1.Conservative Think Tank Mulls Anti-Environment Rebellion
2.IPA - a GM WATCH profile
AUSTRALIA: Conservative Think Tank Mulls Anti-Environment Rebellion
CANBERRA, Dec 6 (IPS) - While Australia commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Eureka stockade this weekend, where 30 miners protesting against colonial authorities were killed, a conservative think tank was launching its own rebellion against what it refers to as ''environmental fundamentalism''.
The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) that is funded by mining, energy, biotechnology and agricultural companies attracted approximately 150 people to its inaugural ''Eureka Forum'' to help launch a "strong national network to counter the environmental movement''.
''Environmental fundamentalism is denying farmers, foresters, fishermen, prospectors, miners, beekeepers, 4WD (four-wheel-drive) enthusiasts and others access rights, property rights, water rights.. It is also generating excessive red tape and harming the environment,'' the IPA's website for the forum proclaimed.
The forum invoked the spirit of the original 1854 Eureka rebellion where approximately 120 miners, angered by the British colonial authorities' proposals to impose a licence fee while denying them a vote, fought a bloody battle with several hundred soldiers and police.
But in the eyes of the IPA, environmentalists are now the new ''establishment'' to be overthrown.
If the original Eureka rebellion was open to anyone, the IPA's forum was much more circumscribed with the registration form boldly stating ''the IPA reserves the right to select attendees''.
''The forum is not a public meeting. We are targeting resource user groups with common interests,'' an IPA staff member wrote in an e-mail to an inquiring member of the public.
Associate professor in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Adelaide, Tim Doyle, believes the IPA's Eureka Forum mimics the anti-environmental ''Wise Use Movement'' that emerged in the U.S. in the early 1990's but waned as the political dominance of the Republican Party grew.
''It is the same populist anti-government rhetoric that was employed in the United States by think tanks and groups - some of which were funded by corporations - to rollback environmental policies and undermine public support for environmental groups,'' he told IPS..
Doyle, who authored a book on the environmental movement in Australia - 'Green Power', argues that ''the IPA seem to want to develop a grass roots base to mask their free market ideology.''
''Their view is that all these issues should be left to the market and that there is little role for the government in regulating to protect the public's environment. It's an approach that would suit the IPA's corporate sponsors fine,'' Doyle pointed out.
The Brisbane-based head of the IPA's Environment Unit, Jennifer Marohasy, gave the opening address titled 'Environmental Fundamentalism', echoing a speech with the same title she gave to the conservative Sydney-based think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) earlier this year.
Marohasy is particularly critical of the introduction by most state governments of bans on genetically engineered crops, the ban on land clearing by agricultural companies in Queensland and proposed reallocation of water for environmental restoration in the Murray-Darling Basin, which drains over 14 percent of the entire continent of Australia.
''It is time we started demanding a rational evidence-based approach to public policy on environmental issues,'' she said in her May speech.
''A problem with fundamentalist creeds is that they are driven by adherence to predetermined agendas and teachings. The fundamentalist's position is rarely tolerant of new information and is generally dismissive of evidence,'' she said. ''Environmental fundamentalism is subversive in that it draws on science to give legitimacy to its beliefs -- the same beliefs that, in many instances, have no basis in observation or tested theory.''
Environmentalists, however, dismiss the IPA's accusations.
'' 'Environmental fundamentalism' sounds like a description of the Institute of Public Affairs position denying climate change,'' said Catherine Fitzpatrick, climate change campaigner for Greenpeace Australia.
The IPA, which has received funding from a range of fossil fuel companies - including Shell, Esso Australia (a subsidiary of Exxon) and fifteen major coal burning electricity generating companies - has been a vocal critic of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
''The IPA's rejection of the scientific findings of the overwhelming majority of the world's scientists on climate change reveals that it is they who reject science,'' Fitzpatrick said.
''They claim that climate change is not happening or if it is happening it is natural, or if its not natural its not large enough to worry about. Or if it is, it is too expensive to do anything about. They just won't accept scientific evidence,'' she added.
While the IPA is often dismissed as a fringe group for advocating policies often at odds with mainstream public opinion, the forum enticed journalists from mainstream media organisations to facilitate and speak at the conference.
Acting as master of ceremonies for the Eureka Forum was Tim Lee, a journalist with the 'Australian Broadcasting Corporation's' national rural affairs program 'Landline'.
Lee attended in a private voluntary capacity even though the IPA programme identified him without his permission as being from 'ABC'.
''I made clear at the start of the day that I was there as an individual and a farmer. In my work as a journalist I'm tired of going to whinge fests ... but this wasn't that,'' he said.
''It will be interesting to see what comes out of this but I think the point was to get some of these groups to get their message heard... It was a good chance for these groups to realise they are all trying to kick the ball in the same direction,'' added Lee.
Senior Lecturer in journalism at the University of Technology in Sydney, David McKnight, believes journalists should tread warily when invited to events like this.
''The reason why journalists should keep some distance from being involved is that they may be reporting on the organisation and issues it raises in the future,'' he told IPS. (END/2004)
2.Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) - a GM WATCH profile
The right-wing Australian 'think tank', the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), was established in 1943 and claims to have been 'a significant player in the public policy debate' in Australia ever since. It is comprised of four units located in Victoria and Queensland: a Deregulation Unit, an Economic Policy Unit, an Indigenous Issues Unit and an Environmental Policy Unit.
With Monsanto amongst its funders, the IPA has a specific focus on 'biotechnology', saying it wants to 'combat the misinformation put out by radical groups' who oppose genetic engineering. It claims this technology is actually 'safer', 'cheaper' and 'more environmentally friendly' than conventional plant or animal breeding. According to its website, its promotion of genetic engineering takes place via 'Biotechnology Backgrounders, Speeches and submissions, IPA Review articles/Other articles, Newspaper articles and letters to the press'.
Among the scientists who have promoted GM crops from IPA platforms are CS Prakash, Klaus Ammann and Steve Hughes. Amongst its published materials are items by CS Prakash and David Tribe.
In 2001 IPA launched what it claimed was 'an international first' when it 'started publishing a monthly corporate newsletter, by subscription only, dedicated to watching activist NGOs' [Non-Governmental Organisations]. These were, it warned, 'targeting business' and other 'organisations as never before'. This new corporate newsletter was
NGO Watch Digest
Head of the NGO Project was IPA Senior Fellow Dr Gary Johns. Johns moved across from the IPA's Indigenous Issues Unit. The Unit has had a highly controversial record of stridently challenging Aboriginal rights. It has also been accused of historical revisionism over its attempts to downplay the significance of the long-undisclosed policy of forced removal for adoption of Aboriginal children - a policy which lead them to be brought up totally removed from their families and communities (Stolen Generations).
Johns edited the book, 'Waking Up to Dreamtime: The Illusion of Aboriginal Self-Determination'. He has claimed the only successful Aborigines are those who have been given a 'western education' and has called for Aborigine children ideally to be made to attend boarding schools that are separate from their communities. He attacks attempts to help Aborigines within their own communities as 'the politics of preferment'. (The Australian, 20 June 2003)
Also part of the IPA's NGO Project is a Malaysian-born researcher, Don D'Cruz. Within a few months of the Projects launch, D'Cruz was quoted in the Malaysian press attacking local NGOs which opposed
GM crops as 'local front organisations' for wealthy American environmentalists. Well established and well regarded NGOs like the Consumers' Association of Penang (CAP) and the Third World Network (TWN), D'Cruz implied, were 'doing the bidding of their wealthy American paymasters' because some of their funding came from a US environmental group, of ( U.S Groups Funding Disinformation Campaign In Malaysia , March 13 , 2001) In the Far Eastern Economic Review a year later, D'Cruz made the same accusation, 'What we are seeing is a new form of cultural imperialism with Asian NGOs used as proxies. ( The Promise of Food Security, April 4 2002)
CAP and TWN hit back at the IPA attack by pointing out the IPA itself was, by its own standards, very far from independent. On the IPA's board at the time were Australian representatives of transnational corporations with highly unenviable reputations in relation to the environment and public health - companies such as Rio Tinto, Western Mining Corporation, Shell, and Philip Morris. (Australian Report is False and Outrageous, March 14 2001)
With regard to its own funding, the IPA claims it maintains its independence because, 'Our annual budget - of about $1 million - is obtained from more than 2,000 individuals, corporations and foundations'. However, according to Sharon Bedder , 'Almost one third of IPA's $1.5 million annual budget comes from mining and manufacturing companies.' Interestingly, IPA's attack on Aboriginal treaty and land rights has included a call for 'no bias against miners' (Gary Johns, The Australian, 20 June 2003). The aggressive character of IPA's attacks on Aboriginal self-determination eventually lead mining company RioTinto to withdraw its support. (Disinfopedia )
The insinuation that Malaysian NGOs were 'doing the bidding of their wealthy American paymasters' originated, according to Don D'Cruz, with Professor C.S. Prakash. The Malaysian News reported, 'IPA's month-long investigation was initiated after a number of leading biotechnology scientists such as Professor C.S. Prakash , a regular visitor to Malaysia, expressed concern over the funding sources of the well-funded disinformation campaign being waged against biotechnology in countries such as Malaysia.'
CAP and TWN pointed out that in terms of doing the bidding of American masters, Prof Prakash promoted himself on his AgBioWorld website as a 'speaker on behalf of the US State Department'. They also noted that he had 'traveled to many countries including Malaysia to promote biotechnology, often arranged by the U.S. Embassy'. (Australian Report is False and Outrageous, March 14 2001)
In fact, CS Prakash , who was trying to build bridges with NGOs at the time, was anxious to disassociate himself from the IPA attack, '?My
name has been inadvertently dragged into this news without my knowledge or complicity,' he wrote to GM Watch editor Jonathan Matthews. ' While I did visit IPA last year to deliver an invited lecture on agricultural biotechnology, I do not recall making any remarks about this funding issue, and never knew about this press release or the investigation of the funding.' (personal communication) Prakash even obtained an apology from D'Cruz:
From: Don D'CruzIPA's NGO Project has provided a model for other right- wing lobby groups. On June 11 2003 the IPA was nominally the co-host of a day-long seminar in Washington DC on 'NGO influence and accountability' with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The seminar was entitled Nongovernmental Organizations: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few.
Dear Professor Prakash,
I'm so sorry but the press release has already gone out. I really apologise because I had no idea it would concern you. I shall never mention you again. Please accept my apologies. I hope it won't cause you any problems. I feel really terrible. It has taken the gloss off what I have done.
Once again I so sorry.
Among the speakers at the Washington seminar was IPA's Gary Johns. Other contributors included Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Roger Bate who also connects to CEI. According to Bate , 'NGOs definitely provide benefits in the short run. But I would argue in the long run their influence is nearly always malign, either through their own political acts directly or via aid agencies.' Some commentators saw a profound irony in that fact that AEI, IPA etc. were themselves 'unelected' NGOs. Bate himself connects to a whole host of right-wing NGOs, eg CEI, AEI, IEA, ESEF, IPN, SDN etc.
Following on from the seminar, AEI and the Federalist Society launched NGOWATCH.ORG - 'an effort to bring clarity and accountability to the burgeoning world of NGOs'. The writer Melanie Klein describes it as in reality, 'a McCarthyite blacklist, telling tales on any NGO that dares speak against Bush administration policies or in support of international treaties opposed by the White House.' Its launch coincided with a push by the Bush administration to get NGOs 'to do a better job of linking their humanitarian assistance to U.S. foreign policy' - an effort overseen by USAID and its director Andrew Natsios. (Bush to NGOs: Watch Your Mouths)