The Institute of Public Affairs, (IPA), a conservative, public policy think-tank, was established in Victoria in 1943 to counter the growing influence of socialism, and to promote private enterprise.
It was economist and economic policy commentator Charles Denton Kemp who became the inaugural director, after writing a well-received comprehensive report for the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures on the difficulties then faced by business. He believed in the importance of sound economic principles and in this was supported by prominent Victorian businessmen such as newspaper tycoon Sir Keith Murdoch, and Sir Walter Massy-Greene, a prominent federal politician. George Coles of Coles Supermarket fame was the inaugural chairman of the enduring organization they founded.
Incidentally, Rod Kemp, son of founder Charles, has been a leading figure in the IPA serving terms of office both as executive director, and as chairman. Over the nearly 80 years since inception, the IPA has become an influential partisan voice in federal politics, especially in the past two decades, with the support of the Murdoch Press, and wealthy industrial backers such as mining magnate Gina Rhinehart. Similar policy formulating bodies have sprung up in other states, whilst some federal liberal politicians such as James Paterson and Tim Wilson have contested elections based on an IPA ideology platform.
Not surprisingly the last ABC Q and A episode, (7/04/2022), focused on issues related to the pending federal election. Early questions and answers centered on debating how it was that so many Coalition members on the eve of the election, were coming out and bagging the incumbent Prime Minister. He has been portrayed as a bully, untruthful and even not fit for his office.
This aroused curiosity as to what the Liberal supporting IPA thought of these outbursts. Gideon Rozner, Director of Policy, speaking for them, took a less than full supportive stance. He guardedly refrained from commenting on Scott Morrison’s character foibles, having no personal knowledge of his leadership style. Wisely I think, he instead found fault only with some of Morrison’s policy decisions, relative to IPA belief.
He alleged for example that he had:
• Created a A$1 trillion debt burden.
• Ramped up internet censorship restrictions.
• Temporarily denied Australians the ability to return home during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
• Authorized the Robo-debt fiasco.
• He also made the point that the over-riding objective for the un-employed should be to return them to the work-force, and that the current Jobseeker Allowance was inadequate to facilitate this.
Surprisingly Rozner gained the loudest applause of the night when he concluded his opening remarks by categorizing Scott Morrison as “the worst Prime Minister Australia has ever had, with the exception of Billy McMahon, who had principles”. A damming indictment by one’s own side if ever there was one.
But don’t forget that his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, was dumped for ignoring, it would seem, IPA standards. Unexpectedly, with strong IPA backing, the Libs still won in 2019 with a confident and resilient Scott Morrison leading the charge. Now he has been cast in the role of underdog, but smilingly refuses to be ruffled, and claims the high ground in considerations of national security, and economic prowess. This election he will fight with a still supportive team, rather than being a largely solo performer.
The Covid Pandemic, and the more recent spate of disastrous floods have caused so much hardship for so many Australians, that the federal government response has often fallen short of community expectations. As a result, there has been a groundswell of opposition that threatens the Coalition with resounding defeat at the coming May 21 poll.
However, as Gideon Rozner pointed out, in a twist of fate brought about by the current horrific Ukrainian conflict, and the sanctions imposed on the Russian aggressors, there has been a surge in global demand for fossil fuels. Australia is well-placed to help meet this deficit. The IPA has long been, I think, an annoying voice of climate-change skepticism. Now its terrier-like promotion of fossil fuels could help bring an economic wind-fall, and be a vote winner for the government.
Back in the second half of 1973 I worked, as part of my training in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, as an Assistant in the Private Practice of Leo Rozner. He was an astute person who brought a somewhat entrepreneurial bent to his work. I greatly appreciated my time with him. Seeing Gideon on Q and A, I could not help but wonder whether he was Leo’s son. I think Gideon did well, and I wish him continued success.
Disclaimer: The Institute of Public Affairs is a significant political participant. This post discusses its policies but does not necessarily reflect the author’s own views.