Archive for October, 2012

Quick update on the campaign to Save Tassie’s old growth forests

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Bunnings has publicly declared that they won’t block the agreement – will Harvey Norman be next?

Great news – Bunnings has confirmed they are not involved in blocking the Tasmanian forest agreement, as claimed by old-growth saw-millers in Tasmania.

In a statement to GetUp Bunnings Managing Director John Gillam said that:

“Bunnings has always been supportive of a Tasmanian forest agreement being reached and there is no truth in reports by third parties that we were involved in the collapse of the agreement. We want to see an agreement that would support the timber industry, local communities and the environment”.

We congratulate Bunnings, and this confirms that retailers will support the Tasmanian forest industry if an agreement is reached to restructure the industry and protect high conservation value forests. More news to come soon!

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30th October 2012

Reportback: the difference you made on the RET

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Remember that submission you wrote last month on renewable energy? Congratulations — it worked! On Friday, the Climate Change Authority released the findings of their review into Australia’s 20% Renewable Energy Target (RET).
We’d been worried, because journalists reported that “the process has flushed out a wave of hostility to the RET from coal-fired power stations and their allies, who want the target cut back.”[1]

But this week’s headline? “Coal rebuffed!” The Authority decided not to cave into the polluters’ demand to slash the target. Instead, they maintained that the 20% target was a sensible way to reduce carbon pollution.  
You should be proud of the role you played in this victory. In light of the polluters’ heavy lobbying, it’s hard to see the Authority taking the position they did without the enormous number of supportive submissions written by GetUp members, other concerned citizens and community groups.
7,813 of us sent messages to the Authority countering the heavy polluting industry’s claims against renewable energy. This turned out to be 90% of the total submissions – a voice too loud to ignore.
Of course, there’s much more to do. Australia is one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world, so even a 20% renewable energy target lacks the ambition our Government must reach for to prevent catastrophic climate change. Ultimately, we must follow the example of countries like Denmark and Scotland with their 100% renewable energy targets.
But for now, I hope this news brings a smile to the start of your week.
These industry lobbyists aren’t used to losing, and they’ve already indicated that they will continue to fight to cut the Renewable Energy Target  already plotting their next move. But in this battle, thanks to you, people power came out on top. 
With gratitude and hope,

Sam, for the team at GetUp!
PS – Stopping cuts to the renewable energy target is just one victory in a much bigger campaign to solve climate change. The Australian Energy Market Operator just released modelling showing Australia has the potential to generate 500 times more renewable energy than current levels[2] – but it’s moments like these that remind us all what we can achieve when we stand up together. Thank you.  

All of this is possible also because of GetUp members who chip in donations to keep our lights on (powered by renewables of course!). If you’d like to contribute to support GetUp’s ongoing climate change work, please make a secure donation here.

1 Coal rebuffed: review sticks with status quo on RET, Cathy Alexander, Crikey, 26 October 2012.
2 Renewables: Australia’s a land of plenty, Peter Hannam, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 2012.

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29th October 2012

Latest campaign: Save Tassie’s forests

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The negotiations to protect Tasmania’s forests are in crisis. Retailers Harvey Norman and Bunnings are said to be behind a move by old-growth saw mills which have derailed the talks just as an agreement was about to be reached. Sign this urgent petition calling on Harvey Norman and Bunnings to help end the destruction of Tasmania’s ancient forests:

It was supposed to be the final night of negotiations. After two arduous years of talks the forest industry, their union and environmentalists were set to reach an agreement that would see Tasmania’s magnificent ancient forests protected, and the industry restrucutured to meet modern standards.

We have it on good authority that in the final moments of negotiations one of the few remaining old-growth sawmillers said he would not support the agreement because Bunnings and Harvey Norman were unwilling to accept any less old growth timber.

The forest industry, workers, community and environment groups have been willing to adapt and compromise and had found a solution – it’s time Harvey Norman and Bunnings were called on to declare whether they support or oppose a Tasmanian forest agreement.

While all of this remains behind closed doors there has been no pressure on Harvey Norman and Bunnings but if tens of thousands of us sign this petition we can hold them accountable. We’ll personally deliver the petition to the companies and hold a media conference in the next week so add your name now:

So here’s the state of play: We’ve been holding out hope that negotiators would reach an agreement that would give Tasmanian workers the best prospects for the future and protect Tasmania’s globally valued forests. And they almost did. The majority of the forest industry, the relevant union and the environment groups at the table were all in agreement. But the government requires everyone to support it and a few old-growth saw mills dug their heels in and refused to allow the agreement to be signed. But in fact, the sawmills in question had their wood supply guaranteed as part of the agreement.

They claimed that Bunnings and Harvey Norman would cancel their contracts if there was any reduction in volumes – and they are two of the biggest retailers of wood from Tasmania’s native forests.

What the agreement needs now is for Bunnings and Harvey Norman to publicly put their cards on the table.

This may seem like a minor detail in a long negotiation process but our outside voices will help get strategic information on the table at this crucial point.

Protecting Tasmania’s forests is not just the responsibility of a few negotiators and politicians – it’s the opportunity our movement of hundreds of thousands of Australians exists for.

Add your name to the Bunnings and Harvey Norman petition. As the message spreads across Australia they will have to declare whether or not they support Tasmania’s forest agreement:

Thanks for all you do.
The GetUp team.

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27th October 2012

What GetUp members are up to

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“I have two sets of gay parents (both my mum and my dad) and they’ve both been together for over 28 years now. Now whether or not they end up marrying if the law gets passed, I still believe they have the chance, along with thousands of other LGBTQ Australians to have the same human rights as everyone else, to marry the person they love, regardless of gender.”

These are the words of GetUp member Grace who has been up to some amazing things recently. She’s won $500 towards a project called “Be You” which aims to support Victorian students who are being bullied because of their sexual preference. She hopes to see an end to bullying by flying the rainbow flag alongside the Australian flag in schools across Central Victoria.

You can hear more about Grace and her project here.

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24th October 2012

Reportback: Success – Appeals for Refugees

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Montage of images of GetUp members at vigil

It was Mother’s Day. A young mother and her sons, aged 6 and 9, had just found themselves in legal limbo. As we wrote at the time:

“Because they are verified refugees, this family cannot be sent back to the country they fled. But ASIO have decided that they may not live in the community. So they’re held indefinitely. There have been no charges laid against them. They have no right of appeal. ”

GetUp members responded in huge numbers. At dusk, we gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the Attorney-General’s office, and news carried the images across the nation. 50,000 more joined the ‘virtual vigil’ online.

Our message was clear: the Government must implement independent reviews and appeals for these refugees.

Yesterday afternoon, the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, has announced exactly that. Congratulations everyone, and congratulations to the Attorney-General.

Our campaign posed a simple question. The Romans had a phrase for it — quis custodiet ipsos custodes — “who guards the guards?” From now, an Independent Reviewer will examine adverse security findings by ASIO. It doesn’t mean that every refugee detained because of adverse ASIO findings will be released. It does mean that they can hear the case against them, argue their side of the story, and have the decision reviewed every year. Former Federal Court Judge Margaret Stone is the inaugural Independent Reviewer.

I don’t believe this would have happened without public pressure: without the GetUp members who powered this campaign by signing online, attending vigils in person, or chipping in the donations that make GetUp possible. Thank you.

We also owe thanks and congratulations to the journalists who exposed these stories, like Steve Cannane of ABC’s Lateline; our partner organisations Amnesty Australia and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre who worked on this issue tirelessly; and to the MPs and Senators who took a stand on this issue in the Parliamentary Inquiry that this year recommended an end to this indefinite detention: particularly its chair, Daryl Melham MP, Deputy Chair, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young*, and to Rob Oakeshott MP.

Our relief is tinged with some sadness, as we think of the many thousands of asylum seekers still so cruelly treated by our Government. There’s so much more to do, but although we often despair, we must also hope that we can do better. You proved that hope. We’ll be in touch soon with more opportunities to take action.

In thanks,
Sam, for the team at GetUp.

*The Greens are now calling on the Minister of Immigration to ensure all seven children in detention because of ASIO decisions are released. This is a delicate issue because the department decides to keep children with their parents where it is in the child’s best interest.

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17th October 2012

Campaign Update: Tell Woolies what you think about the Pokies industry

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At the shops we’re all thinking carefully about the purchases we make. Is this good for my health? Is this the right price? Have animals been treated ethically and workers fairly? The list goes on.

But sometimes the impact companies are having in our communities is hidden. Take Woolworths, for example. They promote themselves as a family friendly grocery store, but they’re also the single biggest poker machine operator, taking money from the most vulnerable people in our communities.

We can do something about that. Here’s the plan.

  1. Print off this short letter.
  2. Sign your name and add any personal comments you’d like to include.
  3. Put it in your shopping bag, purse or wallet, for next time you’re shopping in, or near a Woolworths store.
  4. Deliver the letter to Woolworths staff at the checkout and politely ask them to pass it on to store management.

By working together, we can deliver thousands of letters to Woolworths stores across the country. That’s an avalanche of letters that will run from neighbourhood stores right through the company to get the attention of the board and CEO. When Woolworths hears that stores across the country have been receiving thousands of thoughtful, passionate letters from GetUp members they’re going to take notice.

This isn’t about causing a scene, nor getting angry at Woolworths staff — we know it’s not their fault that Woolworths invest in poker machines, and many are on our side! It’s not about boycotts or protest — and you don’t even have to be a regular Woolworths customer.

It’s simply about hand-delivered notes asking Woolworths to do better by our communities. Please print out your letter now, or if you don’t have access to a printer let us know and we’ll send you a copy in the post:

Thanks for all you do,

PS – This is really important right now because it’s just a month until Woolworths hold an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the company to discuss our pokies reform proposals. 257 fantastic GetUp members, who are shareholders of Woolworths, have forced the company to hold the meeting, so now we need to ramp up the pressure. Let’s make sure the Woolworths manager in your local area passes on this message: their customers and community want Woolworths to do the right thing by our communities. That means sensible limits on the amount of money problem gamblers can lose on Woolworths poker machines.

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17th October 2012

Campaign Update: A Special Message from Mary Kostakidis

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I’m a GetUp member. I am also a journalist who has engaged with international affairs for decades. That’s why, as a matter of principle, I am greatly disturbed by what’s happening to Julian Assange. It overturns centuries of historic and legal precedent protecting freedom of the press, and exposes journalists around the world to the vengeance and tyranny of governments anywhere.

This point was made in the Editorial Opinion pages of the New York Times :

“If Mr Assange is extradited to the United States, the consequences will reverberate for years around the world. Mr Assange is not an American citizen, and none of his actions have taken place on American soil. If the United States can prosecute a journalist in these circumstances, the governments of Russia or China could, by the same logic, demand that foreign reporters anywhere on earth be extradited for violating their laws. The setting of such a precedent should deeply concern everyone, admirers of WikiLeaks or not.” 1

It is time for the Australian government to take a stand against this. Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Prime Minister Julia Gillard can pick up the phone today and ask for an agreement that the United States will not seek to extradite Assange for his work with WikiLeaks. Please join me in asking them to do so:

As an Australian citizen, and the head of an Australian-based online media organisation, Mr Assange is entitled to the same rights and protection under freedom of the press that any journalist or publisher requires in order to do their job; without fear that if they expose the truth, they risk being sentenced to the death penalty. They are providing an essential service – empowering us by exposing what governments get up to in our name. We in turn must defend them.

The information WikiLeaks has released revealed serious wrongdoing, from the killing of Reuters news reporters and Iraqi civilians, including children, to corruption that so outraged nations of people it helped spark the Arab Spring. Media outlets around the world also published this information, but their editors’ safety is not at risk; only that of an Australian whose organisation has delivered a secure way for whistleblowers to upload material anonymously.

We know our government can, and must, do better to stand up for freedom of the press. Join me in signing this statement to Foreign Minister Bob Carr today:

Thanks for being part of this,
Mary Kostakidis, journalist and GetUp member.

— Note from the GetUp team, please be advised this note refers to sexual violence.—

Since we released the video of our interview with Julian Assange on Monday we’ve been contacted by many GetUp members with well-considered concerns about the campaign. We want to be clear about GetUp’s stance in relation to the sexual assault charges against Julian Assange in Sweden and sexual violence generally.

Mr Assange stands accused of sexual assault in Sweden and must answer those allegations. We can’t know what the outcome of that criminal process will be, but we believe that it is important for the allegations to be judged fairly, and for dignity to be afforded his accusers in that process. Allegations of sexual assualt too often are disregarded, too often never heard at all. We believe that resolving the question of Mr Assange’s extradition to the US in order for him to be able to go to Sweden to answer these allegations, would hasten justice for Mr Assange, and for the women who have made the sexual allegations.

We apologise sincerely to those who were offended because this was unclear in our previous email.

These issues can be distressing. Support is available by contacting the National Sexual Assault, Domestic & Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732 or

[1] WikiLeaks and Free Speech By Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, The New York Times, August 20, 2012

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12th October 2012

Upcoming event: Rock the gate

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There’s one thing we know for sure – that when a community mobilises and works together to stand up for what matters to them anything is possible. This Saturday our friends at Lock The Gate are holding a rally in Murwillumbah to protest coal seam gas developments in the Northern Rivers. This isn’t an ordinary rally – t’s also a rock concert, featuring artists like Pete Murray showing their support for protecting our environment, health and families from CSG.  

These rallies, and the work of Lock the Gate, are crucial to showing mining and energy companies who engage and invest in coal seam gas mining that the community are active and energised. We need to show them a groundswell of support for protecting the Nother Rivers that they can’t ignore. 

So come on down and show your support this Saturday, where you’ll hear from speakers like Lock the Gate’s Drew Hutton and myself as well as live music by Pete Murray!

It’s going to be a fun-filled day so be sure to invite your friends, family and colleagues. Here are the details you need to know:

WHAT: ‘Rock the Gate – Northern Rivers’ – organised by Lock the Gate
WHEN: This Saturday, 13th October, from 10am
WHERE: Murwillumbah Showgrounds

I hope to see you there,
Sam McLean, National Director, GetUp.

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9th October 2012

Newest campaign: Julian Assange speaks directly to GetUp members

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We just returned from London where we shot an exclusive interview with Julian Assange — his first Australian interview since he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Many GetUp members have been emailing with questions they wanted Mr Assange to answer, so we put your questions to him directly.

Click below to be the first to see this exclusive interview:

Click here to see the exclusive video

GetUp will always stand up for the rights of a democratic, free society; including freedom of speech, freedom of information and the right to a fair trial. That’s why we campaigned to bring David Hicks home after five years of detention and allegations of torture inside Guantanamo Bay. That’s why when members of Congress and the US media started labelling Assange a terrorist and calling for blood, more than 90,000 GetUp members chipped in to publish a full-page statement in The New York Times, headlined: “Wikileaks are not terrorists.”

Now Julian Assange is wanted for questioning concerning an alleged sexual assault in Sweden – allegations he must address, but can’t. Instead, he’s holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK. If he steps out the door he fears he’ll simply be arrested and handed over to the US, where he faces life in prison and even the death penalty.

Wikileaks is a media organisation, but Mr Assange now faces the prospect of military prison in the United States for publishing information governments didn’t want heard. When our Government fails to take a stand for Mr Assange, they’re actually failing to fight for the freedom of our press.

Watch the exclusive interview, and add your name to our new petition.

Mr Assange’s fears that Sweden will hand him over to the US are not unfounded. Media reports have revealed that the US have already made plans to charge Mr Assange with espionage, in a military court — the same military system that has now detained Bradley Manning without charge for over 800 days.

Swedish authorities could simply interview Mr Assange where he is, but forcing him to go back to Sweden means he will be incarcerated instantly. He could then could be extradited under a bilateral agreement to the US, before he’s had a chance to even deal with the allegations of sexual assault. In this interview, Mr Assange says he wants to defend himself in relation to the Swedish allegations.

Whatever happens – we know where we stand. We campaign not to be the judge of someone’s innocence or guilt, but to defend the bedrock laws and values that underpin freedom and justice for everyone. These are the very rights that separate us from petty dictatorships around the world – where the act of publishing information the government doesn’t want seen gets you thrown into jail, or worse.

When we first published our NY Times statement, we promised that we would “continue to fight for free speech, a free press and freedom of information in a global, modern and interconnected world“; and that we would, “continue to stand up for the rule of law, due process and the democratic values that are often threatened in times of uncertainty.

That hasn’t changed. Thank you for being part of this:

In hope,
the GetUp team.

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8th October 2012

Campaign update: Turning up the heat on Woolworths

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48 days from now is a milestone in the fight for pokies reform. That’s when GetUp members have forced Woolworths, Australia’s largest operator of high-loss poker machines, to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on pokies reform. 

I want to outline exactly what we need to do, together, to seize this moment. 

The short story? Every bit of public pressure we can apply over the coming weeks will be extremely effective. The EGM is a loudspeaker for our campaign: we can use it to generate story after story of national media coverage about the need for pokies reform. We make sure that not just Woolworths – but every operator of dangerous poker machines – sees that they have to choose between a family-friendly brand and a family-wrecking product.

We have a 6 point plan, detailed below. It will cost $95,000 over the next 12 weeks. It may be a meagre sum compared to Woolworths’s huge corporate budgets, but it will create millions of dollars worth of media coverage, and reach every single shareholder of Woolworths Ltd. 

We all need to pitch in if this is going to work. If 990 of us chip in $8 a week, for just 12 weeks, we can make it work. Can you be one of those 990?

Our strategy doesn’t rely on winning the vote at the Woolworths EGM. Campaigns just aren’t that easy!

The EGM will be judged not by the number of investors who vote with us, but by the number of Australians who take action in the weeks before and after. The meeting is an amplifier that will make everything we do over the next 12 weeks gain extra attention from media, shareholders, investors and management. 

So here’s the plan that your donation will enable:

1. Helping affected families speak up.
Many brave GetUp members have stepped forward to tell powerful stories about how their loved ones have been crippled by pokie addiction, and in some tragic cases, lost to related suicide. Your support will let us fly those members from across the country to the Woolworths EGM in Adelaide, where they can share their stories with investors and media. This will cost approx. $8,500.

2. Writing to every Woolworths shareholder.
Our letter (technically called a 249P statement) will be delivered to every Woolworths Shareholder. We will also reach out directly to tens of thousands of shareholders who aren’t able to attend the EGM. Printing and postage is approx. $13,500.

3. Reaching Woolworths customers on the ground.
Giving letters to Woolworths customers across the country, encouraging them to get behind this campaign by delivering the notes to Woolworths local branch managers. Printing and delivery will cost approx. $15,500.

4. Detailed briefings for institutional investors.
Professional, independent research about the economic and social impact of Woolworths’ poker machines is crucial to start moving large institutional investors. We will update and further our research, and deliver personal briefings to major institutional investors. Our first report, showing that Woolworths’ pokies have the worst impact in low socio-economic areas, already made headlines last weekend. Cost is approx. $22,500.

5. Visible community events.
Printing banners, placards and brochures for community actions outside of local Woolworths stores to show customers and the community that the ‘Fresh Food People’ are also the ‘Pokies People’. Cost: $15,500 to print banners and fliers.

6. Community spotlight on the EGM
On the day of the AGM, let’s hold a huge community gathering to show support for pokies reform. Meetings are fairly boring for media to cover, so our event will help ensure the news coverage shows the community’s voice outside, not just the corporate spin inside. These events cost real money: from stages to PA systems, insurance, signage and even first aid: total cost is approx. $19,500.

It was 257 courageous GetUp members who initiated the shareholder motion that propelled this campaign into the national spotlight and won us the right to hold a Woolworths EGM. 

They took this bold action because they’ve seen the devastating impact high-loss poker machines have on families, friends and communities. When the Federal Government caved in to the pressure from corporate gambling lobby groups like Woolworths, GetUp members decided to go to the source of the problem and target the people who have the power to change their business overnight – the Board of Woolworths. 

Thanks for being part of it. Now, let’s continue the fight.
Erin, Carl and the GetUp team.

PS – Just yesterday the GetUp initiated Woolworths EGM was written up in the Power Index as being #1 of the “top five must-watch” AGMs of the season. With your help we can build unstoppable pressure within Woolworths to reform their predatory poker business:

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5th October 2012