There are four political party think tanks in Australia; The Chifley Research Centre, The Green Institute, The Menzies Research Centre and The Page Research Centre. These partisan think tanks are supported by the Commonwealth Government through a public sector governance Grant-In-Aid program that is administered by the Department of Finance. The value of this program is in excess of $3 million per annum.
Questions to the Department under FOI provisions about how taxpayer funds are being expended have been denied as being too time consuming to answer! Apparently they have to find the digital files in the cloud, how long does that take in this day and age? And then actually vet each page and redact any embarrassing information. So much easier to deny the request and leave the taxpayers in the dark about how their money is being spent.
The Executive Directors of the partisan political party think tanks are Canberra based, middle class, white Anglo-Saxon males. The current Executive Directors are:
Mr Brett Gale Political staff and media adviser
Mr Nick Cater Journalist and Author
Mr Kristen Jenkins Actor and lifelong learning student
Mr Tim Hollo Musician and environmental activist
What they do is often act as a training ground for those Directors who are not well connected, not coming from the correct political family dynasty or who are independently wealthy not to worry are about sucking up to inbred party acolytes. Rather it is for those who are still wishing to gain a foothold career in the media, bureaucracy or in the political corridors of power.
Their pottered online public biographies reveal conflicted philosophical positions, periods of introspection, reflection and revelation. Two have migrated from colder climes of the United Kingdom leading to their current positions today as they operate in the Canberra bubble. One has been a Canberra beltway insider their whole life and another has been determined to stay the course of his environmental beliefs.
The questions are do taxpayers consider that think tanks help inform and guide public debate or are they just regarded as propaganda arms of political parties? It is safe to assume that no one would charge the current executive government as being over-run with intellectuals nor could a journalist learn considered insights from parliamentary political staffers. Does their think tank scholarship stand up to academic peer review and media scrutiny?
Certainly, it could be argued that the intellectual property that they produce is thin at best when compared to their other activities which would appear partisan in nature such as propaganda events, expensive cocktail fundraising soirees, and various dull and intolerable delivered speeches from party politicians and stupefying boring debates by third rate politicians.
Critics question how much original research is published for the $3 million per year taxpayer funded budgets and wonder if this sort of blind dullard thinking is actively encouraged by their own party?
Let’s hope the future of think tanks is brighter than what has been offered up to voters and that unique policy reforms and proscriptions are considered and eventfully adopted by the federal parliament.