Australian think tanks

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Australian think-tanks tend to mirror those in the USA, to which many of them are linked via the Atlas Group network, and through shared funding resources (the tobacco, and mining/extractive industry interests). There are fewer in number than the USA (on a per-capita basis) and they have far less effect on the political scene, partly because of Australia's electoral system (with compulsory voting) and because parties receive post-election government funding based on the number of votes they acquired. This removes the financial need for political parties to "turn out the vote" and the requirement to enlist corporate and individual wealth to finance elaborate campaigns.

Think Tanks/Australia

Politically Coupled Think-tanks

A couple of the think-tanks are effectively openly fund-raising and policy instittues for political parties:

  • The Menzies Research Centre - is openly a fund-raiser and research institute for the Liberal Party (and its coalition partner the Country/National Party) [2]
  • The Chifley Research Centre is openly a fund-raiser and research institute for the Australian Labor Party. [4]
  • The Green Party has its Green Institute and in New Zealand there is the Ecologic Foundation [5]
  • The smaller parties which play an important role in Australian politics, the Nick Xenephon Party (centre-left), and Pauline Hanson's One-Nation Party (far right) don't seem to have direct support through think-tank type organisations.

Other political think-tanks are more in the nature of debating societies.

  • For instance the Australian Fabian Society [6] is a direct descendant of the old working-man's association, but it plays a research role these days for the Australian Labor Party.
  • The Evatt Foundation was a Labor group established in 1979 with a distinct union supporting role and a emphasis on education and publications.
  • The Australian Libertarian Society [7] has been around since 2000, in support of free-markets "and anyone else who believes in freedom." It is a follower of the economic ideology of Friedrich von Hayek.
  • The National Civic Council [8] is a Catholic right-conservative organisations. It was the primary power behind the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), which a now-defunct attempt at creating a political party for working-class Catholic conservatives. It held the balance of power (against the ALP) for many years in the 1990s.


  • Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) [9] attached to the Australian National University in Canberra.
  • Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) [10] The largest and best known for military influence.
  • AirPower Australia [11]
  • Centre for Strategic Studies New Zealand [12]

Progressive but Non-partisan think-tanks

Some think-tanks have tried to maintain a non-partisan stance and to not be seen as political advocacy organisations:

  • There's also a very influential Grattan Institute that appears to be central politically. It is used by all parties for genuine research and has become very influential with both sides of the political spectrum.
  • Per Capita [13] is an attempt to establish a 'progressive' think-tank which appeared in Australia in April 2007. It seems to have been established by Will Marshall of the US Progressive Policy Institute and Patrick Diamond of the UK’s Policy Network. it has had little or no influence, although it lists TV reporter Maxine McKew on its board and economist/commentator Stephen Koukoulas as a Fellow -- so it obviously has some funds to give away.
  • The Australia Institute [14], based in Canberra has been around since 1994 and made a minor impact on the political scene. It funds commentators who appear on radio and TV and pretend to be 'non-partisan'. It is 'progressive' and keen on mitigating global warming and is active in promoting renewable forms of energy. Spokespersons have been Ben Oquist, Richard Denniss and Clive Hamilton. It is open to providing commissioned contract research.
  • Centre for Policy Development Established in 2007 by journalist John Menadue and Miriam Lyons with an emphasis on social justice and other progressive ideas. [15]]

Corporate conservative but Non-partisan think-tanks

  • The rightish Lowy Institute for International Policy [16] located in Sydney concentrates on speech-making to executives on international subjects.
  • Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) [] seems to be populated by Sydney business executives and not much different from a Chamber of Commerce which does research.
  • United States Studies Centre [17] is one of the few obvious advocate organisations which has managed to be accepted by an Australian university (Sydney University) which allows it to promote itself as if it were a university school/division. This location affords its paid 'fellows' the status of university dons and they are often used to lecture to students. The US government funding obviously has made the difference; politically it has a marginal-right emphasis and it advocates further and stronger trade and defence ties between Australia and the USA.

Libertarian/Conservative Think-tanks and Policy Institutes

As in the USA and Europe, the corporate conservatives and libertarian think-tanks, foundations, policy institutes (and whatever) get the bulk of corporate donations and grants. They are also relatively unabashed at taking industry funding to perform lobbying activities -- including the production of highly dubious research projects which are then scrubbed up and presented to the media without attribution as to their funding sources.

In Australia, these organisations tend to be confined to a specific territory.

Australasian Territorial Divisions

The true Australian think-tanks similar to those in the US and UK are the well-funded libertarian 'policy institutes' (some with more conservative leanings) which can attract generous corporate funding. Within the Australasian territory (including New Zealand and some Pacific Islands) they tend to occupy three distinct regions, and there appear to be a cooperative and territorial agreements not to stray onto each other's turf.

  • Western Australia is the world's biggest autonomous state (about 1/3 the size of the USA) and this state is generally treated politically as a distinct unit both for historical reasons and also for a different business emphasis (WA depends on extractive industries). WA also has had close relations with Singapore and the Northern Territory, which sometimes comes within its orbit.

The Australian Institute for Public Policy was the main think-tank in the west, but it has now become the WA branch of the Institute for Public Affairs. There is a specific Western Australia Policy Forum (WAPF) critic/nine/roche which claims to be progressive and non-partisan (dubious).

  • Victoria (Melbourne) is the centre of the main populated areas, and its territory usually includes South Australia and Tasmania. In some cases New Zealand links are also apparent here. The Institute for Public Affairs has always been the dominant think-tank in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The Tasman Institute operated here also but it has become more a bribable economic consultancy (see below)
The New Zealand Institute for Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) [18] is virtually unknown in Australia.
  • New South Wales, Queensland, the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Tonga, etc) make up the East Coast region with Sydney as the obvious centre. Sometimes also with New Zealand (and possibly New Guinea) included.
The Centre for Independent Studies is the prime think-tank in Sydney along with the Center for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA)
The Brisbane Institute has focussed on Queensland issues since 1998. [19] It is virtually unknown outside that state.
The Sydney Institute is privately owned and operated by Gerard and Anne Henderson. Gerard Henderson was the head of the South Australian branch of the Institute for Public Affairs, who became exposed in lobbying for the tobacco industry over the Marlboro Formula One Grand Prix, and transferred to Sydney to establish the IPA (NSW) until the Centre for Independent Studies objected. In 1988-89 Greg Lindsay (CIS) and John Hyde (AIPP and IPA) met to resolve the conflict between the two Atlas members, with the result that the Hendersons split off their operation as the Sydney Institute
  • ACT: The parliamentary centre for Federal Government, the Australian Capital Territories (ACT) and its city of Canberra, seems to be open slather for all think-tanks of any persuasion.


Institute of Public Affairs

The IPA is certainly the oldest of these organisations. It claims to be the oldest think-tank in the world, but this is little more than right-wing hyperbole: in fact it began life as a fund-raising exercise for the Menzies Liberal government. It was established by a wealth Melbourne businessman, Charles Kemp who had political ambitions and believed fervently in the idea that Australia needed to be run by businessmen.

The IPA is libertarian in ideology, but it has never had the slobbering attack-dog mentality of the far-right think-tanks in America. It merely believes that "money is the measure of the man" and that the natural order of the world is that businessmen should rise to the top. But it also accepts the reality of a compulsory voting system which is always going to split the electorate and share out alternate control of governments.

Australia has a bi-cammeral English parliamentary system with State Premiers and Federal Prime Ministers selected by the dominant Party leaders. In theory, they are elected by the representatives in the House (not by the Senate). There are no fixed terms, so a government can be in power for anything from a few months to four years. Prime Ministers, Premiers, and their Ministers can change overnight.

The IPA therefore needed the constant financial support of large corporations to help support the conservative forces within the Liberal-National Party Coalition, both to win elections and to maintain control within this relatively broad-ideology government. With money they can also exert influence on the Labor Party when it is in government (The ALP is always left in rhetoric and rightish in actuality). This is probably what the IPA means when it claims to be 'non-partisan'; it is however part of the global Atlas Group network (based in the USA) and it is aligned politically to the European Democratic Union (EDU) and Pacific Democratic Union (PDU) which created a political network under Margaret Thatcher. It's libertarian and funding links tend to be towards the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, rather than to the USA.

Kemp's sons (David and Roderick) handed control of the IPA over to John Hyde and his cohorts from Western Australia and became federal politicians (one Senator, one Representative) in the Liberal Party in Canberra. However the IPA has been run by professional fund-raisers and corporate lobbyists for most of the last few decades, and the Kemp brothers are getting old as is John Hyde.

There are subsidiaries: the main Institute of Public Affairs Ltd (Melbourne region) also has (or had) an IPA in Singapore which lobbied for palm-oil interests. A third IPA in the UK is not connected -- it is part of the London School of Economics; there are a couple of Institutes of Public Affairs in the USA.

The Institute of Public Affairs (Melbourne) and the Centre for Independent Studies (Sydney) can be considered almost as twin-halves of a single organisation. They share facilities (publications) and pass on lobbying commissions (running media tours for visiting corporate/industry lobbyists), etc. They also share a publishing unit which was run for many years by Chris Berg.

Australian Institute of Public Policy

Western Australians see themselves as a separate people. A 1933 referendum to split WA off from the rest of Australia was carried, but the state was bribed to stay in the Commonwealth by the building of an East-West railway link. However Perth is still the most isolated capital city in the world and WA is the source of most of Australia's mining wealth -- so like all (relatively) isolated people they are suspicious of being 'put-upon and ignored' by the power-brokers in the East.

Liberal politician John Hyde played on these beliefs when he established the Australian Institute of Public Policy which was a copy of the Institute of Public Affairs. It was supported by a few academics from the University of Western Australia's J Raymond Johnstone, Chris Ulyatt, and some budding politicians (Mike Nahan and Tim Winton), and it became a very professional lobby shop for the large mining, grazing and local business groups in Perth. WA was also the most organised anti-smoking state in the Commonwealth with both Labor and Liberal governments resisting tobacco industry bribes. The money therefore supported the AIPP.

Eventually John Hyde accepted the offer to merge his AIPP with the IPA, and he transferred his administration to Melbourne to manage the joint organisation. His associates also merged well with the IPA crowd and for a while the IPA became a lobby-front for Big Tobacco, with Kip Viscusi, John Luik, Philip Witorsch, Robert Tollison (Steve Milloy proposed) and probably many other life-long tobacco lobbyists being sent to Australia. The were toured around by the IPA, and touted as 'independent experts' to influence the local media. Two top executives of Philip Morris Australia Donna Staunton and Eric Helmholtz sat jointly and separately in the IPA board for many years in the 1990s.

The IPA virtually ran a reform agenda for the Kennett Government in Victoria in what was known as Project Victoria. This anti-union, pro-business scheme brought most of the business associations in Victoria together to support the changes. Premier Jeff Kennett was awarded the Formula One Grand Prix (taken from Adelaide) for his organisation for State government resistance in opposition to the MCDS (Ministerial Council for Drug Strategy) cigarette packet labelling regulation which virtually destroyed the old packet identifiers.

Tobacco Interest in WA
John Hydes' AIPP and the IPA became involved in the tobacco industry problems because of smoking's synergy with asbestos. The asbestos mining operations run by CSR and James Hardie in the north-west town of Wittenoom (the world's largest blue asbestos mine) created both a problem and an opportunity for the AIPP/IPA. The synergies of asbestos and smoking, meant that WA had one of the highest lung-cancer rates in the world, which resulted in many millions of dollars in tobacco industry funds being shunted into the state to finance legislation, lobbying and court cases. The fight-back against early and highly-vocal attempts to ban public smoking resulted in the Burswood Casino case (of worldwide significance).The 1990 World Conference on Smoking OR Health was held in Perth in recognition of the active anti-smoking leadership among the public and politicians.

As a consequence, Perth became the test-bed and training center also for the Australasian tobacco industry's '"Document Retention Program"', which was Orwellian newspeak for the deliberate destruction of incriminating files. This was run by BAT lawyer David A Schechter out of the offices of Clayton Utz (aka Robinson Cox) in Perth, which was managed by lawyer Julie Bishop and Gary Berson. This wholesale organised document destruction figured strongly in the Rolah McCabe trial. [20] [21] Fortunately, we still find copies of Australian documents in the UK and US industry files.


Crossroads Group

A more ideological, informal pressure group known as the Crossroads Group formed in Western Australia around John Hyde and the Clough Mining family (they ran a mining equipment business). It had support from a number of far-right ideologues, and one member was the local PR representative for British-American Tobacco, Phillip Scanlan (see later) -- who famously declared on Australian television that nicotine wasn't addictive.

HR Nichols Society

This is a blatantly union-bashing, pro-management society that owes its notoriety to support from the Australian Liberal Treasurer, Peter Costello who helped found it. It is driven by the Director of the Institute for Private Enterprise (Des Moore), an economists from the Institute of Public Affairs ([[Judith Sloan]), Liberal Senator James Paterson), Ken Phillips who runs the Independent Contractors Australia lobby group; and Kyle Kutasi from the WA chapter of the electrical contractors association. . It is also supported by the far-right One-Nation Party. According to President Adam Bisits it believes that management and workers now have such equal power in the workplace that unions should be (effectively) banned. [22]

As with John Hyde's operations, this is another think-tank that has strong Western Australian links while having its headquarters in Melbourne.

Institute for Private Enterprise

This appears to be a phantom think-tank run by the sole member, Des Moore, a disgruntled ex-Treasury official who has been a gad-fly in Australian politics for a few decades. He says he resigned from Treasury in February 1987 and joined the Institute of Public Affairs as a Senior Fellow of the Economic Policy Unit. He then resigned in February 1996 to establish his own think-tank.

He argues to reduce the role of government, and deregulation of the labor market, He also promotes a climate-denial line. He is also a member of the HR Nichols Society. [23]

Samuel Griffith Society

This far right organisation has an emphasis on legal matters -- especially on maintaining the Australian constitution and preserving state rights against federal encroachment and take-over of responsibilities. [24] A Queensaldn ex-High Court judge Ian Callinan was the latest President (last annual report is 2013).[25] but he doesn't mention the society in his Wikipedia entry.

The SGS was promoted for years as a scholarly institute, but its members seem to be dying or disappearing. In 2013 it claimed a membership of 384, with one member (Bob Day) elected to the Senate. Prof. LJ Mark Cooray, a Cellonese-born associate law professor at Macquarie University in Sydney appears to be the only one admitting to membership, but he resigned from the University in 1995 and has since devoted himself to religious, human rights and political writing.

The Lavoisier Group

This is a major climate-denial group with affiliations to both the HR Nicholls Society and Institute of Public Affairs. It is linked through Ray Evans (an executive of Western Mining Corporation) and Alan Moran who it directly involved at the executive level inboth the IPA and Lavoisier. it was created in March 2000 by to counter the Kyoto Protocols which had been signed in December 1997 but not ratified by the Australia Howard Coalition government at that time. [26]

Center for Independent Studies

The battle between New South Wales (Sydney) and Victoria (Melbourne) for dominant state in the Commonwealth meant that the Melbourne-based 'establishment-controlled' IPA never really got a foothold in Sydney. The IPA dispatched Gerald Henderson and his wife Anne Henderson from his position as the director of the tobacco lobby in South Australia, to New South Wales, where he established himself as Director of IPA (NSW).

However Greg Lindsay a local businessman had been in the USA and was enamoured of the success of Antony Fowler's Atlas Group. He was trained briefly at the Institute of Humane Studies in the ideology and organisation, and he returned to Sydney to establish the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS). He brought with him an annual grant from Philip Morris of $10,000. Since Henderson and Lindsay were now occupying the same patch, it wasn't long before they began to tread on each other's toes, and eventually in 1988 a territorial agreement was struck between the IPA and CIS, with the East Coast being reserved for CIS operations. This resulted in:

  • the IPA withdrawing from New South Wales
  • joint agreements to establish a publishing house between CIS and IPA
  • the shared cost of a publishing manager Chris DeMuth
  • a defined funding arrangement
  • the CIS would be funded by American interests to the East
  • the IPA would look to European and UK funding to the West.

Sydney Institute

The Hendersons were now without the support of the IPA and they didn't want to work under Lindsay, so they broke away and established their own local think-tank, called the Sydney Institute. Henderson, as Director of the IPA in South Australia, had been the tobacco industry's most effective lobbyist in South Australia.

The inaugural chairman of the Sydney Institute was Phillip Scanlan, the main PR representative of British-American Tobacco (BAT) who had become the chief executive of Coca-Cola Amatil. Amatil had the franchise for British-American Tobacco cigarettes via WD&HO Wills. The new Sydney Institute also had financial support from a number of Sydney businessmen, and Gerald Henderson was able to get paid op-ed writing (for Fairfax Media) and ABC television appearances as a coherent commentator on the Australian political scene. His IPA connections and lobbying record were soon forgotten.

Tasman Institute/ACIL

The background to the Tasman Institute is less clear. It evolved our of the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University (Melbourne Vic) under the control of Michael G Porter. It promoted itself as an Australian-New Zealand economic policy institute, and it was hired by the Liberal-Coalition Victorian government of Jeff Kennett to produce a new economic plan for his state known as Project Victoria.

It seems to have evolved seemlessly to become Tasman ACIL, and then to just be called ACILTasman or ACIL Economics. It now promotes itself as a pure economic consultancy ACIL Allen Consulting with Tasman's Paul Hyslop as the CEO and Geoff Allen as Chairman. Allen was the cofounder of the Business Council of Australia. ACIL specialises in government ageny privatisations and modelling.

ACIL Economic Studies were widely used by the Australian tobacco industry to promote their case that the industry was an important component of national production, an important source of jobs and revenues, and of little concern to productivity though loss of wage-earners and productive time and business costs.

It never produced a report that the tobacco industry didn't celebrate.

In September 2012, Tristan Edis, an ex Tasman economics modeller, blew the whistle on how the company "spearheaded an effort to have the (Australian) Renewable Energy Target watered down" under contract. [27]

Scanlan's business groups

Phillip Scanlan, a PR/businessman who ran Hallmark and Bonlac in New Zealand before shifting to Australia -- eventually to head Coca Cola AMATIL, the company which held the franchise for WD&HO Wills, the makers of British-American Tobacco's cigarettes in Australasia.

Scanlan had been a member of the Crossroads Group in Western Australia, and he was with the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne (although this think-tank was the preserve of Philip Morris's executives Donna Staunton and Eric Helmholtz (both board members). Scanlan started his own operations directed mainly at raising his personal profile with the political parties and governments.

Australian American Leadership Dialogue

Phil Scanlan of BAT also established the secretive front-group Australian-American Leadership Dialogue (AALD) back in 1992 which sometimes evolved into the Australian American Leadership Conversation with the support of Liberal PM John Howard (c 2000-01). This whole operation is commonly believed to be an offshoot of the Australian American Association which is probably financed and directed (to a degree) by the Murdoch family (Dame Elizabeth was Patron). There is also an offshoot called the Youth Leadership Dialogue.

The American side of the AALD was known as the American-Australian Leadership Foundation, and in early 2016 it split away and renamed itself American Australian Council. The AALD was still run by Phil Scanlan and his wife Julie Singer Scanlan. This new organisation had as members Anthony Podesta (brother of John Podesta), Kurt Campbell, and Matthew Freeman -- all Democratic lobbyists/aides to Hillary Clinton during her Presidential run.

Australian/US Free Trade Agreement (business association)

Scanlan also established the Australian/US Free Trade Agreement Business Association (AUSTA) which had close links to Hugh Morgan, the President of the Business Council of Australia.

Scanlan then went on to a high calling as chief Australian negotiator with the American business establishment as the Consul-General in New York. He was selected by his long-time friend Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. His Leadership Dialogue appears to have attracted an audience of aspirational Labor politicians, and he was made Consul-General in December 2008, working under the ex-Labor leader Kim Beazley who had become Australia's US Ambassador. Beazley was also on the Board of Scanlan's AALD.

Documents & Timeline

1970 July 15 C.William Bridge-Maxwell (ex Liberal MP - of BAT) has written to William Kloepfer at the Tobacco Institute, to inform him of the establishment of the Australian Tobacco Research Foundation (Last Month) and ask for some publications. The Foundation consisted of four representatives and four scientists:

  • Mr. H. Widdup of W.D. & H.O. Wills (Australia) Limited
  • Mr. R. Watson of Rothmans of Pall Mall (Australia) Limited
  • Mr. J.R. Fawke of Philip Morris Limited
  • Mr. B. Cocks of Rothmans of Pall Mall (Australia) Limited

In addition there are four scientific members:

  • Professor C.R.B. Blackburn, Department of Medicine,. Sydney University.
  • Professor A.E. Doyle, Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne.
  • Professor M.J. Rand, Department of Pharmacology, University of Melbourne.
  • Professor W.J. Simmonds, Department of Physiology, University of Western Australia.

The latter four also form the Scientific Advisory Committee. Professor Blackburn is chairman of the Foundation and the Scientific Advisory Committee.

The other officers of the Foundation are Dr. W. Zylstra, Medical Secretary; Dr. B. Fordyce, Scientific Secretary and myself as Administrative Secretary.

The Foundation has announced it will make available $1 million, over the next five years, for research into "the relationship in Australia between tobacco smoking and disease in its widest context." [28]

1987 Dec 19 The Liberal (conservative/libertarian) Australian politician John Hyde has written an article for Murdoch's Australian newspaper "Warning: the intervention of Nanny State is a health hazard." He dismisses all health-activism associated with the large corporations (following the Margaret Thatcher model) -- along with the ridiculous ideas of problems arising from radiation from VDU's, free asbestos in the ceiling, EMF and atomic radiation, depletion of non-renewable resources, the destruction of the environment, AIDS, and holes in the ozone layer. He says "doomsaying has such a poor record -- so far."

He then moves on to his main paid role criticising restrictive programs -- like smoking tobacco in aeroplanes -- and governments trying to change our lifestyle, with Quit Smoking campaigns

Dr Ray Johnstone (University of Western Australia, Department of Physiology) has summarised the major experimental and clinical literature. The overwhelming evidence of a huge sample is that smokers live as long as anybody else.

He forgets to tell his readers that Johnstone works for him at the IPA, and that he works for the tobacco industry via his think-tanks.

He quotes from Bob Browning's "The New Organisational Weapon" which attacks the "Nanny State", a term which the tobacco industry was working very hard to popularise. [29] <hr?

1990 Feb Sharon Boyse the Issues Manager at British-American Tobacco (BAT) has issued: Proposal for Regional Organisation, Australasia and SE Asia. The Introduction begins with:

The opponents of the Tobacco Industry have an effective international organisation and network throughout which they disseminate information and strategies (see attached paper by Bob Browning). [30]

1991 Mary Pottorff ('Mopsy') at Philip Morris International's Corporate Affairs in New York, had a bookshelf list for the period 1984-91 which included many books associated with the Australian IPA and CIS joint publishing operations. [All of the below are lobbyists but Australians lobbyists underlined]:


2003-04 The Australian/US Free Trade Agreement (business group) became official Australian policy and reached an agreement with President George W Bush. The Australian Foreign Affairs commissioned a private consultancy, the Centre for International Economics (CIE), to model the economic impacts of such an agreement.

- The American side of the agreement was ratified by the United States Congress (United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act) by the US Senate on 15 July 2004 and signed into law by President George W. Bush.
- The Australian side of the agreement's implementing legislation, the "US Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act 2004", was reluctantly passed, with amendments, by the Senate on 13 August 2004.
It came into force on 1 January 2005.

2009 Phillip Scanlan, the ex-promoter of BAT cigarettes and CEO of Coca Cola AMATIL is made Consul General in New York by his friend, the Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

2010 New York Young Leaders Program was launched by Scanlan on Australia Day 2010. It was "designed to create a platform for young Australian women and men who are leaders and give them access the global network of their peers."