Left campaign group to launch massive Coalition attack at next election

The left-wing social campaign group Get Up! is planning a ten-fold increase in its electoral reach in a bid to unseat prominent Coalition conservatives at the next federal election.

In its sights are senior Turnbull government figures such as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and former prime minister Tony Abbott, as well as other MPs associated strongly with opposition to same sex-marriage, promoting the Adani coal mine, blocking an effective clean energy target, and opposing a more humane approach to sea-borne refugees.

But a senior Liberal insider said the group, which was unashamedly designed to install Labor governments, should not imagine it will face an adversary on the ground configured as it was in 2016.

The figure also criticised GetUp! saying it presented as "warm and fuzzy" and issues driven but was really professional political front, which should be subject to the same rules and transparency requirements as political parties.

Initially 44 electorates will host beefed up campaigns around the country, along with a plan to have 100 locations nationwide where members can tap into a decentralised door-knock mapping tool or access new telephone calling software that can be used from any members' phone.

The mostly crowd-funded group has been studying the playbooks of progressive peoples' movements abroad, including those propelling the former US Democratic presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders, and Britain's Labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

GetUp! national director Paul Oosting said the organisation hopes to expand its ground campaign of around 3500 activists in 2016, by an order of magnitude, taking it to 35,000 in time for the election expected either late 2018 or in 2019.

Around 1000 activists have been called to Sydney this weekend to undertake training in a new "devolved" model of organising that relies on vastly increased human resources to drive local campaigns ranging from door-knocking, phone banks, social media campaigns, advertising, and other activities.

"Traditionally, we've largely been an online-based organisation, particularly between elections, that's why were were founded 12 years ago ... but increasingly we're seeing the real power when we give the ability to our members to step up and take on leadership roles and how that can lead to far greater impact in progressing the issues they care about," he said.

He said GetUp! was buoyed by its success in helping to defeat conservatives such as the outspoken Tasmanian Liberal Andrew Nikolic in Bass in 2016, but it believes it must dramatically expand its influence to achieve more progressive policy outcomes nationally.

Mr Oosting said the group had been studying the approaches of the anti-austerity Podemos movement in Spain, as well as elements of the organising structure used by Mr Sanders, itself a derivative of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

According to the organisation itself, GetUp! received funds in the past financial year from 57,419 individual donors who provided 491,228 donations. While some foreign donations have been received, it says 97 per cent of its funds were provided by donations under $100 with 12,815 people signed up for either weekly or monthly donations.

"I can't see our funds increasing but I can see our people power increasing exponentially, Mr Oosting said.

Third party groups have become more influential in elections across the democratic world, testing the patience of established parties, and straining the rules regarding campaign financing and imposing limits on election advertising by registered parties.

Conservative candidates believe the combination of finance and resources made available to Labor and Greens candidates by GetUp!, other environmental groups, and through the unions, are making elections more difficult to contest.

In 2016, GetUp! helped achieve a 5.1 per cent swing away from Mr Dutton towards Labor in the crucial north Brisbane seat of Dickson.

With a razor thin margin of just 1.6 per cent, or just 2911 votes in 2016, the influential conservative is regarded as vulnerable, especially as the Coalition remains locked behind a dominant ALP according to most polls.

Mr Oosting said the group had come to realise that while its membership was mostly young and tech-savvy, meaning it could run sophisticated online communications, its greatest impact at election times had come from the personal interactions with electors, such as direct phone calls regarding issues and from door knocking.

This story Left campaign group to launch massive Coalition attack at next election first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.