The Australia Institute

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The Australia Institute
TAI with tagline blue.jpg
AbbreviationThe Australia Institute
Formation4 May 1994[1]
TypePublic 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 in order to inform public debate and bring greater accountability to the democratic process.

The Australia Institute is based in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.


The Australia Institute describes itself as "one of the country’s most influential think tanks", 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?[2]

The Australia Institute has been described as left-leaning,[3] independent,[4] progressive[5][6] or centrist.[7]


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

Climate change and energy[edit]

The Australia 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 Australia 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.[8][9]

The Australia 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.[10]

The Australia Institute criticised the Rudd Government's proposed Australian emissions trading scheme (or Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme), arguing that it failed to adequately take into account voluntary action and delivered excessive compensation to polluting industries.[11]

The Australia Institute spoke positively of the design of the carbon price mechanism implemented by the Gillard Government, arguing that beginning with a fixed price and transitioning to an emissions trading scheme made sense given that there was no consensus about what the emissions reduction target should be.[12]

In 2014, Ben Oquist (then the Australia Institute's Strategy Director) was involved in the Palmer United Party's decision to vote against the abolition of the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority.[13] Oquist wrote that "The Australia Institute is disappointed that the carbon price is likely to be repealed" but that "The Palmer-Gore announcement has re-set climate policy and politics. Keeping the CCA, the RET and the CEFC is much more than most expected from the PUP. We have avoided a big step backwards."[14]

In 2017, the Australia Institute reported that Australia's greenhouse gas emissions were "rising rapidly" since the abolition of the carbon price, with economist Matt Grudnoff criticising the National Energy Guarantee proposed by the Turnbull Government, saying that it would be “likely to cause our emissions to rise even faster”.[15]

In 2017, The Australia Institute took over The Climate Institute's intellectual property after that institute closed, and subsequently launched a Climate and Energy Program to continue the work.[16][17] The first Climate of the Nation report produced by The Australia Institute was released in 2018.

Tax reform debate[edit]

The Australia Institute employs several economists[18] 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.[19] During the 2016 Australian federal election, the Institute published a series of critiques of the Coalition's proposed policy of cutting the company tax rate.[20]

The Australia Institute has also criticised the final two stages of the Turnbull Government's three-stage income tax cut plan, releasing research into how the benefits from the tax cut are distributed by income [21] and electorate.[22]

Centre for Future Work[edit]

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".[23] Its founding director is Canadian economist Dr Jim Stanford.

The Australia Institute Tasmania[edit]

In 2017, the Australia Institute established 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".[24]


The Australia 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.

In its first decade through to 2003, the Australia Institute was largely funded by the Poola Foundation and the Treepot Foundation—philanthropic organisations run by the Kantors.[3] Other significant funders include the McKinnon Family Foundation; David Morawetz’s Social Justice Fund, a sub fund of the Australian Communities Foundation; Diana and Brian Snape AM and the Susan McKinnon Foundation.[25]

In recent years, the Australia Institute has reported the number of donations it has received from individuals, with 2,000 individual donors in financial year 2015 [26] and 2,700 in financial year 2017.[27]

The Australia Institute does not accept donations or commissioned work from political parties.[2]


  • 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 Lawyers
  • Dr Elizabeth Hill, Senior Lecturer, Political economy at the University of Sydney
  • Ms Alex Sloan, award winning journalist, interviewer and facilitator

Former board members include:


  1. ^ Kirby, Michael. ""Trash" fights back". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "About The Australia Institute". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b Brad Norington, "Think Tank Secrets", The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 August 2003
  4. ^ Vickery, Kara (11 January 2016). "The Australia Institute wants the rich to pay capital gains tax on their family homes to help the Federal Budget". Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  5. ^ Murphy, Katharine (21 March 2018). "Company tax cut inches closer with fourth crossbench vote". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  6. ^ Chalmers, Stephanie. "Strike action 'near extinct' as wages stagnate, think tank says". ABC News. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  7. ^ Hamilton, Clive. "Climate policy's house of cards". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Notes of LETAG Meeting". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  9. ^ "The Dirty Politics of Climate Change: Speech to the Climate Change and Business Conference, Hilton Hotel, Adelaide, 20 February 2006". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  10. ^ "Siting Nuclear Power Plants in Australia - Where would they go?". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  11. ^ Denniss, Richard (November 2008). "Fixing the Floor in the ETS". Australia Institute Policy Brief. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  12. ^ "Carbon price architecture looks good, but proof will come in construction". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  13. ^ Aston, James Massola, Tom Arup, Heath (26 June 2014). "The four who brought together Clive Palmer and Al Gore". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  14. ^ "What to make of Palmer's gambit - A message from Ben Oquist". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  15. ^ "The survey that could mark the beginning of the end of the coal boom". NewsComAu. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  16. ^ Kenny, Mark (24 September 2017). "Climate crunch: Australia to fail on Paris commitments without massive renewable switch". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Australia 'unfairly shirking global responsibilities' on climate change". Financial Review. 12 June 2018. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Hutchens, Gareth (27 May 2018). "Richest taxpayers get $12.7bn windfall from Coalition plan, thinktank says". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  22. ^ Murphy, Katharine; Hutchens, Gareth (6 June 2018). "Wealthy Liberal seats among biggest winners of Turnbull tax cut plan". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Seccombe, Mike (28 July 2018). "Rinehart's secret millions to the IPA". The Saturday Paper. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  26. ^ "The Australia Institute Annual Report 2015-16". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  27. ^ "The Australia Institute Annual Report 2016-17". The Australia Institute. Retrieved 30 July 2018.

External links[edit]