Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, March 28, 2004
A PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE as the pre-schoolers this morning spin the interesting question of NGOs - what do we get for our money?

I've been neglecting the snotty-nosed lads and lasses at Auntie's Pre-School for Preserving Undergraduate Leftism, so I'm re-assured to find the school-yard games haven't changed since last I peeked over the fence.

The real issue with NGOs is how to wind back the glad-handing that various governments practise on their political friends, or those they want to be their political friends. The end result is a growing crowd of pensioners leeching on our tax money while thinking of new ways to require governments to spend even more, and new ways to pervert good policy.

And so we find trade unions funded to dole out money for 'artists' to paint pictures and write plays celebrating the union cause, green groups using slabs of government money to press their impossibilist political demands, charities using their good works as a political spring-board for creating new and greedier client groups, and unrepresentative ethnic capos funded to help corrupt our migration programs in exchange for block votes in preselections.

Plenty of dung to sweep in that stable. So, where do the pre-schoolers direct their attention?

To the "right-wing think-tank", the Institute for Public Affairs.

The IPA has taken a close interest in NGOs for several years, under the leadership of former Labor MHR Gary Johns.

Johns sold the government on the idea that he should draw up proposals for bringing some overdue accountability to the NGO money trough. The report goes to government in a few weeks.

The kiddies claim to have a copy of a draft, but they haven't got time to tell us about it because they have a much bigger issue to debate.

It seems the IPA did not issue a press release about its government grant of less than $50000. Gary Johns did, however, declare it at a public forum in Washington. Some weeks later Denis Shanahan 'broke' the story in the Australian. Was that or was that not transparency enough on the part of the IPA?

And that, according to the pre-schoolers, is the real NGO story.

Personally, I'd rather hear the message before I decide whether or not to shoot the messenger.

We won't have long to wait.

Let's hope one outcome is a readable summary of the all the tax-spending and direct grants to NGOs for doing things the public doesn't think they're funded for.

And maybe, one day, all the political operators, cause mongers, national vilifiers, global jet-setters and agenda-benders will be obliged to put their hands in their own pockets and not ours.