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Activists cheer Abbott loss but expect scrutiny over election role

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Activist group GetUp is celebrating the scalping of Tony Abbott but lamenting the failure to unseat senior Liberal Peter Dutton as it reviews its federal election campaign.

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The group, which was responsible for attack ads including one portraying Abbott as a disinterested surf lifesaver on a beach, on Tuesday took credit for changing the MP for Warringah.

“We certainly took on some very difficult targets,” GetUp national director Paul Oosting told ABC radio in Melbourne.

“We decided as a movement we wanted to take on the leaders of the hard-right faction, most of whom are in safe seats, not marginal seats.

“We wanted to be present across the country where our members are and we chose seats accordingly … Tony Abbott in Warringah and Peter Dutton in Queensland.”

Dutton was returned and attracted a slight swing in Saturday’s election, but GetUp is looking at the positives.

“His seat remains marginal as a result of our efforts and that’s something we’re proud of.

“It’s not the result we were after, we’ve got to now reflect on that and build from the foundations that we’ve established.”

GetUp attracted some 9000 volunteers for the campaign, reflecting a three-fold increase on the 2016 federal poll, Oosting said.

But he conceded that campaigning on climate change wasn’t as fruitful as previously thought.

“We have seen reflected in the polls that the majority of Australians want to see the transition to renewables but that’s not, in this case, been reflected inside the polling booth. So we need to reflect there.”

The group also hit stumbling blocks during the campaign, including complaints about overnight robo-calls from an agency GetUp contracted to conduct polling.

Voters in Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s Melbourne seat of Kooyong were angered by the nocturnal disruptions by research company Lonergan.

“We’ve certainly lodged a complaint with Lonergan around that error,” Oosting said.

“We’ve certainly let them know we’re very displeased with that and it’s obviously wholly inappropriate and we apologise to anyone who received that call.”

Oosting expects GetUp to face further scrutiny by its critics.

“People are free to get engaged in politics in our democracy and that’s something we’re very proud of. We will of course defend ourselves.

“We hold ourselves to high standards of transparency.”

-AAP

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