Former Greens strategist Ben Oquist has been appointed executive director of think tank The Australia Institute, following Richard Denniss stepping down after eight years.
Mr Oquist is currently strategy director for the Institute and has been a long-term board member.
Prior to his career with The Australia Institute Mr Oquist was chief of staff for former Greens leaders Christine Milne and Bob Brown, with his departure from the party in 2013 rumoured to be linked to a failed push to replace Ms Milne with then deputy Adam Bandt.
Mr Oquist also made headlines when it was revealed he was behind the unlikely pairing of Clive Palmer and former US vice-president and climate campaigner Al Gore to drive support for the Renewable Energy Target.
Mr Oquist’s rise to the Institute’s top position follows a growth period that has seen the organisation triple in size under Mr Denniss’s lead since 2008.
“The Australia Institute has become a powerhouse under the fierce intelligence, energy and unique vision of my colleague and friend, Richard Denniss,” Mr Oquist said. “I came to work here because of Richard.”
Australia Institute chair Lin Hatfield Dodds said Mr Denniss would take on the newly created role of chief economist.
“As the Institute has grown in size, profile and impact Richard has found it increasingly difficult to focus on what he sees as his strengths of research and writing, while managing a rapidly growing organisation that is at the heart of so many of the biggest debate,” she said. “So it is with great pleasure that I can announce that Richard will take on the newly created role as The Australia Institute’s chief economist.”
Mr Denniss said he was excited to be able to spend more time writing and researching.
“I’m also excited about working under the leadership of my good friend Ben Oquist,” he said. “I’ve never met anyone who is better at dissecting complex policy problems than Ben, and I have benefitted enormously from his advice and support. I hope I can be as helpful to him as he has been to me.”