The Centre of Policy Studies (CPS) was based at Monash University and founded and headed by Professor Michael Porter (pictured). It was set up with money from the US Ford Foundation. Although underwritten by the University, the Centre attracted corporate funds from bodies such as the Australian Mining Industry Council and Alcoa Australia. The Centre was committed to deregulation and the substitution of government intervention by market forces. It argued for reduced government spending but received a $500,000 a year subsidy from the government.
Porter established high level relationships in NZ, forming a friendship with Roger Douglas, whilst he was still in opposition, and a strong relationship with NZ Treasury officials. When Labour came to power there was a regular interchange between CPS and Treasury with visits back and forth.
CPS did ‘high-level research’ for the Australian and NZ governments as well as government authorities and private companies, particularly on privatization and making electricity and telecommunications provision competitive.
CPS received government funding until 1987. It was also paid $1.5 million over 3 years by the Business Council of Australia (BCA), the Confederation of Australian Industry, the Australian Small Business Association, the Australian Chamber of commerce and the Australian Employers’ Federation for a research project entitled the National Priorities Project. The project was to examine government spending and taxation. A key priority area was the promotion of a flat tax system.
Michael Porter also set up the private think-tank, the Tasman Economic Research Institute—now the Tasman Institute—in 1990, with backing of businessmen including Hugh Morgan, Rupert Murdoch, John Elliott and Dick Pratt. Former NZ finance minister Roger Douglas was its deputy chair. Tasman was set up with $50,000 contributions from six different corporations and $100,000 from Porter himself. By 1991 it had thirty eight corporate members including Arthur Andersen, the Australian Coal Association, the Australian Mining Industry council, BHP, BP, Shell, CRA, Esso, Western Mining Corporation, ICI, News Limited, the New Zealand Business Roundtable, and the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand. It worked closely with the NZ Business Roundtable and awarded the inaugural Tasman Medal for ‘services to economic reform’ to Roger Kerr, Director of the Roundtable.
The Tasman Institute was heavily influenced by US neo-conservative thinking. Its Research Council includes several US professors. Tasman also has considerable NZ links. Of particular note is the presence and influence of New Zealanders Rod Deane on the Advisory Council (1991), Roger Douglas, as co-founder and co chairman in 1991, John Fernyhough as director in 1991.
The Tasman Institute also advised the NSW government on corporatisation of water authorities. Its clients have included CRA, BHP, NZ Business Roundtable, NZ Treasury, North Limited, Shell Australia, Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Victorian Treasury, Western Mining and the World Bank.