Tales of Australian Democracy

by Hungry Charley

Tales of Australian Democracy

by Hungry Charley

The true extent of the Koch Network in Australia

15 July 2019 (structure of Australian think tanks updated18 August 2019)

The true extent of the Koch Network in Australia.

Preface

Dominic Kelly’s analysis of the rise of what he calls the ‘hard right’ in Australia, Political Troglodytes and Economic Lunatics (2019) is a must read and shows how a relatively small group of people and organisations advocating an extreme right wing ideology have successfully implanted itself into the current Australian political scene and indeed government policy. He notes that the Australian political character draws from two traditions, the more traditional colonial heritage and the post-war influence from the US. It is contended that a successful transition from a fringe right wing ideology to be part of a dominant political hegemony has been accomplished in ‘plain sight’ in Australia, initially via a network of think tanks and achieved without any significant grassroots movement but by a usurpation of the policy agenda of the Liberal Party. This is no more obvious than the relegation by the Government of the environment as a mere tradable quantity (now being played out in the Murray Darling Basin scandal) and a persistent attacks on renewable energy.

With the benefit of recent works exposing this right wing ideology in the US (Mayer 2016 and MacLean 2017), this essay examines the American stream of this ideology, indeed the chief proponents worldwide, the oil and tobacco cabal and their supporters. The inception, infiltration and adoption of this radical free market philosophy in Australia, what may be called ‘libertarianism’ or ‘classical liberalism' needs to be examined and held up for greater scrutiny, as it is a political philosophy to benefit the few, not the many, by whatever means necessary.

 

Part 1. Liberty for some

The large corporations have in reality become the equivalent of deposit banks. They are perceived as centres of measurable value in troubled times, rather like gold once was.” (John Ralston Saul, ‘Voltaire’s Bastards’, p.403).

I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington”. Charles Koch, 2011.

Many were horrified to see the headlines in the Guardian recently, “Robot-sex-expert-on-honours-list-plans-college-with-fraser-anning-to-teach-trumpism”. The man at the centre of the controversy, Prof Adrian Cheok, claimed he was setting up an educational institution, located somewhere in Brisbane calling it the ‘Nikola Tesla graduate school’. The unfinished website lists Anning as the honorary chairman and president and proposes to run courses on electrical science, ‘Trumpism’, ‘Bannonism’ and ‘western civilisation’. While some may regard this as a laughable attempt to get Mr Anning into the news, it belies a much more serious and concerted effort to import and strengthen the radical right agenda in Australian politics through a relatively small number of actors and a trail of money both in and outside Australia.

The rise of ‘libertarianism’ in the US has been remarkable, a ‘hard right’ ideology, one which aims to implement the ideas of ‘classical’ or ‘laissez-faire’ capitalism and ‘small government’, generally cloaked by expressions of individual liberty and fairness. The rise and influence of this economic/political movement since the Second World War has been well documented by two important works on this topic, Jane Mayer’s ‘Dark Money’ (Mayer 2016) and Nancy MacLean’s ‘Democracy in Chains’, (MacLean 2017), essential reading for those who are interested in the future of democracy. These authors contend that the Koch corporate empire and network of charities are central players in what is essentially an alliance among fossil fuel, tobacco and armament/technology interests that share a common vision where the market is king.

Mayer and MacLean identify how this network of intellectuals and large corporations are seeking to influence government into adopting its ideas for their own benefit, through a number of means. Principally by setting up and funding a network of think-tanks and lobbyists, university ‘schools’ to push libertarian ideas, by lobbying and influence in political parties, use of high profile individuals and eventually ‘grassroots’ organisations for political impact. They highlight however that this has been primarily a ‘top-down’ movement, leading hard right thinkers like James Buchanan (I shall call them Neocons here), did not anticipate the public would accept the ideas of ‘pure capitalism’ and following the failure of David Koch to be elected to the US Congress in 1980, focussed on more covert means to achieve their goals (MacLean 2017) including setting up an international network of like-minds.

But Obama came and the Right in the US was able to use this to bring together, racist, religious and other conservative groups culminating in the popular Tea Party movement, an opportunity to obtain public acceptance of their ideas the Koch Network did not miss. The current state of play in the US is that the Neocons have gained dominance in the Republican Party and there is also a growing Libertarian Party, supported by a significant right wing constituency. Neocons are now in a strong position in the US politic, and its policies are currently being implemented more than ever before thanks in large part to Trump and his family, despite the denials by the Koch Bros that they do not support the president.

The evidence presented in considerable research on this topic shows that the key objectives of the libertarian movement in the US has been to reduce market and regulatory restrictions on corporate activity, to increase privatisation of government services and infrastructure and to promote doubt about climate change in order to prevent real action. This last issue has emerged as a key feature of this ideology, all Republican presidential candidates at the last election except one did not believe that humans are contributing to climate change or that it was happening at all. The Republican Party itself has only a small group of climate ‘believers’. This astounding statistic shows the significant success of the fossil fuel industry in affecting the public discourse in the US. Koch Industries themselves of course are primarily an oil company, one of the largest, gaining much wealth through refining and now relying heavily on the development of the tar sand fields in Canada.

The influence of this fossil fuel cabal in Australian politics and its links with local mining interests has been the subject of some speculation, notably in the independent media and in Dominic’ Kelly’s (2019) new book, Cahill’s work on secret societies in the 70s-90s (2004) and Clive Hamilton’s 2007 book on the rise of the climate change culture war during the Howard era. The trends are there to see, like the growing outsourcing of government services, selling of public assets, circumvention of normal approval processes and particularly, opposition to any real action on climate change. The latter no more evidenced recently by the announcement that the Emissions Reduction Fund is considering whether public money should be given to coal-fired power generators.

 

The Atlas Network

Another clue to the increasing presence of the Koch Empire in Australia today was uncovered by the Australian Financial Review in April this year. This focussed on a Tim Andrews and his connections in the United States (he worked for the Cato Institute and as a personal associate for Charles Koch). Here he set up the Sydney-based think-tank, the Australian Taxpayer’s Association (ATA) and in the US where he now resides, he is currently managing the Koch-funded Taxpayer’s Protection Alliance, an organisation which actively lobbies to reduce tax rates, particularly for business, a message that governments both here and in the US seem to have heard quite well. He is also a Director of the Australian Libertarian Society and a member of the UK Taxpayers Alliance Advisory Council.

Internationalisation of the Neocon message is clearly the contemporary aim of this political ‘movement’. Developments in the UK, particularly in relation to the Liam Fox/Atlantic Bridge affair shone a light onto the extent of the Network’s cross-Atlantic collaboration on a number of issues including climate denial and Brexit. Right wing think tanks and lobby groups are well established in the UK, particularly the Institute of Economic Affairs and the climate change denying Global Warming Policy Foundation, patronised by notables such as Lord Nigel Vinson, Neil Record, Edwin Atkin, Owen Paterson, Michael Gove and the prominent ‘Australian’ and hedge-fund king, Sir Michael Hintze who has his own ‘network’ of institutional and corporate influence in Australia.

Due to the secretive way transactions are undertaken (tax laws in the US allow for little disclosure by charities and not for profits), it is virtually impossible to trace the flow of all money. Information collated by LittleSis show these UK organisations receive the bulk of donations from Koch-funded entities, particularly the Cato Institute and the Atlas Network . This latter organisation as it turns out is a key part of the international ‘Kochtopus’. The Atlas Network is the trading name of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (AERF), it is a Washington DC-based non-profit organization that, “works to support and grow a network of more than 400 think tanks in more than 80 countries promoting individual liberty and free market ideals.” These think-tanks are referred to as ‘partners’, the implication being that all are singing from the same prayer book and receiving levels of assistance from the parent organisation. How much of course is less clear.

The establishment of a global right wing network of think tanks and influence is not a recent phenomenon. The AERF was founded by Englishman Sir Antony Fisher in 1981, acquaintance of Frederick Hayek, notable free market economist. Fisher had previously founded the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. He also set up the International Policy Network (IPN), acting as a co-ordinating body for the Atlas Network partners and affiliated groups in the UK. AERF clearly lies within the sphere of control by the Koch Network of not-for-profits and oil and tobacco corporate allies, with a list of donors typical of the cabal including the Charles Koch Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Koch-funded Donors Trust, called by LittleSis the “Dark Money ATM of the Conservative Movement”, the large tobacco firms and ExxonMobil. Where ever Koch Industries opens its wallet it seems so does Exxon. The Donors Trust runs the charity, the Donors Capital Fund for anonymous donors of $1 million dollars or over.

The Atlas Network ‘partners’ in Australia are six in total and judging by their websites, still very much in business. Besides the Australian Taxpayers Association (ATA), the other Sydney-based think tank is the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), in Brisbane there are two, the Australian Institute for Progress (AIP) and LibertyWorks Inc (LWI), in Melbourne there is the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and in Western Australia we have the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation (MEEF).

In addition, as will be shown here, there are a number of professors, writers and public relations actors with close connections to these think tanks, who have furthered the objectives of this network. It is the intention to shed some light on some of these connections and flows of finance and influence, but what is the nature of these organisations and what is their requirement for financial disclosure?

Like in the US, Australian right wing think tanks are have been set up in a simialr way with key organisations, described below, having a front group (generally a non pofit or an incorproated entity) backed by registered charities. These groups generally have the stated aim of providing educational and research benefits to the Australian public. Remarkably, disclosure of funding sources is not stringent under current tax laws if you are a registered Donation or Gift Recipient and do not fall under any of the special categories, your annual reporting requirements do not include disclosure of funding sources. Likewise for charities, annual reporting does not disclose particular donors but total income and sources ccording to categories.

 

 

Part 2. The Australian Partners

Since the global financial crisis and recession of 2007-2009, criticism of the economics profession has intensified. The failure of all but a few professional economists to forecast the episode - the after effects of which still linger - has led many to question whether the economics profession contributes anything significant to society.” Robert J. Shiller

The Institute of Public Affairs

But it suits the think-tanks not to have to disclosure. The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) is a non-profit organisation, though is also backed by a registered charity, the Trustee For Institute Of Public Affairs Research Trust. The Executive Director of the prominent Melbourne-based think-tank and Atlas Partner, John Roskram explained in 2005 to the Age, it is not for the IPA to disclose its financial supporters, because, "Whether we like it or not, the Australian democracy is not so sophisticated that companies can reveal they support free market think tanks, because as soon as they do they will be attacked." In this interview he admitted that past donors included tobacco firms, Telstra, Western Mining and BHP Billiton. He also admitted that the IPA have links with a number of overseas groups, including the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, the largest neo-conservative think-tank in the US. According to LittleSis, funding for this institution comes from the regular group of cabal charities and corporations including the Donors Capital Trust, the Dick and Betsy Devos Foundation, Sarah Scaife and ExxonMobil of course.

The IPA provides annual reports on its website however and in 2016-17 claimed to have $3.8 million in cash reserves, with an income for the year over $6 million. 86% of this income was said to have come from individuals, with 12% from ‘foundations’ and only 1% from business. This level of income suggests an increase since the 2005 admissions by Roskram in the Age where a figure of $1 million was given. The IPA’s own figures in the 2016-17 Annual Report show a steady increase over the years, the source of most is unclear of course, but we know where one major donation has come from, Gina Rinehart.

From the registered charity records which are publically available, the latest return (May 2019) shows an income mainly in donations of $870,000 for the financial year to that point, while total expenses (100% of income) falls into the category of 'other'. Interestingly the 2017 period income for the charity ($650,000 mostly in donations) is quite different to that stated on the front organisation's website, where the bulk is from 'individuals' though seems to correpsond to the amount the IPA said they received from 'foundations' for that financial year.

The IPA states it “supports the free market of ideas, the free flow of capital, a limited and efficient government, evidence-based public policy, the rule of law, and representative democracy”. It conducts specific research particularly into areas including climate change, ‘red tape’ reduction, economic theory and ‘freedom of speech’. It hosts conferences and lectures across the country and publishes the ‘IPA Review’, with claims it is “Australia’s longest running political magazine”. In 2008, the IPA Review was awarded the Sir Anthony Fisher Memorial Award for best magazine, that’s Sir Anthony of the Atlas Network.

The IPA is the oldest right-wing think tank in Australia and was formed in 1943 by Charles Kemp, with assistance from Keith Murdoch and representatives of the Coles Corporation, BHP, National Australia Bank (Kelly 2019). It started with the Keynsian consensus view of society and economics, but during the Reagan and Thatcher era, became more in tune with the rising international ‘neo-liberal’ movement. According to Cahill (2004) members of the IPA executive from 1976-1984 included David L. Elsum, Hon Vernon Wilcox, Sir Frank Espie, Douglas Hocking, Sir Wilfred Brookes, James Balderstone, Peter Bunning, Charles Goode and Hugh Morgan.  

The same names now for the trustees of the IPA's registered charity, but also includes current Chairman Janet Albrechsten and Rod Kemp.

Currently the IPA (and others including the Menzies Research Centre) are trying to save western civilisation, engaging some academics and developing course work for the ‘Foundations of Western Civilisation Program’, in this case designed for Years 6-9. The IPA state that, “if we want to understand Australia’s success as a modern nation, as one of the world’s oldest continuous democracies, we must look back to the origins of our institutions.” Looking back is fine, but where is the IPA thinking we should go? Their current policies to ‘fix Australia’ can be found here, including withdrawl from the Paris Agreement, a flat income tax rate and holding “a Royal Commission into the Bureau of Meteorology’s tampering with temperature and climate data.” This mighty vision, all to stop us marching down the ‘Road to Serfdom’.

But the election of two ex-IPA members to parliament, Tim Wilson and James Paterson in 2016, confirms the transition that the IPA has been undertaking over the last 30 years, from a think tank to be part of a growing political hegemony, including a growing university student presence as summarised by Janet Albrechtson, current Director of the IPA, at their 75th birthday event last year.

 

The Australian Taxpayer’s Association

Returning to the Sydney-based Australian Taxpayer’s Association (ATA), amongst other things, claims to be a ‘grass-roots organisation’. More likely this is ‘astro-turfing’ the numbers according to the AFR story this year. A key current project of the ATA is the campaign, ‘MyChoice Australia’, dedicated to “… restoring individual freedom, personal responsibility, and rolling back the nanny state.” Its main focus is to fight against taxation on smoking products, such as vaporisers.

The ATA is an incorporated body though is also backed it seems an associated charity, the Taxpayers Research Foundation Limited. It had a reported income of over $22,000 for the 2017 financial year, mostly from returns on investments.

Also on the ATA advisory board is Joanne Nova, a prominent Australian climate change denier, well known for her contribution to the ‘Climategate email saga’. The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne listed Jo Nova as the “… balancing counterpoint to the combined scientific weight of The UN and government departments.” Another prominent ATA Board member is Ross Cameron, ex-Liberal Member for Parramatta and parliamentary secretary under the Howard Government. Cameron has worked as a Senior Consultant for Macquarie Bank but more recently became a regular face on Sky News, where his extreme right wing views are well known.

The Centre for Independent Studies

Another influential Australian Atlas Network Partner, judging by its more temperate public face and pack of publicly familiar ‘associates’, is the Sydney-based Centre for Independent Studies (CIS). The Centre have claimed to be more transparent than the IPA, though as founder Greg Lindsay has stated, it is "a matter between the individuals or the organisations that give to us, and us, and it's a private thing, it's nobody else's business" (the Age 2005). Mr Lindsay is still a Director and a ‘Research Scholar’ for the CIS which he set up in 1976. One source states that Sir Antony Fisher of AERF fame, also had a direct hand in setting up the CIS as did Hugh Morgan who convinced some corporate friends to chip in in 1979 starting the CIS on its way (Kelly 2019).

A look at the CIS website today shows no public disclosure of any financial statements or annual reports, though the Age story in 2005 credited CIS as having twice the income as the IPA. CIS appears to be an incorporated entity, though this is not clear from the website. The associated charity for the organisation, the Centre For Independent Studies Ltd, however does suggest the CIS is incorporated. The public returns for the charity show an income for this financial year till March 2019, of nearly 4 million dollars, mainly from donations, like the IPA. Unlike the IPA however, expenditure is a mix of wages and 'other' expenses. the charity has a long list of 'responsible people' inlcuding Tom Switzer, Greg Lindsay, Sam Kennard and Nicholas Moore. 

It sponsors forums and research on a range of topics particularly social conservatism, international security and economics. The CIS also run one day student courses and seminars. Unlike the IPA, over the years it has carefully courted both sides of politics (Kelly 2019).

The current Executive Director is Tom Switzer (ex-editor of the Spectator, ex-Liberal Party advisor. journalist for the Australian and Radio National presenter) and the Chairman is Nicholas Moore (ex-CEO of Macquarie Group). Switzer, the familiar face of the CIS and US-phile, undertook a three year cadetship with the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute following his graduation. The CIS supports a number of ‘research scholars’, including providing sponsorship for visiting free-market thinkers from overseas each year. In 2015 it was Tom Palmer, executive vice president for international programs at the Atlas Network and a senior fellow at Cato Institute and director of Cato University.

The CIS also has many ‘academic advisors’ and contributors, who write articles on range of international security, policy, economic and environmental issues, one of whom is Prof Jeff Bennett, based at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU) who has spoken and written extensively on environmental policy in Australia. Prof. Bennett’s views on environmental issues are well known, as espoused in his book ‘Little Green Lies’. He is the current Australian director for the Mont Pelerin Society.

Now an Emeritus Professor, Bennett ran post-graduate courses through the Environmental Economics Research Hub at ANU between 2012-18. His work mostly falls in the area of Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA), since 2000 he has been writing papers on this subject particularly on the value of a BCA technique known as ‘Choice Modelling’, a market-centred approach to planning, no doubt inspired by James Buchanan’s views on what he called ‘Public Choice’. Bennett is a member of a number of government boards including the Social Sciences Advisory Board of the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). He also currently serves on the academic advisory board of the conservative Menzies Research Centre. Prof Bennett’s public choice approach to planning has been used by both NSW and Commonwealth agencies, though in the case of Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association Inc v Minister for Planning and Infrastructure and Warkworth Mining Limited, CM was found to be deficient when weighing up the different triple bottom line considerations in an equitable manner.

Partner of Koch associate Tim Andrews is Helen Andrews, a political analyst and writer for a number of American magazines including the ‘National Review’, ‘First Things’, the ‘Claremont Review of Books’, ‘ and the notable publication, ‘Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation’. She is currently an occasional panellist on ABC TV programs such as the Drum and News 24's Planet America. Formerly a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies, her main area of ‘expertise’ are the areas said to be “charity regulation, preventive health and anti-discrimination laws” and also served as managing editor of the CIS's quarterly publication ‘Policy’. In the lead-up to the US election Andrews was a strong supporter of Donald Trump and has continued to back his administration since his inauguration as have virtually all names mentioned so far.

Other notable CIS affiliates is the noted economist Prof. Wolfgang Kasper, currently Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, ‘free-marketeer’ and academic advisor to the CIS and Prof. Geoffrey Brennan, also an Emeritus Professor at the Centre for Moral, Social and Political Theory at the ANU. Brennan’s biography states that he joined the Economics Faculty of the ANU in 1968, was appointed Professor in the Public Choice Center at Virginia Tech in the US, where he “… worked extensively with Nobel Laureate James Buchanan, co-authoring two books and a dozen articles with him over that period”. Geoffrey returned to the ANU where he joined the Research School of Social Sciences. Since 2005 he has spent a semester each year in the joint Duke/University of North Carolina PPE program as the General Director, a program designed to “integrate research in the fields of philosophy, politics and economics.”

The CIS was extremely excited about the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, and in 2017 organised an Atlas Network sponsored event, titled “Trump in Oz! Could ‘the Donald’ happen here?”. There is no doubt the rise of ‘populism’ in the US has provided some hope to some that the Neocon agenda has come of age and that Australia is set to follow the American lead . Speakers at this event include Ross Cameron, Tom Switzer and Louise Clegg, partner of prominent Coalition Minister and anti-renewable campaigner, Angus Taylor. Clegg is described as being, “a barrister and occasional opinion writer who is keen on democracy, foundational freedoms and the maintenance of core public institutions.” Clegg is obviously of the opinion that we have too many public institutions. Along with Tom Switzer, Clegg has a close association with the University of Sydney’s United States Study Centre and is currently a director. She is also currently on the board for Gerard Henderson's right wing Sydney Institute.

 

The Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

Moving to Western Australia, we have the Atlas Partner, the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation (MEEF) with the motto, “Mannkal promotes free enterprise, limited government, and individual initiative for the benefit of all Australians”. It is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1997 by Ron Manners who is a co-founder of ANDEV (Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision), a lobby group chaired by co-founder Gina Rinehart. Mr Manners' contribution to the mining industry earned him induction into the Australian Mining Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2010 he was appointed to the Board of Overseers for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, he is also a member of the Mont Pelerin Society.

The MEEF lists names of individual donors which are claimed make up the majority of funding. One name is Gina Reinhart, with it seems, Manners has a long and close relationship. There are no other financial disclosures on the website.

The MEEF provides scholarships to Western Australian universities mainly in the economic policy area and also conducts research in economic and policy issues. Mannkal sponsors a course in Public Choice Theory (PCT) at The University of Notre Dame in Fremantle. PCT is a set of economic tools “… designed to deal with the problems of deriving acceptable development outcomes”. It groups political actors as self-interested agents (voters, politicians, bureaucrats) and their interactions can be represented in a number of quantified ways. Conceptually this approach is similar to the BCA and Public Choice courses being taught at ANU. The links to the earlier economic rationalist work of Buchanan is undeniable.

Queensland Partners

In Queensland there is LibertyWorks Inc, whose motto is to “to stand firm and protect current freedoms from regulatory attack and expand liberty further by campaigning for change and further adoption of its principles”. Set up by Andrew Cooper, it claims to be a not-for-profit organisation with an annual talk fest and sagging petition to stop renewable targets. Speakers at this year’s get together to buoy the Queensland libertarians included Tom Switzer, Chris Berg, Joanne Nova and Bertina Arndt. Dr John Humphries is the Executive Director (he is also President of the Australian Libertarian Society and Deputy Director of the Australian Taxpayers Alliance) along with economist Dr Alan Moran as Director, noted for advocacy against taking action on climate change mainly through his articles in the Spectator.

However Andrew Cooper has emerged as a libertarian of renown in 2019 with the first Australian CPAC conference and his emergence as leader of the Liberal Democrat Party - Australia's own Libertarian party. 

Brisbane also is home to the Atlas partner, the Australian Institute for Progress (AIP), but there is little information available about this organisation on its website other than it receives finance from donations, membership and consultancies and promotes the “classic rights – freedom of expression, freedom of association, property rights, freedom of worship, and freedom of markets.” Graham Young is the Executive Director of the AIP. He is a pollster and political consultant, he claims on the website that he is, “pioneering the use of the Internet for qualitative and quantitative polling in Australia.” The Chairman is Bob Tucker, a property developer and former state president of the Liberal Party in Queensland. The AIP sponsors the annual Sir Thomas McIlwraith Lecture at the Tattersall’s Club, Brisbane.

The Meet and Greets: Mont Pelerin and Australian Libertarian Societies

It is worth noting here the connection of the CIS and the Australian Atlas Partners more generally with a very prominent international free market think tank, the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), founded in 1947 and based in Switzerland. The MPS is an invitation only society set up by prominent economic thinkers Frederick Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Frank Wright from the US apparently in response to the perceived threat to personal and economic liberty from the growing post-war rise of authoritarian government. It was an attempt to bring the various free-market thinkers from the US and Europe together, and members have included notables such as Milton Friedman and James Buchanan. While the more moderate ‘Austrian School’ has always had a strong influence, these days the US libertarian or “classical liberalism” view seems to be dominant now, the Society being primarily managed today through people linked to Koch-funded institutes.

Australian directors in the MPS were published by DeSmog in 2010 and include CIS founder Greg Lindsay, current director, Prof Jeff Bennett, Dr Michael Porter, Ray Evans, Sir John Brunner, Ron Manners, Ron Kitching, Prof. Wolfgang Kasper, Padraic P. McGuinness, Maurice Newman, Prof. Geoffrey Brennan, Gary Sturgess, John Hyde and Prof. Ross Parrish.

Besides long time right-wing activists Ray Evans, Ron Manners and Padraic McGuinness, other notable names on this list include policy advisors to the Abbott Government, Maurice Newman, who was chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council and Andrew Norton, co-author of the report on Australia’s higher education funding system. Both also have ties to the CIS, Newman since the beginning of the CIS as a founding member and Norton who was a research fellow and editor of its magazine, Policy.

It is also worth noting here the role of the Australian Libertarian Society (ALS) the self-described “central portal for information about the libertarian movement in Australia” mainly holds an annual ‘Friedman Conference’ a chance for like minds to interact in the Neocon space. Current 2019 Libertarian of the Year is Peter Phelps, well known for his anti-science rant in the NSW parliament claiming that scientists tend to support totalitarian regimes and was also a Liberal Party Candidate in the seat of Monaro in 2016.

 

Summary

There are a number of clear patterns emerging in the way this network operates and what its key objectives are. The first is that the flow of money in these organisations seems to be circular. Organisations in the Koch Network pass the money on to each other, even among the Australian organisations, one Atlas Partner will for example sponsor another’s conference or other event. Paid staff members also move from one organisation to the other frequently.

The front organisations use part of the money they receive to sponsor public forums, publications and academic courses to affect the public debate on a number of issues and to inform a new cadre of libertarian inspired economists, social commentators, policy and security ‘experts’. All the while public disclosure of funding sources is not existent under tax laws and the IPA is the only Atlas Partner whom has seen fit to provide the public with income and expenditures summaries.

It is clear from the information we can trace, the key focus of these organisations has been;

• To legitimise the Public Choice economic-rationalist philosophy as espoused by James Buchanan within Australian universities and agencies and within the Liberal and National Parties,

• To promote the ideological need for a reduction of regulation and taxation, particularly as they affect big business,

• A growing advocacy for climate scepticism (and the right to advocate this position) and pro-US stance on international security issues, whatever the US may do.

But to understand the full extended network of Neocon influence in Australia, there is another group of right wing think tanks to consider. These are the Kangaroo Conservatives and their network of not-for-profit organisations and Incs that emerged in the 1980s gained strength uner the Howard era, and are still evolving into a formidable array of political voices. Who are these groups, what policy questions are they propagating and to what extent are they part of an ‘extended’ Koch Network?

 

Part 3. Kangaroo Conservatives

Becoming a part of a movement doesn't help anybody think clearly.” Sam Harris

Dominic Kelly’s (2019) book identifies three key characters in his opinion who, above all else, assisted the development of the ‘Hard Right’ movement in Australia. The ‘Troika’, composed of ex-Western Mining Corps (WMC) executives Ray Evans, Hugh Morgan and National Party icon, John Stone. Evans and Morgan were involved in the setting up of four ‘societies’ that addressed four key areas of policy for the Neocons, industrial relations (The H.R. Nicholls Society, formed in 1986), constitutional issues (Samuel Griffith Society, formed in 1992), Indigenous affairs (Bennelong Society, formed in 2000) and climate change (Lavoisier Group, formed in 2000).

Ray Evans we have met before, noted Neocon and Mont Pelerin and Libertarian Society member. According to Sourcewatch, Evans described his role with Morgan “… was to engage in the culture wars and provide him with feedback." Evans was likely to have been one the main conduits from the Australian stage to the international and American libertarians.

Hugh Morgan has a decent resume indeed and is perhaps Australia’s leading climate change sceptic and opponent of the Kyoto Protocol. Besides being a Member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, he was the CEO of Western Mining Corporation from 1990 to 2003, the President of the Business Council of Australia from 2003 to 2005, Director of the Liberal Party ‘money-pot’ the Cormack Foundation since 1988 and recently Chairman of the mining equity investor Areta Capital Partners. As well, he has a list of board memberships a mile long including international bodies generally in the area of mining and business.

Morgan was one of the original funders of the Atlas Partner, the Centre for Independent Studies and he has also was an early director for the Institute of Public Affairs. He sits on the board of governors for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, and is on the Asialink Council, a body apparently set up by the mining lobby to access Asian markets. Morgan was also a member of the highly secretive ‘Crossroads Group', which met during the early 1980s but is untracable now. This group seems to have merged into the Australian Davos Connection, which Morgan also helped establish, which is another right wing meet group which names just about anyone is anybody on the Neocon ‘big list’ with many names from the Liberal Party. The idea of this group is to create 'tomorrow's leaders' in free market thinking. It is part of the World Economic Forum, founded by Klaus Shwab and is today the premier meeting group of free-market advocates in the world today attempting, as they say, to "balance globalisation and national integrity".

The other right wing mover and shaker identified by Kelly (2019) is John Stone. He certainly has strong connections with the conservative parties, a former Senator for the National Party from Queensland, a Treasury official and served as head of Treasury from1979–84. Stone was also Australia’s executive director in the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank in Washington. Stone has also worked as a researcher at right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs and founder, together with Peter Costello, Ray and Hugh, of the right-wing HR Nicholls Society and the Samuel Griffith Society.

Stone is also a prominent climate change sceptic and propagator of climate conspiracies. In November 2006 he wrote that global warming is a "problem that exists chiefly in the fevered minds of its UN and Green proponents" (Stone 2006). He has also been accused of being overtly racist.

However there other important players in the Australian neocon scene that need mentioning here. One of the oldest ‘New Right’ organisations in Australia is the Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS) which is still operating out of a Melbourne tertiary institution, the ‘Victorian University’ . It was initially established at Monash University in 1979 by economist, Professor Michael Porter. The CoPS specializes in the economic rationalist, computable general equilibrium (CGE) modelling and undertakes academic/contract research and software development, training courses in CGE modelling and offers graduate student supervision. The Fraser government awarded CoPS a Research Centre of Excellence grant for $2.6 million which enabled it to “… construct elaborate econometric computer modelling for testing neo-liberal proposals, but also to bring to Australia a number of American radical neo-liberals as well as those involved in implementing radical neo-liberal agendas overseas." (Cahill, 2004).

According to Cahill (2004) the following people sat on Institute's Advisory Council between 1990 and 1991; S. Ballieu-Myer, Will Bailey, Dr Roderick Deane, William L. Dix, John Elliott, Kevan Gosper, Dame Leonie Kramer, Eric A. Mayer, Hugh Morgan, Sir Arvi Parbo, Richard Pratt, James Strong and Sir Ronald Trotter. The CoPS still maintains a website of its database of economic CGE models.

After the Institute lost its funding at Monash University under mysterious circumstances, Porter set up the Tasman Institute, another free-market think-tank, in 1990, a key advocate for the coal and mining industries in Australia. It later merged with ACIL Consulting to form ACIL Tasman, now Allen ACIL Consulting. According to Allen ACIL, it “… is the largest independent Australian owned economics and policy consultancy.” They specialise in the use of applied economics and econometrics to analyse, develop and evaluate policy, strategy and programs.

However ACIL Tasman was involved in some questionable advice to government agencies regarding renewable energy targets. As noticed by the Weekend Australian among other things, in a 2008 report for the oil & gas companies Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Woodside Petroleum, ACIL, “… tried to suggest that the carbon pricing scheme would put at risk LNG project development in the country. Since that report was issued, over $150 billion has been committed to construction of LNG investments including by Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil.” The fact that this consulting firm is now one of the leading policy advisors to government should be of concern.

The venerable Australian right wing think tank, the HR Nicholls Society, was established in 1986 by four people, John Stone, Peter Costello, Barrie Purvis and Ray Evans. Initially the purpose was to look at a number of issues at the time, the ‘Hancock Report’, the Review into Australian Industrial Relations Law and Systems, the significance of the Mudginberri dispute, the economic impact of our industrial relations practices in Australia and other similar matters. The Society subsequently focussed on industrial relations and wage issues in their public discussions. Currently the Board of HR Nicholls includes Simon Morgan, Michael Moore, Ken Phillips, Des Moore, who established the Institute for Private Enterprise (IPE) and was an early IPA director and Tim Andrews, our Koch friend in the US.

This body, the IPE, was established by Des Moore in February 1996 to promote the cause of private enterprise and argue for a reduction in the role of government. Prior to this, Moore worked for Treasury with John Stone, but spent four months in 1986 working for two prominent Koch-backed think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. After he returned Moore resigned from the Treasury and took up a position with the IPA where he remained until 1996 (Kelly 2019).

But in 2001, it was his involvement in analysing defence policies which led to Moore’s appointment to the board of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) which was established by the Government, with bipartisan support, as an independent think-tank on defence and strategic issues. He was made a life member in 2007. In December 2018, the ASPI set up the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme which sets registration requirements for foreign entities operating in Australia but does not include corporations. In 2003 he was appointed to the Board of the Public Sector and Commonwealth Superannuation Schemes, now known as ARIA, where he completed two terms. He currently speaks for another group, the Australian Institute of International Affairs which is another not-for-profit organisation, itself astro-turfing ‘daughter groups’ and maintaining a network of ‘like-minded think thanks, such as Chatham House.

As the world moved into the 21st century it seemed the right wing think tanks in Australia had become well established and relatively influential in the Liberal Party, in universities, the media and as strategic lobbyists. As Kelly (2019) points out, rather than being covert, the discourse around the policies they support particularly since the 2000s have been undertaken in a very public way, in fact had become part of the typical Liberal Party discourse. The new century though has brought into sharper focus however, a key issue for this movement today, one which appears to be critical and has come to define this right wing insurgency, the danger of the Kyoto Protocol and sensible emission reduction policies for "business as usual". 

 

Part 4. Carbon is Good for You

We dissociate ourselves specifically from the Forum’s use of the Monash name for their anti-science and anti-intellectual argument, to give that an air of authority. And we are asking that they withdraw the name.” Mark Durre, Sir John Monash’s great-grandson, 2018.

The Climate Conspiracy

One of the first organisations in Australia to devote itself to the principles of climate change denialism was the Lavoisier Group, formed and incorporated in March 2000 in Victoria, with the aims, “To promote vigorous debate within Australia on the science of global warming and climate change, and of the economic consequences of both unilateral or multilateral decarbonisation.”

It appears the founding members (Evans and Morgan) were deeply concerned at the drift in policy development they perceived was happening at, “… the highest levels of the Canberra mandarinate”. They were particularly concerned about the Paris Agreement, which they see as forced ’decarbonisation’ and they are also cautious of the World Trade Organisation rules and the use of trade sanctions which they see “… as an instrument of extraterritorial power”. But there can be no doubt as Kelly (2019) explores, the Lavoisier Group laid the groundwork for establishing a seemingly credible climate denial dialogue in this country that just would not go away. Other key people in this organisation for which credit must also be due are writer and commentator, Dr Jennifer Marohasy, Alan Moran (from LibertyWorks Inc), Tom Quirk, Joanne Nova (blogger), Paul Miskelly, (Landscape Guardians), Des Moore (IPE) and Paul Butler. Some of these names and their highly anti-scientific rhetoric appear again in the revamped climate denial group, the ‘Saltbush Club’.

A new name here is Tom Quirk, a corporate director of biotech companies and former board member of and writer for Institute of Public Affairs. He has written extensively on subjects of energy policy and climate change. He joined the Australian Climate Science Coalition's Scientific Advisory Panel and then the International Group of the same name. He currently is the principal of Quirk Partners, a real estate ‘billericay’ and has interests in “… venture capital, fund raising and investment management as well as business advisory work”. He helped set up a climate-change denying group, the Climate Study Group, in 2009 under the name, the “Fair Farming Group”.

Paul Miskelly worked for Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation for 32 years and gives public talks on nuclear power. The Independent in 2011 revealed he was connected with the Australian Landscape Guardians, a front group apparently set up with coal lobby money with links to the Liberal Party and the Institute of Public Affairs, in particular, through the IPA’s front group, the Australian Environment Foundation who is currently busy with issues such as climate science and the Murray Darling. The Landscape Guardians (they appear not to be currently be in operation) were incorporated in 2007 and was the support group for a number of other anti-wind power astro-turfed groups, similar in principle to the UK organisation, the Country Guardians, thought to be liked to the nuclear industry.

Other notables who were vocal during this anti-wind campaign was; mining corporate Peter Mitchell, who set up the astro-turf group, the Waubra Foundation, and the ‘enforcer’, Member for Hume, Angus Taylor. The anti-wind advocates have since blossomed into more general anti-renewable front group with an international focus and an even higher level of anti-scientific vitriol.

Another cluster of organistations, centered around noted conservative Cory Bernardi also has ties to the extended Koch Network. These include the Conservative Leadership Foundation (CLF), Menzies House and a number of websites including some which are now defunct, such as the Conservative Action Network, Stop Gillards Carbon Tax, Support Bolt, Reclaim Australia and Stop the Tent Embassy. In addition, the CLF and the Lavoisier Group use the Bert Kelly Research Centre as an office, which houses the 'Ray Evans Library'. 

The think tank Menzies House was co-founded by Bernardi and Koch protege, Tim Andrews. The website states that it is for "conservative, centre-right and libertarian thinkers and activists" and describes itself as a "subsidiary of the non-profit Australian Taxpayers' Alliance". Indeed Mr Andrews who is the founder of the ATA is still managing editor at the Menzies House.

Another example of an anti-environmental think tank which have appeared in the last ten years is the ludicrously named, ‘Galileo Movement’, following a tradition in amongst Neocons of naming your group after some dead person who has no say in it. Although sometimes, their relatives may not be happy about it. This group is more fringe than the others, and while not appearing to be in any direct or indirect benefit from the Koch Network, is promoting views championed by the Network. Ex-One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts is the main spokesperson, particularly the popular conspiracy theory that Australia's sovereignty is threatened by politically-driven falsehoods from UN agencies (particularly Agenda 21) and by Australian government agencies influenced by these ideas.

These advocates think that an agenda promoting biodiversity, sustainability and “fraudulent climate alarm”, is an imminent threat to our society and will undermine Australian sovereignty and governance. The Galileo Movement is the initiative of two retirees, Case Smit and John Smeed. Smit was founder and owner of Environmental Health Services (Aust) Pty Ltd, an organisation that monitored and advised on the effects of their environment on people's health. Smeed is a retired engineer.

The premier climate change denial think tank however in Australia today is the ‘Saltbush Club’, a group of over 200 individuals with expertise in a range of fields, heavily from the areas of geology and economics, but includes experts on understanding ‘tree-huggers’ and is very light on actual environmental or climate scientists. The Saltbush Club calls for Australia to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and to cease financing or supporting the international bodies promoting it. A list of Saltbush Club founding members and their skills can be found to the right, circa 2018.

Founder and Chairman is Jerry Ellis, other board members include Hugh Morgan, Joanne Nova, Ian Plimer and Viv Forbes. Jerry Ellis, retired chairman of BHP, who thinks we need ‘more balance’ in the climate debate, while Hugh Morgan, also has the same views. Another notable director is our friend Joanne Nova, who we have met before assisting Koch-funded organisations in Australia. Professor Ian Plimer is a noted climate change sceptic and Viv Forbes who is a director of Stanmore Coal is the Executive Director and founder. He claims that the organisation has a larger ‘silent membership’ who are united on the idea that, “… consumers of electricity who are concerned that the war on hydro-carbon energy has increased the costs and reduced the reliability of electricity for industry and private consumers.” This is clearly positioning by the libertarian Neocons, mindful to create the impression that their movement has popular support.

Amongst the current Australian Government, the Monash Forum appears to be the core of the Liberal Party pro-coal lobby, with 20 listed members, including Peter Dutton, Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz. While it appears not all of the Liberal and National Parties are climate ‘sceptics’ to the extent the Republican Party is, there is no doubt this is the dominant faction in the Coalition today. The political signals this provides to the public cannot be under-estimated and it seems this group and their agenda were instrumental in finishing the Turnbull Prime Ministership and any active support for the renewable sector or carbon pricing. This coupe d'etat was achieved by a relatively small group of people, some money and some good media.

 

The travelling sceptical minstrel show

One of the greatest challenges of course if you are intent on propagating scientifically invalid concepts is public credibility. This probably provided some motivation by the denialist clique is to take the fight international and so a group of key ‘scientists’ initially set up the Carbon Sense Coalition of international climate denial pundits and headed by Australian coal millionaire, Viv Forbes. It was set up in 2007 to “defend the role of carbon on earth and in the atmosphere“, and challenged the listing of carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the Federal National Pollutant Inventory.

This was apparently renamed the Australian Climate Science Coalition, headed by now deceased, Bob Carter, an adjunct professor at Queensland's James Cook University. A look at the website now however finds it to be archived, perhaps as a result of the public exposure of its links to the Koch-funded Heartland Institute.

Undaunted, the climate warriors then helped establish the ‘International Climate Science Coalition’ (ICSC) headed by leading US, New Zealand and Canadian climate deniers, Tom Harris and Dr Jay Lehr, Brian Leyland and Terry Dunleavy. The Australian contingent on these websites comprises of Dr John Nicol, Stewart Franks, David Archibald, Professor Bob Carter, Professor Lance Endersbee AO, Dr David Evans, Viv Forbes, William Kininmonth, John McLean, Professor Cliff Ollier, Professor Ian Plimer, Dr Walter Starck, Warwick Hughes and Dr Tom Quirk.

Who are these scientists and do they have climate science credibility? Canadian Tom Harris is the executive director and for a number of years was teaching a ‘climate realism’ course at a Canadian University. Engineer by training but he wants students to take a ‘geological perspective’. He is a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute. Jay Lehr who is the senior policy advisor is an American who also worked for the Heartland Institute as a senior advisor and is still a ‘contributor’. His specialty is groundwater hydrology and he likes to jump out of planes.

Of the more notable of the Australian contingent are John Nicol, who from 1960 – 1965 he, “…worked outside the direct areas of Physics pursuing an interest in rainfall distributions in Western Queensland”. Stewart Franks is an associate professor from Newcastle University whose climate specialties are said to include hydro-climatology and flood/drought risk. David Archibald is a Perth-based scientist “…operating in the fields of cancer research, oil exploration and climate science”. It seems Mr Archibold however has spent his professional life working in oil exploration and then as a stock analyst. He has been the CEO of “ …multiple oil and mineral exploration companies”, has supposedly published a number of papers on the solar influence on climate, and is a director of the Lavoisier Society.

David Evans holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, California and made media attention when he left the Australian Greenhouse Office in 2005 amidst some acrimony. He was working on the forest and agriculture carbon exchange models at the time, though later admitted he was not a climate scientist. He is the partner of ‘science-writer', Joanne Nova and David now writes and speaks on the problems with climate science and his latest ideas on ‘Notch-delay Solar Theory’, which basically is stating that global temperatures will cool, “ …beginning 2017 or maybe as late as 2021. The cooling will be about 0.3 °C in the 2020s, taking the planet back to the global temperature that prevailed in the 1980s”.

Our mining CEO friend, Viv Forbes has degree in Applied Science, but in fairness, if you consider the hard work and commitment he has put in over the years to the climate denial cause, he should be regarded on equal merit with Hugh Morgan and Ray Evans as a far right person of renown. William Kininmonth on the other hand worked with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology for 38 years in weather forecasting, research and applied studies. For 12 years until 1998 he was head of its National Climate Centre. He was also the Principal Consultant for ‘Australasian Climate Research’, a consulting firm though has no current website.

Professor Cliff Ollier is an Emeritus Professor and Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia whose main professional specialisation is as a geologist, geomorphologist and soil scientist. His main focus in relation to climate change appears to be debunking the sea-level rise hypothesis. Ian Plimer is a Professor of Mining Geology and an Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Currently his duties at The University of Adelaide are, “… more that of an entrepreneur, promoter, inspirer of young students and staff, university public face and political lobbyist rather than that of a traditional academic”, although he currently does teach 1st and 2nd year students in engineering and geology.

Dr Walter Starck is said to be one of the “… pioneers in the scientific investigation of coral reefs”. He received a PhD in marine science from the University of Miami in 1964 and has over 40 years worldwide experience in reef studies. Dr Rob Quirk’s qualifications are said to be an ‘SMP degree’ from the Harvard Business School, Master of Science from the University of Melbourne and Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oxford. He spent 15 years in the U.K. and USA as an ‘experimental research physicist’, a University Lecturer and Fellow of three Oxford Colleges. Warwick Hughes is an honours student who blogs about the IPCC, though his website is currently down.

So of this 14 man group of leading Australian climate scientists, only two have any professional specialisation on what may be on paper be broadly classed as climate science, with a couple more with some biological or weather knowledge. It is a fact that most people posing as climate scientists in Australia are actually geologists or engineers or have limited academic qualifications. So much for the ‘brain’s trust’ informing the public on the reality of climate change.

Following the inception of the ICSC, in the typical Koch astrop-turfing style, the same group of climate ‘scientists’ then went on to form the ‘Clexit’ campaign and alliance of climate denialists from mainly the UK and Australia. According to the deSmog website, Climate Exit (Clexit) formed shortly after the UK’s decision to leave the EU and that many of the UK's leading ‘Brexit’ campaigners are also climate science denialists. They have a chilling message to the world, “The world must abandon this suicidal Global Warming crusade. Man does not and cannot control the climate,” (Viv Forbes, 13 July 2016).

Clexit boasts a team of “60 well-informed science, business and economic leaders”. This includes Australians, Hugh Morgan and Viv Forbes, who serves as secretary, Englishman and noted personality, Christopher (aka Lord) Monckton (who is President) and US-based Marc Morano (Vice President), long time Koch associate. In the US, the Koch-funded Heartland Institute has supported the objectives of this group. A list of key Clexit members can be found here.

An affiliate of the Heartland Institute, Marc Morano is a noted climate-denial speaker, often appearing on Fox News. Although he has no scientific expertise in the area, he was listed as one of 17 top “climate killers” by Rolling Stone Magazine, the Heartland website calls him a “global warming expert.”. He is executive director and chief correspondent of ClimateDepot.com, a project of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). CFACT has received funding from ExxonMobil, Chevron, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars from foundations associated with the Scaife Empire.

Lastly, there is one more climate denial group to mention, one headed by busy climate bee, Tom Quirk, the Climate Study Group, which has run expensive ads in the Australian. According to Graham Readfearn’s deSmog blog, ‘None of the members of the Climate Study Group appear to have any qualifications in climate science or any record of publishing peer-reviewed research on climate change”.

If this is the case, it’s a must you have good publicity. The leading advertising company in Australia used to promote the fossil fuel industry is Crosby Textor, now CT Group who have run campaigns for some of the groups mentioned here, strategist for the Liberal Party as well as for mining giants such as Glencore. A key person in this corporation at the time of these deals was Robert Champion de Crespigny, who held the position as chairman of market research. He was a member of the Foundation Council for the Australian Davos Connection and also a board member of the Centre for Independent Studies and a director of the Minerals Council of Australia. With Hugh Morgan and Ron Walker (former chairman of Fairfax Media Ltd and treasurer of the Liberal Party in Australia and manager of the Liberal Party funder Parakelia) they formed the company Australian Nuclear Energy. However, in 2006 our friends had to publicly denounce any moves to build a nuclear power plant in Australia. This company appears not to be listed today, though there is little doubt the fortunes for the nuclear sector have changed considerably.

There is no doubt that the Fairfax media has given fair hearing to the views of the Neocons on a range of issues over the years, though this trend is sure to rise with the new ownership of the organisation. But it is the Murdoch media empire which has given greatest service to the denialist cause, leading the way is the Australian with the Courier Mail. Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph, all papers still publishing daily articles on matters such as the climate hoax, the problems with renewables and just about any Neocon culture war you can think of.

Who are the journalists who propagate this material for public consumption and acceptance? Some of the notables on the current list of journalists is Bjorn Lomborg, Janet Albrechtsen, Greg Sheridan, Judith Sloane and Miranda Devine and Frank Shanahan who is the Australian’s religious freedonms crusader, linked to the Australian Christian Lobby.

Sloane and Devine are the culture war queens of the Australian, though with Miranda leaving, her place was filled by Janet Albrechtsen, who came with a glowing reference from fellow journalist at the Australian at the time, Tom Switzer. As he recounted at the IPA 75th dinner last year, “My boss told me he didn’t think she was one of us, I said, ‘I don’t think I am one of you either’!” Indeed. Janet, who is currently a director at the IPA, is an even better version of Devine, if that is possible, but with her intelligence and presentation skills, she has a long future with the cabal.

Sheridan of course is well known for has far right and pro-US views, including climate scepticism, but most credit here must go to their new journalist Bjorn Lomborg, who really is the unsung prince of global climate scepticism.

Danish-born Lomborg is a very interesting character, most would remember the attempt by Tony Abbott to establish a Lomborg Climate Centre at the University of Western Australia in 2015, though despite support from some, including the nuclear sector, his credentials as a self-confessed and prominent ‘environmental sceptic’ caused a public outcry and the project was abandoned.

He was the director if the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, until the Danish Government pulled its funding in 2012 and he subsequently set up a not-for-profit group with the same name in the US. It received considerable funding from ‘private sources’. Now with his job at the Australian, Lomborg can further his advocacy against the Kyoto Protocol and renewables. The nuance he brings is that he acknowledges climate change is happening but has a problem with the economic and political approaches to meet the challenge. This view point is being increasingly heard from some players and one we will be hearing more of in the future.

 

Part 5. The Cormack Foundation

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone”. John Maynard Keynes

With current Coalition Government seemingly in the grip of anti-science sentiment, how was it so easy to bring the Liberals onboard with the libertarian agenda? One has to remember that climate scepticism is not a feature of the UK Conservative Party in general. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the UK only has a tiny fossil fuel industry. Particularly after Thatcher destroyed the coal sector in that country. 

In Clive Hamilton’s 2007 book, Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change, Hugh Morgan was a key figure behind the scenes in building opposition to climate action within the Liberal Party in the 90s. He still has close ties to Australia’s governing Liberal Party, despite a recent dispute over the Cormack Foundation.

But it was Morgan’s position on the Cormack Foundation which was the key influence he had within the Party, a position which he held since its inception in 1988 when it was established from the sale of Liberal Party licenced radio station 3XY, which was sold in 1986 for $15.75 million.

According to Wikipedia, the Cormack Foundation is worth around $70 million and has distributed over $40 million to the Liberal Party since it was founded. This is now believed to be over $50 million according to Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) public disclosures for 2018. The Cormack Foundation may be described as an incorporated front group used by the Liberal Party of Australia to funnel undisclosed funding without the knowledge of the AEC or the Australian public. Dark Money, as termed by Mayer (2016) and a perfect avenue for the flow of oil and coal money.

According to AEC records, the Cormack Foundation has been the largest single donor to the Liberal Party but it has also contributed to Family First and the Liberal Democratic Party. It has given money to the Atlas Partners, the Centre for Independent Studies and the Institute of Public Affairs. The AEC records show that in 2014-15, Cormack received $5.4m in income, declaring receipts from major banks as well as mining companies Rio Tinto ($210,000) and BHP Billiton ($293,000). However as the Foundation is incorporated, the receipts may be income from investments.

Another director of the Foundation that has been extremely influential in the Liberal Party is John Calvert-Jones. He was the Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party, and still is the brother in law of Rupert Murdoch. He was also formerly a board member of the Atlas Partner, the Centre for Independent Studies. Between Morgan and Calvert-Jones, they seem to have had the flow of dark money, the media and the Liberal Party sown up for nearly 30 years.

But the Foundation relationship came to an end last year following a dispute Morgan and Calvert-Jones had with the Liberal Party over Cormack Foundation assets, (the old radio station), whereby Morgan and Calvert-Jones were claiming these assets for themselves. Both have subsequently left the Foundation raising speculation that a handshake may not be what it used to be.

But Morgan had other plans and following a capital raising venture in 2016, has now established the mining private equity firm, Arete Capital Partners. As their website states, “Arete aims to optimise the operational potential of the assets it acquires with a simple goal of delivering structural and operational improvements to the asset to create real and sustainable value”. Morgan is now delivering on his hard work over the years in influencing government policy and is rewarding those who kept faith in the last days of the fossil fuel era.

 

6. Conclusions

While the recent Inside Story article seems to suggest the days of the right-wing think tanks are over, it seems this couldn’t be further from the truth. There can be no doubt that Australia has lurched substantially to the right in a number of key areas, as Joe Hockey warned just prior to becoming Treasurer, that the “age of entitlement is over”. The demise of the Turnbull leadership and the ascension of Scott Morrison, leading to his election victory this year has further reinforced this policy trend to the ‘hard right’ by the Liberal Party in a number of key areas, including taxation, regulation and climate policy.

The Koch Network is both a funding and support organisation, particularly to its Atlas Partners in Australia, with whom it maintains the closest links to this day. If we take the IPA being the only example of public disclosure, we find funding for these groups has increased significantly over the lat five years. The two most successful think thanks, the IPA and the CIS were formed prior to Antony Fisher’s internationalisation of the Network, but during the 1990s and 2000s, the marriage between the American libertarians and the Australian right wing was accomplished in terms of both ideas and practice. This was in no short measure due to the actions of a few key players, particularly Hugh Morgan, Des Moore and Ray Evans. In fact the pattern of what can be called think tank astro-turfing, perfected in the US has been replicated here over and over.

Outside the group of direct Koch funding, there is the ‘extended network’ as it were, of right wing lobby groups and front organisations in Australia. These are the Lavoisier Group, H R Nicholls, the Saltbush Club and a myriad of other astro-turfed groups. The review undertaken here shows a consistent level of contact by the US oil/tobacco cabal within these groups in Australia, particularly by individuals from Koch funded organisations, such as the Heartland Institute and the American Institute for Enterprise. Key Australians who have links within both the Atlas Partners and non-Partner groups include Viv Forbes, Joanne Nova, Tim Andrews and Tom Quirk.

Some of the premier Neocon meet and greets in Australia are the functions hosted by the Australian Davos Connection, Libertarian Society and the other Atlas Partners. 

There are a number of mining corporations which have significantly contributed to the Neocon cause in Australia, and have done so both to the direct and non-Partner networks. It is not entirely known to what extent, but disclosures have revealed the following companies; Western Mining Corporation, Hancock Prospecting, Stanmore Coal, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, have made significant contributions over the years.

Providing a significant amount of dark money to the Liberal Party itself over the years was the role of the Cormack Foundation and other 'associated entities'. While the source of the great majority of this money may never be known, it would be a fair observation to say that the 1990s-2000s mining boom in Australia, along with some cash from the international cabal, has likely fuelled its own political favours to the present day, notwithstanding five years of Labor. The corporations then received this money back in the form of generous government subsidies to the mining sector. Everyone made a buck, except the Australian public.

At the political party level, if the influence of this Neocon movement can be gauged by levels of acceptance of anti-scientific climate denialism, then it seems the matter has been decided. Ever since the Howard Government this trend has been evident (Churchill 2007), but today, with a developing Australian cadre of free-market leaders and the success of the coal-clasping, climate denying parliamentarian devotees to the cause of the market as our saviour, no doubt James Buchanan would be over the moon.

One question for the Australian public to ponder which I think is a very real one, have we got our own Donald Trump, as Switzer and Clegg asked? I'll leave that to you.

 

References

Cahill, D.C. (2004). The radical neo-liberal movement as a hegemonic force in Australia, 1976-1996. University of Wollongong, PhD Thesis, 2004.

Hamilton, C. (2007). Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change. Black Inc Agenda, 266 pages.

Kelly, D. (2019). Political Troglodytes and Economic Lunatics. La Trobe University Press.

MacLean, N. (2017). Democracy in Chains. The deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America. Scribe Publications, 334 pages.

Mayer, J. (2016). Dark Money: How a secretive group of billionaires is trying to buy political control in the US. Scribe Publications, 449 pages.