Institute of Public Affairs
The right-wing Australian think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), was established in 1943 and claims to have been 'a significant player in the public policy debate' in Australia ever since. It is comprised of four units located in Victoria and Queensland: a Deregulation Unit, an Economic Policy Unit, an Indigenous Issues Unit and an Environmental Policy Unit.
With Monsanto amongst its funders, the IPA has a specific focus on 'biotechnology', saying it wants to "combat the misinformation put out by radical groups' who oppose genetic engineering". It claims this technology is actually 'safer', 'cheaper' and 'more environmentally friendly' than conventional plant or animal breeding. According to its website, its promotion of genetic engineering takes place via 'Biotechnology Backgrounders, Speeches and submissions, IPA Review articles/Other articles, Newspaper articles and letters to the press'.
In 2001 IPA launched what it claimed was 'an international first' when it 'started publishing a monthly corporate newsletter, by subscription only, dedicated to watching activist NGOs' [Non-Governmental Organisations]. These were, it warned, 'targeting business' and other 'organisations as never before'. This new corporate newsletter was NGO Watch Digest.
Challenging Aboriginal rights
Head of the NGO Project was IPA Senior Fellow Dr Gary Johns. Johns moved across from the IPA's Indigenous Issues Unit. The Unit has had a highly controversial record of stridently challenging Aboriginal rights. It has also been accused of historical revisionism over its attempts to downplay the significance of the long-undisclosed policy of forced removal for adoption of Aboriginal children - a policy which lead them to be brought up totally removed from their families and communities ( Stolen Generations).
Johns edited the book, 'Waking Up to Dreamtime: The Illusion of Aboriginal Self-Determination'. He has claimed the only successful Aborigines are those who have been given a 'western education' and has called for Aborigine children ideally to be made to attend boarding schools that are separate from their communities. He attacks attempts to help Aborigines within their own communities as 'the politics of preferment'. (The Australian, 20 June 2003)
Attacking NGO's from the global South
Also part of the IPA's NGO Project is a Malaysian-born researcher, Don D'Cruz. Within a few months of the Project's launch, D'Cruz was quoted in the Malaysian press attacking local NGOs which opposed GM crops as 'local front organisations' for wealthy American environmentalists. Well established and well regarded NGOs like the Consumers' Association of Penang (CAP) and the Third World Network (TWN), D'Cruz implied, were 'doing the bidding of their wealthy American paymasters' because some of their funding came from a US environmental group, of (U.S Groups Funding Disinformation Campaign In Malaysia , March 13, 2001) In the Far Eastern Economic Review a year later, D'Cruz made the same accusation, 'What we are seeing is a new form of cultural imperialism with Asian NGOs used as proxies. (The Promise of Food Security, April 4 2002)
CAP and TWN hit back at the IPA attack by pointing out the IPA itself was, by its own standards, very far from independent. On the IPA's board at the time were Australian representatives of transnational corporations with highly unenviable reputations in relation to the environment and public health - companies such as Rio Tinto, Western Mining Corporation, Shell, and Philip Morris. (Australian Report is False and Outrageous, March 14 2001)
IPA funding and 'independence'
With regard to its own funding, the IPA claims it maintains its independence because, 'Our annual budget - of about $1 million - is obtained from more than 2,000 individuals, corporations and foundations'. However, according to Sharon Beder, 'Almost one third of IPA's $1.5 million annual budget comes from mining and manufacturing companies.' Interestingly, IPA's attack on Aboriginal treaty and land rights has included a call for 'no bias against miners' (Gary Johns, The Australian, 20 June 2003). The aggressive character of IPA's attacks on Aboriginal self-determination eventually lead mining company RioTinto to withdraw its support. (Sourcewatch)
The insinuation that Malaysian NGOs were 'doing the bidding of their wealthy American paymasters' originated, according to Don D'Cruz, with Professor C.S. Prakash. The Malaysian News reported, 'IPA's month-long investigation was initiated after a number of leading biotechnology scientists such as Professor Prakash, a regular visitor to Malaysia, expressed concern over the funding sources of the well-funded disinformation campaign being waged against biotechnology in countries such as Malaysia.'
CAP and TWN pointed out that in terms of doing the bidding of American masters, Prof Prakash promoted himself on his AgBioWorld website as a 'speaker on behalf of the US State Department'. They also noted that he had 'traveled to many countries including Malaysia to promote biotechnology, often arranged by the U.S. Embassy'. (Australian Report is False and Outrageous, March 14 2001)
In fact, CS Prakash, who was trying to build bridges with NGOs at the time, was anxious to disassociate himself from the IPA attack, 'My name has been inadvertently dragged into this news without my knowledge or complicity,' he wrote to GM Watch editor Jonathan Matthews. ' While I did visit IPA last year to deliver an invited lecture on agricultural biotechnology, I do not recall making any remarks about this funding issue, and never knew about this press release or the investigation of the funding.' (personal communication)
Prakash even obtained an apology from D'Cruz:
- > From: Don D'Cruz
- > Subject: Re:
- > X-Sender: email@example.com (Unverified)
- > To: prakash@Tusk.Edu
- > Original-recipient: rfc822;firstname.lastname@example.org
- > Dear Professor Prakash,
- > I'm so sorry but the press release has already gone out. I really
- > apologise because I had no idea it would concern you. I shall never
- > mention you again. Please accept my apologies. I hope it won't cause
- > you any problems. I feel really terrible. It has taken the gloss off
- > what I have done.
- > Once again I so sorry.
- > Regards
- > Don
Links to US corporate lobbyists
IPA's NGO Project has provided a model for other right- wing lobby groups. On June 11 2003 the IPA was nominally the co-host of a day-long seminar in Washington DC on 'NGO influence and accountability' with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The seminar was entitled Nongovernmental Organizations: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few.
Among the speakers at the Washington seminar was IPA's Gary Johns. Other contributors included Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Roger Bate who also connects to CEI. According to Bate, 'NGOs definitely provide benefits in the short run. But I would argue in the long run their influence is nearly always malign, either through their own political acts directly or via aid agencies.' Some commentators saw a profound irony in that fact that AEI, IPA etc. were themselves 'unelected' NGOs. Bate himself connects to a whole host of right-wing NGOs, eg CEI, AEI, Iinstitute for Economic Affairs, European Science and Environment Forum, International Policy Network, Sustainable Development Network etc.
Following on from the seminar, AEI and the Federalist Society launched NGOWATCH.ORG - 'an effort to bring clarity and accountability to the burgeoning world of NGOs'. The writer Melanie Klein describes it as in reality, 'a McCarthyite blacklist, telling tales on any NGO that dares speak against Bush administration policies or in support of international treaties opposed by the White House.' Its launch coincided with a push by the Bush administration to get NGOs 'to do a better job of linking their humanitarian assistance to U.S. foreign policy' - an effort overseen by USAID and its director Andrew Natsios. (Bush to NGOs: Watch Your Mouths)
Give us your nuclear waste!
The Public Affairs Institute is so determinedly pro-nuclear that it wants Australia to import other countries’ nuclear waste.
The June 2005 edition of IPA’s periodical Review carried a substantial section devoted to nuclear power. Writing about energy policy, then Executive Director of the IPA Mike Nahan concluded: “There are three possibilities – exotic renewables, nuclear power or turning off the lights. In reality, the first and the last are not options. It will either have to be nuclear or fossil fuel.” 
Alan Moran, Director of the IPA Deregulation Unit, also wrote an article that argued that nuclear power can help the Australian government towards greener energy production. Moran states: “Concern about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas production will result in a dramatic change in the power industry worldwide, and the main beneficiary would be nuclear.” He also predicted that: “exotic renewables, such as wind, will remain a small but costly token to the deep Green ideology”. 
IPA Board member (and former Deputy Chairman of Energy firm Vencorp) Tom Quirk argued that Australia should consider building a long-term underground dispository for its and other countries’ nuclear waste. He wrote: “Australia should offer to dispose of the wastes generated from the uranium supplied from our own mines in the first instance and, in addition, consider the disposal of wastes from our region where countries are unlikely to find secure high-isolation sites… The disposal of spent fuel and high-level waste in Australia is a major opportunity. It would not only be a significant business opportunity, but also a major enabling step for the use of nuclear power, an important contribution to nuclear safety, and a major contribution to our region.”
Quirk, on behalf of the IPA, submitted further details of his plans to the Australian Government’s Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review, which considered, among other things, “the extent and circumstances in which nuclear energy could in the longer term be economically competitive in Australia”.  
- ^ Mike Nahan, ‘The Politics of Nuclear Power’, Review, published June 2005, accessed December 2005
- ^ Alan Moran, ‘The Economics of Nuclear Power’, Review, published June 2005, accessed December 2005
- ^ Tom Quirk, ‘The safe disposal of nuclear waste’, Review, published June 2005, accessed December 2005
- ^ Tom Quirk, ‘Nuclear Waste Management in Australia - Submission to the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review’, Institute of Public Affairs, September 2006
- ^ Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review – Terms of reference, undated, accessed December 2006
- ^ Biography of John Roskam – IPA website, undated, accessed December 2006