Sydney Institute

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The Sydney Institute is corporate funded think tank based in Sydney, Australia. It is run by Gerard Henderson and his wife Anne Henderson, who are its only directors and only employees.

In a biographical note for Gerard Henserson it states that the Sydney Institute "has links with similar institutes around the world, including the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the Manhattan Institute in New York, the European Policy Forum in London, Keidanren in Tokyo and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta." [1]


The Sydney Institute was founded by Gerard Henderson in 1989 out of the remains of the Sydney branch of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Henderson had been Liberal Opposition Leader John Howard’s senior advisor in the Federal Parliament until 1986 when he quit to run the South Australian branch of the IPA. His work for the IPA was mainly writing op-ed articles which were run in the local News Corp. (Murdoch) newspapers.

The State Labor government at this time decided to take on the power of the tobacco industry which had built up grass-roots support by giving generous grants to the states major sporting clubs and arts groups. The premier, John Bannon, decided to ban tobacco sponsorship of sports, and he added a special tax to the price of each cigarette pack which was 'ear-marked' by being paid into a Sports Promotion, Cultural and Health Advancement Trust. The Trust then compensated arts and sporting club/associations which gave up their tobacco money.

It was a move described by Philip Morris's CEO Geoff Bible as "brilliant" because they couldn't find a way to counter it. Overnight, the tobacco industry lost much of its grassroots support. However South Australia needed to provide exemptions to the TV advertising bans for the annual Benson & Hedges Cricket, the Virginia Slims Tennis and the Formula 1 racing Grand Prix in order to keep them in the state.

The IPA, however, was well funded by tobacco companies, and Gerard Henderson lashed out, accusing the "South Australian governments of hypocrisy for exempting such major sporting events as Test cricket and Grand Prix motor racing from their tobacco advertising bans. He also chastised them for hitting at the small businesses which are involved in the billboard industry while leaving untouched mass circulation newspapers and magazines and high profile sports events." [[2]]

In attempting to block the tax, the IPA then helped create the South Australian Sports Council (SASC) to fight against the ad-bans and the cigarette tax. Henderson said that "the tobacco legislation will be followed by restrictions on alcohol and take-away food" and that "the Government was willing to "strike at small business but would leave high profile sport extravaganzas alone". [[3]] The Adelaide Murdoch newspaper "The News" trumpeted against the growth of socialism and "the nanny state" with leaders maintaining that "The wowsers are on the rampage".

An article on the "nanny state" by Henderson appeared in the April 9-10 1988 issue of "The Weekend Australian" . The author again referred to anti-smoking legislation and health promotion groups in Australia and the hypocrisy of the Government in targeting some sponsored sports and advertising media and not others.

However the tax and trust compensation proved to be popular with the South Australian public and sporting bodies, and the over-blown attacks by the Murdoch press and Gerard Henderson made his continuation as a commentator in the state untenable. He shifted to Sydney to re-establish an IPA New South Wales branch in mid 1988.[[4]]

In mid 1988 John Hyde, then running the main Melbourne headquarters of the IPA met with Greg Lindsay who ran the Sydney Centre for Independent Studies and they struck a territorial agreement:

  • The Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs would operate exclusively in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia (Australian Institute for Public Policy) and Singapore IPA (palm oil and chewing gum).
  • The IPA and its subsidiaries (HR NIcholls Society, Tasman Institute, etc.) would take their tobacco money grants from British-American Tobacco (WD&HO Wills in Australia) and Rothmans. Of course, other companies and industries also continued to fund them.
  • The Sydney-based Centre for Independent Studies would control the east-coast and New Zealand operations, and take its tobacco money from Philip Morris.
  • The IPA's New South Wales Branch would be closed.
  • A joint publications house would be created and run by CIS 'fellow' Chris Berg.

Rather than return to South Australia the Hendersons converted the IPA NSW branch to the Sydney Institute, and became linked to Philip Morris as a funding source

So on 23 August 1989, the Sydney IPA became the Sydney Institute, and was opened by New South Wales Liberal Premier Nick Greiner with supporting remarks from Bob Carr (then NSW Opposition Leader).

About the Sydney Institute

The Sydney Institute appears to employ only two people - its Executive Director Gerard Henderson and its Deputy Director, Anne Henderson.

The Institute portrays itself as an a-political current affairs forum which hosts speakers from all sided of politics, but it's two employees are happy to use its name to propound highly partisan perspectives in the Australian media.

The Institute's Executive Director Gerard Henderson appears widely in the Australian media, including a [weekly column] in the Sydney Morning Herald, which is used to support Henderson's own conservative/Libertarian, Liberal Party-aligned political views rather than present any sort of 'non-partisan' viewpoint. The columns, however, always note that "Gerard Henderson is executive director of the Sydney Institute".

Tobacco Industry payments to think-tanks

Tobacco industry payments to think-tanks are always in two forms: an annual fixed grant, with the addition of payments for commissioned lobbying work. In 1993 the Sydney Institute received two grants totalling $16,700 from Philip Morris. The first (Page 7) is clearly a commission payment of $6,700, while the second of $10,000 on the following page is the annual retainer (found on other documents each year). [[5]] See also the Sydney Morning Herald report on June 25 1998, "How Tobacco Inc weeded out criticism"

In 2003 Henderson continued to downplay the significance of think tanks in Australian politics. "They may have some influence but the policy process is so much more complicated," he said. [[6]]


In 2003 Gerard Henderson claimed that who funds the Institute was not relevant because the organisation didn't lobby governments. His weekly column, he claimed, was "totally separate", even though it identified him as being with the institute.

"There is no evidence of any link between what I write and the corporate supporters of the Sydney Institute," he told Brad Norington of the Sydney Morning Herald. The Instiute's Chairman, Meredith Hellicar, said donors remained anonymous except for "those who've been happy to out themselves". [[7]]

Some sponsors have included:

Sydney Institute Board

Contact Information

41 Phillip Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9252 3366
Fax: 02 9252 3360
Email: mail AT

Other Sourcewatch Resources

External Resources

  • "The Right Stuff", The Herald, January 13, 1988.
  • Brad Norington, "The idea factories", Sydney Morning Herald, August 11, 2003.
  • Brad Norington, "Deep pockets behind deep thought", Sydney Morning Herald, August 12, 2003. ("Think tanks attract secretive but tax-deductible funding from their supporters. The question is whether they return the favour by promoting certain issues or refraining from criticism")