Atlas Network: A Global Think Tank interfering in New Zealands democracy

Atlas Network: A Global Think Tank interfering in New Zealands democracy

The Atlas Network, an international alliance of think tanks, was established in 1981 by the British businessman Antony Fisher. It has had a profound impact on global policies and ideologies. The network’s principles are largely based on the ideas of economist F.A. Hayek, especially his book, “The Road to Serfdom”.

In his work, Hayek cautions that the allure of socialism could steer Western democracies towards authoritarian systems akin to Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. He argues that government-controlled economies inevitably lead to arbitrary and unfair mandates, resulting in the erosion of individual liberties.

Not itself a think-tank, Atlas is ‘the mother of all thinktanks’, an umbrella organisation co-ordinating 515 ‘public policy research institutes’ across 99 countries. Until recently, these were mapped and listed on the Atlas website.

Publicly, neoliberals argue that they champion the “freedom of the individual” through “free markets,” “the rule of law,” and “small government.” However, in reality, the Atlas Network seeks to establish a supranational legal framework of regulations that would “encase” the global market, shielding wealthy elites and transnational corporations from the “government interventions” of majoritarian democracy and national parliaments. At the same time, the network aims to co-opt, transform, and strengthen the coercive, interventionist powers of the strong state.

Despite professing non-partisanship and independence, and denying involvement in international politics, the Atlas Network has been implicated in disinformation campaigns denying climate change and advocating for fossil fuel policies. The network has a track record of strong opposition to the rights of First Nation peoples.

The Atlas Network has drawn criticism for its financial backing of groups like Hobsons Pledge and the Tax Payers Union, which have been charged with voicing anti-Maori views and critiquing the indigenous rights of Maori in a manner seen as racist. This support seems to contradict the network’s commitment to safeguarding civil and political rights and instead seems to endorse a doctrine of colonial Anglo-Saxon dominance.

The recent 3 waters policy introduced by the 6th Labour government was not tied to socialism or state economic control. Its main objective was to protect our national water supply from contamination by the campylobacter bacterium, which can be lethal.

The Tax Payers Union and Hobsons Pledge distorted this narrative to undermine the 3 Waters initiative and sow discord among New Zealanders. In accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi’s Article 2 rights, water rights are vested in Maori. Iwi were offered a 50% stake in decision-making as a Treaty right. However, this was rapidly twisted into a smear campaign, falsely alleging that Maori were attempting a hostile takeover of their own nation.

The Hobsons Pledge Trust, due to its small size, has never been able to amass the necessary capital for its multi-million dollar campaigns. The theory that its leader, Casey Costello, ascended to the 3rd position on the New Zealand First list ranking and became the associate minister of Police through millions of dollars channeled into the New Zealand First coffers appears highly plausible.

The Atlas Network was recently implicated in the defeat of the 2023 Australian Indigenous Voice referendum that would have amended the constitution and acknowledged the indigenous people of Australia. It invested millions in local “NO” campaigns, spreading disinformation that First Nation Australians themselves did not want the Australian Indigenous Voice referendum.

Political parties, which can only receive limited campaign funds, depend on lobby groups to institutionalise campaigns that appear grassroots at first glance but in reality, serve a crony capitalist agenda. Right-wing politics in Aotearoa have developed sophisticated lobby groups to disseminate disinformation smear campaigns while receiving millions in foreign funds from the Atlas Network.

If any of our readers have any more information on the Atlas Network please contact us via a contact form on our front page.