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Byron Shire
December 7, 2021

New think tank challenges neo-conservatives

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Dr Richard Hil and Phillip Frazer will be in conversation January 14 at the Mullum Drill Hall. Photo Jeff Dawson
Dr Richard Hil and Phillip Frazer will be in conversation January 14 at the Mullum Drill Hall. Photo Jeff Dawson


There are calls for public involvement in a new think tank to counter the right-wing neo-conversative narrative being pushed by governments and corporations.

Ngara Institute co-founder and associate professor at Griffith University, Dr Richard Hil, says, ‘While there are a number of supposedly independent “think tanks”, research centres and institutes in Australia, the majority of these are sympathetic to neoliberal values and practices.

‘For obvious reasons, these organisations are reluctant to consider alternative social, economic and political arrangements and want to preserve the status quo’.

Neo-conversative ideologies result in rampant consumption, overproduction, resource depletion, social and spiritual disconnection and atomised existence, Dr Hil says, so it’s time to look at how to improve the system as well as spreading awareness.

Dr Hil says, ‘This system feeds off exploitation, environmental destruction, violence and militarism to achieve its ends, and in so doing, consigns millions of people to enduring hardship and poverty.’

‘For those in the richer nations, a culture of hyper-competitiveness and narcissistic self-pursuit has taken hold, ensuring that the pain and suffering of others remains largely a distant reality.

‘Now more than ever, principles of kindness, generosity, compassion, care and empathy have been overridden by the imperatives of productivity, profit and economic growth.

‘Voices opposed to this system – and there many of them – have to contend with the power of multinational corporations, compromised politicians, lobbyists, universities and the fourth estate which together, support and sustain the current order of things.

‘As Australia’s first activist think-free-tank, the Ngara Institute fills the space that exists for a national body that both engages contemporary issues and supports and promotes alternative ways of being.’

Dr Hil says Ngara is a term used by the Darug people, and means to listen, hear and think.

‘The Darug people consist of several clans stretching from Broken Bay to the Blue Mountains, down to the Southern Highlands and the Illawarra. It was also the name of the home where Gough Whitlam was born and raised.

Launch Jan 14

A launch for the project is planned on January 14 from 6.30–8.30pm at the Mullum Drill Hall, and will feature author, activist and legendary publisher, Phillip Frazer.

Mr Frazer founded Australia’s pop-music paper GoSet (1966–76), the Australian Rolling Stone (in 1972), and The Digger (1972–76).

More recently he has worked with progressive populist Jim Hightower on the Hightower Lowdown, which has around 100,000 US subscribers.

‘The discussion will focus on the sometimes awkward relationship between two neoliberal states: the US and Australia,’ Dr Hil says.

On Mr Frazer’s website www.coorabellridge.com, he says, ‘Initially, [Whitlam] was shocked to learn that the US NSA listened to and read the private correspondence of his ministers, and illegally withheld information, downloaded at their Pine Gap base located on Australian soil.’

‘He was outraged that his tenure was terminated by the Queen’s representative, and he leapt into public debate about the constitutionality of that issue.

‘But he never directly addressed the role played in his dismissal by American spies and spymasters, men who truly believed then, as they still do, that they are the best managers the world could and should ever have.

‘In 1976, after Whitlam was overthrown, I went to New York and Washington in search of some of the weird characters and corporations named in the leaked documents that had undone the Labor government.

‘I found shady operators unwilling to talk, and CIA veterans proud to declare their delight at the demise of Whitlam the “socialist”.’

The Ngara Institute can be found on facebook.com.

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