A big-biz alliance told Abbott what policies it wanted
Recently an alliance of big businesses put together a wishlist of 100 policies they wanted our government to implement. I’ll discuss these policies in a second, but for now, think of them as a recipe for making the rich richer.
Look how many he adopted…
So far, the Coalition has adopted or endorsed, or is considering, more than a third of these big-biz policies. (The previous Labor government adopted one too.)
That alliance is the IPA
The alliance I’m talking about is the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) – a lobby group for big business, founded in 1943. The IPA publishes ‘research’ papers and articles that are funded by big business, to serve the interests of those businesses. These papers and articles are then channeled to the news media.
Although the IPA is not obliged to disclose who it lobbies for, they have disclosed some of their donors, over the years, including:
- News Limited
- Western Mining Corporation
- Tobacco companies including Philip Morris and British American Tobacco
- Oil & gas companies including Caltex, Esso, Shell and Woodside
- Tasmania’s largest logging company, Gunns
If you’ve seen or read any anti-climate change talk over the last few years, it’s probably come out of the IPA. According to the IPA’s Executive Director, John Roskam, climate change denial is one of their favourite games:
Of all the serious sceptics in Australia, we have helped and supported just about all of them in their work one way or another…”
And just in case you’re wondering if maybe they’re doing it because they honestly believe they have science on their side… they’ve also campaigned against plain packaging for cigarettes. So, no, genuine science isn’t really a factor.
For a more detailed insight into the lobbying activities of the IPA, check out John Menadue’s great article: Think tanks, cash for comment and the corruption of public debate.
What policies are the IPA responsible for?
The IPA’s ‘wishlist’ was published in two parts. You can find the originals here and here. Below is a summary of the policies they lobbied for which have since been adopted (or look like being adopted):
- “Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it” – Abbot has vowed to do this.
- “Abolish the Department of Climate Change” – Abbott has already done this.
- “Abolish the Clean Energy Fund” – Abbott is trying to do this.
- “Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act” – Abbott is trying to do this.
- “Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council” – Abbott has said he’ll do this.
- “Repeal the renewable energy target” – Abbott is trying to do this.
- “Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol” – This is on the cards.
- “Introduce fee competition to Australian universities” – Abbott is trying to do this.
- “Repeal the National Curriculum” – Abbott’s not openly trying to do this, but he has appointed IPA member, Kevin Donnelly, to lead a review of our curriculum.
- “Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)” – Abbott hasn’t done this, but he is trying to cut $3.3m from it in the budget.
- “Eliminate family tax benefits” – Abbott hasn’t eliminated them, but he’s trying to lower the threshold for part B in the budget, and he’s also trying to freeze the payment rate for both parts until 2016.
- “Abandon the paid parental leave scheme” – Abbott hasn’t abandoned it, but he’s trying to wind it back in the budget.
- “Means-test Medicare” – Abbott hasn’t introduced this, but the Coalition has considered it.
- “Eliminate media ownership restrictions” – Abbott is considering it.
- “Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency” – Abbott is trying to do this in the budget.
- “Cease subsidising the car industry” – Abbott has already done this.
- “Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction” – Abbott cites this as the basis for his reduction of ‘red and green tape’.
- “Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities” – Abbott hasn’t done it yet, but he’s in favour of it.
- “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” – Abbott is considering it (preparing a white paper).
- “Repeal the mining tax” – Abbott is trying to do this.
- “Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states” – Abbott is doing this. He’s promised a one-stop shop for environmental approvals.
- “Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold” – Abbott hasn’t introduced this yet, but he’s definitely in favour of it.
- “Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent” – Abbott hasn’t gone quite that far, but he’s dropped it by 1.5% to 28.5%.
- “Cease funding the Australia Network” Abbott is trying to do this in the budget.
- “Privatise Medibank” – Abbott is doing this.
- “Reduce the size of the public service” – Abbott is trying to do this in the budget.
- “Repeal the Fair Work Act” – Abbott isn’t trying to repeal it, but he’s trying to undermine it.
- “Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them” – Abbott is trying to do this.
- “Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors” – The Coalition was talking about doing this, but I don’t know if they did.
- “Abolish the Baby Bonus” – The previous Labor government did this.
- “End all public subsidies to sport and the arts” – Abbott is trying to make big cuts to sports and the arts in the budget.
- “Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship” – The Coalition has done this (p.7).
- “Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built” – Abbott hasn’t done this, but he has watered down the NBN, and is now delivering something far inferior, which includes key involvement for Telstra (which Labor’s NBN eliminated).
- “Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling” – Abbott hasn’t done this directly, but he’s backing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which would put it at great risk.
- “Privatise the CSIRO” – Abbott hasn’t done this, but he’s slashed its funding in the budget.
- “Extend the GST to cover all goods and services” – Now that Abbott has cut $80b from state school and hospital funding, the states may be forced to consider expanding the GST.
- “Negotiate and sign free trade agreements with Australia’s largest trading partners, including China, India, Japan and South Korea” – Abbott is doing this.
- “Rule out the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment for electronic gaming machines” – Abbott has done this.
So of the IPA’s wishlist of 100 policies, 3 have been publicly endorsed, 6 are being considered, 10 have been partially adopted, and 19 have been fully adopted.
Oh, and the bonus prize? The wife of the IPA’s chairman is on the board of a ballet school that got a $1 million grant in the budget. To help it buy a $4.7m mansion to use as a boarding school. Meanwhile other arts institutions took an $87m cut. Screen Australia was cut by $25.1 million and the Australia Council lost $28.2 million.
Couldn’t it just be coincidence? Nope, Abbott’s in the IPA club
It’d be comforting to think it was all just one big coincidence, but sadly it’s not. You see, Abbott’s part of the IPA club. He even spoke at the IPA’s 70th anniversary, along with Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Cardinal George Pell:
It’s quite a brown-nosing performance, so just in case you can’t bring yourself to watch it all, here’s the bit that shows how highly Tony thinks of the API:
The IPA, I want to say, has been freedom’s discerning friend. It has supported capitalism, but capitalism with a conscience. Not for the IPA, a single-minded dogmatism or opposition to all restraint; rather a sophisticated appreciation that freedom requires a social context and that much is expected from those to whom so much has been given. You’ve understood that freedom is both an end and a means; a good in itself, as well as necessary for full human flourishing. I particularly congratulate the IPA and its marvelous director, John Roskam, for your work in defence of Western civilisation.”
And remember, this is the organisation with such an appreciation of “social context” that it campaigns against plain packaging for cigarettes. And the director who is so passionate about the defence of Western civilisation that he continually publishes propaganda and psuedo-science to try to discredit the climate-change scientists who are trying to fight the single biggest threat to that civilisation.
More important, though, is this bit:
You had a great deal of advice for me in that particular issue and I want to assure you that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the Department of Climate Change, 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.”
Still not convinced? Then try this on for size…
He even appointed ex-IPA Director as a Human Rights Commissioner
When Abbott won the election, Tim Wilson was a Policy Director at the IPA. Three months later, he was our newest Human Rights Commissioner. Even though the IPA had publicly called for the Commission to be abolished… while Tim was still a director! And despite the fact that Tim clearly wasn’t qualified for the role. Check out his Tweet below (from his time at the IPA, before his appointment as Human Rights Commissioner).
And just in case you’re wondering if that’s Photoshopped, it’s not. Here’s the original…
Liberal & the IPA have been pals since 1942
- In 1942, the then Liberal Opposition back-bencher, Robert Menzies was present at the meetings that established the IPA. In fact, according to Independent Australia, the IPA was founded by members of the emerging Liberal Party.
- John Roskam, the IPA’s Executive Director, worked on the Liberal Party’s 2001 election campaign, ran several times for Liberal Party preselection, and worked as Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to federal and state Liberal ministers for education.
- Richard Allsop, an IPA Research Fellow, worked for state and federal Liberal government ministers.
- John Hyde, an IPA Emeritus Fellow, was a Liberal Federal MP.
- Rod Kemp, IPA Chairman and son of the IPA’s founder, was a Liberal Senator.
- David Kemp, outspoken supporter of the IPA, and son of its founder, was a Liberal Federal MP.
- Tom Switzer, an IPA Adjunct Fellow, was a senior adviser to former federal Liberal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson.
- Michael Hickinbotham, an IPA Director, is an active Liberal Party supporter and fundraiser.
- Michael Kroger, an IPA Director, was the President of Liberal Victoria.
- Allan Pidgeon, an IPA Director, was a Liberal Party Candidate in the 2004 Queensland election.
- Simon Breheny, an IPA Director, is Vice President of the Victorian Young Liberals.
- Harold Clough, an IPA Director, is an active Liberal Party donor.
- Tim Duncan, an IPA Director, was a Liberal party PR adviser.
- James Paterson, an IPA Director, worked for Victorian Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield from 2006 to 2010.
- Mike Nahan, former Executive Director of the IPA, is the Liberal’s Western Australian Treasurer, Minister for Energy, and Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Interests.
- Liberal Prime Minister John Howard delivered the 60th C D Kemp lecture to the Institute in 2004 (p.21).
- Liberal Senator and Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann, spoke at an IPA launch of a book edited by then IPA Director (now Abbott-appointed Human Rights Commissioner), Tim Wilson.
- Liberal Senator, Mitch Fifield promotes and has written for the IPA.
- Liberal Minister for Trade and Investment promotes and has written for the IPA.
- Liberal Party Federal President, Alan Stockdale is a former Chairman of the IPA.
You get the picture…
Murdoch’s in the IPA club too
Rubert Murdoch is a donor and outspoken champion of the IPA. In fact, his dad, Keith, was one of the its founders (p.2).
Murdoch spoke at the 70th anniversary dinner too:
Although he talks a lot of rhetoric, his true colours still shine through in gems like this:
The market succeeds because it gives people incentives to put their own wants and needs aside to address the wants and needs of others…
What’s fair about taking money from people who have earned it and giving it to people who didn’t?…
too much welfare can be bad for a single mother…
we must have a press free from government intervention…
income inequality is not the right way to measure the fairness of our society”
So is one of his top columnists, Andrew Bolt
Herald Sun columnist, Andrew Bolt, is another club member. In fact, he MCd the 70th anniversary event.
Here’s his introductory speech:
Like Murdoch, he talked a lot of rhetoric, but his speech was probably more telling:
I will also thank, for a visit I had one night, at a very low moment, Tony Abbott…
it wasn’t just the IPA that won the debate… against the sort of laws that we use to stop me. The Liberal Party is promising to repeal some of the worst of the Racial Discrimination Act, and the IPA will, of course, be leading the charge to ensure that the rest also follows, and that the Liberals do not take the easy option there…
It’s hard to over-estimate the impact of the IPA. It’s very hard…
the IPA’s been on the right side of all the arguments for freedom, since it was founded 70 years ago. Freedom from government socialising the economy…
Politicians operate in a cultural space… It is up to bodies like this to define where that cultural space is and should be, and to expand the boundaries.”
And when you look at the Murdoch press, you can tell
Murdoch and Bolt’s speeches were both met with much applause. They’re clearly of the IPA, for the IPA. And thus of Liberal, for Liberal.
So it’s no surprise that their media contributions are also of the IPA, for the IPA, of Liberal, for Liberal. Bolt’s last comment above illustrates this very clearly. Let’s just look at that again, so we make no mistake how Murdoch and Bolt see the intertwined roles of the IPA and the media:
Politicians operate in a cultural space… It is up to bodies like this to define where that cultural space is and should be, and to expand the boundaries.”
In other words, ‘we need to brainwash the public, so our politicians can do what the IPA wants them to do’.
That philosophy goes a long way towards explaining some of the horrendously biased (often fictional) stories that pass for news in Murdoch’s newspapers. (And don’t forget, Murdoch controls 65% of all capital city and national daily newspapers, which are by far the most influential in setting the news agenda.)
Take these vastly different portrayals of Labor versus Liberal lies, for example:
Or these outright lies about the carbon tax being responsible for gas price increases (click or tap the image to zoom in):
Then there was this Daily Telegraph front page gem that not only pitted war veterans against disability support pensioners, but also used a stock image of young healthy people lining up to suggest that disability pensioners are all just healthy fakes, lining up with their hands out:
(Link to the Shutterstock image)
Or the Australian home page, on the morning after long-time Liberal Party staffer, Ray Carter, blew the whistle on the entire NSW Liberal Party at ICAC, claiming “everyone knew” about the slush funds that he used to launder illegal donations from property developers to the party. (Only part of the image is shown below. Click or tap to see the whole lot.)
And who could forget the parade of anti-Rudd/pro-Abbott front pages leading into the 2013 federal election?
The IPA features directly in a lot of media too. Here’s a snapshot of their media campaign for the year to June 2013 (from p.9 of their annual report):
I don’t have a breakdown of how many of those appearances and mentions were in the Murdoch press, but I think it’s safe to say it was a lot. (Although, sadly, they feature very prominently on the ABC too, which might be attributed to the fact that the ABC’s Managing Director used to be a senior adviser for the NSW Liberal Government. He was chief of staff to the Education Minister, Virginia Chadwick, and a senior adviser to education minister, Terry Metherell.)
Now let’s put all those pieces together…
Abbott has broken promise after promise after promise. On the eve of the election, he promised no new taxes, no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to the SBS… He also promised to be a government of no nasty surprises and no excuses. He’s broken all those promises, and more, and he’s forging ahead as if we don’t matter. Meanwhile, he’s adopted or endorsed more than a third of the IPA’s policy wishlist. And the Murdoch press has backed him the whole way.
To me, it’s very clear what’s really going on… The IPA suggests big-biz policies, the Liberal party adopts them and Murdoch gets the public to accept them. Simples.
The only real question is why?