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