Yes, I do. I was not going to go to the Medicare issue, but now that it has been raised—and they are just allegations being put forward by the chair. We heard from a witness this morning from New South Wales who said that it had no impact on the election result at all here in New South Wales, and that was the director of the New South Wales National Party. In terms of the Medicare issue, I note that you said a million members are connected to GetUp!. In terms of the last federal election, which we are talking about, on the issue of Medicare, would it be safe to say that that was a huge issue for your organisation and that you would have put a lot of resources to that issue? Obviously, in my home state of Queensland, we are still dealing with the horrific cuts by the former Newman government, where doctors, nurses, allied professionals and front-line services were gutted—thousands of people—and people were put at risk as a result of those cuts, but they are being restored now under the current government. Would you say that that—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: These are all allegations, I might mention, Chair, but I will not bother wasting the committee's time by taking the point.

CHAIR: I have made rulings for a number of members of the committee: if we could just clarify what is on the public record and what is also allegation.

Mr DICK: It is not an allegation, Madam Chair. Thousands of health workers were sacked under the former Newman government. I think anyone from Queensland who is saying otherwise—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You said 'putting health services at risk'. That is simply untrue.

CHAIR: Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It might be your view.

CHAIR: Senator Macdonald! Mr Dick, you have the call.

Mr DICK: Thanks, Madam Chair. I think the people of Queensland—through you, Madam Chair—determined my statements at the last state election, but I will move on. In regard to the Medicare issue: would that have been a major issue right across the nation? Obviously I do not believe one text message affected the result of an entire nation. We heard that this morning. It had no effect—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are you giving evidence or—

Mr DICK: My question is: could you comment on that? You guys obviously campaigned across the nation. In the light of the discussions we have had, I would be really keen to hear about your views on that.

Mr Oosting : Thank you for your question, Mr Dick. We did not have it as a major part of our campaign. We looked at the issues of the massive cuts to the health-care system in relation to hospitals, education, climate change and renewable energy. We did do work on the Medicare rebate freeze. What we were hearing from people was about just the huge costs that it would have for people going to see the doctor, and there were real stories that were coming back to us. That rebate freeze was a campaign absolutely based on the facts of the matter—of what the government had done and was proposing to do—and that was the element of our campaign. It definitely was not a major focus of our efforts, but in some sectors of Australia we found that it was of great concern because it was having a real impact on people's lives when they wanted to go to see their doctor, and it was an additional cost being put in place to stop them doing so.

Mr DICK: Just my second point—and I will conclude because of the time, Madam Chair.

CHAIR: Point or question?

Mr DICK: My second question, sorry.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr DICK: And I will conclude because I know people are wrapping up. In your 'Dark money' report, I know it talks about the failings of the current disclosure laws. That has been tabled for the committee today. I am a new member of parliament elected at the July election. Are those changes as a result of the Howard government's 2005 laws that were amended at the time so that—am I right in saying—while it was $1,000 as a threshold, now it is over $13,000 or $13,200, did you say?

Mr Oosting : $13,200.

Mr DICK: For your members and the campaign, would you say that that was also maybe one of your top issues during the last election, and that goes to the heart of that transparency issue that you were mentioning before?

Mr Oosting : It is a top issue in terms of the things that GetUp! members care about. It is in the top 5 things people want to see us working on, so it is an issue that is not just in an election context, but in an ongoing way we conduct research and education to see how we can get the potentially corrupting influence of big money out of politics and get people's voices back in. This is not just an issue that GetUp! members care about. As we have outlined in our submission, 67.4 per cent of voters believe big business has too much influence over Australian politicians. At the same time we see trust in politicians and politics at its lowest ebb in over 20 years, with only five per cent of voters believing politicians can usually be trusted to do the right thing. That is of great concern for all Australians when we have trust at such a low level. You are right to outline the history of these reforms. We think it should be brought back to a level where it creates an even playing field for everyday Australians who want to be able to contribute to politicians, political parties or others—that it is at a level that most people can afford.

Mr DICK: In line with state laws as well.

Mr Oosting : In line with state laws. We have the $1,000 cap on donations and we have transparency kicking in at $500 so that people can see the influence that money is having. We certainly need to improve the reporting as well to ensure that all sources of funding are being captured and we are not seeing people making regular $13,200 donations on a weekly or daily basis and have cumulative gifts. To be clear, the $1,000 that we are recommending is across the course of a financial year. It is a total amount and it should pick up all jurisdictions. So, if there are multiple organisations of any particular party, all the gifts would also be accumulated. This is a fairly strong and radical reform, we believe, but absolutely necessary to make sure that everybody has access to politics.

Mr DICK: A final quick yes or no. Do you donate to any political parties?

Mr Oosting : No.

Mr MORTON: You mentioned the survey of your million or so members. I believe in February this year you conducted your election vision survey to determine the issues you should focus on. That was explained to me by a visit I had from one of your staff members last week. I do not understand, though, that all your previous vision surveys have been online and the full results have been there, but the 2016 survey does not appear online. Is there a reason for that? Why is that?

Mr Oosting : Thanks for the question, Mr Morton, and thanks for making the time to meet with our staff and our members. We have released the results. We certainly launched them in, I believe, April. If they are not currently on the website it might just be that the link is not easy to find. It certainly will be there and I am happy to provide that on notice.

Mr MORTON: This is an issue that I am interested in. Is there any reason why your staff could not have an email to the committee perhaps this afternoon with the full results of the survey in the same format you have published previously?

Mr Oosting : Yes. I see no reason why we cannot send that straight through to the committee.

Mr MORTON: Thanks for that. In relation to your submission, you state that GetUp! is an independent organisation, you provide an essential service and allow people to have their views represented outside of formal political parties. Your website says that you work by your values, not party politics, and that GetUp! has always been an independent organisation in the past. You say that GetUp! does not back any political party. During the election campaign, your lead Brisbane organiser, Ellen Roberts, told Fairfax, 'We're non-party political and we're not partisan,' but isn't it true that you are just a front for Labor and the Greens? How do you respond to that?

Mr Oosting : No. I can give you a fuller answer if you would like.

Mr MORTON: A medium-length one, if you could.

Mr Oosting : There is the vision process, and I am glad you are aware of that, Mr Morton, because it is a great process. We have a long way to go to find better and deeper ways for people to engage in the sorts of outcomes they want to see in our country, and that has been one of the ways we have tried to democratise the way we determine what we work on. We begin with a vision survey at the beginning of each year. We open it to anyone to vote on the issues that they think we should work on and the ways in which we should work in election years. We take that a step further and this year over 700 GetUp! members hosted house parties—get-togethers as we call them—where they get further into the detail around how we can see progress on these issues. It is one thing to say that we want to see action on climate change or the health care system should be properly funded, but how do we do that? Then we took our strategy and launched it publicly so that our members can engage in: 'Do we think we should go doorknocking or should we send more emails to senators?' We ultimately work out the policies that are going to best deliver on the issues that the members care about.

In this year, 2016, with the federal election, we determined 33 different policies across the areas of health, education, climate change, renewable energy and the democratic reforms we are talking about today. We surveyed all candidates standing and in likely contention of winning office across those 33 different policy areas, and that is how we determined the positions that we took into the election campaign, who we put our focus on and so forth. So that is how GetUp operate. We are a proudly independent organisation. We judge politicians of any colour on the merits of the policy positions they take.

Mr MORTON: How do you reconcile being proudly independent and all those claims that I mentioned previously and your chair's repeated support for the Greens party? Aren't her role as a chair of an organisation that claims to be independent and her very public advocacy for the Greens party incompatible?

Mr Oosting : No. GetUp board directors, as with all board directors, are bound by independence when they step into that role. That is what they do deliver, and we have in place the right governance measures to ensure that that is the case. Do GetUp members, do GetUp staff—

Mr MORTON: Do you think it is appropriate for those board members to advocate votes for election campaigns while being a chair of an independent organisation like yourselves? Is that appropriate?

Mr Oosting : We absolutely expect that our staff and our board members are going to have their own personal political views. I would never seek to censor their political views. We do not think—

CHAIR: Is that a yes or a no? I am a bit unclear on your answer.

Mr MORTON: Is it appropriate? Are you comfortable, as a political organisation, that your chair would be so actively in support publically of one political party over another? How does that fit with being an independent organisation?

Mr Oosting : I am comfortable with the fact that GetUp members, GetUp staff and GetUp board directors have strong political views. We believe that is democracy at its greatest. Of course, we are comfortable with that.

Mr MORTON: I want to show you a photo. There is a fellow here, second in from the left. I was wondering if you could explain to me who that person is or if he is known to you?

Mr Oosting : Yes, I can. That is Phil Ireland, at the time a board director of GetUp.

Mr MORTON: So you must be disappointed that he is not wearing an orange shirt. He is wearing a red one and campaigning very actively for the Labor Party in Susan Templeman's seat. How does that fit with the claims the organisation is independent?

Mr Oosting : Exactly as I outlined; GetUp do not seek to constrain our members', our staff's or our board directors' personal political views. In their personal capacity, they engage in politics. We expect that to be the case, as we would expect of a politically active organisation like the GetUp movement.

Mr MORTON: Are you disappointed that he is not wearing an orange T-shirt?

Mr Oosting : He is not there on GetUp's behalf, so he is free to wear whatever coloured T-shirt he prefers.

CHAIR: Mr Dick on a point of order?

Mr DICK: In terms of context, looking at this photo—this is just for clarification—it is obviously a Saturday night on election night. Is that the source of the photo?

Mr MORTON: I presume it was, because it was actually published the next day.

CHAIR: Was that a point of order?

Mr DICK: It is just a point of clarification about the background to this photo. If it is talking about an employee or someone in their spare time, I just want to know where that photo is from. That is all.

Mr MORTON: It was published by the individual himself on the day after the election. I presume it was election night.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you get concerned when the same person on the same polling booths is at one moment wearing a yellow GetUp shirt and then a red—

CHAIR: Senator Macdonald, Mr Morton wants to continue with his questioning. I will come to you—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I was just interposing.

CHAIR: Yes, I know you were, and I am now interposing back to Mr Morton!

Mr MORTON: Thank you, Chair. It is no great surprise that Mr Dick intervenes in the same way he would if the Labor Party were in front of this committee. Moving further, the reason I ask these questions is that we are dealing with issues of disclosure and financial disclosure and we are looking at third parties and I think it is going to be of interest to this committee where GetUp fits in our political community. I make the position that GetUp is nothing more than a front for Labor and the Greens, and that is a case that I want to continue to pursue. I will move on to foreign donations. Mr Giles raised this point in relation to foreign donations. Is it the case that in recent years US based Avaaz organisation has given GetUp a total of $195,618?

Mr Oosting : Avaaz has certainly made major contributions to GetUp! in recent years. We can check the exact figure to confirm.

Mr MORTON: While you are checking that, can you also check if you received $42,961 from your German equivalent, Campact.

Mr Oosting : Yes, we did receive that.

Mr MORTON: I will call out these figures—and I have a few to go through—and you can check them—

Mr Oosting : I take it you are reading from our voluntary public disclosure, which currently discloses all donations over $10,000. It is a voluntary measure of ours in the interests of better democracy—unlike the Liberal Party!

Members of the audience interjecting—

Senator RHIANNON: Good. There are double standards—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: If there are double standards, we know where they come from.

CHAIR: Committee members, we are almost at the end of the day. Senator Macdonald and Senator Rhiannon, I would ask both of you to cease interjecting and I would remind the audience here that your audible contributions are not appropriate. We have done very well today. Mr Morton, please finish your question.

Mr MORTON: I will. Thank you for raising the voluntary disclosure, Mr Oosting, because I do want to come to that in a second. In the past George Soros's Open Society Institute specifically earmarked $850,000 in seed funding for Avaaz, which was channelled via the intermediary ResPublica. In 2010 in a memo by George Soros he describes Avaaz as an Open Society Institute grantee and a close collaborator. Can you rule out GetUp! ever receiving money via Avaaz from George Soros?

Mr Oosting : Yes.

Mr MORTON: You can? Thank you.


Mr MORTON: How can you?

Mr Oosting : I do not believe it is the case. I cannot speak to the credibility of ResPublica. I have never heard that. I believe it is a conspiracy theorist blog from the right wing. But I can say that we have in place strong measures to ensure that we are receiving money from credible organisations such as Avaaz, which is a movement of tens of millions of people from around the world who take action on the issues that they are passionate about, just like GetUp! We are very comfortable with the integrity measures we have in place to ensure any major gift that we receive is ethical.

Mr MORTON: You have recently received $63,693 from the Geneva based Oak Foundation.

Mr Oosting : Correct.

Mr MORTON: Was there any application required for those funds? Is there a requirement for you to spend those funds on any particular campaign? Or is it just provided for your work here in Australia?

Mr Oosting : In regard to that specific donation or—

Mr MORTON: Yes, in relation to that specific donation. If I had the freedom to raid your offices and your email accounts, would I find an application to the Oak Foundation that sets out specifically what you will use this foreign contribution for?

Mr Oosting : GetUp! did not apply for those funds. We would be happy to take on notice if there is further information we can provide in relation to how we intend to spend that.

Mr MORTON: Surely you can rule out to this committee right here, right now, that you would never receive any funds from any organisation, particularly an international one, that come with any particular requirement that you spend it on any particular campaign of any nature? You cannot do that today?

Mr Oosting : No, I would not intend to do so. At times GetUp! is working on particular issues that make our members passionate and want to contribute. If we are working on the Great Barrier Reef or working on fighting to end the Medicare co-payments and a particular person wants to give to that issue that absolutely is how the GetUp! movement has always worked and will continue to work into the future. That is what we believe gives people more power to decide the issues they are passionate about.

Mr MORTON: So you are leaving this committee in doubt as to whether or not you have received a foreign donation that comes with conditions as to how you spend that money and what you focus that money on? We will let you take that question on notice. I have added up that $300,000 worth of foreign donations have been received by GetUp! at the same time as you have been calling for bans on foreign donations. You are condemning foreign donations—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Selected bans.

Mr MORTON: In my view, it is rank hypocrisy. I come to the conclusion that you are probably the biggest recipient of foreign sourced donations of any political organisation in this country.

Mr Oosting : I think that is—

Senator RHIANNON: What about the Liberal Party and—

Mr MORTON: What? Ten years ago?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes—

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, you will have your opportunity. Mr Morton, if you could confine your comments to questions to the witnesses—

Mr MORTON: Certainly. My question, Mr Oosting, is: could it be possible that you are one of the biggest recipients of offshore political donations?

Mr Oosting : Thank you for your question, Mr Morton. GetUp! does seek to change the system in which we operate. We are absolutely applying the rules that currently exist. We go above and beyond, and we put in place voluntary measures to be more transparent than is required because we think that the system is not good enough. There is not enough transparency. The unlimited amount of cash that can flow into Australia's political parties has the real potential to have a corrupting influence. It is absolutely not the case that GetUp! is the sort of entity that you have outlined. We can raise countless examples sitting right here. With multinational mining companies like Adani, for instance, whilst they are seeking to have mines approved and your party has been in power you have accepted major donations from parties such as that. We do not know how far that goes. It might be in the tens of millions. But because of the lack—

CHAIR: Mr Oosting, with great respect, I did hear—

Mr Oosting : Let me, please, finish my answer.

CHAIR: No, no. You are not coming close to actually answering the question. I have given political parties and GetUp! a great deal of latitude in terms of political editorial comment. But, if you could, given the time—

Mr MORTON: I am almost there, Chair.

CHAIR: Whilst it is a yes-or-no answer—and I am not saying you have to answer yes or no—at least if you could address the question.

Mr Oosting : I am happy to have another go.

CHAIR: Please.

Mr Oosting : In the 2013 election year, $48 million, or 63 per cent of the Liberal Party's income, went undisclosed. How are we to know—

CHAIR: Mr Oosting, you are now deliberately flouting my request to you.

Mr Oosting : But this goes to the heart of the—

CHAIR: No, no.

Mr MORTON: Chair, I am happy to move on to my next question.

Mr GILES: A comparator was put to him, so I think it is fair that he makes a comparison.

CHAIR: Yes. If you like, Mr Morton can re-ask his question. But what I would ask, given the time, as we do not have a lot of time left, if you like you can—-you have gone through some of this evidence already, but I would appreciate if you could at least—

Mr MORTON: And the report has been tabled.

CHAIR: make an attempt to address Mr Morton's question.

Mr MORTON: I am happy to consider that question dealt with and to move on to my next one.

Mr Oosting : I will be clear: there are tens of millions of dollars of dark money flowing into the Liberal Party and, almost equally, the Labor Party. How could I sit here and answer your question when you are unwilling to transparently tell us where your money is coming from.

CHAIR: Mr Oosting, I understand that you would rather not answer that question.

Mr Oosting : I have answered it; the answer is 'no'. I answered it at the beginning and I said 'no', but—

CHAIR: Actually, you did not.

Mr Oosting : let's have an even playing field.

CHAIR: But now—

Mr Oosting : Let's have an even playing field.

CHAIR: Mr Oosting, I am chairing this meeting, not you.

Mr Oosting : Sorry, Senator.

Mr MORTON: Mr Oosting, are you aware of any political organisations that actively solicit foreign donations?

Mr Oosting : Actively? Define what you mean, sorry.

Mr MORTON: Your reports raise issues in relation about foreign donations. However, if I go onto the GetUp! website today, on 'how you can chip in' there is a question: 'Donating from overseas? Please use PayPal below.' Isn't it just complete hypocrisy again that while we sit here and you are complaining about foreign donations the GetUp! website is encouraging foreign donations? I find that absolutely amazing. Surely, that is shameful.

Mr Oosting : We play by the current rules and we want those rules improved. That is why we are here. That is what campaigners do. We at the moment do accept funds from around the world. Many of our members are often abroad when they are making donations. So it is necessary that they use PayPal when they are doing so because we have in place measures to protect people that are donating. So it is necessary that we provide that infrastructure.

Mr MORTON: Thank you for bringing us back to the rules. You have made a particular issue in relation to foreign donations today. You have also said that, in relation to the way you voluntarily disclose, you voluntarily disclose more than you are required to. In relation to the questions about foreign donations, you then revert back to playing by the rules. Surely, you can leave here today and take a principled—like you have, and you have explained to me today about disclosure—that GetUp! will from today no longer accept any political foreign donations to your organisation.

Mr Oosting : We believe there should be an even playing field. We would like to see the Labor Party and the Liberal Party meet those requirements as well. We think, though, that it should apply evenly across the board. That is what is going to improve the system. The issue here is not the small amount of funds that, occasionally, GetUp! might receive from social movements like Avaaz or others; the big issue here is the unlimited amounts of money flowing into the major political parties completely undisclosed. We do not know the sources of those moneys. We do not know what is being bought in response to that money flowing in. That is what we think is at the heart of the reforms that are needed here. So we will happily await you changing the laws and then we will meet them.

CHAIR: For the benefit of my understanding of your last answer, on some issues of integrity you will seek to lead by example, but in relation to this issue, which is a very important issue of integrity, you are not willing to lead by example before others act.

Mr Oosting : The issue here is that only five per cent of voters believe politicians can usually be trusted to do the right thing. We have a crisis of trust in our political system. People want to see reform. It is necessary for parliamentarians, who are in the halls of power and have control over decisions that impact Australians' lives, to lead those reforms.

CHAIR: With respect, quite rightly as an organisation your members talk, as you have, about integrity in the process. You have said that you are leading by example in integrity in a number of areas, but I think, from the answer you just gave to Mr Morton, you will not lead by example on foreign donations. You will wait for the legislation to change before you do.

Mr MORTON: It is very convenient.

Senator RHIANNON: I have a question specifically on this issue.

CHAIR: Just let him answer mine and then we will come to you.

Mr MORTON: I have one more.

Mr Oosting : Firstly, thank you for pointing out that we are leading by example on integrity measures. I appreciate—

Mr Morton interjecting

Senator Rhiannon interjecting

CHAIR: No—I am the chair; I have the call of this question. My comment to you was that this is what you are claiming. I am not saying it is right or wrong; I am just saying that it is part of your claim that you are leading by example on integrity. I am curious why you would not seek to lead by example, then, on foreign donations given it is such an issue for you and your members.

Mr Oosting : As I have outlined, we want the parliament to change the rules on this issue. We think that is the appropriate measure.

Mr MORTON: Your submission says you want to end the shroud of secrecy. I am disappointed that you cannot leave here making a commitment that you will no longer receive foreign donations given that you are one of the biggest recipients, but can you leave here making a commitment that you will reveal the source of your seed funding, funding that you received before your first disclosure to the Electoral Commission?

Mr Oosting : Firstly, we reject the statements that you have made as being completely false.

Mr MORTON: So I can find the seed funding—

Mr Oosting : Ninety five per cent of GetUp's funding over the last five years has come from individuals making contributions of less than $1,000. We are an organisation run by everyday Australians chipping in what they can. We are happy to take on notice our seed funding—absolutely. I am happy to get back to you on that.

Mr MORTON: Can you see any reason why you would not, being an organisation that wants—

CHAIR: I think Mr Oosting has said that he will provide the committee with all of that information.

Mr MORTON: I just want to clarify: is he taking on notice the question of whether or not he will provide it, or is he taking on notice a commitment to provide that information? Which one is it?

Mr Oosting : I am sorry, you will have to repeat those two options, but I was taking on notice whether or not we will provide that information.

Mr MORTON: So you are not giving a commitment that you will provide that information to this committee on notice?

Mr Oosting : Correct.

Mr GILES: Chair, if I may, this is obviously not a matter that relates to the conduct of the 2016 election.

Mr MORTON: It relates transparency and hypocrisy in these—

Senator RHIANNON: A point of order, Chair.

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon—

Senator RHIANNON: There is a point of order here. I understand from what Mr Oosting has said, how GetUp works and the material they have presented that they do work on elections and they do other work.

CHAIR: Where is the point of order here?

Senator RHIANNON: The point of order is that we should be concentrating on the money that is to do with elections. They have the right to do other things as well and their funding can go to that. Therefore, that is not relevant.

CHAIR: With respect, that is actually a debating point, not a point of order.

Senator RHIANNON: No, but our terms of reference are very clear.

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, you will get your opportunity in a moment.

Senator RHIANNON: Our terms of reference are very clear.

CHAIR: You will get your opportunity to raise these issues in a minute. My understanding, and I was listening very carefully, is that Mr Morton asked for that information and Mr Oosting did agree to provide the information to the committee. So I do not think there is any point of order because Mr Oosting has—

Senator RHIANNON: Consistent with the terms of reference.

Mr Oosting : Yes, consistent with the terms of reference we will take on notice whether or not we can provide that information.

CHAIR: Okay, now I understand your point—you will take on notice whether you can provide that information. I think any bureaucrat would be very proud of the verbal gymnastics there. My understanding—and we will go back to the Hansard and have a look at your original response—was that you agreed to provide the funding information that Mr Morton asked for. We will take this offline and look at the Hansard so we do not waste any more time here. That will then clarify, I think, both points of order.

Mr Oosting : I am happy to do that. I thought that I had been consistent three times, but—

Mr MORTON: Can you imagine any reason why you would not provide that information?

Mr GILES: Again, I—

Mr Oosting : I would have to take that on notice. I cannot—

CHAIR: Mr Morton, that is more of an editorial comment.

Mr MORTON: I am finished.

Mr Oosting : I would have to check, sorry. I am not an accountant. There might be a range of reasons.

CHAIR: Mr Oosting, I just wanted to follow up on a couple of points you made in relation to your board's political activities. If I understood what you said correctly, you encourage your board to be politically engaged, or you certainly do not discourage it.

Mr Oosting : We do not discourage it.

CHAIR: So you are aware that your board members are involved with political parties and possibly other third-party movements. Would that be correct, in terms of your board?

Mr Oosting : Sorry, you will have to repeat that. I got distracted with my notes.

CHAIR: Ms Smith, you are handing a lot of notes over, which is not a problem, but if you would like to give evidence at some point I am sure we would be happy for you to, instead of passing notes.

Ms Smith : Thank you.

CHAIR: In relation to your board—as I understand you evidence earlier—you are aware your board members are very politically engaged and you do not encourage it but you do not discourage it. Is that a correct interpretation?

Mr Oosting : That sounds right. It is around political views, commentary and engagement in the issues that we care about.

CHAIR: We have had examples of board members being actively engaged with the Greens or Labor. Are you aware of any member of your board who is actively involved with, for example, the Liberal Party or the National Party?

Mr Oosting : Dr John Hewson.

CHAIR: Yes. Is he actually a member of the Liberal Party?

Mr Oosting : That is a good question. He was back in—

CHAIR: Over 20 years ago.

Unidentified speaker: Is he a member of your board?

Mr Oosting : I might have to take that on notice. He is not a current board member, to be clear. He was a board member in perhaps 2006 or 2007.

CHAIR: I am not asking about a decade ago. Of your current board that is now overseeing the operation of GetUp on behalf of your million members, are there any board members, to your knowledge, who have any active involvement or membership with the Liberal Party or the National Party?

Mr Oosting : There are no members of the National or Liberal parties that I am aware of.

CHAIR: In terms of integrity and probity of board responsibilities, because obviously you have a large membership of over one million people, as you said, what measures do you have in place as an organisation to ensure that your board has transparency—and you talk about perception—is politically neutral and does not bring in their engagement. Again, Ms Smith, if you would like to give evidence, that is not a problem.

Mr Oosting : We follow the best practices as outlined by organisations like the Australian Institute of Company Directors. We have a log of conflicts. We openly advertise for board members. We have gone through periods where we have had open and public recruitments for boards across nine different criteria.

CHAIR: Are all of your board members AICD members?

Mr Oosting : Not all of them, no.

CHAIR: Can you take on notice, because I would be interested to know, the composition of your board. How many have AICD memberships and how many have other professional standards organisation memberships? I am happy for you to take that on notice.

Mr Oosting : Absolutely.

CHAIR: GetUp is, obviously, very concerned about perception. If you have got a board of which half or one-quarter or three-quarters are actively engaged with two political parties, how do you ensure, for your membership, that the board is not swayed in terms of your involvement, for example, in campaigns and where you put your campaign resources and money? On the website you put over $2.3 million into election campaigns, presumably. On your website you were very proud of the fact you got rid of conservative MPs. You were campaigning as an individual organisation, but clearly you were very comfortable with getting rid of coalition MPs. If you have a preponderance of people on your board who are members of Labor and the Greens and you are actively campaigning against coalition members, what perception of GetUp! is the ordinary person going to get?

Mr Oosting : I think it is a good question—thank you, Senator Reynolds. I have two parts to my response, if that is okay. Firstly, in regard to any perception of conflict, I think it is very standard practice for any company or NGO to have in place the proper measures to be able to address those through things like logs or conflict registers and so on and so forth. Every organisation has it. I am sure that all the parties present here have those same sorts of challenges.

CHAIR: On that, do you make that available to your membership? Are your million members able to see any potential conflicts of interest the board of their organisation might have?

Mr Oosting : We have profiles of all of our board members on our website. The second part of my—

CHAIR: But that is not answering my question. Are those conflicts of interest available to your million members, or is that something that is available just to the board?

Mr Oosting : It is a board document, obviously. The second part of my answer goes to the issues of politics and what issues we work on. Do we campaign for the reef? Do we campaign on marriage equality? The great thing about GetUp! is that those things are determined by our membership. That is how GetUp! works. As I have outlined, this election year we went out to our members and had over 35,000 individuals fill out our vision survey, which takes on average about 40 minutes, so this is a deep piece of work. That informed the issues we wanted to work on and then the how, so we—

CHAIR: Sorry. You have actually provided this same evidence at least twice already, but my question is about probity in terms of board directors' responsibilities. As you have said, some of them are members of AICD. Given that a preponderance of members are members of certain political parties, what do you tell your million members? You have things on your website that talk about your being very proud to get rid of coalition MPs: 'We did it—we got rid of them!' How do you deal with that perception that the board is biased?

Mr Oosting : The GetUp! board directors, as with all directors, are bound to represent the interests of the membership—the GetUp! Membership, in our case—and the objects of our constitution. So they are bound by that requirement.

CHAIR: Yes, they might be bound by the requirement, but again you are an organisation that publicly espouses transparency and all those other values, which I think we would all agree are highly laudable and desirable values. But you appear to campaign only to unseat coalition MPs, and are quite proud of that fact, and you have a board that is dominated quite openly by people who support Labor and the Greens. There is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but shouldn't it be more transparent?

Mr Oosting : That is why the second part of my answer is—

Senator RHIANNON: It is called politics.

CHAIR: But shouldn't it be more transparent?

Mr Oosting : That is why the second part of my answer is that the true and honest answer that I wanted to outline here is that the GetUp! board directors are there to serve the membership and the objects of the organisation. Where we work and the issues that we have outlined are determined by the membership—the vision survey process, the get-togethers and then the policy scrutiny across 33 different policy areas. If it were the case that Liberal MPs came out at the top of the ranking on the issues that our members have voted for—climate change, investment in renewable energies—and had good policies across those areas, happy days! We would be offering you support.

CHAIR: Mr Oosting, I have got to—

Mr Oosting : But the reality is the people that we focused on—

CHAIR: On that—

Mr Oosting : are trying to destroy the renewable energy industry.

CHAIR: On that point—

Mr Oosting : They have tried to block action on climate change.

CHAIR: Mr Oosting, please don't talk over me.

Mr Oosting : So we have to work on the issues that our members have raised.

CHAIR: Mr Oosting, I have given you a great deal of latitude with repeating several times—

Mr Oosting : You would not let me provide the answer.

CHAIR: No. I was going to ask you about—

Senator RHIANNON: That is a spot-on answer.

CHAIR: What is the answer? It was not clear at all you were answering my question.

Mr Oosting : The GetUp! board directors are bound to the objects of the GetUp! movement, which is the progressive Australia we want to create. That is determined by the GetUp! membership. The GetUp! membership each year determines the issues that we want to work on. So this is not a thing that is selected by me or any of the GetUp! board directors. GetUp! seeks to be democratically informed by as many people as want to participate—as many as possible. We give every one of those million members the opportunity to determine the issues we work on.

CHAIR: I have a question in relation to the surveys you were talking about and people being able to go online and put forward their issues of concern, which then goes to who GetUp! recommends as the candidate that is most aligned. Given the time, could I ask you to take on notice the methodology and how you develop that, because I must confess that I have actually used that survey myself and, no matter how hard I try, I can never get it to provide a coalition option as a candidate. So I would be very interested to know how that actually works.

Mr Oosting : On the issue of, say, renewable energy—

CHAIR: No, I am happy for you to take that on notice given the time.

Mr Oosting : No, I am happy to give you an answer now if you like.

CHAIR: I actually want to defer to Senator Rhiannon, but I am happy if you could take that on notice.

Mr Oosting : Sure.

CHAIR: I have one final question in relation to caps. I notice that in your report you are arguing for $1,000 caps. Would that cap then apply to GetUp! as well?

Mr Oosting : Correct.

CHAIR: At the moment you are getting small donations but also large donations. Again, Ms Smith, I invite you to give evidence if you like.

Ms Smith : That is okay.

CHAIR: I might need to give you some more Post-it notes shortly!

Mr Oosting : Orange ones!

CHAIR: Very appropriate! So you would expect that to be applied to you as well?

Mr Oosting : For political donations, we believe rules should apply across the board to have caps of $1,000 across jurisdictions, and it should be cumulative across the financial or calendar year depending on what the right measure is, with transparency measures kicking in at $500 for political donations.

CHAIR: For example—again, I am pulling this off your website today—you said 35,115 people donated an average of $81. I do not have my calculator, but that is $2.3-odd million or whatever it is. Would that $2.3 million be excluded from any disclosure?

Mr Oosting : Electoral or political donations over $500, we believe, should be made publicly available—correct.

CHAIR: So, under your proposal, the $2.3 million you raised by that method would not be disclosable.

Mr Oosting : If our methodology would come into practice for political donations, any donation under $500 would not be—

CHAIR: I think that was a yes.

Mr Oosting : I do not know the breakdown of that off the cuff, but I am happy to take it on notice.

CHAIR: I am just going off your site. It says 35,115 people donated an average of $81, so presumably most of that $2.3 million would not be disclosable.

Mr Oosting : Correct. We do not believe that an $81 donation would need to be—

CHAIR: Okay, thank you. Thank you very much for that.

Senator RHIANNON: You are a third party, and third parties come in all shapes and forms. Do I understand correctly that, as a third party, you are working on elections and there are also periods when you are not working on elections—there is non-election work that you are campaigning on? Would that be correct?

Mr Oosting : Yes, that is right. At any given time we try to work out how to best see progress on the issues that our members care about. Sometimes that might be taking on an educative role, public awareness raising, holding events and engaging in all sorts of different materials. It is not always the case that GetUp! engages in electoral or political activities.

Senator RHIANNON: We are talking about political donations in the context of elections and political parties, and that brings us also to third parties, because third parties periodically engage in elections. Maybe take this on notice, because I know some of the members have to get planes, and it would seem from the way the debate has gone that we need to dig into this more. To be fair to third parties, they have rights to do whatever they do that is not election based; that is not what we are inquiring into. Have you given consideration to what should be the recommendations with regard to third-party funding for elections? I think you are saying there it should be the same as for political parties. Is that correct?

Mr Oosting : For electoral—

Senator RHIANNON: For third-party electoral, the rules should be the same as they are for political parties?

Mr Oosting : That is correct, in line with the reforms we are recommending. We think those same rules should apply for electoral activities.

Senator RHIANNON: Then there is your other work that we are not covering.

Mr Oosting : That is right.

Senator RHIANNON: That is what I wanted to clarify.

CHAIR: Senator Macdonald, you have one question?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Chair, after listening to everyone else have about 30 minutes of mainly editorialising, I think I could have more than one question, but they will be questions.

Mr GILES: You get one, and then we are going to go and catch a plane.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Does your group ever receive donations from unions?

Mr Oosting : In the past we have received donations from unions, yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: In the past? What does that mean?

Mr Oosting : I would have to bring up our register, but the answer to your question is: yes, we have.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You do receive donations from unions. Are they public?

Mr Oosting : Yes. GetUp! has a policy to disclose all donations over $10,000, so the donations over $10,000 that we have received are publicly available on our website for anyone to see.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Mr Buchholz was asking some questions about the unions. Do the donations by unions to you impact on your ability to campaign on issues that the unions do not support?

Mr Oosting : No, not at all.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So you get their money but can still campaign against their issues if needed?

Mr Oosting : As I have outlined a number of times today, we determine the issues that we work on through our membership.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: How many paid employees does GetUp! have?

Mr Oosting : We have 49 staff.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Has your organisation ever promoted any issue on the same side as the Liberal Party, the National Party, Pauline Hanson's party or the Shooters and Fishers Party?

Mr Oosting : Yes, we have.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Which were those issues?

Mr Oosting : There have been electoral reform measures that we have worked with the Liberal Party on. We have recently celebrated the moves, for instance, by Liberal premiers Mike Baird, Will Hodgman and Colin Barnett in offering to have the cohort of people that were to be deported to Manus Island and Nauru stay in Australia. We have offered support.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: That is not a federal Liberal Party policy.

Mr Oosting : As has been evident from our other answers, we judge politicians on the merit of their positions and policies, and so where we have that opportunity, we welcome it. I would love to be able to welcome and support the Liberal Party on renewable energy, health and education funding, but the reality is that they do not meet the standards that most Australians want to see.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Perhaps on notice, could you detail for me where you have ever supported any issues, campaigns or policies by any party apart from Labor or the Greens?

Mr Oosting : We will take that on notice.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Finally from me, Mr Bill Shorten was one of your original directors, correct?

Mr Oosting : That is correct.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Your high-profile CEO or president was a Greens candidate in Canberra. What was his name?

Mr Oosting : Simon Sheikh was a Senate candidate in the ACT.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, he is quite openly Greens. Does your organisation ever feel constrained in the causes it takes up due to the fact that Mr Shorten and many other significant union figures have been directors of your organisation, or that Mr Sheikh was president or CEO?

Mr Oosting : He was the national director of GetUp! for a number of years.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you ever feel constrained by that?

Mr Oosting : No, I feel liberated by the fact that we have a million people around the country holding us to account and telling us what they want to take action on. That is where I take my lead. That is what excites me about the work that I do. GetUp! will never be held to account by any politicians or outside entities; we speak to our membership.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you train your members for polling day activities? I will ask the question I was trying to pose before: would you be concerned that people wearing orange GetUp! shirts were publicly interchanging them for Labor Party T-shirts at the last federal election? Would that concern you, and do you train your people in how they campaign at elections?

Mr Oosting : Yes, we provide a range of leadership and volunteer training experiences. We train them how to host events, and many of our members held candidate fora in a range of seats, but not in all of them; we would love to see more of those at future federal elections. It is a big effort to rent a venue and invite local MPs to attend. We do calling programs which, again, require people to either participate in the program or to step up and take a leadership role.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You provide standard letters or emails to write to politicians.

Mr Oosting : That is democracy at its best. We want people to engage with their politicians. If that is by writing a letter, signing a petition—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But you do it for them.

Mr Oosting : doorknocking and so forth, we provide people with the means and the opportunity to do that.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Mr Oosting and Ms Smith, for your testimony here today. As you can see, the committee was very engaged and interested in both your written submission and your oral evidence. I note that you have taken a number of questions on notice to provide further information. I would ask that you provide it to the secretariat by Friday, 2 December. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and will have the opportunity to request corrections to transcription errors.

Mr Oosting : Thank you to the committee. We think that there are some big issues here and we hope that the next federal election will be one that is more transparent and more accountable. Thank you for your time.

Mr MORTON: I will note there was a commitment to provide the 2016 survey. I asked if it could be provided today; I do not want that to be confused with the deadline that you have made.

CHAIR: No, I think that will be very clear in the Hansard, but thank you for that clarification. Thank you again for your comments. I think it would be safe to say that as we move forward on a range of these issues, as we have said to a number of other witnesses over the course of the last three days, we will certainly give you an opportunity to reappear on some of these issues.

Co mmittee adjourned at 16 : 25