The Australia Institute

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The Australia Institute
TAI with tagline blue.jpg
Abbreviation The Institute
Formation 4 May 1994[1]
Type Public policy think tank
Ben Oquist

The Australia Institute is a progressive Australian think tank conducting public policy research on a broad range of economic, social, transparency and environmental issues.

The Institute began in 1994 in order to construct and commission research and policy analysis on public debates and political and social issues and trends. The Institute is based in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. When it was founded the Institute used a sprig of golden wattle for its logo with the motto "For a just, sustainable, peaceful future."


The Institute describes itself as "one of the country’s most influential think tanks",[2] as well as saying that:

The Institute is determined to push public debate beyond the simplistic question of whether markets or governments have all the answers to more important questions: When does government need to intervene in the market? When should it stand back? And when regulation is needed, what form should it take?[3]

The Institute has been described as left-leaning,[4][5][6] independent,[7] progressive[8][9] or centrist.[10]


The Institute's researchers are prominent commentators on public policy issues, including work on climate change and emissions trading, taxation policy, paid parental leave and unemployment. The Institute is also known for its work on environment, taxation, health, consumer affairs and trade practices.[citation needed]

Climate change and energy

The Institute is active in promoting global warming mitigation measures, and has been critical of the Australian federal government's perceived lack of action on climate change. The Institute was critical of the Howard Government's decision to refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It claims that the former Prime Minister and some senior ministers deny the scientific evidence for global warming and that the resources sector drives government energy policy. Leaked minutes of a meeting between the Energy Minister, the Prime Minister and fossil fuel lobbyists provide evidence for these claims.[11][12]

The Institute has been active in promoting renewable energy development, and other mitigation measures, and it has campaigned strongly against developing a nuclear industry in Australia.[13]

The Institute has provided a critique of the proposed Australian emissions trading scheme (or Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme), based on concerns that the proposed scheme failed to adequately take into account voluntary action.[14]

More recently, the Institute launched the initiative No New Coal Mines,[15] calling for a moratorium on the construction of new coal mines and the expansion of current coal mines. The call followed from the demand from Kiribati President Anote Tong, which was subsequently backed by Pacific Island nations in what was known as the Suva Declaration.[16]

Tax reform debate

The Australia Institute employs several economists[17] who have published papers arguing for tax reform, particularly in the areas of superannuation tax concessions, negative gearing, capital gains tax and goods and services tax.[18] During the Australian federal election, 2016, the Institute published a series of critiques of the Coalition's proposed policy of cutting the company tax rate.[19]

Media regulation

The Australia Institute was sued by retail department store David Jones for allegedly engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct: David Jones Ltd v The Australia Institute Ltd [2007] FCA 962.[20] David Jones objected to a media release by the Australia Institute entitled "Corporate paedophilia – Sexualising children by advertising and marketing". The press release contained the statements: "It is particularly disturbing that this exploitation of young children appears to be becoming accepted or mainstream. Major retail chains such as David Jones and Myer have jumped on the bandwagon. When family department stores show no conscience on these issues, or are inured to the effects of their behaviour, the situation is very unhealthy." David Jones claimed that this statement contained a number of misleading and deceptive representations - including that "David Jones eroticises children in order to obtain profits". The matter was later settled.[citation needed]

Centre for Future Work

In 2016, the Australia Institute set up the Centre for Future of Work "to conduct and publish progressive economic research on work, employment, and labour markets".[21] Its founding director is Canadian economist Dr Jim Stanford.

The Australia Institute, Tasmania

In 2017, the Australia Institute set up The Australia Institute, Tasmania, with director Leanne Minshull, to "look at political, social and economic issues on a state level, and release research and polling on government policies and issues of the day".[22]


The Institute is independently funded by donations, mostly from philanthropic trusts and individuals, as well as grants and commissioned research from business, unions and non-government organisations. The Australia Institute does not accept donations or commissioned work from political parties. With no formal political or commercial ties, the Institute is able to maintain its independence while advancing a vision for a fair and progressive Australia."[3]


  • Dr John McKinnon (Chair), NGO director and philanthropist
  • Professor Barbara Pocock (Deputy Chair), Director, Centre for Work and Life, University of South Australia
  • Dr Elizabeth Cham, former CEO of Philanthropy Australia (96-06)
  • Dr David Morawetz, Clinical/Counseling Psychologist, Founder/Director of the Social Justice Fund
  • Mr Andrew Dettmer, National President of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union
  • Mr Josh Bornstein, Head of National Employment and Industrial Law at Maurice Blackburn
  • Dr Elizabeth Hill, Senior Lecturer, Political economy at the University of Sydney

Former board members include:


  1. ^ Kirby, Michael. ""Trash" fights back". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  2. ^ "About The Australia Institute". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 11 January 2018. 
  3. ^ a b The Australia Institute
  4. ^ Brad Norington, "Think Tank Secrets", The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 August 2003
  5. ^ Disclosing the funding of think tanks, Media Watch, ABC, 27 May 2013
  6. ^ Australia Institute ‘think tank’ bent on undermining our economy, Chris Kenny, The Australian, 22 August 2015
  7. ^ Vickery, Kara (2016-01-11). "The Australia Institute wants the rich to pay capital gains tax on their family homes to help the Federal Budget". Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  8. ^ Murphy, Katharine (2018-03-21). "Company tax cut inches closer with fourth crossbench vote". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  9. ^ Chalmers, Stephanie. "Strike action 'near extinct' as wages stagnate, think tank says". ABC News. Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  10. ^ Hamilton, Clive. "Climate policy's house of cards". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 April 2018. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Denniss, Richard (November 2008). "Fixing the Floor in the ETS". Australia Institute Policy Brief. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "DJs goes to court over erotic ads claim". The Age. February 5, 2007. 
  21. ^
  22. ^

External links

  • The Australia Institute website
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