What Books You Should Buy For Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, here are some books published this year that IPA staff members think would be great presents:


John Roskam

The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics by David Goodhart

David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics is the best analysis of the meaning and consequences of Brexit and Donald Trump.  The book’s central argument is simple – politicians are completely out of touch with the views of their constituents.

Scott Hargreaves

Climate Change: The Facts 2017 edited by Dr Jennifer Marohasy

Scientific, economic and cultural views on the global obsession with global warming; the reasons for hysteria in the media, why it’s warming less than they say and not necessarily because of CO2, and why remedial policies are damaging human prosperity beyond even official estimates of potential costs of warming.

Dr Bella d’Abrera

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson’s first travel book in 15 years is an irreverent look at the British and their idiosyncrasies. But, at the same time, Bryson is full of admiration for them. It made me laugh out loud, but also slightly homesick.

Simon Breheny

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s explanation, in her own words, for why she lost the 2016 US presidential election. A genuinely fascinating insight, if an utterly tiresome read, into the mind of the embodiment of political establishment. Sad!

Matthew Lesh

The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray

In this thought-provoking book Murray argues that Europe has lost its mojo, its sense of self, its purpose and identity. And yet at the same time Europe is welcoming people from other cultures on a mass scalebut ultimately failing to integrate them.

Dr Darcy Allen

Applied Mainline Economics by Matthew D. Mitchell and Peter J. Boettke

Applied Mainline Economics traces a line of economic thought that has spanned over 200 years—including the spontaneous order of Friedrich Hayek to the public choice theory of James Buchanan—and links those ideas to tackling real public policy issues.

Andrew Bushnell

The New Philistines by Sohrab Ahmari

The New Philistines by Sohrab Ahmari is an enjoyable polemic about modern art that will give people who suspect the culture of the West is self-immolating new vindication. It makes very good points about the influence of identity politics into contemporary art.

Evan Mulholland

Anti-Piketty: Capital for the 21st Century edited by Jean-Philippe Delsol, Nicolas Lecaussin & Emmanuel Martin

The perfect gift for those sick of the ‘inequality’ nonsense. In this edited volume from the great Cato Institute preeminent economists tear to shreds Thomas Piketty’s now infamous Capital in the Twenty-First Century on evidential and logical grounds.

Daniel Wild

Understanding Trump by Newt Gingrich

Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shares what he learned from being with Trump on the campaign trail, election and the opening few months of his presidency. He expertly outlines the key ideas underpinning Trump and ‘Trumpism’: anti-left, anti-stupid, anti-political correctness, and pro-American.

Aaron Lane

Not for the Faint-hearted by Kevin Rudd

Weighing in at 674 pages, the title is an adequate description of this autobiographical account of the making of Australia’s 26th Prime Minister. The book ends before Kevin Rudd even takes office, so if you were hoping for the author’s response to Julia Gillard’s My Story, you should probably just wait for the second volume.

Gideon Rozner

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

A must-read insight into the cultural and economic malaise gripping middle America, where once-proud communities are engulfed by chronic unemployment, welfare dependency and utter despair. A New York Times bestseller and a book that makes Trump’s victory seem inevitable.

Georgina Downer

Definitely Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom by Condoleezza Rice

Former US Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice gives a thoughtful personal account of her work promoting democracy all over the world. She marvels at its extraordinary growth throughout the world but talks at length about the challenges in making it work.

Stuart Eaton

The Rise of the Outsiders: How Mainstream Politics Lost Its Way by Steve Richards:

An analysis of changes in politics and political parties across the western world. However, what makes this book interesting isn’t the charting of new parties and candidates across the western world but the analysis of the failings of the established parties that allowed them to bloom. As a former Guardian and BBC journalist, Richards raises some points that you may not agree with, but his diagnosis of the symptoms, rather than the outcome as so many other books are doing, makes for interesting reading.

James Bolt

Shattered  by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.

Two Democrat-supporting journalists embedded themselves in the Clinton campaign so they could write an insider account of her historic victory, but ended up with a brutal assessment of just how poor Hillary was as a candidate and how terribly her staff stuffed it up.

Peter Gregory

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine

Released for the 100 year anniversary of the October Revolution, Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine’s 1,100 page The House of Government chronicles the lives of elite Bolsheviks and their families from their early days of revolutionary awakening and the overthrow of the Tsar, through to their children’s loss of faith. Successfully mimicking Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Slezkine argues that the Bolsheviks were “millenarian sectarians preparing for the apocalypse” rather than ideologues.

Morgan Begg

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World by Eric Metaxas

One of my favourite writers, the acclaimed Eric Metaxas – who has previously written bestselling works on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce – turns his attention to Martin Luther who 500 years ago this year kick-started the Protestant Reformation and whose monumental faith, Metaxas controversially argues, gave birth to the ideas of faith, virtue and freedom that today lie at the heart of Western Civilisation.

Conservative students forced to pay security tax at Sydney University

The Daily Telegraph has reported today on the University of Sydney’s selective charging of conservative students for event security.

IPA campus coordinator Renee Gorman has been forced to agree to pay ‘unlimited security fees’ for The Case for Coal event this evening, and previously students paid $760 for up to 10 security guards for an event on the Dangers of Socialism in August. This fee, which prevented the donation of ticket money to a Venezuelan family struggling under socialism, was required despite no protesters actually showing up.

The University of Sydney’s selective use of security fees is an attack on free speech. The University has a responsibility to not deter controversial speakers or ideas on campus.

As I told, the Daily Telegraph:

The Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Matthew Lesh slammed the fees as a “heckler’s veto”.

“It creates a strong incentive for students to disrupt events and make certain ideas unspeakable on campus,” he said.

“Students should not have to pay for bad behaviour.”

The University of Sydney justified the imposts by claiming that all students can be charged fees when they assess it to be necessary. However, the University appears to have only assessed it to be necessary for libertarian and conservative events, therefore placing the burden on some ideas and speakers and not others.

The use of security fees punishes, and can potentially exclude, unpopular or controversial speakers. It is the responsibility of the university to protect students, and provide for the extra security if required. In principle, the university should treat all events the same in order to ensure a diversity of voices can be heard.

For good reason, the US Supreme Court has declared the selective charging of security fees to be unconstitutional. ‘Listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation,’ the court declared in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement, 505 U.S. 123 (1992). ‘Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.’

The University of Sydney should follow the precedent set by the University of California at Berkeley which, in order to protect free expression, covers security costs of speakers – including over US$500,000 on two occasions this year.

This isn’t the first time the University of Sydney has been a difficult place for conservative students. In September, there were physical clashes and damage of property at a ‘No’ campaign stall on campus. In April, the student union attempted to block the screening of The Red Pill because it could ‘physically threaten women on campus’. Last year, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton was unable to speak on campus following the last minute cancellation of a venue booking due to potential security issues.

If the University is to live up to its role in society, to facilitate debate with a diversity of ideas, it should immediately declare that students should not have to pay for event security.

Photo credit: Daily Telegraph

When It Comes To Red Tape Reduction, There’s Reason To Be Hopeful

Last Friday night, IPA Director of Policy, Simon Breheny, appeared on Sky TV to discuss the upcoming Queensland election and some of the election commitments that had been put forward.

When Simon expressed his enthusiasm and support for the State Opposition’s pledge to cut red tape by twenty percent, he was met with a range of comments by his fellow panellists that red tape reduction is a “boring” policy and that the major problem was that it wasn’t “sexy”.

Despite these views, however, there are signs that the demand and appetite for red tape reduction is growing and that progress is being made.

Just last week alone there were a number of statements by significant figures that, while obvious, underline the growing realisation that red tape and overregulation are holding Australia back.

Firstly, two senior members of the business community, NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn and outgoing Wesfarmers CEO Richard Goyder, both referred to the fact that regulation is a handbrake on small businesses and innovation.

Goyder specifically referred to, as he put it, the “instinctive” desire of politicians and bureaucrats to erect ever-greater road blocks to our own small businesses.

Goyder’s view was backed up in the recent “Intergovernmental Review of Business Investment” released by the Federal Treasury Department.  The report stated that business believed “that regulation and intervention are often the first resort for policy-makers to deal with perceived market imperfections but these strategies risk undermining the incentives that drive businesses to invest and innovate in the first place”.

However, despite all of this, two speeches later in the week provided a glimmer of hope for Goyder and others.

Firstly, the Secretary to the Treasury, John Fraser, used a speech on Thursday to acknowledge the very real impact of red tape. Referring to Treasury’s recent report, Fraser said that “businesses feel that the cumulative burden of regulation on business is increasing, not decreasing.” He also said there was “widespread concern about the red-tape cost of doing business in Australia and the impact of the regulatory environment on the investment environment”.

However, one of his most telling remarks, which could almost be seen as a perfect confirmation of Goyder’s remarks, was when he outlined his “fear that policy makers in Canberra and in the States are not as alive to this issue as they should be when designing policy”.

In a neat contrast to these comments, however, Treasurer Scott Morrison finished the week by acknowledging the “need to release the shackles on Australian businesses by allowing them to compete in a global market without the burden of excessive taxation and stifling red tape”.

While these remarks do not achieve change on their own, they do show the growing awareness about the impact of red tape on Australian businesses as they seek to compete in the world.

The other recent factor which has raised the prominence of red tape as a factor when competing internationally is the work by US President Donald Trump to free up American businesses. In a speech last month, Trump said “We have stopped or eliminated more regulations in the last eight months than any president has done during an entire term. It’s not even close.”  While many may dismiss this as Trump hyperbole, the fact of the matter is that the number of new regulations under Trump is close to zero (in contrast to an average 13,000 a year under previous administrations) and he has pursued a policy of removing two regulations for every one new regulation introduced.

A one-in, two-out initiative in Australia, would really help level the playing field for our businesses and I’m sure they’d find such a policy anything but “boring”; perhaps even “sexy”.

Highlights of Simon Breheny on The Young IPA Podcast

On The Young IPA Podcast this week, James, Pete and Simon discussed Indigenous Recognition in the Constitution. Here’s what Simon had to say:

  • “We think that equality means people should be treated the same under the Constitution”
  • “It’s really important that principles we put in [The Constitution] are ones that stand the test of time. I think the idea that we could put words in that are relevant to the policy challenges we face, like for instance the difficult situation that Indigenous people face in remote areas of Australia, I just think is a really strange idea.”
  • “I hate this idea that only Indigenous people can represent other Indigenous people. If Indigeneity, or race, or ethnicity is the number one – or going even further than that – the sole factor behind why you would make political decisions or policy decisions, that’s really worrying to me. And that sort of thing, I think, should be rejected outright by the Parliament.
  • Proponents of Indigenous Recognition “are simplifying individual human beings to being members of a group, and in a lot of ways having…the same ideas. This idea that people, because of their ethnic background, are all going to feel the same way about any issue coming before the Parliament is just bizarre.”


Listen to the rest of the interview on iTunes, SoundCloud and our website.


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Latest data shows that Aussie men are still out of work

The number of prime-age men out of work still hovers at around one in five, according to recently-released census data.

Earlier this year, the IPA published a report showing that the number of men with paid employment entered a freefall in the 1960s. According to census data, over 96 per cent of men aged between 20 and 54 were employed. By 1996 – following the Keating-era recession – the work-to-population ratio among working-age men had plummeted to its historical low-point of just over 78 per cent.

The good news is the work-to-population ratio among working-age men continues to trend upwards. As at the 2016 census, the ratio had risen to just over 81 per cent (see Figure 1). This improvement in the rate of male joblessness should be welcomed as a positive development.

Figure 1 – Work to population ratio among males age 20-54.
Sources: IPA, Australian Bureau of Statistics

However, notwithstanding this progress, the work-to-population ratio among working-age men is far from ideal. Having almost 20 per cent of Australia’s prime-age males out of work is still far too high.

The glacial return of Australian men to work is particularly disappointing when compared with the rate at which women have entered the workforce. Over the past two decades, the work-to-population ratio among prime-age women has risen by over 10 per cent, compared to the male rate of just under 2.9 per cent (see Figure 2). In other words, it appears that women have returned to work at almost four times the rate of men since the last recession.

Figure 2 – Increase in work-to-population ratio among working-age men (shown in blue) and women (shown in orange), compared with 1996 levels.
Sources: IPA, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Data from the 2016 census also confirms that higher work rates among women cannot be attributed to an increase in the number of ‘househusbands’. As Figure 3 shows, women still spend many more hours per week on unpaid domestic work than men.

Figure 3 – Differences in time spent on unpaid domestic work between working-age males (shown in blue) and females (shown in orange).
Sources: IPA, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Census data also confirms that women are more likely to undertake unpaid childcare, though unlike unpaid domestic work, the ABS does not measure hours spent.

In short, the 2016 census has confirmed that far too many men are still out of work, and that these men are still not using their spare time to pick up the slack at home. The recent improvement in the male joblessness rate – welcome as it is – is not enough.

As the IPA said when our study of men without work was first released, policymakers must move to address this silent crisis. Measures should include reforming the Fair Work regime to make it easier for the long-term unemployed to enter the labour force, and reforming certain pensions to encourage the movement of recipients from welfare to work.

Highlights of Dr Bella d’Abrera on The Young IPA Podcast

On the IPA’s latest report The Rise of Identity Politics: An Audit of History Teaching at Australian Universities

  • “Personally I think [these subjects] don’t belong in history faculties. They are subjects that are largely focused on identity politics, looking at the past through the lenses of class, race and gender.”
  • “They are reducing 2,500 years [of human history] to three very simple themes…it’s a dumbing down, an anti-intellectualism which is really worrying, and it’s very difficult to see how it could be reversed.”
  • “At the University of Western Australia, second year students could choose a subject called ‘Masculinity, Nostalgia and Change’ and they basically spent their tutorials discussing constructions of masculinity in Europe, Australia and Asia since 1700 drawing from queer theory, gender theory, sociology and cultural study to explore changing cultural assumptions about masculinity. But then, in case you were thinking there was too much focus on men, the following year you can do something called ‘Feminist Thought’, which basically examines the history and philosophy of thinking gender and the West from its emergence in 18th century liberal humanism to the present. But this is my favourite bit – students undertook slow readings of the key texts with workshops and some assessments foregrounding of ‘feelingful’ responses.”

On the reaction from academia

  • Academics “are denying any influence of identity politics in their faculty, which I found astounding because you just have to look at the course handbooks and the course descriptions.”
  • “There was another response today [from the University of Melbourne] in The Conversation saying ‘no, we do teach all these decent courses, identity politics just isn’t a thing.’ Which I find incredible, because you just have to look at their website.”


For the rest of this interview and the rest of the episode, listen to The Young IPA Podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and our website.

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To read the full report, click here.

Government welcomes IPA’s ‘important contribution’ on universities

The Australian Senate debated a motion on the IPA’s new report The Rise of Identity Politics: History in Australian Universities, written by Dr Bella d’Abrera, this afternoon.

The motion, proposed by Senator Cory Bernardi, commended the research; expressed concern about the rise of identity politics and the lack of teaching about Western Civilisation, the Enlightenment and Reformation; and called for the Australian Government to review the history curriculum.

Senator Bernardi moved the motion, referring to the ‘magnificent Institute of Public Affairs’, which was followed by a short statement by Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Senator James McGrath.

‘The Government welcomes the Institute of Public Affairs’ report as an important contribution to the public discussion on universities as places of learning, free speech and ideas,’ Senator McGrath said.

However, the Government subsequently voted against the motion on the basis that it is not the government’s role to interfere with university teaching. ‘The Government does not set the curriculum for universities and it would be an attack on academic integrity were a government in a liberal democracy to control what is taught at universities,’ Senator McGrath continued.

The Senate divided on the motion, with 6 in favour and 41 against.

Senator McGrath is correct that it is not the government’s role to set the curriculum. Nor is the IPA seeking to dictate to professors what they should teach in class.

The purpose of Dr d’Abrera’s report is to highlight the relative imbalance in focus of Australia’s history departments, an important issue of public concern considering the billions of dollars of taxpayer funding that universities receive and their important role in public debate. Dr d’Abrera found that while there are a plethora of topics on identity politics issues, including class, race and gender, there is a lack of teaching of Australia’s core history. A fully rounded history degree should provide students with the opportunity to hear a diversity of topics and perspectives. As it stands, universities are failing in this task.

Senator McGrath pointed to the role of the Tertiary Education Standards Agency (TEQSA) to uphold university standards. As it stands, TEQSA enforces substantial red tape to the entry of new, smaller and more specialised institutions.

Dr d’Abrera found that it is just this type of an institution, Campion College, Australia’s first and only liberal arts college that is just a decade old, that is teaching the twenty ‘Essential Core Topics in History of Western Civilisation’.

While the government should not be setting curriculums, they should be facilitating an environment which encourages student choice and a diversity of viewpoints on campus. As the IPA’s previous research on university speech codes has found, there are some serious institutional issues that must be addressed to improve the state of higher learning in Australia.

While it is disappointing that the government rejected the motion, albeit for understandable reasons, it does have an important role to play, as the regulator and funder of universities, to improve the state of intellectual freedom in Australia.

Rita Panahi Fires Off On Harvey Weinstein, Political Elites And The Twitter Swamp

Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi joined the Young IPA Podcast to discuss a wide range of issues. Here are some of the highlights.

Listen to the full interview on iTunes, Soundcloud and our website. And make sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode!


Harvey Weinstein

  • “To me, he is the poster child for the creepy male feminist. Every male feminist I’ve met has given me the creeps. This guy was a classic. He was sponsoring the feminist program at Rutgers, he was part of the Women’s March with the p***y hat-wearing crew. He was – on paper – a crusader for women’s rights and progressive values, meanwhile he’s preying on vulnerable women.”
  • On established celebrities not coming out against him earlier. “Once you’ve made it, someone – say like a Ben Affleck, someone who’s not only a famous actor but also a movie maker – he didn’t do anything. Someone who’s fairly outspoken about women’s rights and progressive values. He did nothing, and that to me leaves a really bad taste.”

The disconnect of ‘the elites’ with mainstream elites

  • “Seeing institutions like much of the mainstream media, who are almost proudly out of touch with the mainstream, I think is worth talking about because I just think it’s not healthy. It’s just not healthy to have such a narrow band of views dominate that’s not actually reflecting the community.”
  • “It’s now actually infecting news reporting, where you read a news report and it’s got such a slant on it and it’s so obvious that the biases of the journalist are being reflected in that piece of writing. It’s like they’ve lost the ability to be impartial. In fact, they don’t see it as their duty to be impartial. If you want to get your opinion out there become a bloody columnist.”

Twitter and its role in public debate

  • “Where it’s been unhealthy is the way it’s shaped the agenda so often, because you see things on Twitter which are just nonsensical crap that nobody cares about…but it now makes it into the mainstream media because everyone in the media is on Twitter even though like 105 of the population is on Twitter.”
  • “I think it’s been fantastic in exposing the biases of people who claim to be centrist or impartial when their Twitter feed is a dumpster fire of leftist bulls**t…and yet they claim not to be left.”