GetUp! and Bank Australia: The Advance Australia hatchet job in The Australian

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Gerard Benedet, national director of Advance Australia (Screenshot via YouTube)

An article that was recently published in The Australian has unfairly criticised campaign organisation GetUp!, writes Dr Steven Hail.

I RARELY READ The Australian, but today someone brought this article to my attention:

It is such a dreadful piece of misleading Right-wing propaganda that it requires a response.

It portrays an arrangement between the mutual Bank Australia and the campaigning organisation GetUp!, where a contribution is made by the bank to GetUp! when members of that campaigning organisation become members of the bank, as a shabby and deceitful deal. It is as though GetUp! was a money-grabbing capitalist with poor ethics and Bank Australia a fly-by-night dodgy shadow bank, to read the account in The Australian.

Bank Australia is not a ‘little-known bank’. It is the former Members and Education Credit Union. It has 130,000 customers. It is a mutual. It is owned by its members, who are its customers. It has not just been crucified by the banking Royal Commission, unlike the Big Four. It is one of those Australian mutuals which have a commitment to ethical banking.

GetUp! is not particularly “Left-wing”, it just isn't Right-wing, so it doesn't support the current government.

I love this quote from the article in The Australian. It is extremely funny because it is absurd.

Gerard Benedet, national director of the Advance Australia group which presents as a conservative answer to GetUp!, said the deal would “leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth”.


“The banking royal commission has taken aim at secret commissions paid to mortgage brokers. Now GetUp! has been caught accepting commissions from Bank Australia,” he said.


“Australians are sick of corporates getting into bed with ­organisations like GetUp! who are anti-jobs, anti-mainstream values and freedoms.”

Let us consider the wisdom of Mr Benedet.

1) Advance Australia has hardly any members and so is hardly equivalent to GetUp!. It is a pressure group funded by rich people.

As GetUp! has rightly said:

“Advance Australia is a group of rich white men on a campaign to make themselves richer.”

2) The arrangement between GetUp! and Bank Australia is a very good thing. It encourages people to bank with an ethical mutual. It contributes to an ethical campaigning organisation. It is not a secret. Nobody has been caught doing anything.

Even The Australian feels obliged to include the following quote from GetUp!’s Brighter Banks website:

Now we are following through on the threat by walking away from them once and for all, and taking our money to banks that share our values. For every person who switches to Bank Australia through the Brighter Banks campaign, GetUp! receives a once-off financial contribution — allowing us to do even more to fight for a safe climate future.


Details of the commission payments to GetUp! are disclosed on the page so that people interested in the deal can click through.

The shame is that the newspaper includes this quote well down the page in its article, having already used Mr Benedet to imply that the arrangement has been hidden and GetUp! has been ‘caught accepting commissions’. Linking this to ‘secret commissions paid to mortgage brokers’ is really egregious. The chutzpah of Advance Australia has to be seen to be believed.

To imply this has anything to do with the criminal behaviour identified by the Royal Commission is absurd in the extreme.

3) There is no sign Australians are “sick” of GetUp!. That is why GetUp! is the largest campaigning organisation in Australia. It is very popular. People who don't like it sometimes call it “populist”. Were GetUp! less successful, all these rich white guys would not have put their money into Advance Australia.

4) “Anti-Jobs”? You are kidding me. The number one proposal in GetUp!’s Future to Fight For is a Federal Job Guarantee. I have written about that, for Independent Australia, before.

5) Anti-Freedoms? Again, you are kidding me. GetUp! wants to free those unjustly detained in offshore camps, just as an example. It wants to free people from homelessness and poverty. It campaigned for marriage equality. It campaigns for future generations to be free from the worst consequences of climate change.

6) “Anti-mainstream values”? No. Anti the values of old white billionaires, perhaps. Anti the values of climate change deniers who would trade the future for their own profit today, definitely. Anti the values of those who delayed and would have denied marriage equality, for sure. I think GetUp!'s values are mainstream values, for the most part.

Trying to link this arrangement to the report of the Banking Royal Commission, which was for so long resisted by the LNP of Gerard Benedet and the Liberal Party nationally, is contemptible. Laughable and contemptible.

Thanks to The Australian, though, for sharing the valuable information that people can contribute to Australia's leading campaigning organisation by banking with this ethical mutual bank.

It seems they don't approve of the fact.

Never mind.

You can follow Dr Steven Hail on Twitter @StevenHailAus, as well as on Facebook at Green Modern Monetary Theory and Practice. His new book, 'Economics for Sustainable Prosperity', is due to be released by Palgrave Macmillan in July.

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