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Sorry, IPA

By 2353NM

Australia is still having the discussion on the benefits of waste reduction and until recently it was considered economically rational to send semi-trailers full of household and business waste from New South Wales to Queensland to avoid disposal fees. In other parts of the world (even Trump’s deepest darkest America) there are companies that demonstrate that minimising the production of waste and developing alternate uses for waste products is not only helping the environment, it’s making money.

Subaru makes cars in the USA as well as Japan. There is probably a rational explanation for the American factory that would only partly be justified by the reduction in shipping costs for some 350,000 cars per annum. In 2002 (partly to address observations that Subaru ‘doesn’t do’ hybrid vehicles) they decided to look at how they address waste within and surrounding their plant at Lafayette in Indiana. A USA Today article reports that Subaru executive Tom Easterday claims on his seemingly frequent small group tours showing other companies how to make money by eliminating landfill

“I always like to say that if someone stops for a cup of coffee on their way into the plant,” Easterday said, “then they have put more trash into the landfill than we have for the entire year.”

Actually, that coffee cup would be more than the entire plant — with 5,600 employees producing 350,000 cars annually — has put in a landfill in nearly the last 15 years.

So, Subaru compost waste from their staff cafeteria, they retain and reuse plastic mouldings that are deemed not suitable for installation into cars, they even return cardboard boxes and Styrofoam to component manufacturers for reuse. Apparently, once Styrofoam packaging has made four return trips to the component maker, it is profitable to do so!

While it is probably a point of difference between Subaru in America and some other car plants, it’s not all done to generate a green tinged halo for Subaru either — since 2004 they have made $13 million through elimination of waste to landfill. The program is so successful, they are now looking at becoming carbon neutral, becoming more profitable in the process.

There have obviously been some costs in the conversion to landfill free status and the claim of $13 million is apparently the net profit, so it puts paid to the claim that ‘going the extra mile’ to reduce or eliminate waste used in production processes is costly or will reduce a competitive edge. Unfortunately, in Australia a lot of the pessimism around ‘the cost’ of reducing our impact on the earth we all have to share is spruiked by conservative politicians, business leaders and ‘think tanks’ to suit their own political agenda.

This also became a bit clearer in the past week or so when it was revealed (in unlikely circumstances to do with a family dispute that has reached the court system) that Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting donated around $5 million to the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in the past couple of years. Ms Rinehart has every right in the world to donate her money to whatever cause she determines is worth her support, just as Graeme Wood has, however in their 2015-16 annual report

the IPA claimed 91 per cent of donations came from individuals, while foundations, companies and “other” sources each contributed 3 per cent. In 2016–17, it claimed 86 per cent of revenue was from individual donations and only 1 per cent from companies.

In words and colourful graphs, they give the impression of broad-based financial support from thousands of individuals, of an organisation not beholden to corporate supporters.

But Hancock Prospecting is clearly a company. By phone and email The Saturday Paper sought an explanation from the IPA for this but did not get one.

As The Saturday Paper also discloses,

The institute’s annual reports tell us its total revenues were $4.96 million in 2015–16 and $6.1 million in 2016-17. Thus Rinehart’s money, given through her company, Hancock Prospecting, made up almost half the IPA’s income in one year and well over a third in the other. She has, in effect, a controlling interest.

The problem here is that while most ‘think tanks’ in Australia will happily disclose their funding sources allowing us to determine intentional or unintentional bias, the IPA doesn’t. It does however contribute staff to provide opinions on television programs and in the media. And a lot of their ‘talent’, including recently failed Liberal Party candidate for Mayo Georgina Downer and current Liberal Party member for Goldstein Tim Wilson, go into politics trying to drag the ‘liberal’ party further to the conservative end of the spectrum.

They too are entitled to their opinions — but it’s a concern when the funding behind their policy position remains hidden.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. New England Cocky

    The immediate ideal is real time full disclosure of ALL political donations to all political pressure groups, on pain of deregistration as a political pressure group.

    But keep going, ALL donations, in cash and kind, must be limited to natural persons who are solely Australian citizens, and the cash amount limited to $1,000 per person in a rolling year.

    Scholarships and other payments for particular “study projects” must be limited to one per donor until complete of the scholarship duration.

  2. Elizabeth Kelly

    The NSW garbage trucked to QLD would not have happened without the collusion of corrupt and shortly to be sacked councillors.

  3. Kerri

    I said to hubby over 20 years ago. We need to stop viewing recycling as a rubbish issue and start viewing recycling as a raw materials issue.

    As I have commented online 25 million Australians. 4,559 IPA members. And 1 major donor.
    We are currently under a government that has done its best to fulfil the IPA wishlist.
    Who runs this country??? A self proclaimed queen in an Akubra?

  4. Nigel Drake

    The nickname “Gina the Hutt” is so apposite.

  5. Josephus

    At local level: supermarket has copped abuse form customers after charging 10c for plastic bags- seems such people cannot re use or buy cloth ones.

  6. phil

    What do I think?

    I think it stinks. I think the IPA is crooked. I think Rhinehart stinks. She is an appalling example of a human being – she and Murdoch personify ugliness in form and in life-practice. Every generation seems to throw up such awful people whose lives of self enrichment and greed tread heavily and ruthlessly on their generation and the planet, and then they simply die – the contemplation of which is for me quite heartwarming.

  7. 2353

    @Elizabeth Kelly – certainly the Ipswich City Council has issues, the Councillors certainly knew what was happening and to be fair, one of the more outspoken Councillors was speaking out against the practice as recently as 2017 Unfortunately the tip sites in Ipswich were privatised so there was little ability for the Council to influence the management of the operation.

    The ‘fault’ for the practice lies at the door of the Newman LNP State Government who removed the levy on interstate dumping and certainly knew what was going to happen. You might even say that the levy was removed because they knew what was going to happen. If the ALP reintroduced the levy in it’s first term it would have broken an election promise so they were between a rock and a hard place. If there is any collusion here, in this case I don’t believe Ipswich Councillors are solely to blame.

  8. Adrianne Haddow

    It’s interesting that two of the high profile members of the IPA, Rinehart and Murdoch, one an American citizen, the second residing in Singapore, seem to have an incredible amount of clout in the social engineering (dog whistling and propaganda) and environmental destruction in this country.
    Gina wanted an end to the carbon tax, and cheaper oversees workers via the 457 visa program, and she got it. She’s keen to mine in the Galilee Basin with her friend Adani, and she’s getting it. Murdoch wanted the majority of the media representation in this country, and got it. It’s handy to have a bought (but not provable) government in your pocket.

    It’s also interesting that the IPA have so much exposure and opinionated influence via the Murdoch media empire ( thanks LNP for changing the media ownership laws to suit your mates). Even our ABC has been co-opted to the cause in the interests of disproving lefty bias.

    I find it unfathomable that an organisation such as GetUp has to prove that their donor base is not corrupted by foreign influence, yet the IPA does not, and includes in its membership these two ‘captains of industry’.

    Also of interest, that an organisation such as GetUp is investigated by the ROC, in terms of who they are supposed to support politically, (Labor and/or the Greens) when it is glaringly obvious to anyone who doesn’t have their eyes closed or their ears plugged, that the IPA has a strong affiliation with the LIB/Nats. They provided an agenda which this current government its implementing at a furious rate, and given the number of IPA ‘researchers’ who enter the Liberal party, or are catapulted into government jobs, it seems they run a puppy farm for future Lib/Nat politicians.

    Yet they still manage to retain charity status and dodge being classified as a Registered Organisation.FFS!

  9. Diannaart

    Nailed it, Adrianne,

    The infiltration of such a small organisation into Australian politics and media requires immediate investigation. The cronyism between it and the LNP is so bleeding obvious.

    Will Bill Shorten address such corruption when Labor wins the next election? Given the inherent viciousness of the far right when challenged, I understand why Shorten may well feel constrained from giving the IPA any oxygen. However, this mob needs investigation and similar organisations held to account.

  10. Adrianne Haddow

    True, Diannart, the need for a federal independent ICAC is necessary for the survival of democratic Australia.

    Sadly, I don’t see this coming from any political party, (except maybe the Greens, I do hope I haven’t opened a can of worms by mentioning them in a positive light ) they all have too much skin in the game.

    We need scrutiny of who these shadowy figures behind the political parties are and how they benefit.

    Maybe an enforced cap on how much parties can spend on election campaigning would go some way toward addressing the rot.

  11. Alan Baird

    IPA. The prophets of the neoliberal message. The wealthy are subjected to unfair treatment from the average punter. All welfare must be expunged. Read “Democracy in Chains” to get a good history of their inverted logic and its genesis. Excellent book.
    Of course it never happened here.

  12. Diannaart

    @ Adrianne

    The Greens really have their work cut out for them. Pilloried by both the LNP and Labor, plus any mistake is taken as proof of incompetence – hhmmmmm similar to the denigration received if making mistakes while black, female, not-Christian, not-straight …

    Nonetheless, I hope there are enough in Labor who can put aside their own prejudices to act for all Australians.

    Worms, anyone?

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