Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Insidious Invasion of the IPA into Australian Politics - The AIM Network

The Insidious Invasion of the IPA into Australian Politics - The AIM Network

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 Institutes 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

“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 is making a decent hole in the list. He has
stopped subsidies to the car industry, eliminated (partly) Family Tax
Benefits, destroyed the ABCs Australia network, abandoned poker machine
reform, introduced a fee competition for Australian universities, 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.

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.
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 governments consideration. They may not get them all but the big
fish is the institutes 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 communications minister Malcolm Turnbull is apparently
considering it 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 recently 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  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

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 75 IPA Ideas to send a shiver down your spine. You might also consider this list from Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage.

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

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

Really they must be in need of mental therapy. I can suggest a good practitioner.

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