May 31, 2012

The IPA research ‘funded by Big Tobacco’

It's been about a decade since anyone admitted it but someone has finally gone on the record to make the connection between right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs and Big Tobacco.

Tom Cowie

Crikey journalist

It's been about a decade since anyone admitted it but someone has finally gone on the record to make the connection between right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs and Big Tobacco. Today's Sydney Morning Herald (not online) has reported that cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco is funding the IPA. The membership was revealed by BAT spokesman Scott McIntyre. British American Tobacco is part of an industry campaign to stop the federal government's plain packaging cigarette legislation, which is set to come into effect at the end of this year. The IPA, also an opponent of plain packaging, has long refused to reveal who contributes to its research war chest. Neither the IPA or BAT replied to requests for clarification this morning. Big Tobacco has initiated legal proceedings against the government to protect their brands, which they say are worth billions. Corporate and individual members contribute most of the IPA's $2.5 million annual budget, which is then funnelled into research. In 2010, ABC TV's Media Watch questioned IPA plain packaging spokesperson Tim Wilson's links to the tobacco industry, highlighting the think tank's historical ties to cigarette companies. At the time no tobacco company would reveal if it was funding the IPA. In an opinion piece published by The Australian in 2002 the IPA admitted it received support from tobacco companies. In another piece in 2000, former senior fellow Gary Johns said a member of the IPA board worked for Phillip Morris. Critics such as The Greens have long accused the IPA of being a "pressure group for hire". Most of the IPA's research is focused on pro-business issues and anti-government intervention, with many of their researchers also providing comment and op-ed for the media. In an interview with The Power Index recently, IPA boss John Roskam said supporters had been intimidated for their membership and that was a reason for keeping their identities secret. "Anyone who gives us money can say they give us money, but the reason we don't reveal who our donors are is because they have been intimidated," said Roskam. "There is nothing that we have ever done that we have done because someone has paid us to change our opinion."

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

15 thoughts on “The IPA research ‘funded by Big Tobacco’

  1. Microseris

    The IPA research? Research what? As an Insitute they have less credibility than the Ponds Institute. They have a existing position on issues based on ideology and are given free reign to fill opinion content of Fairfax media and The Drum (ABC). The Fairfax press used to full of high quality, insightful and well researched
    opinion pieces from the likes of Pamela Bone and Kenneth Davidson.
    Now we have opinion pages full of propaganda from assorted IPA stooges and former Liberal politicians.

    I shudder to think what would result if Gina gets a board seat.

  2. klewso

    It would be nice if the IPA admitted their lobbying of the public
    was based on “sponsorship deals and in which commodities”?

  3. davidk

    I am sick and tired of seeing the IPA getting air time on the ABC often alongside other right wing twits, just to balance things out I suppose.I think it is becoming widely known that the ABC is no longer the respected, unbiased broker it once was.
    Thanks Johnny Howard for stacking the board.

  4. Barbara Boyle

    I think we can make an educated guess about IPA’s funding sources.
    Interesting comment about intimidation.
    Perhaps the ABC is intimidated otherwise why would it give so much airtime to the IPA

  5. Margaret Kerr

    If think tanks want their opinions to be published they should be prepared to reveal their funding sources.

    Not doing so is just plain dishonest and the media shouldn’t be a party to it.

  6. Sancho

    I love John Roskam’s concern that tobacco corporations may feel threatened if they’re known to fund the IPA.

  7. michael r james

    Tim Wilson of IPA didn’t just write about and spruik (on ABC Q&A and SBS Insight) about plain packaging but he undertook a 31-lecture tour all round Australia. Why on earth would a think-tanker go on such an arduous tour, and why would the think tank pay for it, if the whole thing was not funded by Big Tobacco?

    Clearly this is blatant “cash for comment” and IPA personnel should never be allowed on the ABC or SBS without declaring that they are in a position of clear conflict of interest.

  8. davidk

    The IPA is one of several arms of the coalition PR division I think. I’ve started to see what I imagine is the only left wing think tank getting some air time now, and a good thing too. The Institute for Policy Development I think.

  9. zut alors

    I have no time for the IPA, in particular the smarmy-faced Tim Wilson.

    However, it seems rather hypocritical that we lambast it for having Big Tobacco support when Oz superannuation funds invest in Big Tobacco (Crikey 24 May, Future Fund story). This translates to many Australians financially benefitting from tobacco companies….along with the IPA.

  10. jimpintin

    And incredibly the Financial Review and the ABC (eg Q&A) who claim to present ‘quality’ journalism’ continue to give the IPA credibility by devoting space and air time to its views on a regular basis. That’s not balance its lazy journalism.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details