IPA agenda to re-shape Australia
By Barry Tucker 2 March, 2013
The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) claims to be an independent think tank. It is funded by corporate and philanthropic donations (see update, 25 August, at end) and individual subscriptions. It is one of the bodies that came together in 1945 to form the Liberal Party of Australia and is rightly seen as an arm of the Liberal party.
The IPA is disproportionately represented on the ABC’s tv shows The Drum and Q&A, although the ABC denies it and quibbles about who’s who. You may never have heard of the IPA. Before we go into the remainder of this article, here’s an episode of the ABC’s Littlemore, dated 09/04/2001, presented by Stuart Littlemore (it temporarily replaced Media Watch) [edited, 23/11/2016]. It mentions what the IPA is, who some of its members are, its activities and where its main financing comes from.
The political agenda of the IPA is no different than the agenda of the Liberal party. In a recent article on the IPA website, Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia, three IPA members wrote about what they see as Australia’s problems and listed 75 changes that should be implemented. See this page from the IPA website for the preamble to the 75-point list.
The list has since been expanded to 100 items. Why the round figure of 100? I can agree with some of the points, like smaller government and ending vote-buying welfare. For the remainder, it is basically a plan to remove restrictions on business and industry to pillage and plunder resources, the environment and consumers.
When the IPA talks about individual freedom it is referring to the freedom of individual capitalists and materialists to pursue their dreams at the expense of everyone else. You will notice how the IPA plans for the NBN, the ABC and SBS play into the hands of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose father Keith (later Sir Keith) helped launch the IPA in 1943. Murdoch, his publications, his supporters, the IPA and the widely broadcast Andrew Bolt all oppose the taxpayer funded ABC.
Half-way through the 2013 election campaign, Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey stated unequivocally on Lateline (23 August) that the ABC will not be privatised but any “waste” in the organisation will be cut. One of Hockey’s “waste” items was the ABC managed Australia Network, which transmits into South-East Asia. Murdoch initially won the contract but had it taken off him by a Labor government.
It will be interesting to see how many of the 75 points are implemented if the Liberal party wins the federal election in September this year. In an article in Crikey.com on the eve of the September 2013 election Andrew Crook went through the 75-item list and speculated on the fate of each one.
You can read the authors’ preamble to the IPA list and learn more about the IPA on its website. Here’s the closing statement from the preamble: “If he wins government, Abbott faces a clear choice. He could simply overturn one or two symbolic Gillard-era policies like the carbon tax, and govern moderately. He would not offend any interest groups. In doing so, he’d probably secure a couple of terms in office for himself and the Liberal party. But would this be a successful government? We don’t believe so. The remorseless drift to bigger government and less freedom would not halt, and it would resume with vigour when the Coalition eventually loses office. We hope he grasps the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the political culture and stem the assault on individual liberty.” [My emphasis.]
Parliamentary Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott told the IPA’s 70th anniversary dinner in April 2013 that the 10 items below in red have been agreed to and will be implemented.
1 Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.
2 Abolish the Department of Climate Change
3 Abolish the Clean Energy Fund
4 Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
5 Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council
6 Repeal the renewable energy target
7 Return income taxing powers to the states
8 Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
9 Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
10 Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
11 Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
12 Repeal the National Curriculum
13 Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums
14 Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
15 Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’
16 Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
17 End local content requirements for Australian television stations
18 Eliminate family tax benefits
19 Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
20 Means-test Medicare
21 End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
22 Introduce voluntary voting
23 End mandatory disclosures on political donations
24 End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
25 End public funding to political parties
26 Remove anti-dumping laws
27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions
28 Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
29 Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency
30 Cease subsidising the car industry
31 Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction
32 Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books
34 End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws
35 Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP
36 Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit
37 Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
38 Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food
39 Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
40 Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
41 Repeal the alcopops tax
42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including: a) Lower personal income tax for residents b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers c) Encourage the construction of dams
43 Repeal the mining tax
44 Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states
45 Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold
46 Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent
47 Cease funding the Australia Network
48 Privatise Australia Post
49 Privatise Medibank
50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
51 Privatise SBS
52 Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784
53 Repeal the Fair Work Act
54 Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
55 Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors
56 Abolish the Baby Bonus
57 Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
58 Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
59 Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
60 Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
61 Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States
62 End all public subsidies to sport and the arts
63 Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
64 End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering
65 Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification
66 Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship
67 Means test tertiary student loans
68 Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
69 Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built
70 End all government funded Nanny State advertising
71 Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling
72 Privatise the CSIRO
73 Defund Harmony Day
74 Close the Office for Youth
75 Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme
The above list was published in August 2012. More recently, the same three IPA authors added the following 25 items to the list:
Following on from our 75 ideas in the last edition, John Roskam, James Paterson and Chris Berg offer 25 more ideas to reshape Australia.
76 Have State Premiers appoint High Court justices
77 Allow ministers to be appointed from outside parliament
78 Extend the GST to cover all goods and services but return all extra revenue to taxpayers through cutting other taxes
79 Abolish the federal department of health and return health policy to the states
80 Abolish the federal department of education and return education policy to the states
81 Repeal any new mandatory data retention laws
82 Abolish the Australian Human Rights Commission
83 Have trade unions regulated like public companies, with ASIC responsible for their oversight
84 End all public funding to unions and employer associations
85 Repeal laws which protect unions from competition, such as the ‘conveniently belong’ rules in the Fair Work Act
86 Extend unrestricted work visas currently granted to New Zealand citizens to citizens of the United States
87 Negotiate and sign free trade agreements with Australia’s largest trading partners, including China, India, Japan and South Korea
88 Restore fundamental legal rights to all existing commonwealth legislation such as the right to silence and the presumption of innocence
89 Adhere to section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution by not taking or diminishing anyone’s property without proper compensation
90 Repeal legislative restrictions on the use of nuclear power
91 Allow full competition on all foreign air routes
92 Abolish the Medicare levy surcharge
93 Abolish the luxury car tax
94 Halve the number of days parliament sits to reduce the amount of legislation passed
95 Abolish Tourism Australia and cease subsidising the tourism industry
96 Make all government payments to external parties publicly available including the terms and conditions of those payments
97 Abandon plans to restrict foreign investment in Australia’s agricultural industry
98 Cease the practice of setting up government-funded lobby groups, such as YouMeUnity, which uses taxpayer funds to campaign to change the Australian Constitution
99 Rule out the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment for electronic gaming machines
100 Abolish the four pillars policy which prevents Australia’s major banks from merging
The IPA held its 70th anniversary dinner in Melbourne on Thursday, 4 April, 2013. The guests included Rupert Murdoch, the Leader of the federal Liberal National Parliamentary Party, Tony Abbott, members of the LNP front bench, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and mining magnate and media investor Gina Rinehart. The MC was Andrew Bolt.
In his address to the dinner, Abbott referred to several of the original 75 points that will be implemented if the Liberal party wins government. Some have been implemented by the LNP State Government of Queensland. You can read the full text of Abbott’s address on the Independent Australia website or watch it on YouTube:
Rupert Murdoch’s IPA address
Anniversary dinner MC Andrew Bolt’s IPA address
The dinner guests were also addressed by mining billionaire and news media shareholder Gina Rinehart.
FOOTNOTE: In an article on the ABC’s The Drum Opinion titled “A sneak preview of the savage cuts to come” Jim Chalmers, executive director of the Chifley Research Centre, detailed who and what would be hit by IPA recommendations to save $23.5 billion. Mr Chalmers referred to this article in The Weekend Australian, which listed Budget cuts, some of which the IPA has discussed with Liberal politicians and will recommend to an incoming Liberal government. Some have been implemented in Queensland by the Newman LiberalNP government.
The Weekend Australian article by Adam Creighton was based on this paper by IPA’s director of deregulation, Alan Moran. The story quoted Mr Moran as saying: “We’ve highlighted areas for cutting that should be ‘no-brainers’, ones that demonstrably detract from social value by distorting the economy, duplicating state functions and diverting resources from more productive sectors.”
The Catallaxy Files (“Australia’s leading libertarian and centre-right blog”) linked to Mr Moran’s paper (a non-copyable .pdf that you can download) and published 24 responses below it.
In his article on The Drum Opinion, Mr Chalmers wrote: “These [cuts] include cancelling the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, abolishing Fair Work and Safe Work Australia, almost halving the general research budget, cancelling all Commonwealth housing programs, eliminating foreign aid and the Human Rights Commission, slashing 23,500 public service jobs, abolishing agriculture, forestry and fisheries programs and privatising the ABC and SBS.
“No wonder shadow finance minister Andrew Robb keeps telling us the Coalition have all their policies ready to go yet they’re not outlining them until much closer to an election. The IPA’s cuts will stay in the top drawer until five minutes to midnight. But we now know they’re there.
“We also know from experience under [Premier] Campbell Newman, in my home state of Queensland, that the well-thumbed Liberal party playbook is to promise the world before an election then hack into jobs and services after the election, ideally under the cover of some kind of commission of audit headed by another former Coalition politician.”
Mr Chalmers is a former chief of staff to the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Wayne Swan.
In an article in The Drum Opinion on February 24, 2012, Professor Clive Hamilton reported on The shadowy world of IPA finances. Prof Hamilton is an Australian author and intellectual. In June 2008 he was appointed Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, a joint centre of the Australian National University, Charles Sturt University and the University of Melbourne. For 14 years, until February 2008, he was the executive director of The Australia Institute, a progressive think tank he founded.
Update, 25 August, 2013
Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper The Age today published a lengthy story claiming some of the world’s largest companies have dropped financial support and membership of the IPA. The story said the changed attitude towards the IPA was due to “concern at its vociferous campaign against action on climate change”.
Also on 25 August, 2013, Fairfax newspapers published a detailed article on the IPA’s development over the decades and its present position. The story is not behind a pay wall.
On 6 September, 2013, Crikey’s Andrew Crooke posted the results of a survey of the items on the IPA’s list that had been agreed to.
Update, 30 May, 2014
Glenn Murray has produced a blog on the IPA that is similar to Andrew Crooke’s story, by showing (with links) which of the IPA’s 100 items have been endorsed or enacted by the Liberal coalition government since the 2013 federal election.
John Menadue, a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development, wrote about the role of think tanks and the corruption of the public debate on 21 May, 2014. He focused mainly on the IPA. You will find more information about the IPA on Independent Australia.
Follow me on Twitter @btckr (if you want to).
From → Political opinion