Schoddey & Poor: The Right Wing Think Tank & The Neopets ‘Master Artisan’ – Petrol – Nov 14

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) is a right wing free market think tank that wields an incredible amount of influence in the Australian political scene. Literally incredible, because for an outfit that claims to be non-political and research-based, it’s laughably transparent and its output the opposite of rigorous.

The IPA was founded during WW2, and attracted the attention of the Commonwealth Security Service (Australia’s wartime security agency and forerunner of ASIO). They immediately and rightly recognised this union of capitalists as a ‘fascist mob’.

1943 news clipping about founding of IPA with title added by CSS. Source: IPA ASIO file

The IPA has always existed to wage political PR campaigns on behalf of its wealthy benefactors, and thus its campaigns have varied in focus over the years. In the 90s for instance, it drew opprobrium for a scare campaign, launched at the behest of mining companies, that tried to convince white Australia that indigenous land rights would mean not being able to visit your favourite beach. Around the same time, it was responsible for reports outlining the ‘Costs and Benefits of Smoking’. The IPA was publicly abandoned by some mining companies after the anti-land rights campaign was deemed to have gone too far, but they still work on behalf of embattled tobacco companies, railing against Australia’s plain packaging laws.

None of this would be particularly interesting but for the stature of the ‘Institute’ in political discourse. IPA researchers are not only regularly tapped for media comment as ‘experts’, they also regularly pen op-eds for both the Murdoch and Fairfax press (the only two newspaper proprietors of note in the country). More disturbing is the relationship the IPA has with the current Australian government. The think tank has always been closely associated with the conservative Liberal Party, but no previous Prime Minister has embraced the IPA so warmly and publicly as Tony Abbott. As opposition leader, he addressed the IPA 70th anniversary celebrations early last year, alongside luminaries such as Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch (whose father was an IPA founder). As one independent news outlet put it, Abbott’s actions have more than matched the promises he made to his IPA comrades at that event: posted:

He noted the IPA had given him “a great deal of advice” on the policy front, and, offering “a big ‘yes’”, promised them he would act on it.

“I want to assure you,” he said, “that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the department of climate change, abolish the Clean Energy Fund. We will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, at least in its current form. We will abolish new health and environmental bureaucracies. We will deliver $1 billion in red-tape savings every year. We will develop northern Australia. We will repeal the mining tax. We will create a one-stop shop for environmental approvals. We will privatise Medibank Private. We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN.”

Abbott has been good to his word. It may well be that not all of these measures will get through the parliament, but there is no doubting Abbott and his government are absolutely serious in their intent.

In fact, one might argue that Abbott under-promised at that dinner and has over-delivered since. Other major items on the IPA’s published wish list included stopping subsidies for the car industry (done), eliminating Family Tax Benefits (part-done), the cessation of funding for the ABC’s Australia Network (done), abandonment of poker machine reforms (done), the introduction of fee competition for Australian universities (done), and negotiating free trade deals with Japan, South Korea, China and India (more than half done).

There is a bunch of others, too, where the government has made significant moves. It might not have abolished the Human Rights Commission, but it has cut $1.65 million from its budget, refused to renew the position of its disability commissioner and appointed – absent the usual due process – one of the IPA’s own, Tim Wilson, as one of the remaining six commissioners. Attorney-General George Brandis has flagged an intention to “further reform” the HRC.

It’s notable, then, that the IPA has recently launched a curious campaign in defense of western culture. If that sounds like an overzealous paraphrase on my part, I should point out that they’ve actually called it ‘The Foundations of Western Civilisation Program’. At first glance, this seems simply like a weirdly pretentious attempt to position their freer-than-free market capitalist ideology as the pinnacle of (white) human progress. Okay, creepy enough! But the ‘program’ also seeks to critique government cultural policy, and particularly its education policy.

IPA researcher Stephanie Forrest has been the driving force behind the institute’s attacks on the previous government’s National Curriculum, primarily on the basis that it eschews The Western Judeo-Christian Cultural Values Upon Which Australia Was Founded, in favour of unworthy material such as writing by indigenous authors. This happens to be precisely the same line towed both by the government and by the academics it appointed to review the curriculum (one of whom was recently exposed as a frothing racist who refers to ‘Abos’ as ‘human rubbish tips’).

Forrest has been criticised by the head of the Australian Association of English Teachers on several grounds, not least of which is the fact that her ‘bachelor’s degree is in classics and history and that she has never been a school teacher’. In fact, as her IPA bio makes clear, she only graduated in 2013, and has indeed never had a real job prior to (or during) her current appointment.

So it’s natural, perhaps, that she needed a hand with her latest effort, a critique of the National English Curriculum. It is after all a ‘research report’, even if the research consists of a comparison with a handful of previous curricula. So Forrest recruited someone new to the IPA stable: Carla Schodde. Schodde’s IPA bio is oddly brief, driving the curious to google for more information.

The first few results contain no real surprises: Schodde studied classics alongside Forrest at the University of Melbourne, and maintains a classical history-themed blog called Found in Antiquity. This is her first real job, too: posted:

I worked in retail for a couple of years, but left the job to focus on my studies. I then took up private tutoring for High School Latin students – I keep it up to this day, and it’s still my favourite work. Finally, after graduating, I started my first ‘real’ job, as a research scholar for the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs.

(Schodde is so proud of her employment history that she’s actually put all three of those jobs on her LinkedIn profile.)

She’s also a big fan of Neopets.

Carla Schodde’s Neopets profile.

Schodde, better known as Pacmanite, has been an extremely active member of the Neopets community for the past 9 years. Her most notable contributions have been a guide to making comics, and a guide to international copyright law.

First of all, Pacmanite does not even once consider herself a complete expert on the subject or the Universal Supreme Comic Empress. She hardly ever laughs at her own comics, so it’s not like she can reliably compare her work to other’s anyway. But at the same time, she reckons she knows a thing or two about writing comics, and that’s enough for others to benefit from

First of all, the name, copyright.

It is not copywrite. And by extension, the past tense is not copywritten. It is copyrighted; the former is just a spelling error as the word bears no real connection to the verb “to write”.

Now that that’s out of the way, lets get into debunking the most widely-believed copyright myths.

Schodde also maintained a Neopets fine art page under the name ‘Lupine_canine’.

Welcome to Lupine_canine’s petpage! This page serves as a gallery for a great deal of Pacmanite’s artwork, both neopet and non-neopet related. You can have a looksee at some pretty fine examples of artwork down at the Other Artwork section.
Now remember y’all, taking anything off this petpage for use of your own will get your account sent to the bottom of an icy dungeon. But anyway, have fun browsin’!

The violin was probably quite a bit harder than the cheetah. Even now the strings don’t quite match up. But that would have taken ages to do properly… and at a glance they look all right, right?

This weekend I went to an exhibition of Australian Impressionism, and I got inspired’d to draw a human subject once more.

Just because most people here wouldn’t have read Matthew Reilly books… Jack West is an Aussie who leads a team of small nations to basically save the world, yo. The book’s called Seven Ancient Wonders, and the team of ten people have like a week to find all seven pieces of the Golden Capstone (which are left in the remains of the Seven Ancient Wonders protected by like a million million traps), while at the same time the big bad countries like America are on their tails and picking off their puny ten-man team one by one. Oh and the big countries have heaps bigger budgets too.

Pacmanite doesn’t play Neopets as obsessively as she used to, but even with the demands of her newfound IPA research gig, she still finds time to actively contribute to the Neopets forums, her last post (at time of writing) being September 11, 2014.

It’s through these posts that we are able to glimpse a fuller picture of the typical right wing think tank staffer:

“Re: Horrible Fear”

Sep 20, 2013 at 8:57pm posted:

Come to think of it, when I was about 12-14, I had the same kind of fear… it was probably not the same as what you’re going through, since everyone’s different. But I had this vague fear that I would be caught doing something like cutting myself, so I would never so much as touch my own wrists with my fingers.

I think around that time I was hanging out with a good friend who liked a gothic kind of fashion, and though it wasn’t my own style I didn’t see anything wrong with her liking gothic culture-ish stuff. Fashion preferences weren’t obvious in school, anyway, since we all wore uniforms and only saw each other in normal clothes outside of school times. But when she came over on play dates my Mum would tell me she’s always wearing black shirts, tell me that that’s weird, like gothic is weird. And at that time I was at my internet noobish phase, where I came across the word “emo” and a whole bunch of posts saying things about them cutting themselves and how horribly shallow they are. Apparently people really, really didn’t like emos, but there was a surprising abundance of them to complain about.

Anyway, I knew my friend wasn’t like those emos at all, she was totally fine. But somehow I was afraid that I might turn out to be an emo. What if I was one already and didn’t know?? I already kind of liked her stuff… what next??

None of this really entered into the level of fully articulated thoughts, though. But after finding out what “emo” was, I was careful not to wear too much black at any one time or adopt gothic tastes in accessories. And I had a vague yet powerful feeling of repulsion about touching my own wrists. When a pet cat scratched my wrists once I was a bit paranoid until it healed over. I was trying not to show the scratch, trying not to look like I’m hiding something, trying not to think about what it kind of looks like.

But again, somehow these fears never really entered much into the level of conscious rational thought. I was just kinda afraid of being emo. I was going into the teen years and had no idea what teenagers turn into when they become teenagers, and I resented any notion that I would become “rebellious” just because of my age. That really didn’t sit well with me. I tried distinctly hard not to rebel. Because I thought that’s what teenagerdom would pull me into doing, and I hated that idea.

“Re: Religious Apologetics / What Do You Believe?”

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:50am posted:

I spent quite a few years crossing and crossing back across the evolution vs creationism debate. I’ve finally settled on the Old Earth side. It took some time because, like you, I felt something of a culture shock through the process… I remember the first time I went Old Earth it was in early high school, and I thought to myself in frustration, “Here’s the plan. I’ll ask Jesus when I get to see him in heaven which side is right, and THEN I’ll agree with him, whichever it was.”

When I later went Old Earth for good I wasn’t quite as blunt as that, but the thought was similar, in that I do not believe Jesus requires his followers to subscribe to Young Earth Creationism, and so many, many observations made more sense in an Old Earth model of history. I’m prepared to be wrong on natural history, but since I can’t be absolutely certain of a 6-literal-day Creation I might as well choose the theory that makes more sense. It has some knock-on effects, like I now believe that there were animal deaths before the fall. But the venerable Bede (7th-8th century) and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 93, Article 1) also believed that animals died before the fall, so it’s not altogether unheard of in more than a thousand years of of mainstream Christian theology.

“Re: The Girly Talk Thread”

Sep 16, 2013 at 1:59am posted:

I have a fairly random relationshippy question. No one’s ever used this line on me while breaking up with me, but I’m curious to know, why on earth would someone break up by saying “I think we should see other people”?

To me it doesn’t sound like “I think we should break up.” What I feel in reaction is this confused line of thought:

“What? You want us to be polyamorous?? You’re crazy! I’m not sure I can handle that! …oh, you actually meant to say we should… stop seeing each other? If that’s what you mean, then you should say it ’cause otherwise I get this weird image of us dating other people while still thinking we’re together still. Uhh, okay then. But I’ve invested time and emotion in you, so if we break up now, it’s obviously going to be a while before I can “see other people”, which you say would be good. But even then, why assume that the goal in life, the pinnacle of happy contentment, is to not be single? Seriously, after breaking up with you, I might actually enjoy the liberty of single life… what made you decide it would be best for me to immediately “see other people”? And even if I wanted to see other people, what if there aren’t any promising matches in my circle of friends? If I don’t “see other people” does your plan fail? Why are you even asking me to see other people when I think you’re kinda going to be pretty sore about the breakup, like most people are after breakups? You’re not going to like it if I get to the stage of “seeing other people” faster than you… D:”

*facepalm* Soo confusing.

“Re: Christian Support Club”

Jan 22, 2013 at 1:23am posted:

So, I asked this guy I know if he wants to come to a prayer meeting with me where there will be things he’s not used to, like speaking in tongues and prophecy. He’s a bit taken aback, a bit “O_O” and unsure about whether it’s best to go there or not. So he told me he needs to pray about it first. Fair enough, really.


Then I realise how ironic this situation is. He’s praying to know whether he should go to a prayer meeting or not.

ah, life.

“Re: Problems with the VFX industry”

Mar 18, 2014 at 10:27pm posted:

I wonder if there are some jobs – particularly creative ones – that will never pay well simply because lots of people would be happy to barely break even on it if necessary, let alone make a profit. And as long as there is a stream of poor artistic souls who would happily sacrifice more than you are willing to in order to have a creative career, you will never get a comfortable living out of doing what they do.

I’m not saying this as a criticism of creative people, since I agree that there is more to a productive life than earning money. But living like a “pixel gypsy”… I’d be stuffed if I got sick or had some kind of financial difficulty. How many things I would fantasise about doing, and try to make a profession out of, if only there wasn’t the risk I’d be moving away from loves or begging my relatives for money if I did it.

Apr 1, 2014 at 11:59pm posted:

It’s strange to hear that there isn’t a strong VFX guild. They deserve far more for their talent and time than what they’re being paid. But hopefully these events will strengthen their resolve as they realise just how much the industry need to unionise.