Progressive politics gets organised

One of the things that has consistently undermined the potential of the progressive left is our penchant for in-fighting. That together with the growth in single issue cause related campaigns has often divided our energies and weakened our messaging and ultimately our colective influence both in the public sphere and especially at the ballot box.

Inspired in part by the success of Move On! in the United States two young Australian graduates of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government who have worked at the intersection of technology, new media and politics have founded Get Up! Get Up is an independent, grass-roots community advocacy organisation giving everyday Australians opportunities to get involved and hold politicians accountable on important issues.

Whether it is sending an email to a member of parliament, engaging with the media, attending an event or helping to get a television ad on the air, the idea is that GetUp provides the tools for its members to take targeted, coordinated and strategic action in support of progressive politics.

I'll admit there's nothing particularly revoluntionary about attempts, especially on-line ones, to bring people together in pursuit of progressive ends, the web is full of sites urging us on to action. But for the most part that's exactly where those websites begin and end in the virtual world. Crucially Get Up is also getting people to the streets, in the form of leafleting target seats in the forthcoming Australian federal election and raising money on the web to take its message to television viewers.

Their latest television advertisement is an Australian first. It brings together representatives of the Greens, Democrats and the Australian Labor Party in combined appeal to voters to ensure that the conservatives don't enjoy a majority in both houses of the Australian parliament.  In August 2005, the conservatives took control of the Senate, giving one party a majority in both houses of Parliament for the first time since 1981. Since then the Senate has passed 100% of Government-sponsored amendments, at the same time as rejecting over 98% of amendments proposed by other parties.

Over the past two years, Get Up members have fought for the Senate to fulfill its rightful role as watchdog over the Government on issues such as refugees' rights, industrial relations, and, most recently, laws that dramatically affect land tenure, health, welfare and the rights of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

In addition to coming together to campaign for a diversely constituted Senate the Labor Party and Greens have also finalised a preference swap. Under the terms of the agreement, Labor votes will flow to the Greens in the Senate and the Greens will preference the ALP in the house of representatives in target seats in all states and territories, with the exception of Tasmania, where they are in serious disagreement over Labor's unfortunate support for a pulp mill in the state. The deal dramatically increases the Greens' chances of winning senate seats in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales and of holding the balance of power after the election.

Assuming both the ad and the preference deal works and there's a more diverse Senate where the Greens hold the balance of power this will be a good outcome for Australian democracy in general and for green issues in particular.