Australian think-tanks and the Atlas link

The IPA and CIS

The main think-tanks examined here are

  • The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in Melbourne
  • The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) in Sydney.
    (And their numerous subsidiaries and spin-offs)


What is known politically in Australia as the 'Dry' viewpoint extends over a wide range. At the true-liberal end of the spectrum 'dryness' appears in the form of 'economic rationalism' which characterised the Australian Treasury in the 1980s. They convinced the Labor Treasurer and Prime Minister, Paul Keating, to sell off Australian public assets like the Commonwealth Bank, airports, airlines, and telephone networks, (even if some were virtual monopolies) and this period also saw the introduction of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to run tollroads, instead of having freeways.

At the other extreme, the very-dries were ideologue followers of Ayn Rand and Frederich Neitzche who believed that the world would be better under an extreme meritocracy -- with few regulations ['small-government'], high extremes of wealth disparity [the 'trickle-down effect'], run by a plutocracy headed by a virtual 'Superman'. [Rand's book "Atlas Shrugged" is the source of the name of the "Atlas Foundation"].

Some elements of the Chicago Univerity-based Hayek-Friedman type of libertarian economic viewpoint in America (unfettered free-markets, privatisation, celebration of corporate capitalism) also absorbed these Randian political aspects, and they formed the basic group behind many of the think-tanks funded by wealthy family foundations across the USA. This was also an organised attempt by the wealth-Right to beat back what they saw as creaping socialism with its anti-Vietnam War activism which they were sure had Communist backing. These were the neo-liberals or "New Right".

To this paranoid mix must be added the later influence of a Chicago group of ex-Trotskyites who switched from a worship of non-Stalinist Bolshevism, to a radical belief in American destiny as the global protector. This group led by Irving Kristol, William Buckley and William Simon [advisors to Ronald Reagan] also attracted religious support specifically from the wealthy Jewish and Catholic anti-Communist groups. This group had a decidedly gung-ho militiaristic flavour, and became known neo-conservatives or neo-cons.

In Australia, as in the USA, this agressive fervour of the neo-cons has tended to merge with the economic fanaticism of the neo-liberals into an agressive type of Randian-libertarianism. These are now wise to the use of underground channels of advocacy, and they know that they need to keep their activities out of spotlight of the media, and play down their zealotry in public. Since their ideology usually matches with the lobbying needs of large corporations, they can attract considerable funding from the rich and powerful.

To these groups, the claim of 'non-partisan think-tank' provides just the right balance between being 'openly political' and being branded as 'clearly commercial lobby-shops'. From behind this screen they can act as policy advisers; channel political funds to their friends in high places; lobby for both ideological and corporate viewpoints. And, unless someone puts the deals down on paper, there is little fear of exposure.

Australia's multi-millionaires are not known for their political philanthropy, so unlike the USA, these think-tanks tend to rely even more on corporate contributions both in the form of annual donations (retainers) and direct commissions for lobbying either the public (via the media) or politicians directly though their own political channels.


Liberal politician John Hyde started the Australian Institute for Public Policy in Perth Western Australia with help from the US Atlas Foundation. This was many years after the Institute of Public Affairs had been established in Melbourne as a corporate funding channel for the Menzies Liberal Party by Charles Kemp, and well after school teacher Greg Lindsay had received funding from the mining industry to start the similar Centre for Independent Studies, also with Atlas Foundation help.

However Kemp's sons Rod and David both entered Liberal politics in Victoria and Federally, and they joined forces with Hyde to promote what became known in Australia as the 'Dry' viewpoint. When they took over the organisation from their father and merged with Hyde's AIPP, the IPA also changed character -- from simply a fund-raiser, it increasingly became a policy-advocate and inside operator within State and Federal Liberal Governments (specifically the Kennett Liberals in Victoria and the Howard Federal Coalition in Canberra).

In 1988, it is obvious that the Sydney CIS and the Melbourne/Perth IPA signed a cooperative agreement which included territorial divisions. This left Gerard Henderson, the NSW Director of the IPA out in the cold. He therefore split off the Sydney Institute.

[Note that most of these organisations are actually private companies, not registered associations. They are 'owned' by a few shareholder.]

Obviously, there is less corporate consolidation between the CIS and IPA than between the IPA and John Hyde's Australian Institute for Public Policy (AIPP) which is now a full-blown merger. However it is important to note that both the CIS and the AIPP were set up with "seed money" from the US Atlas Foundation, and since the AIPP/IPA merger this organisation has always had direct links to the Atlas Group. [See]

The CIS and IPA have interlocking operations;
    they exchange staff and publication facilities;
        cooperate in creating and publicising conferences;
            sell each others' books;
                  help each other conduct media tours;
                      jointly satisfy corporate commissions, etc. and
                              appear to have an agreed territorial division of influence.

[The distinction really is little more than between, say, the Kemps and John Hyde owning the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchaises in Melbourne and Perth, while Lindsay owns the KFC in Sydney and has the rights to New Zealand.]

What joins them is overlapping leadership and fellows, with the occasional sharing and exchange of staff. They also have an overlapping participation and supporters base among corporate executives, especially mining companies. Their links are well above those expected from organisations with a shared libertarian ideology, even when their perceptions are that they are fighting a war against the common enemies of 'liberalism', 'Labor', 'Satanism', 'socialism' and the 'welfare state'.

Politically they have remained a pragmatic part of the Liberals, and they are skilled political players despite their 'non-partisan' claims. David Kemp, describes this 'radical liberalism' as being 'linked in a nationwide network challenging traditional conservative centres of power.' He is obliquely referring here to the Atlas Group and also probably to the political network of conservative New Right political parties which coordinates some activities (mainly political propaganda) through the International Democratic Union (IDU).

Note: the IDU was directly supported by tobacco industry donations, and it was also used as a channel of influence by the tobacco industry, mainly through lawyer-lobbyist HP Goldfield, a Senior Partner with the Washington DC political lobbying specialists, Swidler & Berlin (S&B). He had extensive contacts with Australian State and Federal Liberal Party members developed through the IDU, and had a brief from the tobacco industry to maintain these connections.

Globally, S&B's most prominent role was to help the industry get their cleverly-written 'Good Epidemiological Practices' (GEP) standards into legislation in Europe and Australia to curb the zeal of the air-quality regulators by forcing them to conform to a lawyer-designed set of regulations. This was sometimes euphemistically known as the "Regulatory Reform/Sound science" standard.

In Australia, HP Goldfield was mainly used by Philip Morris to helped them to develop their sponsorship of the America's Cup challenges. [See PM memo] [S&B proposal] [Notes on S&B and IDU] [Using the WA Liberals]

My reasons for treating the IPA and the CIS as two expressions of the same organisation are primarily that they are collaborating (if not conspiratorial) organisations, who share corporate commissions for PR and lobbying along divisional lines based on some sort of exclusive territory agreement.
  • The IPA looks after Victoria, South Australia, West Australia and Singapore (It has given up its New Zealand and Sydney operations)

  • The CIS looks after New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand — and it has the major links to the US-based Atlas Group. The only other distinction is that they differ in management style.
    [SourceWatch on CIS] [SourceWatch on IPA] [SourceWatch on Eureka Forum]

IPA and CIS Subsidiaries:

The sister enterprise of the IPA and CIS have sloughed off a number of well-established and acknowledged subsidiaries such as:

  • The HR Nichols Society,
  • Bennelong Group,
  • Lavoisier Group
  • Samuel Griffith Society
  • Australians for Commonsense Freedom & Responsibility (ACFR).
These organisations might appear to have distinct entities but they share members, staff and facilities, and have strong cross-overs with the dry faction of the Liberal Party.

More recently, the IPA has been the driving force behind the establishment of a number of new non-profit front groups in Australia, including the
  • Australian Environment Foundation — (2008) which campaigns for weaker environmental laws. Obviously the choice of this name was to confuse the public between the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Aust. Environment Foundation. Prior to this, the IPA's Environment Division had created the "Eureka Forum" who's slogan was "Reclaim the Environment" [from 'environmental fundamentalists']. It was run by IPA fellow Jennifer Marohasy who also works through the CIS.

  • Independent Contractors of Australia — which campaigns for an end to workplace safety laws and a general deregulation of the labour market, [See] Ken Phillips, the Executive Director of the ICA is a prominent activist in Australia's right-wing think tanks. He is Director of the Workplace Reform Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs, a contributor to the Centre for Independent Studies' Policy journal, and a vocal member of the HR Nicholls Society. [See]
    • The Owner-Drivers Australia, which campaigns against safety and work standard for truck drivers is a subsidiary of the Independent Contractors, and is apparently run by the same group. Its spokesman is Don D'Cruz of the IPA.

      [At an absolute minimum, the naming of these organisations constitutes deceptive behaviour.]

  • The NGO Watch operation, once a unit of the IPA directed by Don D'Cruz, was set up in collaborated within the US-based Atlas Group. It has now been passed over to the
    • Global Governance Watch (GGW), a collaboration of two more affluent Atlas Group entitities, the American Enterprise Institute and the US Federalist Society.
      An early conference of the GGW had speakers from the Hudson Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Capital Research Center (all Atlas) ... plus Australians Gary Johns and Mike Nahan from the Institute of Public Affairs. [See Wikipedia] and [Sourcewatch]

  • Friends of Henry is entirely run by the IPA's Executive Director John Roskam, and its members get the IPA Review journal. It also has its own agricultural subsidiary,
    • " The Stretton Group", and is also linked to Gary Scarrabelotti who is editor and Managing Director of the Canberra-based consultancy Aequum: Political & Business Strategies. He runs some Catholic church operations. [See]

Other think tanks and societies like the
  • Tasman Institute, [now defunct] which worked with the IPA/CIS in Victoria and New Zealand, remained close, but were probably separate entities.
  • The Brisbane Institute appears to be extremely close to the CIS however, and
  • The Workers Party (courtesy John Singleton and the mining industry) which was once a subsidiary, still lives on in Kalgoolie, WA, where it is run by Ron Manners, a fellow of the IPA. Manners is also Emeritus Chairman of the Australian Mining Hall of Fame, a member of the Mont Pelerin Society, and is on the Board of Overseers for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Washington DC (the Foundation behind the Atlas Group).

Both the CIS and the IPA have had their own overseas subsidiaries at various times
  • The CIS in New Zealand and
  • the IPA in Singapore.
The New Zealand subsidiary also worked for the tobacco industry; the Singapore subsidiary seems to have concentrated on promoting palm oil plantations.

Past Collaborations:

There are also some more established groups which were closely associated with the IPA and CIS in the past, but which are possibly now distinct entities. Because few verifiable public documents exist which outline their operational activities and sources of funding and control, it is difficult to identify the connections and scope of these organisations.

Think tanks around the world operate deliberately in this way, preferring an amorphous mass of small entitites co-operating and collaborating, to the obvious public identity of a monolithic merged organisations which will then become obvious targets. Since many of the leading members of think-tank boards usually have personal political ambitions, a number of smaller organisations also helps sop up the excess of egotism.

  • The Brisbane Institute, while claiming to be independent, has close ties to the Centre for Independent Studies. It's driving force appears to be physiotherapist Martin Leet, but the Instiute is cagey about the names of its 'fellows' — if it has any. It certainly has enough money to attract the CEO services of an ex-Pro Vice Chancellor of an unspecified UK university, and they don't come cheap. [Staff listings]

  • Gerald Henderson's Sydney Institute was sloughed off from the IPA, and now appears to serve as a private operation for the Hendersons' personal aggrandizement and influence, and to boost to his Sydney Morning Herald/Age credentials. He and his wife Anne run it and they both generously share their wisdom with newspaper and magazine readers around the country. The tobacco industry may not fund the Sydney Institute today, but they certainly did in its early days. [See accompanying documents]

  • Des Moore, who worked for the IPA from 1987 to 1996 now runs his own one-man think-tank, the Institute for Private Enterprise, and also consults to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). He still works with the IPA/CIS.
    • There are some legitimate questions about the operations and control of the ASPI, but we can't go into them here. It seems to be mainly a channel of funding for independent defence policy researchers; a job that the Lowy Institute is now duplicating. The current Chairman, ex-Labor apparatchik and politician Stephen Loosley, is also a professional lobbyist for a number of companies.

  • Tom Switzer, a long-term Senior Fellow at the IPA came to Australia after a stint at the American Enterprise Institute, and later became a Liberal Party adviser. He now works through the US Studies Centre at Sydney University and is editor of Spectator Australia (created with US funding).
    • Janet Albrechtson, who was on the ABC Board, became a household name after she was chosen as a regular columnist for The Australian by Switzer, then the op-ed page editor.
    • The US Studies Centre apparently had a $25 million endowment — with an unspecified large part coming from the American Australian Association (AAA) in New York. The AAA was founded by Sir Keith Murdoch, and it has been supported ever since by Rupert Murdoch. It's Advisory Board also has executives from many of the large US corporations.
      • Until he was fired for financial irregularities recently, Tom McAdam, ex IPA Review editor and Philip Morris Corporate Affairs head, ran the AAA in Australia.
      • The Australian-American Leadership Dialogue was founded as an offshoot to the AAA, by Phil Scanlan (Now Consul-General in New York). Scanlan was the Vice President of Public Relations for a British-American Tobacco in Australia (AMATIL) who famously made the statement on TV that "nicotine was not addictive" ... the night before the tobacco industry in the US made a formal admission that it was.
      • Scanlan established the Leadership Dialogue along the lines of faux bi-lateral/junket organisations like the American European-Commission Association (AECA) and the New York Society for International Studies (NYSIA). These had been created by Philip Morris's Andrew Whist and David Morse to provide a funding channel for international politicians' junkets. [See] [See]

  • And of course, we have the bible, Quadrant which Prime Minister John Howard celebrated in an address to the magazine's supporters (10 April 2007) as having "fought the good fight" against "stultifying orthodoxies and dangerous utopias" of the "pro-communist Left" who were "ideological barrackers for regimes of oppression opposed to Australia and its interests" .

  • We do not know how closely the Sydney based Australians for Common Sense, Freedom and Responsibility (ACFR) is integrated with the IPA, CIS and the Sydney Institute, although it has shared the same group of spokespersons. The ACFR appears however to be run by Law Professor Mark Cooray, in some arrangement with the tobacco industry's lawyers Clayton Utz. Their legal partner Richard Travers has been credited as "President", and the ACFR worked at one time virtually openly for the tobacco industry.

  • The Australian Libertarian Society is at least honest with its naming. This group was founded by John Humphreys in Queensland who is an Adjunct Scholar with the Center for Independent Studies. He also writes articles on Austrian economics for the IPA.

    Humphreys is also editor-in-chief of Menzies House, which launched the [See] web site, and he thinks the Principality of Liechtenstein represents the ideal state. He appears to represent mining interests when he is not writing about "health Nazis" for the tobacco companies. [See]

And there is also a range of other libertarian organisations which are outside this spectrum of malice such as the:

  • Adam Smith Club which resulted from a merger between the Libertarian Dinner Club and the newsletter Optimism . (Sydney and Melbourne)

  • Center 2000 a "dry" club for young people set up by Elaine Palmer and Nadia Weiner. It aligned itself with the "Joh for Canberra" campaign.

  • Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS) which was a successful attempt to plant a partisan political think-tank in the campus of a public-funded Australian university. Melbourne University took the $460,000 offered and also the funder's recommendation to give the new chair to Professor Michael Porter. Later Porter left CoPS to form the Tasman Institute with Alan Moran, and work they worked with the IPA on Project Victoria for the Kennett Government.

  • National Institute for Labour Studies (NILS). Founded in 1972 by Professor Keith Hancock at Flinders University, NILS is Australia’s oldest labour studies research centre and, in the opinion of John Hyde, it is one of the premier "Dry" operations. He claims it as one of the IPA's own (but not legally). Since 1981 it has operated as an incorporated association wholly owned by Flinders University. The leadership group consists of Professors Richard Blandy, Judith Sloan (Director), Mark Wooden and subsequently Sue Richardson.

  • The Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research's Professor Judith Sloan was deputy chairwoman of the ABC from 1999 to 2005 while also on the Academic Advisory Council of the CIS. She doesn't obviously flaunt her libertarian inclinations (except to attack public broadcasting), but her background has included acting as an advisor and report-writer for the notorious New Zealand Business Roundtable (1994)

  • Mannkal Economic Education Foundation in WA which "promotes the Libertarian vision". This is one of many entities run by Ron Manners, an associate of John Hyde and member of the AIPP. Hyde is also a Director of Mannkal. In his spare time Manners also runs the rump of the old Worker's Party, the book publisher MannWest, the Australian Mining Hall of Fame, and is on the Board of Overseers of the Atlas Foundation in Washington DC (the Foundation of the Atlas Network)

    The 'Executive Fellow' of the Mannkal Economic Foundation is Andrew Pickford, who is also Senior Fellow with the International Strategic Studies Association and project consultant to CEDA — the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia. [which doesn't appear to be too sinister a lobby-group!]

Outight Political Arms:

The organisations known as the "Crossroads" group was established in the 1970s by a faction of the Liberals around John Hyde with financial support from the Clough family. The head of PR for AMATIL, Phil Scanlon (now Consul-General for Australia in New York) was a member; AMATIL then had the cigarette-making franchaise for British-American Tobacco.

Later with Jim Carlton, they established the Society for Modest Members which threatened to split the Liberals in 1986 if the party did not take more notice of the radical "New Right". Their blackmail succeeded.

Book publishing subsidiaries:

The IPA/CIS and subsidiaries have dozens of small publishing ventures (little more than vanity publishing) run by members.

The speciality of many of the smaller libertarian organisations is vanity book-publishing, ie MannWest, Connor Court Publishing, etc. They also appear to have an international distribution system linked to the Atlas Group where each organisation provides local mail-order services for books published in other countries and by other organisations in the same country. The same books turn up all around the world on Libertarian mail-order sites. The UK smoker's rights organisation FOREST, for instance, sells books by Professor Mark Cooray of the Sydney ACFR and also books commissioned by the US Tobacco Institute from Professor Robert Tollison.

How big is this iceberg ?

There are numerous other organisations which surface constantly when you look into the operations of think-tanks in Australia that makes you realise that a lot of their activity is below the surface. It is this fragmentation which makes it particularly difficult to identify the often commercial nature of the operations that are being jointly carried out under the guise of ideology.

This is not to suggest that all of these organisations take corporate commission — we specifically direct Your attention to the IPA and CIS which have a documented history of commercial lobbying for tobacco.

According to the usually-reliable Dr Damien Cahill, a think-tank researcher from Wollongong University, we should also consider the close associations between these organisations. He writes:
    "Think tanks and groups such as the Institute of Public Affairs, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), the Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS), the Australian Institute of Public Policy (AIPP), the H.R.Nicholls Society, Centre 2000, Crossroads, the Tasman Institute, the Institute for Private Enterprise (IPE), and the Australian Adam Smith Club, provided the radical neo-liberal movement with its organisational backbone."
[See Cahill article]

See also this excellent article by Cahill and Professor Sharon Beder on their role in the privatisation of Victoria's electricity system, etc. [See also]

A good example of the integration of these supposedly fragmented organisations (and their crossover between ideology and commerce) is to look at the record of Chris Ulyatt who runs a web-site design company on the side.

  • In 1991 he wrote a booklet with Ray Johnstone on behalf of the tobacco industry Health Scare: The Misuse of Science in Public Health Policy which was published by John Hyde's Australian Institute for Public Policy in Perth.
  • Between 1987 and 1991 he was AIPP's editorial director and also a part-time lecturer in the University of Western Australia [See] [See]
  • In 1991 he then became Editorial Director of the Institute of Public Affairs based in Melbourne.
  • He now also works part time for the HR Nicholls Society and the Lavoisier Group (under Gary Johns) and is credited for his help in John's book "Dreamtime: The Illusion of Aboriginal Self-Determination" published by the Bennelong Society.
  • He now co-owns and runs Fergco Pty Ltd , which designs and manages web sites commercially. It also provides the management of web-sites for this group of think-tanks.
One ABC blogger recently asked:
    What objectivity can you expect from the Lavoisier Group, founded by Ray Evans of Western Mining, with a website designed by Chris Ulyatt of the Institute of Public Affairs, and sharing a postbox with the H R Nicholls Society and the Bennelong Society.
The only certainty we can have about the tip of this iceberg — the IPA and CIS — is that they can call on subsidiaries and the Atlas Group when needed. Therefore only a few of their media propaganda operations will necessarily carry the IPA or CIS brand name.

This means that the ABC needs to do extensive due diligence before becoming party to an arrangement with organisations like the IPA or the CIS. This has not been done.

These Australian organisations are part of a global network of think-tanks which have been extensively and irrefutably documented as working for the global tobacco companies through many hundreds of primary papers and memos, all released under a legal settlement agreement with the US Justices Department.

How closely is the IPA/CIS conglomerate aligned with foreign interests?

This is a legitimate question to ask when the member think-tanks of the Atlas Group are using the ABC to prosthelyse an economist-rationalist ideology, and often promoting what are essentially American nationalistic and corporate messages.

John Hyde admits in his biography "Dry" that the Atlas Group and the Institute for Economic Affairs provided more than just guidance in establishing both the Lindsay's CIS and his own AIPP. Hyde writes about Fisher's formation of these global network using money earned from intensive chicken farming:
    [Frederick] Hayek advised [Sir Antony] Fisher to spend his money not on trying to influence politicians directly, but to invest in a think tank that would, by reasoned argument, make the case for economic freedom to the general public.

    Fisher, who had first made quite a lot of money farming poultry, then devoted much of it and his time from 1955 onwards to founding the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). It was to do more than anything since the Battle of Britain to save Britain from collectivism. Under the Directorship of Ralph Harris [Lord Harris of High Cross and the tobacco industry's President of FOREST] and Research Directorship of Arthur Seldon, its authors were to provide the ideas that 24 years after the IEA's formation sustained the Thatcher revolution.

    Think tank directors in many countries today still regard the IEA as archetypal. It avoided political party involvement [He jests], concentrating on influencing the intellectual climate alone. Its hundreds of publications were written by academic economists but were short — seldom more than fifteen thousand words — and addressed to a lay readership. Harris was a brilliant publicist; Seldon a brilliant editor. By their rigour alone these won respect for the Institute and the ideas. Thus faith in collectivism was worn away from its more vulnerable edges.

    When the IEA was well established, Fisher turned his attention to the role of ideas in the future of other countries. He next assisted in founding the Fraser Institute in Canada. [Hyde misses out the Pacific Resarch Institute in San Francisco, and the Manhattan Institute in New York] Then, with the Institute of Humane Studies of the United States [At George Mason University], he formed the Atlas Foundation [also at GMU], and that assisted with founding liberal institutes in many countries, some of them much less free than Britain or the US. The IEA thus became the model for many other liberal think tanks mainly within the English speaking world, Latin America and latterly Eastern Europe.
    [ George Mason University was part-funded by the Koch Foundation and is regarded as "a magnet for right-wing money." It hosts over 40 libertarian think-tanks and research centers on its campus]

    Organisations, such as the Fraser Institute, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and Australia's CIS have international reputations but most do not. Some have annual budgets twenty times greater than the CIS, but again most do not. There are now more than 40 in Latin America alone.

[Hyde wrote this many years ago, and since that time the annual budget Atlas spends internationally on pump-priming has more than quadrupled, and the number of think-tanks in the network has risen by about the same amount.]

It can not be a coincidence that we have documentary evidence that every think-tank he mentioned in this list takes money from the tobacco industry — both in the form of generous annual donations, and also in the form of specific lobbying commissions.


  • This is the scale of just one of the tobacco-funded activities conducted through a George Mason University (Atlas Group) think-tank, the Center for the Study of Public Choice — [See Cash-for-comment economists network]
  • Think-Tank Watch listing of the Atlas Group. [The think-tank movement] [Atlas Foundation] [Antony Fisher]
  • Sir Antony Fisher video puff-piece [See]