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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18623


Mr KELVIN THOMSON (9:40 PM) —The Institute of Public Affairs is one of those right wing think tanks dedicated to promoting inequality in our society. They work for a world in which companies have all the power and ordinary citizens have none. They have close links to the Liberal Party—for example, to Senator Rod Kemp and his brother, the environment minister, David Kemp. In their indefatigable quest to enhance corporate power, they relentlessly attack any alternative sources of power, such as the role of government or trade unions. Increasingly, they have in their sights non-government organisations—citizens who dare to gather in groups. Extraordinarily, they describe these manifestations of the health of our civil society as a `challenge to liberal democracy'.

The Institute of Public Affairs has been complaining that non-government organisations with no public accountability are the beneficiaries of taxpayer funds through government grants. What strange times we live in. Last Sunday, the Sunday Age reported that the Howard Liberal government are spending $50,000 for an audit of which non-government organisations are getting taxpayer funds. You would think they would know already. It must be amateur hour in the federal bureaucracy if they do not know who they are giving money to. But it is even worse than that, because the body they gave the $50,000 to was none other than the Institute of Public Affairs. Incredible! A non-government organisation which rails against taxpayer funds going to non-government organisations gets $50,000 to do an audit of other non-government organisations. Alice in Wonderland eat your heart out.

So let me ask of the Howard government all those questions which those great hypocrites of the Institute of Public Affairs would be asking if they were not themselves the beneficiaries of this taxpayer largesse. First: was there a tender process? Second: was any other organisation invited to apply to do this work? Third: who are the members of the Institute of Public Affairs, and how do you get to join it or vote for its governing body? Fourth: what are the IPA's sources of funding; is it principally funded by donations from large companies? Fifth: given its publicly expressed hostility to other non-government organisations, hasn't it prejudged this issue? Isn't it biased? Sixth: does the IPA not say that organisations with an agenda of legislative change should not be classed as charities and get government support? If so, given their agenda, why should they get government support? Finally: is this not a blatant attempt by the Howard Liberal government to bully and intimidate charities, environmental groups and other non-government organisations into refraining from criticism of the Liberal government? Doesn't this constitute the real threat to our democracy?