Article – Intellectual Gold: How Australian Think Tanks Turned The Electoral Tide In Favor Of Tony Abbott

18 September 2013
Alejandro Chafuen
After the resounding win of Tony Abbott in the recent Australian elections, many commentaries pointed to the policy debates as the turning point for his victory in which he defeated outgoing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Some of Rudd’s critics focused on his defense of a carbon tax that was based upon dubious environmental science, others argued that he seemed to take his electorate base for granted. In addition, critics suggested, some of his comments appeared as Bible bashing. Rudd became popular in Twitter but with every tweet he seemed to alienate more voters.
Abbott has a chance to implement market oriented reforms and continue to liberate the Australian spirit. Luckily, he is not alone.
A small but determined group of think tanks, business leaders and freedom champions have been doing their part to preserve freedom in Australia. The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), founded in 1976, has quickly earned its place as an essential institution of Australian society. Founded by Greg Lindsay, and based near Sydney, the center is ranked as one of the leading think tanks in the world. Lindsay’s talents as an intellectual entrepreneur, with an ability to discover future academic and policy stars, propelled him to the top in his class.
Lindsay became president of the Mont Pelerin Society, which gathers more free market luminaries and Nobel laureates than any other society.
CIS excels as a traditional think tank, never neglecting research and always leading with topics that will become important in the future, not only in Australia, but in the world.
Without moral backing it is difficult to win policy battles. Greg Lindsay developed productive relationships in this front. One of these is with Cardinal George Pell, a prominent member of the Roman Catholic Church. Pell has championed independent thinking in many fields. Few members of the church have been so open about their skepticism about the views of climate alarmists and other environmental doomsayers. In fact, Lindsay invited Pell to be the speaker during his latest board of directors meeting.
Anglican Bishop Robert Forsyth is even friendlier with free enterprise and with CIS. He is convinced about the need to have Christians pay attention to the virtues of a free society.
And so, Peter Kurti, one of the most talented priests in Forsyth’s diocese, joined CIS as a research fellow.
The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), founded in 1943, is one of the oldest think tanks in the world. It has helped enrich intellectual debate in Australia. Based in Melbourne, and led by John Roskam, it has a variety of programs and has ventured on topics that are essential for a free society. The latest production from IPA, In Defence of Freedom of Speech by Chris Berg, describes how this essential right is under attack by new “anti- discrimination” laws and other politically correct agendas.
Kevin Donelly, of the Education Standards Institute, leads a “David versus Goliath” battle against an educational establishment keen on promoting progressive fads through centralized control, national curricula and bureaucratically determined standards. Also venturing beyond a free market message, the Bert Kelly Research Center will now see its chairman, Bob Day, as a new incoming senator. The center works to “promote and defend the moral basis for free markets, the rule of law and Australian constitutional democracy.” The Samuel Griffith Society and the HR Nicholls Society, should also be listed among organizations which have nurtured the freedom side of the Australian debate.
The libertarian, or liberal, movement always had its dose of lone rangers and picturesque freedom champions. One who fits that description in Australia is blogger Prodos Marinakis.
He created the Celebrate Capitalism campaign and “international capitalism day.” Fighting against climate alarmists, Viv Forbes and his Carbon Sense Coalition also plays an important role in policy debates. The Adam Smith Club and the Institute for Private Enterprise, as they depend so much on the talents of one person, also belong to this group of independent promoters of free enterprise.
Think tanks need donors, resources, and visionaries who offer their support. There is no room to mention all the Australians who have helped enrich the intellectual debates, however some have been exceptionally effective. One of them started his “career” at sixteen. A young Ron Manners was helping unpack roller bearings for his father’s business.
In the packaging material he found crumpled pages of “The Freeman,” the magazine championing a free market produced by The Foundation for Economic Education, one of the first think tanks in the United States. Reading the articles in those crumpled pages led him to seek the advice of its founder, Leonard Read. Manners developed a passion for freedom which led him to create the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation in Perth. Mannkal has supported most of the organizations mentioned in this piece.
Gina Rinehart is one of the leading builders of Australian prosperity. Through her entrepreneurial talents, hard work and perseverance Rinehart helped revive the company started by her father. Her efforts paid off and her business earned her a status among the wealthiest in the world. Rinehart’s experience is narrated in her book “Northern Australia and Then Some: Changes we need to make our country rich.” Rinehart, like Manners, is a talented miner inducted into the Australian Mining Hall of Fame. I asked her about him. She wrote, “Mining for gold has contributed greatly to Australian prosperity. But my colleague and longtime friend, Ron Manners, went beyond gold. He has been mining for intellectual capital, especially the young, who deserve an Australia with continued opportunities to develop their potential in freedom.” Through Mannkal, Ron Manners has been cultivating talented students. With the help of sponsors he has provided hundreds of scholarships for internships and training at think tanks not only in Australia, but also in the U.S., U.K., India, Canada and Hong Kong. Manners has been mining for intellectual gold.
After studying and visiting think tanks in many regions of the world, one of the most positive characteristics of the Australian scene, as compared to other markets, is the amount of collaboration that exists among different friends of free enterprise. I am certain that much of the credit should go to those mentioned in this piece. Thanks to them we expect more good news to come from down under.
Courtesy of Forbes