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Per Capita think tank « Previous | |Next »
April 12, 2007

I see that a new Australian think tank has been launched. It is called Per Capita and it says that it is progressive. Hence it is a contrast to the well established right of centre Institute of Public Affairs and the Centre of Independent Studies and joins the Australia Institute in Canberra.

Per Capita states that such a think tank is needed because progressive ideas are currently not well represented in the intellectual marketplace; and that it aims to re-shape the progressive public policy agenda for Australia. Presumably, progressive means social democratic. So what does that actually mean in shaping the progressive public policy agenda for Australia?

There is nothing on the website, which is still very minimal. It is just about recent appointments: the Executive Director is David Hetherington (based in Sydney), and the Policy Director is Michael Cooney (based in Melbourne). Cooney said on Radio National Breakfast this morning that Per Capita will be doing long-term thinking and fighting the battle of ideas rather than short-term electoral politics, and that it would pick up on third way ideas opened up by Hawke and Keating in the 1980s and then developed by Tony Blair in the UK.

So how independent will it be from the ALP? Does that mean Per Capita will be akin to Demos in the UK?

One question is how is the agenda-setting phase of policy development going to be funded? Consultancies? A big donor? Fund raising? The suggestion is from private and corporate donors. It's an important question because there are not many career options for policy wonks. Most is currently done without meaningful institutional support or adequate remuneration on either side of their paying day.

The think tank's focus would be on human capita and on "full-cost economics". The latter is about factoring in the environmental and social costs of economic activities. That is crucial for water, energy and child care. However, no indication is given of the research that is in the pipeline.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:27 AM | | Comments (2)


I read the article by Natasha Cica in today's Age. I'm interested to know more. I'm a retired academic from Monash University,and have been without intellectual stimulus for several years. It's about time we had a think-tank that copes with non-troglodyte views. Please let me know of others like myself for further contact.

I know what you mean. Weblogs help to keep the brain cells ticking over. More retired academics should contribute to, or start, weblogs to help develop the public conversation on the public issues we find important. We need more diversity and commentary between the op-ed in the Australian press and the academic paper.

I 'd read Natasha's Cica's
Think-tank industry about to lose slant to right in today's Age too. It did not tell us that much more. Cica, however, did outline the policy agenda more:

Per Capita promises more sophisticated thinking on public market design, working out the role that responsible government should play in the construction and design of markets, how it should set the rules on questions such as carbon emissions trading, and delivery of physical infrastructure, broadband, water, health and education services. Building on the hot-button issue of child-care provision ....Per Capita has also pipelined broader research examining what a truly child-centred society might look like, pondering the practical implications of a value shift towards "what's best for the kids?" in our workplaces, homes and political processes.

There is Australian Prospect. Do you know it? They have a Working papers section.