Mike Seccombe has a very flattering story on the IPA:
We are talking about the members and generous benefactors of the Institute of Public Affairs, Australia’s – and, it claims, the world’s – oldest right-wing think tank.
So old is the IPA that when his father helped establish it, Rupert Murdoch was but a callow youth of 12. Gina Rinehart, another of its most prominent members, was not then even a gleam in the eye of Lang Hancock. But age has not wearied it. The IPA has never been more powerful than it is right now.
And that brings us to one characteristic that has come, over the past decade or so, to most distinguish the IPA from other conservative think tanks in Australia.
It is not its ideology, which is basically cookie-cutter rationalist/libertarian right, which closely reflects that of similar think tanks elsewhere, particularly those associated with the Tea Party right of the US Republicans. No, the IPA’s distinguishing characteristic is the way it does propaganda.
In the year to June 2013, according to the IPA’s annual report, it clocked up 878 mentions in print and online. Its staff had 164 articles published in national media. They managed 540 radio appearances and mentions, and 210 appearances and mentions on TV. No prizes for guessing in which publications most of the print media references were to be found. Did we mention Rupert Murdoch was a long-time IPA director?
The surprise is that the national public broadcaster, the ABC, which the IPA would break up and sell off, features heavily. One count, by the left-leaning Independent Australia, clocked 39 appearances by IPA staff in the year 2011-12 on just one ABC TV program, The Drum. That’s almost as many Drum appearances as the combined total of all other think tanks, left, right and centre.
Roskam attributes this media success to the fact that the IPA takes firm positions on subjects that “other people haven’t been able or prepared to talk about”.
“In the US you’ll have the Tea Party saying it, Cato Institute saying it, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute saying it,” he says. “You have a plethora of Republican and right-of-centre voices saying it. In Australia, if you don’t have the IPA saying it, you don’t really have anyone saying it.”
I don’t think Seccombe intends to be complimentary – but it’s a great story.