Past debates

Information about our past debates .  (And you can see videos of  most of them here.)

Scroll down to read about each of them (most recent at the top of the page)


June 2012

Syria: Should there be an international military intervention?


Inclined to support intervention:

Charles Richardson (Director at Above Quota Elections) philosopher, longstanding Crikey political commentator.

Strongly in favour of intervention:

Arthur Dent  (formerly known as Albert Langer, well known left wing contrarion who pays close attention to the Middle East and US foreign policy).

In favour  of intervention:

Dr. Said Ajlouni   (spokesperson for the Australia Syrian Association)    Senior Lecturer in Food Science at the Melbourne School of Land and Environment.  Grew up in Syria, completed his BSc at the University of Damascus, left Syria to do his PhD studies in the USA , now lives in Melbourne)

Strongly against  intervention:

Susan Dirgman   (Australians for Syria)  ESL teacher who  lived in Damascus while teaching English in 2004 and 2005 and has returned several times since.

Strongly against intervention:

Robert Bekhazi  (member of Australians for Syria) Lebanese/Australian who imports alcohol and kitchenware from Syria.


April 12,  2012


The Finkelstein Report: A threat to freedom of speech?

Main speakers: Chris Berg and Stephen Mayne.

Panel members: Barry York and Alexandra Wake

Brief speaker and panelist info:

Stephen Mayne is a director of the Australian Shareholders’ Association, columnist, business journalist, local councillor and publisher of The Mayne Report. Mayne launched Crikey in February 2000, then sold it in 2005 but remains a Crikey contributor. He’s favourably disposed toward the recommendations for media regulation outlined in the recently released Finkelstein Report.

Mayne: not perfect, but plenty to embrace from the Fink 


Chris Berg is a Research Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs. He is a regular columnist with the Sunday Age and ABC’s The Drum, covering cultural, political and economic issues. He is an award-winning former editor of the IPA Review.  He doesn’t like the recommendations of the Finkelstein Report one little bit.

The Finkelstein Report into Media and Media Regulation


Barry York is an historian who sometimes blogs at Strange Times. He’s a leftist who would love to see a return to the rebellious, irreverent and highly offensive spirit of the 1960s and is strongly opposed to any attempt to regulate public debate and what can be said in the media.

More Free Speech, not Less – The Right To Offend Others


Alexandra Wake  has been a journalist for 25 years. Currently she works as freelance editor and news reader at Radio Australia (the ABC’s international broadcaster).  She’s supportive of the recommendations of the Finkelstein Report for a number of reasons but in particular because of concerns about  a small number of people having ‘an inappropriate amount of influence in the media”.

The Finkelstein Inquiry into Media Regulation: Experts Respond


First debate for 2012   (March 8).


The Occupy Movement: an infantile disorder?


Sinclair Davidson (Professor in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs)

David Schoeffel (also known as ‘the Baron’ became involved with the Occupy Movement when he started ‘the Baron’s Library’ which subsequently became ‘the People’s library’ before it was destroyed on the 21st of October, 2011 during the City Square eviction.)


Arthur Dent (formerly known as Albert Langer and at various times possibly Australia’s most notorious leftwinger)


Mara Hayler           


Thursday, February 10, 2011  (Video coming soon)

“GM crops are good  for us”


  • Madeleine  Love

  • Jessica Harrison

both from Mothers are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE )


  • David Tribe

Senior Lecturer, at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne and blogger at GMO Pundit.
  • David McMullen

Author of Bright Future: Abundance and Progress in the 21st Century and a blogger atStrange Times)

Chaired by Annabelle Dureau


Thursday December 9: The wars in  Iraq and Afghanistan: Can our participation be justified?

(videos of this debate now available on our video archive page)

  • Major General Jim MolanRetired senior officer in the Australian Army, author of Running the War in Iraq, Chief of Operations, Headquarters Multinational
    Force in Iraq (MNF-I) 2004-2005).
  • Adam Bandt MP Greens member for Melbourne in the House of Representatives.
  • Professor Richard Tanter Director of the Nautilus Institute at RMIT.
  • Jeff Sparrow Editor of Overland magazine.
  • Arthur Dent Previously known as Albert Langer.

Chaired by Darce Cassidy

The war debate … AKA war at the debate!

Thanks so much to the speakers and audience for coming along and making the “war debate” a success.  A few people misbehaved, but that was to be expected with such a contentious topic.  Overall we’re happy with the way things went — argument is our goal after all. But we’re still learning how to organise and run these events, walking the fine line between disagreement and disruption.

Just to be clear, Adam Bandt did NOT “storm out” before the close of  the event (as suggested in a tweet, from someone). He had another engagement and had informed us that he had to leave at 8.30. We should have announced this to the audience (our apologies to Adam). At the time, the Chair was having a hard time dealing with a very disruptive member of the audience, and was distracted by that.

(It seems that we need to work on lifting awareness of the difference between sharp debate which raises the political temperature, and disruptive heckling and interrupting which creates heat, without lifting the political temperature. )


November, 2010.

The topic: Climate change – is nuclear power the answer?

Prof. Barry Brook (Adelaide University) See his blog – YES”: Nuclear power is safe, there’s no doubt that it can produce the amount of energy we will require, it’s cheaper than renewables. The intermittency and variability that’s inherent in the process of producing energy from renewables would lead to the building of new fossil fuel plants as back-ups.

Jim Green (Nuclear Awareness Project) – “NO”: Nuclear energy is dangerous, leads to proliferation, and the industry has a history of ’radioactive racism’ both in Australia and around the world.

Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth) – “NO”:  Renewables can already supply us with the energy we need so we should make the switch as rapidly as possible.

Arthur Dent (previously know as Albert Langer) – “NEITHER”:  Nuclear is a better bet than renewable, but both are far too expensive. They will not be taken up by the developing world which requires cheap energy NOW.  Instead of panicking, we should be demanding a huge increase in the funding of fundamental science.

Chair: Darce Cassidy

(videos of this debate now available on our video archive page)


There was no debate in October 2010 – we took a break

September, 2010.

The topic in September was  “Renewable Energy: should we make the switch?“.

The speakers:

Panel members:

Check out the Reading.

It was a rather feisty debate (to put it mildly).  Our chairperson, Annabelle Dureau did a wonderful job – and she had her work cut out for her!

(videos of this debate now available on our video archive page)


August, 2010 (the very first debate!)

The topic : “Immigration: Should we apply the brakes?”

(videos of this debate available on our video archive page)

here’s the flyer describing it beforehand:

MA debate flyer

Relevant Reading which was made available before that debate.

You can also listen to a  5 minute  (6MB) selection of audio highlights:

immigration highlights (1)


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