Institute of Public Affairs

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The IPA is usually described as a "radical libertarian think tank" but it's not libertarian, since its freedoms for the few spell oppression for the many. It's also not-thoughtful and so not-public it's almost clandestine.
—Elizabeth Farrelly, The Sydney Morning Herald[1]

The Institute of Public Affairs is an Australian far-right think tank based in Melbourne. It deceptively uses slogans such as "The Voice for Freedom" and "Securing Freedom for the Future",[2] while what it really does is almost the exact opposite. The IPA keeps a low profile, while having a remarkable amount of influence on Australian politics;[1] it has been a leading influence on the policies of the Liberal Party of Australia.[3] Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has, in fact, compared it to Jesus[4][note 1] and looked to it for many of his policies.[5]


Other forms of discrimination, such as by skin colour, race, or ethnicity, are rightly abhorred, yet the income tax system openly discriminates against people by income.
—The IPA, mistaking wealthy people for oppressed racial minorities[6]

In 2012, the IPA released a document entitled "Be Like Gough: 75 Radical Ideas to Transform Australia".[7] The title refers to Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam who rapidly introduced progressive policies in the 1970s, including universal health care and free education; the "radical" ideas proposed in the document are oriented in the opposite direction, and were intended as policies for Tony Abbott to bring Australia back to the pre-1970s.

Many of the policies listed involve the privatization or abolition of important public services, some of which include:

  • The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which the IPA considers to frame Australian political debates "in ways which its disproportionately left-leaning staff favour",[8] because privatization will definitely fix any perceived liberal bias
  • Special Broadcasting Service
  • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's leading scientific research organisation
  • Australia Post
  • Medibank, the privatization of which was carried out in 2014

In addition, it advocates introducing fee competition at universities, abolishing compulsory voting, repealing the mining tax, reducing the company tax, and means-testing Medicare and tertiary student loans.

In 2019, it published an updated, shorter, but very similar list, called "20 Policies to Fix Australia",[9] which included such gems as:

  • Hold a Royal Commission into the Bureau of Meteorology’s tampering with temperature and climate data (i.e. accusing the BoM of exaggerating the temperature rise to date)
  • Implement a flat income tax (which it claims will "reduce poverty" and "promote equality", and certainly not do the opposite)
  • Abolish the Renewable Energy Target and end all subsidies to wind, solar, and hydro-electricity generators (because clean coal is the way of the future, baby!)
  • Repeal the Fair Work Act (which it blames for "prevent[ing] employers and employees from reaching mutually beneficial employment agreements" which are apparently reached by stripping workers of most of their workplace rights)

The IPA also wants to abolish the minimum wage under the bizarre justification of "dignity of work", with a spokesperson saying "I’m not so concerned about the working poor,[note 2] I’m more concerned about the unemployed poor"[10] meaning, of course, that the costs of this fabricated concern should fall to the working poor (and not, you know, the wealthy). The IPA has referred to progressive taxation as discrimination against the rich, and openly compared it to racism,[6] because apparently wealthy people are an oppressed group. It also opposes legislated employees' rights,[11] except when it comes to the sacking of people who agree with it, such as Peter Ridd, a global warming denialist professor booted from James Cook University.[12] Note that Ridd claimed and won compensation for unfair dismissal from the JCU after a crowdfunded trial under the selfsame Fair Work Act that the IPA wants abolished (cue irony and hypocrisy).

In short, the "freedom" the IPA promotes is simply a code-word for widening the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Global warming[edit]

Of all the serious denialists sceptics in Australia, we have helped and supported just about all of them in their work one way or another... Ian Plimer - we launched his book - Bob Carter, Jo Nova, William Kininmonth.
—John Roskam[13]

The IPA is one of Australia's most aggressive promoters of global warming denialism,[14][15] and advocates withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, abolishing the Australian Government's Department of Climate Change and repealing the renewable energy target.[7] It played a part in the repeal of Australia's short-lived carbon tax.[16]

In 2017, two members published a paper in the now-defunct journal GeoResJ purporting to show that global warming to date is natural;[17] their research involved poor and dishonest methodology, and was deemed "junk science" and "worthless on a number of measures" by genuine climate scientists.[18]

In September of 2019, the IPA proudly announced its 2020 fundraiser touting a list of usual suspects from the climate change denialist brigade, such as the aforementioned Peter Ridd, its own residential denialist Jennifer Marohasy (whose IPA profile name checks Bjørn Lomborg just for good measure[19]), as well as Richard Lindzen and Henrik SvensmarkWikipedia (basically a Danish Lindzen 2.0).[20] Oddly enough, among these fairly prominent and/or in-house sceptics, the IPA also included a certain Geoff Duffy, though he is so off the radar that he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia article. However, he seems to be an emeritus engineer (cf. the Salem hypothesis) with a denialist history, including signing one of the Heartland Institute’s declarations.[21] If the pattern of a semi-retired former academic turned corporate ultracrepidarian shill sounds familiar, it’s because it basically describes such prototypical experts for hire as S. Fred Singer and Frederick Seitz.


In a further Orwellian twist on its favourite buzzword, "freedom", the IPA engages in DARVO and fear-mongering about the loss of "free speech" and religious freedoms as a basis for opposing the right of same-sex couples to marry[22][23] and advocating for the repeal of the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act,[24] because basic human rights and safety for the demographics concerned take second place to the all-important "right to be a bigot".[25]

It has also opposed the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first peoples of Australia, because according to IPA head John Roskom, the suggestion of a separate Indigenous voice is "just as offensive as to give people a special say due to their religion, or gender or anything else."[26]


The IPA was commissioned in 2003 by the Howard Government to scrutinize the accountability and transparency of non-profit organizations in Australia, and the IPA's advice influenced the government to writing laws stripping many NGOs of their tax-deductible status.[4]

Its attacks on NGOs for supposedly being unaccountable[27] are quite ironic, considering how secretive the IPA is about its own sources of funding,[28] which leaked documents reveal to consist largely of oil, mining, tobacco, forestry etc. industries and industry moguls such as Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch.[29][1][28]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Who, it could be argued, was a demonstrably left-wing activist.
  2. Well, that's very honest!


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Farrelly, Elizabeth (April 6, 2016). "Institute of Public Affairs: the think tank with arms everywhere". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  2. "HOME - IPA - The Voice for Freedom". Institute of Public Affairs. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  3. Pearls and Irritations (August 2, 2016). "The Liberal Party and the Institute of Public Affairs: Who is Whose?". Independent Australia. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Millar, Royce; Schneiders, Ben (August 25, 2013). "Free Radicals". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  5. Crook, Andrew (September 6, 2013). "Institute of Liberal Party policy? What the IPA will get from Abbott". Crikey. Retrieved June 20, 2018. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jericho, Greg (June 10, 2018). "There's a new cultural war – and it's targeting progressive tax rates". Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Roskam, John; Berg, Chris; Paterson, James (August 5, 2012). "Be Like Gough: 75 Radical Ideas to Transform Australia". Institute of Public Affairs. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  8. Koziol, Michael (May 25, 2018). "New IPA book calls on government to privatise the ABC by 'giving it away'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  9. "20 Policies to Fix Australia". Institute of Public Affairs. April 12, 2019. Retrieved April 18, 2019. 
  10. Schneiders, Ben (April 7, 2014). "Institute of Public Affairs calls for the abolition of the minimum wage". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  11. Rozner, Gideon (June 26, 2017). "The Unfair Work Act". Retrieved April 18, 2019. 
  12. Marohasy, Jennifer (April 17, 2019). "Peter Ridd Has Defeated The Climate Inquisition Thanks To You". Institute of Public Affairs. 
  13. "The benefit of the doubt". The Sydney Morning Herald. May 8, 2010. Retrieved December 31, 2019. 
  14. Slezak, Michael (November 8, 2016). "Q&A: Naomi Klein criticises Institute of Public Affairs over climate interventions". The Guardian. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  15. Napier-Raman, Kishor (January 29, 2019). "How one think tank poisoned Australia’s climate debate". Crikey. Retrieved December 31, 2019. 
  16. Associated Australian Press (September 3, 2015). "Thinktank Institute of Public Affairs up for prize for role in repealing carbon tax". The Guardian. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  17. Abbot, John; Marohasy, Jennifer (December 2017). "The application of machine learning for evaluating anthropogenic versus natural climate change". GeoResJ 14: 36-46. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  18. Readfearn, Graham (August 26, 2017). "Why the IPA's claim global warming is natural is 'junk science'". The Guardian. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  19. "Jennifer Marohasy". Institute of Public Affairs. (Undated). Retrieved February 4, 2020. 
  20. "IPA Announces Fundraising Campaign Climate Change: The Facts 2020". Institute of Public Affairs. September 13, 2019. Retrieved February 4, 2020. 
  21. "Geoffrey Duffy". DESMOG. (Undated). Retrieved February 4, 2020. 
  22. Roskam, John (August 18, 2017). "With Little Thought To Consequences, Gay Marriage Could Reduce Freedom". Institute of Public Affairs. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  23. Begg, Morgan (September 2, 2017). "Lack Of Same Sex Protection". Institute of Public Affairs. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  24. Berg, Chris (January 6, 2015). "The Government can revive its 'freedom agenda'". ABC. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  25. Berg, Chris (March 30, 2014). "How George Brandis' race-hate laws are good for democracy". The Age. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  26. Carp, Paul; Murphy, Katherine (May 30, 2017). "Liberals won't accept Indigenous recognition model, Institute of Public Affairs warns". The Guardian. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  27. Johns, Gary; Roskam, John (April 2004). The Protocol: Managing Relations with NGOs. Institute of Public Affairs. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 Hamilton, Clive (February 24, 2012). "The shadowy world of IPA finances". ABC. Retrieved June 19, 2018. 
  29. Norington, Brad (August 12,2003). "Think tank secrets". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 20, 2018.