Marcus Smith and Peter Marden are not the only people who believe think-tanks can be analysed without giving any serious attention to what they say or do. Andrew Crook, author of this piece in today’s Crikey on the new Melbourne University-based think-tank the Grattan Institute, seems to share their approach.
Though the Grattan Institute is yet to publish anything, or appoint any staff other than a CEO with no obvious partisan or ideological background, Crook claims that
it’s shaping up as a quasi arm of government that replaces frank and fearless advice with something eminently more pliable. The irony is that the Rudd Government’s obsession with experts … reflects less a return to a disinterested public service and more a proliferation of pick-and-mix advice witnessed at 2020. Grattan is looking like a permanent 2020, staffed by wonks rather than celebrities.
The ‘evidence’ for this is the usual follow-the-money logic (the feds kicked in some cash) and some rather imaginative guesswork from some members of the board, which along with some people with Labor connections includes some less well-known Ruddites such as my former boss and Liberal Minister David Kemp.
Crook’s analysis of the general think-tank scene is no better:
[it] represents the dawning of a new era as the right-wing think tanks of decades past are subsumed by the ALP-connected. Add Grattan to outfits like OzProspect and PerCapita — whose bright sparks attempt to solve society’s problems through their own enlightened managerialism — and you’ve got an intellectual revolution afoot.
If Crook had Googled OzProspect, he might have noticed it is nearly two years since they updated their website. Per Capita doesn’t seem to have had any opinion pieces in the media for nearly three months, and its policy director, Michael Cooney, recently quit. If there is going to be an ‘intellectual revolution’, Grattan will have to do all the work.
the IPA, and its ideological bedfellows at the Centre for Independent Studies and Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute have been effectively frozen out of the national debate.
Actually, the CIS’s media presence has increased significantly since the Rudd government’s election (some of it generated by Rudd and his Ministers turning up to speak at CIS functions). And over the last few years, under John Roskam’s leadership, the IPA has been steadily rebuilding its profile.
Like almost everything written about think-tanks, Crook’s piece is just an ignorant and lazy rehashing of the author’s prejudices and preconceptions.