The headliners are the stars of the Australian far right of this neocon talk fest, Tony Abbott, Mark Latham, Peta Credlin, Janet Alberchtsen, Mick Cater, John Anderson AO, a list of who's who in Australian far right politics, along with international guests, Nigel Farage and Raheem Kassam from the UK and Dr Jeanne Pirro (Fox News Host) and Matt Schlapp (American Conservatives Union) from the US. Attendees can also choose from a number of different passes which have the same intriging international flavour, an Iron Lady general pass, a Menzies 3 day pass or the VIP Ronnie Reagan pass, already sold out.
The point of the whole exercise seems to be along the lines of, "c'mon Australia, join the brave warriors of the extreme right of this country to fight for your rights". Details of what the topics of discussion are however are not public, one can assume much will be taken up with the same culture wars often reported in the Murdoch Press. There is also a post conference 'campaign bootcamp' workshop to discuss practical issues of political campaign tactics.
Who made this happen? It seems due to a lot of work by two key people, the co-hosts, Andrew Cooper, President and founder of the Koch-backed think tank, LibertyWorks and Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which claims to be, "...the nation’s original grassroots conservative organisation". Schlapp is joined onstage by ACU Director Dan Schneider.
Andrew Cooper, while making contacts in the US and organising this imitation of the American CPAC conference concept also became the president of the Liberal Democrat Party following the departure of David Leyonhjelm at the start of the year. As reported by the Guardian, it is clear now what he has been doing since then in the US, but also tells us more as to what direction the Australian neocons are attempting to steer the country. It has also brought the growing influence of the American oil/tobacco/gun cabal in Australian politics further into light.
Schlapp seems to have been a primary mover in the development of the ACU in the US and has seen the organisation grow substantially, claiming to be America's primary conservative grassroots organisation, mainly through its expanded CPAC conference speaking circuit. The ACU claims it has increased it's reach by social media, "... to reach 25 million live viewers and 1 billion Twitter impressions at the most recent CPAC." ACU also hosts other events, including 'Battleground' CPACs in the US and international CPACs abroad, one of the first excursions it seems is in Australia.
The ACU has its own view of what 'conservatism' means, claiming that "Conservatism is the political philosophy that sovereignty resides in the person. We believe that the Constitution of the United States is the best political charter yet created by men for governing themselves. It is our belief that the Constitution is designed to guarantee the free exercise of the inherent rights of the individual through strictly limiting the power of government."
But these are the same ideological concepts that have been used in the US to define 'Libertarianism' more generally. The message essentially to the ordimary citizen is that by easing government interference will increase your freedom. Of course Australians have already much to be thankful for, with current government policies allowing corporations to run amok in the economy, corporate tax avoidance and offshore theft have never been more clearly in the public view.
Still, the organisers of this conference promise this will be the first of many such events, presumably convinced that Australia is now ready for the golden age of corporate power.
To bring together such an international event in Australia, you also need some cash. What is telling is the list of backers and connections that the ACU has in the US. Despite denials, ACU has been linked to the Koch Network of influence, though in 2014, Koch Industries denied having a working relationship with ACU chairman Matt Schlapp, as reported in the Washington Times,. But financial records obtained by the Times indicate that Koch Industries continue to financially support the ACU. Matt Schlapp is also a former Koch Industries Executive Director of Federal Affairs. The scope of financial backing for the American CPAC events is now well known, with donors including the Bradley Foundation, Donor's Trust, the National Rifle Association and big tobacco.
The ACU is also funded by its sister group, the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) which clearly states its aims are to change the public discourse by seeking, "... to educate the next generation of conservative leaders by providing them the intellectual tools necessary to learn about the conservative movement, its leaders, its leading organization and especially its principles."
This 'educational foundation' is part ('affiliate') of a network of overtly policy-driven organisations, all right-wing groups, known as the State Policy Network (SPN) in the US, featuring known Koch affiliate entities such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Atlas Network, Americans for Tax Reform and the Cato Institute.
The ACUF it seems has strong working ties with the Charles Koch Institute. In 2016, Pat Nolan, a director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform collaborated with Vikrant Reddy, a senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute on a criminal justice reform initiative. Vikrant Reddy also formerly held a position with the American Conservative Union Foundation.
According to Sourcewatch, between 1998 and 2014, the ACUF received $1,125,270 in donations, with the top donors being the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation - $390,000, the National Christian Charitable Foundation - $390,000, the National Rifle Association Foundation - $108,520, Exxon Mobil - $90,000 and the Armstrong Foundation - $62,500. With such good company, no wonder Mr Trump gave such an outstanding performance recently at the latest American CPAC and why Don Jr was so quick to come to aid of the reputation of the Australian CPAC event.