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John Roskam: well done, friend and freedom fighter

17 November 2021

2:25 PM

17 November 2021

2:25 PM

Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskam has announced he will be standing down after 17 years at the helm of the free-market think-tank that have seen it reach peaks of influence unseen since the height of the economic reform debates of the nineteen-eighties.

It’s been an absolute honour to have been entrusted with the leadership of an organisation that for 78 years has fought to protect our freedoms and our way of life in what I still believe is the best country in the world,” Roskam said in an email to IPA members.

“The IPA has achieved everything I hoped for when I was appointed seventeen years ago and I believe the IPA is one of Australia’s most important institutions committed to enhancing human freedom and flourishing.”

Roskam helped launch the careers of two effective and high profile IPA alumni turned Liberal parliamentarians, Tim Wilson and James Patterson, but nominated driving debate on freedom of speech as his most important task during his time as IPA head.

“Without freedom of speech there is no freedom of thought and without the freedom to think we are not human,” he said.

“I’m not going to say that the threat to our ability to speak our mind is the single biggest threat to our way of life in Australia – but I will say it is one of the three or four greatest threats to the life we enjoy. Inequality of opportunity, identity politics, and the increasing authoritarianism of government (even before Covid) are some of those other threats.

Over my time as Executive Director, IPA members have been unstinting in their support for those we’ve been able to help – Andrew Bolt prosecuted under Section 18C, Calum Thwaites and the other students at QUT also prosecuted under Section 18C, Bill Leak threatened by the Human Rights Commission, Zoe Buhler arrested and handcuffed in her living room, Peter Ridd sacked by James Cook University,” Roskam continued.

“All of them were from very different walks of life but all of them were exercising their right to freedom of speech.”

Roskam will finish up in the first half of next year but remain with the IPA, taking on a new role as a senior fellow. 

“As a senior fellow, I’ll have the time to research and write in a way that I don’t quite have now as executive director,” Roskam said.

He also hopes to finish a book on George Orwell and his work he’s been tinkering with for more than two years.

“I’ve always been a fan of Orwell and it was before Covid that I first started thinking about writing about Orwell for Australians, and the experience of the last two years has revealed again his enduring relevance. 1984 is becoming less and less a work of fiction by the day,” he said.

Roskam also plans to spend time on a new IPA research program, The Centre for the Australian Way of Life.

“The values that have created the Australian way of life: democracy, egalitarianism, and freedom in all its dimensions, are being challenged as never before in this country’s post-war history and it falls to the IPA to explain and defend those values that are the foundation of the way of life we are so fortunate to enjoy in Australia.”

From its earliest days, The Spectator Australia has enjoyed a strong relationship with John and the IPA.

As well as his many contributions — backed up by those of other IPA researchers — John has been a constant source of support and encouragement.

“John Roskam has not only been a great friend and a great mentor, but his dedication to conservative causes and his conviction about the values that this nation so sorely needs to embrace has been inspirational,” Spectator Australian editor in chief Rowan Dean said.

“He will be sorely missed in this role but I for one look forward to the next phase of his career.”

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