Thursday, 26 July 2018

Proof positive that money buys government policy?

Liberal MP for Warringah and soon to be Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, in April 2012 at the Institute of Public Affairs 70th Anniversary celebration promised:

“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. So, ladies and gentlemen, that is a big “yes” to many of the 75 specific policies you urged upon me…”

The Sydney MorningHerald on the subject of the IPA, 7 April 2016:

Four months from election and the people scratch their heads. Why, again, are we destroying the Reef for some billionaire Indian coalminer? Why fund private schools and de-fund public ones? Above all, how did Australia go from a country where the poor occasionally stole the goose from the common to one where the rich are consistently rewarded for stealing the common from the goose? The answer, at least in part, appears to be the IPA.

The IPA has three member senators, David Leyonhjelm, Bob Day and James Paterson, and a fourth-in-waiting with ex-human rights commissioner Tim Wilson running in the lower house. It also has several state MPs and members with regular media gigs – like IPA senior fellow Chris Berg (The Drum and Fairfax) and board member Janet Albrechtsen, whose recent column in The Ozpuffed Paterson and Wilson as "outstanding warrior[s] for the freedom cause". They all talk a lot about warriors – which is also what Abbott called Credlin.

But the IPA's real power is the charisma of wealth. At its 70th birthday gala dinner in 2013, Rupert Murdoch gave the keynote. NewsCorp's Andrew Bolt was MC and opposition leader Tony Abbott called the IPA "freedom's discerning friend". Gina Rinehart, George Pell, George Brandis and Alan Jones were guests…..

Still, the IPA then seemed like harmless cranks. Now it seems they're all but writing government policy. Even that's not bad in itself. The wealthy are allowed their clubs, and governments must get ideas from somewhere. But when the private interest of Big Money consistently presents as public interest, it's time to worry. Big time.

We've heard much lately of illegal developer funding, which caused the NSW Electoral Commission to withhold $4.4 million from the NSW Liberals. But developers aren't the only group who might seek influence, and brown paper bags are not the only vehicle.

The IPA has long insisted NGOs should be transparent, but it's notoriously secretive about its own sources of money. (Executive director John Roskam says its donors get intimidated). But revealed sources include all the bad boys of Big International Money: media, oil, tobacco, genetics, energy and forestry. Who benefits from IPA policy? They do.

In 2012, the IPA published "Seventy-Five Radical Ideas to Transform Australia". I haven't done the math, but I'd say over a third are now law or seriously discussed.

DeSmog reporting on the IPA, 17 July 2018:

Australia’s richest person, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, has been revealed as a key funder of the right wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) – a major pusher of climate science denial.

Rinehart’s company, Hancock Prospecting Proprietary Ltd (HPPL), donated $2.3m to the IPA in 2016 and $2.2m in 2017, according to disclosures made to the New South Wales Supreme Court.

As part of a long-running legal dispute over the use of company funds, Gina Rinehart’s daughter Bianca had served a subpoena to access documents that would have shed light on the two donations from HPPL to the IPA.

The IPA is an influential right wing think tank with close ties to Australia’s governing Liberal Party.  IPA fellows regularly appear in the media. The payments suggest that more than a third of the IPA’s income in 2016 and 2017 was from HPPL – majority-owned privately by Gina Rinehart.

According to Forbes, Rinehart was the seventh richest woman in the world in 2017 and Australia’s richest person, with current wealth estimated to be $17.6 billion.
The IPA is a registered charity but is not legally required to disclose its funders and has declined to reveal them in recent years, citing concerns that donors could be “intimidated”.

According to the court judgement, Bianca’s solicitors had been provided with a schedule of “donations and sponsorships” from HPPL where it was disclosed, the judgement said, “that HPPL paid or provided amounts to IPA in a total of $2.3 million for the 2016 financial year and $2.2 million in the 2017 financial year.”

The donations also raise questions about the way the IPA has disclosed the nature of its revenues. 

The IPA's 2017 annual report declared $6.1m of income but said that “86 per cent” had come from individuals. HPPL’s $2.2m donation constituted more than a third of the IPA’s income that year.

In 2016, the IPA reported that 91 per cent of donations were from individuals, but that year HPPL’s $2.3m donation constituted almost half the IPA's income of $4.96m that year.

DeSmog has emailed HPPL asking why it was supporting the IPA, if the donations were linked to specific work and if it was still a supporter. DeSmog also asked the IPA about the donations and if supporters should be concerned that so much if its income is derived from one person. IPA spokesperson Evan Mulholland replied: “No comment.”

No comments: