MARK BUCKLEY. IPA is wrecking our democracy

The history of the IPA is curious. Many of the key players in its early years are either still around, or their children are.

Its ideas haven’t really evolved much, but if you want to characterise them, they are crudely elitist, ideologically stunted, narrow minded, science-phobic, greedy and in most cases, fully imported. For a charity which pays no tax, they have very few clients in need.

The only reason they are of any interest to anyone is that they have captured the Federal Government, by stealth, and their inane policies are the reason this country is so conspicuously under-achieving. There is not one thinker of note amongst its membership. Some of the current members appear to be the offspring of former members; a sort of self-replicating supply of apparatchiks. If you are searching for the reason behind the diminishing sense of pride attached to being Australian, the IPA is to blame.

Current members in Parliament

For a roll-call, these are the current members of the IPA, or their affiliates; Institute for Progress (AIP), Australian Taxation Alliance (ATA), who are also, sadly, members of the current Parliament: Abetz, Birmingham, Cash, Christensen, Cormann, Evans, Fletcher, Frydenberg, Hawke, Hunt, McGrath, Morrison, Paterson, Porter, Roberts, Ryan, Stoker, Dean Smith, Tony Smith, Tehan, Tudge, and Tim Wilson. All part of the Global Atlas Network. That would be where we get the passion for no minimum wage, and no health care. Past members include Abbott, Howard, and let us remember our current PM is a current member.

They have been effectively bought by a handful of robber barons, who pay no taxes, and have no commitment to what was, twenty years ago, a democracy to be proud of. They gaslight the entire community, with double-speak which would make George Orwell blush. As an example, in 2003 John Howard hired a conservative think tank (the IPA) to investigate NGO influence on some government agencies. The circularity of that sentence is dazzling.

“NGOs are becoming very influential today – they sit on various committees and are seen to influence governments and big business. As global players they need to be more transparent,” says Mike Nahan, executive director of the IPA. The lack of self-awareness in that statement is also noteworthy.

“IPA is unfit to conduct the study due to its demonstrated bias and ongoing vilification of organisations that campaign for human rights, corporate social responsibility and environmental protection,” Oxfam said in a media release. Who better than an NGO on the lunatic right (IPA) to investigate the NGOs represented by such bodies as Oxfam and Catholic Health Australia?

When dealing with the IPA one is assailed by the extreme seriousness with which they promote their truly stupid, and truly callous policies. They do not like welfare. They have a history of being supported by Big Tobacco. They want to sell the ABC. They want to lower the tax rate to companies even more, they want us to abandon the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. They want the Racial Discrimination Act to remove the ban on offensive speech. They want the Fair Work Act repealed, which means the ten minimum employment standards will disappear. Who knows, maybe we can get to see adult Australians working for $7 per hour, plus tips.

What does this ragbag of policies remind you of? Yes, Donald Trump’s America is the right answer. Of course they also want to abolish Medicare, probably because it reminds them of Obamacare. I told you their policies were imported. Considering most of the current Cabinet are members, how sincere can they be in governing for the good of all Australians?

So why would Australia want such policies?

The people in the IPA, and their affiliates, all think in Social Darwinism terms. So they think society is not meant to be inclusive, and caring for the least among us, but a contest. The Tim Wilsons and James Patersons of this world actually think that if we were all transported to an unruly savannah, crawling with sabre-toothed tigers and snarling hyenas, that they would prosper. Reflecting on the personnel, my money is on the sabre-toothed tigers.

IPA types are secretly longing for the Call of the Wild. It is an adolescent fantasy, where if the going gets tough, the tough get going. Many of these intellectual giants wield real power in our federal parliament. All I can say is, be afraid. Be very afraid!

As John Roskam recently said: “To control a virus that as yet has infected 5000 Australians, the response of doctors and politicians to this serious health crisis was to create also a humanitarian and an economic crisis. In the years to come Australians will quite rightly question whether there could have been a better way.” Sometimes you need to let libertarians speak freely. They do a better job of exposing themselves as empty vessels than any commentator could.

Lincoln Steffens studied corruption and malfeasance in American states in the 1890s. His unwavering opinion was that it was not the fault of the crooked politicians, nor the business people who corrupted them, but the apathy and the supine nature of the citizens. We need to become engaged, and if we’re not happy, turf them out!


Mark Buckley is a writer based in regional Victoria. He has a particular interest in politics, history and ethics in public life. He blogs at

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22 Responses to MARK BUCKLEY. IPA is wrecking our democracy

  1. Avatar Geoff Davies says:

    If you’ve caught your breath Mark, have a look at the mining and military links, revealed by Michael West Media

  2. Avatar Andrew Smith says:

    Previous post stated ‘Jonathan Powell’, should be ‘Lewis Powell’.

  3. Avatar Ramesh Au says:

    Very enlightening

    • Avatar David Addison says:

      I now follow the IPA on Facebook, after thinking “I read a lot about them, but rarely read them”. I figured that maybe they aren’t that bad… How wrong I was. Such a smug, uncaring, narrow minded bunch I have rarely come across. They revel in straw man arguments and seem to assume the poor are simply idle, just needing the right incentives to buy their first property. It makes my heart hurt to see their ideas holding such sway.

  4. Avatar John KOTSOPOULOS says:

    You forgot to mention that pre Covid19-19 at a time stagnant wages are choking the economy this ludicrous faux think tank was pushing for the abolition of the minimum wage.

  5. Avatar Michael Flynn says:

    The IPA has been with us for many years as the vehicle for business to fund conservative parties that represented their interests. The unions linked to the ALP for the workers. The IPA has evolved in its activities that the comments here correctly describe. Perhaps business and the unions need to speak up directly on issues like climate change and the post pandemic national economy we seek. Thee is no debate on nuclear arms control and the spend on submarines or why we need to attack other countries. Plenty of words but the power to decide what matters and who benefits is elusive. No to a US war on China.

  6. Avatar Lorna Morgan says:

    They are touting for members right now if anyone has the stomach to investigate them from inside the tent. I have somehow managed to come to the notice of the right wing ratbags on my Facebook account. Yesterday …a sponsored ad from Eric Abetz. Today one from the IPA asking me to join!! What have I done to deserve this?

  7. Avatar Di Barry says:

    Don’t forget The Falange movement, the Spanish Catholic Church . The Spanish Civil war deserves a look at. We need to have a good look at right wing movements in the early 20th century. And why didn’t counties like the UK fight against Franco in the civil war.

  8. Avatar Sam Lee says:

    So what now? How does one fight the deep state and foreign interference by a power that already controls our media and spy agencies?

  9. Avatar Jerry Roberts says:

    That’s interesting about religion and the IP’A, Sue. The Religious Right has an important role in the drift to fascism. Hard to see how anyone could link the teachings of Christ to the IPA’s policies but the same could be said about the established Church. The general public is not the problem, Greg. It was the elites who failed to study the teachings of Hayek when this started with Thatcher, Reagan, Pinochet etc and who still use the word “reform” for tax cuts, privatisation and de-regulation.

  10. Greg Bailey Greg Bailey says:

    What is interesting about the IPA is that they are not at all known by the general public, yet seemingly exercise considerable influence. It is true that John Faine used to have Roskam on, to balance his “left wing” Liberty Sanger, but how many ABC listeners would know the true influence of the IPA.

    It is certainly disturbing that so many members of the cabinet are affiliated with it. It would be a useful exercise to see how many LNP politicians are associated with the Sydney Institute and the Centre for Independent Studies. Both are of the same ilk as the IPA.

  11. Avatar Sue Caldwell says:

    The plot thickens!
    Remember the controversy re the chaplains in schools project, the principal player being Access “Ministries” which happens to have direct links to the IPA too, especially via the work of Ian Harper who is very much involved in promoting an old fashioned essentially archaic Biblical world view.
    His work has been promoted/praised by John Roskam.

  12. Avatar Alasdair Wardle says:

    Here in WA we have the Mannkal Economics Education Foundation. Started by Ron Manners, who was involved in the mining industry. He encourages clean cut young students to embrace free market principles and large parts of the IPA creed. The other society that deserves a mention is the Mont Pelerin Society, started in 1947 to counter the collective action and communist tendencies that were seen as a threat after WW2. Provided the free market economic direction eventually adopted by Margaret Thatcher, and slavishly followed by others.

  13. Avatar Andrew Glikson says:

    The malaise is running deep and this organization is only one of a rising plethora of right wing organizations around the world, heralding a return to social Darwinism and “survival of the fittest” ideologies ( The world is overlooking the lessons from the rise of nationalism, racism and fascism pre-WWII, while a retreat from science and the enlightenment toward a Medieval forms of thinking is everywhere. Supposed “conviction politicians” have become a rarity (cf. witness the current pro-Adani stand of the ALP). Inherent in public attitudes are short-term memories and an inability to be concerned by more than one issue at any one time. Global warming is hardly mentioned in the media, at least until the next spate of fires and cyclons, science being relegated to irrelevancy, except for short-term purposes.. The wrong people have amassed too much wealth and power. According to Gore Vidal “Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die.”

  14. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    Where is the Oath of Public Office – to be taken at the point of registering intent to stand:

    The Alpha and Omega Rule (i.e. First and Last): Do no evil or wickedness to citizens/residents/other nationals/asylum-seekers. Serving only the common wealth – not vested interests or billionaires.

    Failure: Penalty – beginning with a gaol term.

  15. Avatar Robin Wingrove says:

    Should really be known as the Institute for Private Avarice

  16. Avatar Jerry Roberts says:

    The brief definition of neoliberalism by Australian economist Steve Keen describes the thinking of the IPA. “Neoliberalism is effectively introductory neoclassical economics disguised as political philosophy.”

    That’s an amazing list of MPs, thanks Mark, but the Liberal Party is not the problem. It was the destruction of the social-democratic parties in the English-speaking world that has us in this fix. Neoliberalism took over the ALP, British Labour, American Democrats etc. Thus we have had two centre-right parties for the last few decades. Consequently the entire agenda has moved to the right to today’s absurd extreme of Trump vs Biden.

    It is too late for November but by the mid-terms of 2022 America will have a viable third party on the left driven by young but battle-hardened activists from the Bernie Sanders movement. Meanwhile don’t bet against Trump winning another four years.

    • Avatar Philip Ludington says:

      I suspect that if Trump doesn’t win a second term, he and his goons will take it anyway. In that event, the hoped for “young battle hardened activists” will probably be locked up or worse.

  17. Avatar Frank Alley says:

    From Noam Chomsky:
    ‘I don’t know what word in the English language – I can’t find one – applies to people who are willing to sacrifice the literal existence of organised human life so they can put a few more dollars into highly stuffed pockets.
    The word ‘evil’ doesn’t even begin to approach it’.

  18. Avatar Sam Lee says:

    What I don’t understand is, why doesn’t the CCP just negotiate with the people who are actually in power and has the megaphone instead of playing the game dictated to them by the Americans / IPA? Do the Deng-cat/mouse thing and just skip the banana democracy and the arms-length manipulation altogether. Barley? No problem, get George Christensen and we can talk. Beef? No problem, where’s Peter Dutton? SARS-CoV-2 enquiry, sure, we will plan this with John Roskam. This is mutually beneficial – cut the consent-manipulation (and increase transparency) for Australians while helping the PRC /CCP with their image problem.

  19. Avatar Evan Hadkins says:

    Or only 5000 were because of the big response.

    In future people may ask why anyone would have wanted more people to die by not taking action largely and quickly (even if it costs money. The money value money more than lives.).

  20. Avatar Stephen Saunders says:

    Thanks, Mark, nice takedown there. Sadly, I guess this means that “Capital and Ideology” will not be part of their winter reading list.

    One of Piketty’s well-researched parables is that of the Brahmin Left (= Labor) versus the Merchant Right (= Coalition). Which is essentially why I can’t see the electorate falling over themselves to “turf out” Morrison and his cronies.

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