Sunday March 13 2016
The Insidious Invasion of the IPA into Australian Politics, or Public Apathy and 75 Ideas to Make You Shudder.
The Institute of Public Affairs is a free market right-wing think tank that is funded by some of Australia’s major companies and is closely aligned to the Liberal Party.
In April 2013 it held its 70th Birthday Bash with Rupert Murdoch as its keynote speaker. Andrew Bolt was the Master of Ceremonies. Special guests included Gina Rinehart, Cardinal George Pell and many other conservative luminaries. A special address by then opposition leader Tony Abbott was a highlight.
The IPA put forward 75 proposals for a future Abbott government to consider. They were accompanied by an article titled: ‘Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia’ and attributed to John Roskam, Chris Berg and James Paterson.
Here is a short extract.
“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 vigor 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.”
In his speech Abbott acknowledged the Institute’s input into LNP policy and took the opportunity to commit to a whole raft of big promises to radically change the culture and political landscape of Australia.
“I want to assure you,” he said, “that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the department of climate change, and abolish the Clean Energy Fund. We will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, at least in its current form. We will abolish new health and environmental bureaucracies. We will deliver $1 billion in red-tape savings every year. We will develop northern Australia. We will repeal the mining tax. We will create a one-stop shop for environmental approvals. We will privatise Medibank Private. We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN.”
True to his word he made a decent hole in the list. He stopped subsidies to the car industry, eliminated (partly) Family Tax Benefits, destroyed the ABC’s Australia network, abandoned poker machine reform, and negotiated free trade deals with Japan, South Korea, China and India. Albeit without much detail. The NBN is now nothing like what was originally intended or needed.
‘The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow’.
It doesn’t end there. He might not have abolished the Human Rights Commission, but has cut $1.65 million from its budget. It refused to renew the position of its disability commissioner and without due process appointed one of the IPAs own in Tim Wilson as a commissioner. (Since departed) Attorney-General George Brandis has flagged an intention to “further reform” the HRC.
The Australian National Preventive Health Agency also went and the food, alcohol and tobacco companies fell over with gratitude.
The IPA, not content with its list of 75 has added a further 25 items for the government’s consideration. They may not get them all, but the big fish is the institute’s desire to have all media ownership laws eliminated, for example, along with the relevant regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and requirements put in place that radio and TV broadcasts be “balanced”.
The then communications minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to change the media rules with the likely outcome: more concentration in Australia’s media, already the most concentrated and least diverse in the developed world. More influence for the IPA and Rupert Murdoch.
It makes you wonder just who is governing. The government or the IPA. Or, it at the very least, brings into question the influence lobby groups have over governments. Particularly extreme right think tanks like the IPA who seem only to exist for the benefit of big business, the rich and the privileged.
In a lifetime of following politics in this country I have never known the electorate to be in such a political malaise. A non-caring, non-knowing apathy seems to have gripped the nation. The polls tell us that a large portion of the population supports a government that is performing incompetently with a leader equally doing so.
John Howard said that people these days care little for ideology. He is correct. The undecided 10% that once decided elections has expanded to 20%. People just want good policy that represents the common good.
People need to remember that the isms, be it Capitalism, Socialism, Fascism, Conservatism, Liberalism or Communism are only economic THEORIES! They are nothing more than words written on paper. They are not active and they do nothing. Each theory is neither good nor bad. Each theory is ultimately what the people make of them. Democracy is nothing more than a theory. Our constitution is nothing more or nothing less than what we make of it.
The US Constitution and Bill of Rights have no authority. They are nothing more than what the American people make of them. When, because of our apathy we choose to ignore and neglect our government it is easily influenced by self-interest groups like the IPA- to serve their own purposes and there is nothing that says that those who come to manage the government must be ethical, moral, or responsible to the people. When good people neglect their government they are then governed by lesser people. We then end up with the government we deserve.
In an article I wrote just prior to Abbott’s election I said this:
’I am in fact absolutely frightened, no petrified by the prospect that he might win and the devastation he might create with his inane personality, his reliance on lobbyists and right-wing think tanks to form policy. Also on his Catholicism and the mediocre minds of his shadow cabinet cohort’.
The rest of course is history and now we are confronted with a government led by a leader who is not his own man with all Abbott’s IPA inspired policies. A government that has lurched so far to the right that it is in dander of falling from a flat earth mindset.
The 75 IPA Ideas to send a shiver down your spine.
I had intended to comment on some of the individual proposals but on reflection thought it best to allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions and comment if they so desire. The best advice I can give is to be seated while reading. A shot of whiskey might also help.
This of course is not to say that some don’t have merit.
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
MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
‘The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves. The right is concerned with those who can.’