2017 conference in March


Panel discussion

Off to Melbourne for the first time in a long time.  The city was buzzing as it was Grand Prix weekend – we smelt the petrol and keep working.

We were very pleased to have Dr John Thrasher from Monash University join us for the first time to give the political philosophy lectures.  He had a very clear and yet wide-ranging perspective that captivated the group.  Professor Sinclair Davidson gave his take on classical liberal economics and Dr Darryn Jensen examined some of the flawed racial discrimination laws.  The weekend finished with a sobering reminder from Andrew Norton of the difficulty in achieving change, with an assessment of higher education reform over the last 30 years.

With all the changes in the world political scene we were also lucky to have the highly regarded journalist from The Australian, Greg Sheridan, speak at the opening dinner.

2016 conference

L&S-2016-05-28-9This conference was the first opportunity to have the opening dinner at the new CIS office in Macquarie St.  We invited Dr Tom Switzer from the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney speak to the group about democracy and in particular the US elections.  The question time was very animated with the group showing a serious interest in world politics and expressing a desire to understand the implications for the current Australian situation.

The lecturers who joined us for the weekend were Dr Ben O’Neill from UNSW, Professor Jason Potts from RMIT, Professor Jon Crowe from Bond University and Andrew Norton from The Grattan Institute.

Every conference has a slightly different atmosphere due to the background of young people and the combination of lecturers.  The May 2016 attendees were a particularly strong intellectual group.  The majority had some background in classical liberal thinking and many were actively involved in student politics or had been reading relevant philosophers and economists prior to applying to attend.

2015 conferences


Dr Tom Palmer

The home for L&S conferences is usually Sydney but it was decided it would be a worthwhile exercise to occasionally run the conferences in different cities.  The reasoning in 2015 we ran one conference in Sydney and another in Perth. Perth was chosen to start the process because of the encouragement and involvement of the Mannkal Foundation for Economic Freedom who have been a stalwart supporter of L&S for many years.

Highlights for 2015 was the involvement of Dr Tom Palmer from the Atlas Foundation at the Sydney conference. Tom spends 2/3 of every year travelling the world speaking about freedom and helping set up institutes and think tanks in literally every part of the world.  It was a great inspiration to have him involved.


Ron Manners from Mannkal joined the students for lunch in Perth

At the Perth conference CIS Research Fellow Dr Jeremy Sammut finished the weekend with an in depth look at current health policy in Australia and possible free market solutions to the cost blowouts.  He really challenged conventional wisdom and made the student really consider different ways of looking at health spending.

The core of both conferences is the serious analysis of the philosophical, economic and legal basis of classical liberal thought.  As usual attendees at both conferences said that they the conference was what they thought university was going to be like – open discussion, listening and arguing with respect for other people’s opinions


2014 conferences

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Group discussion

Now in its 19th year our first conference of the year continued the usual format of 30 students and live-in lecturers. Again we were able to use L&S alumni and CIS staff as some of our lecturers which gives a great continuity to the conference. We were also able to take advantage of Brendan O’Neill, CIS’s first Scholar in Residence.  He presented the opening dinner address on ‘Rights and Responsibility’ and also joined us on Sunday afternoon to have a conversation with the students about how to sell to message of smaller government and individual freedom.


Hon Ruth Richardson

Our other lecturers were Dr Ben O’Neill who talked about the background and the main political themes running through classical liberal thinking, Professor Jason Potts who drove home the message that the market is just a mechanism to understand economic indicators. Dr Jonathan Crowe explained the importance of private property and the difference between top down and bottom up law. On Sunday afternoon we moved from theory to practice with Dr Jeremy Sammutdiscussing how to use free market principles to make changes to the health system and have a more realistic of paying for health care products.  The weekend finished with Brendan O’Neill in conversation.

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Michael Stutchbury from AFR

In September we held an Advanced L&S conference. This conference is more policy oriented, invites past L&S graduates and aims to recharge their batteries and renew a sense of purpose in participants.

A great group of people were selected and they were treated to a stellar range of lectures.  The sessions ranged from the process of developing the Commission of Audit document, how can we affect change through the media, think tanks and politics and should change be incremental or ‘big bang’.

Highlight speeches were from among others, the Hon Ruth Richardson and Michael Stutchbury.

2013 conferences

The L&S conferences have been going for a sufficient length of time for alumni to join us as lecturers. We were able to invite alumni who are now working in Australian universities and think tanks to lecture. They were Dr Ben O’Neil (UNSW Canberra), Professor Jason Potts (RMIT), Dr Darryn Jensen (UQ), Andrew Norton (Grattan Institute) and a number of CIS research fellows were involved in 2013.

  • In April we were extremely fortunate to have Ayaan Hirsi Ali come to the Opening Dinner and spend the night with the 31 students who attended. Ayaan and Cassandra Wilkinson (a Sydney writer, commentator and activist) had a conversation about freedom, classical liberalism and Islam.
  • On the Saturday night the group had the bonus of hearing from Dr Tom Palmer from the Atlas Foundation who spends his working life travelling to unfree countries and promoting liberty.
  • The major topics covered at both conferences were:
    • Classical Liberal Political Theory
    • Free Market Economics
    • Liberal Law
    • Indigenous Affairs
    • Campaign Financing
    • Government Spending

2012 October conference

This was the only L&S conference in 2012 so the demand was high and the quality of the applicants was outstanding.

As an example of the value alumni place on the Liberty and Society program we are virtually always able to use an ex L&Sers as a lecturer. At this conference Associate Professor Jonathan Crowe (who attended an L&S conference in 2001) from the University of Queensland took the group through the political philosophy of liberal thinking. It is great to know that there are a small but growing number of academics who are interested in promoting classical liberal ideas at their university.

The other lecturers were the economist Professor Geoff Brennan from The Australian National University, Professor Jim Allen from the Law department of the University of Queensland and Professor Jeff Bennett from the ANU who opened the eyes of the group to the realities of current environmental legislation. Andrew Norton, who is now with The Grattan Institute, spoke at the opening dinner.

Here are some of the general comments about the overall weekend.

‘The Liberty & Society Conference was a really unique opportunity to engage in intellectual, critical and thought-provoking discussions about law, economics and the environment from a classical liberal perspective. It was truly refreshing to take some time out from the “real world” and engage in stimulating conversation with like-minded people. I have come away from the conference wishing there were more, and very thankful that I had the opportunity to attend.’ PS

Thank you for including me. It was a must have experience for anyone seriously pursuing a deeper understanding of the size and scope of government responsibility.’ AR

‘The conference was excellent in generating stimulating and insightful discussion on theories that form the basis of modern-day society. There were numerous opportunities to interact with all members of the conference and overall, the experience was fundamental to furthering my understanding of classical liberalism.’ EC

‘Liberty and Society was a great weekend, and a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was excited when my application was accepted, and the conference itself met all of my expectations, and exceeded them in many ways. I got to individually discuss with each lecturer both their subject matter and other subjects I was interested in, something which the small size of the conference enabled. Liberty and Society was extremely well run, and has clearly been developed over a number of years to best meet the needs of students. Equally important was the social side of the conference, which is essential and sets the mood at events involving young people. I had a great time and make some new friends across the Tasman who I will be keeping in touch with. There is certainly nothing like the L&S experience in New Zealand. Thank you’ NC

“The Liberty and Society Conference was exceptional. As a student of political science, as well as young professional working in public affairs, it was very insightful and stimulating. Thank you for your support, I very much enjoyed meeting bright, engaged and thoughtful Australian and New Zealand youth. Having discussions that we don’t usually have the chance to partake in was very worthwhile. As well as the ideas I have come away with, I have made great friends and it’s an experience I will always remember. Thank you.” EM


2011 December Conference

32 people were selected to attend the December conference. We has a special lecturer joining us, Dr David Hart from Liberty Fund Inc. USA. David is an expert on classical liberal history and thinking and regularly presents lectures at the Institute of Humane Studies Summer Student programs. We also have Dr Jason Potts taking the economics session, Professor Suri Ratnapala on law and Jessica Brown and Oliver Hartwich present a session on population.