The Institute of Public Affairs is seeking to harm the ABC's reputation, while questions linger over its own operations and purpose, writes Anthony Klan.
WELL-HEELED secretive lobby group the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which seeks to influence Australia’s public debate, sway government policy – and is running an aggressive campaign against the nation’s most trusted news outlet – is refusing to say who actually funds it.
The IPA is spending substantial sums of money – funds it is refusing to disclose the source of – in a long-standing, clinical and systematic campaign attacking Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC.
Yet the IPA and its Executive Director John Roskam – who is due to appear on ABC Q&A program – are steadfastly refusing to even disclose who actually funds the highly vocal operation.
That is, who is ultimately calling the shots against Australia’s most trusted news source.
The IPA’s anti-ABC campaign includes outlandish claims, such as the ABC is “structurally and geographically biased against mainstream Australia”, is an “echo chamber disconnected from the mainstream” and has “obsessions” such as around climate change.
It produces anti-ABC “news” style articles and videos – and most recently has produced a five-part “documentary podcast” – all attacking the ABC’s procedures and its ethics.
Yet the IPA has refused to say whether it, as publisher of all the material, considers itself an adherent – in any way – to the basic ethical frameworks that underpin Australian journalism.
Further, Roskam has failed to provide the name of a single employee or contributor, behind the barrage of anti-ABC “news” items, who considers themselves to be an adherent to Australian journalism’s ethical guidelines.
Yet when we approached Mulholland asking if he – the person savagely attacking Australia’s most trusted media outlet – considered himself a “journalist”, or adherent to the Australian Journalist Code of Ethics, he steadfastly refused to comment.
Questions put to Mulholland over the past two days have gone unanswered.
The IPA’s attacks on the ABC are particularly remarkable given polls consistently show that the ABC is the most trusted news source in the country.
A poll in March last year found 72% of Australians agreed the ABC was 'Australia’s most trusted news source' and a massive 84% agreed the ABC 'is a valuable source of news to the Australian community'.
ABC newsrooms are widely known among professional journalists to be some of, if not the most, ethical in the country.
We asked Roskam how his lobby group’s attacks on the ABC – such as that it is “structurally biased against mainstream Australia” – squared with the fact that the ABC was consistently voted Australia’s most trusted news source.
He declined to comment.
We asked Roskam and Mulholland if Australians had it wrong when they consistently voted the ABC as the nation’s most trusted news source.
Both refused to comment.
IPA’s accounts show it received $4.96 million in “donations” and “general contributions” in the 2020 financial year, yet it does not disclose who is providing that money.
The Klaxon has asked the IPA for a list of its top 20 donors during the past financial year.
ASX-listed companies, even though influencing public debate and government policy is not their primary business – unlike the IPA – are required to disclose their 20 biggest investors.
That’s so market participants know who they’re dealing with. The IPA discloses none of this.
Roskam not only flatly refused to disclose the information: he didn’t even respond to our questions.
To steer clear of any potential objections on grounds of “privacy”, The Klaxon requested only the identities of major donors be provided, not how much money each contributed.
We received nothing.
While the ABC is the consistently ranked the nation’s most trusted news source, the least trusted source, according to a June study, is Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, owned by News Corporation.
Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and former Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have called for a Royal Commission into media diversity, largely due to alleged highly unethical actions by News Corporation.
A petition by Rudd attracted over 500,000 signatures, more than any other petition in Australian history.
Such an inquiry would investigate all of Australia’s major media outlets, including the ABC.
Given its aggressive campaign against the ABC, we asked the IPA whether it backed the proposed Royal Commission into media diversity given such an inquiry would also investigate the ABC.
We received no response.
The IPA states the 'essential elements of the economic policies we support' are 'lower taxes', 'smaller government' and 'less red tape'.
It has been revealed that over $40 billion of public money handed out under the Federal Government’s JobKeeper stimulus campaign went to large corporations that did not need the money (with only about 1% repaid).
This is a landmark, "big government" style spend and the $40 billion that went to big companies will take Australians many years to repay, putting significant upward pressure on taxes.
Given this, we asked the IPA whether it considered that those big corporations that received JobKeeper, but which didn't need the money, should repay it.
We received no response.
Anthony Klan is an investigative journalist and editor of The Klaxon. You can follow him on Twitter @Anthony_Klan.
This article was originally published on The Klaxon and has been republished with permission.
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