NSW Premier's Debating Challenge 2020 - Year 11 State Final

Duration: 1:02:19

This is the final of the Year 11 age division which was held over Zoom on Thursday 3 December 2020 between Sydney Boys High School and Sydney Girls High School. In response to a debating season shortened by COVID-19 the Year 11 division was opened up to all government schools in NSW, with 54 teams taking part in a state-wide modified knockout competition (teams losing in the first round had the opportunity to join a repechage draw and return to the main knockouts as the fourth semi-finalist). The speaking time is 8 minutes with a warning bell at 6 minutes.

The topic of the debate is 'That the government should impose financial penalties on people who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.'

Congratulations to both teams and to all the students and teachers who took part in 2020.

Transcript – NSW Premier's Debating Challenge 2020 - Year 11 State Final

[music playing]

JUSTINE CLARKE: All right. Good morning, and welcome to the 2020 State Final of the year 11 debating competition for the Karl Cramp Trophy. My name is Justine Clarke, and I'm the Speaking Competitions Officer for the DOE's Arts Unit.

Before we go any further, I'd like to acknowledge that we meet on the homelands of the Gadigal people, who are the traditional custodians of this land. I pay respect to elders past, present, and emerging of the Eora nation and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people or Torres Strait Islander people here today. Obviously, Sydney Girls and Sydney Boys are also speaking from their particular lands as well.

So this particular competition has run since 1953 and was renamed the Premier's Debating Challenge for Year 11 Metro in 2005. This year, given the late start due to COVID-19, we extended an invitation to all schools across New South Wales to enter the competition, ending up with over 50 year 11 teams who entered our modified online knockout competition.

As part of this structure, we also offered a second chance draw to anyone who was knocked out in the first round, with the possibility of the winner of the repechage re-entering the competition at quarter-final stages. I'm not sure if they managed to join, but a big congratulations to James Ruse, who made it all the way to the semi-finals after being knocked out in that first round and then winning the repechage and then narrowly losing, of course, to one of our finalists today, Sydney Boys High School.

I just want to congratulate also all the other quarter-finalists, some of whom are here watching today-- Gosford High School, Braidwood Central, Smith's Hill, North Sydney Boys, and Maclean, for making it that far in the competition and making it a really great competition towards the end.

All right. Let's move on to our actual debate for today. The state finalists are from Sydney Boys High School and Sydney Girls High School. The affirmative team is from Sydney Boys High School. Our first speaker is August McNally, second speaker, Roshan Hussain, third speaker, Thomas Zheng, and team advisor, Anson Chan. And their coach is Rowena Barr.

The negative team is from Sydney Girls High School. Our first speaker is Alex Garman Christensen, second speaker is Ava Broinowski, third speaker, Maya Anderson, and team advisor, Mehnaaz Hossain. Their coach is Tran Nguyen. Each speaker may speak for eight minutes. There'll be a warning bell at six minutes and two bells at eight minutes. A continuous bell will be rung if the speaker reaches nine minutes. Our timekeepers today are from Sydney Boys High School, Nicholas Arvrintellas, and from Sydney Girls High School, Swara Hegde.

The adjudicators for the state final are Kate Jackson, Jeremiah Edagbami, and Charlie Jame. The topic today is that the government should impose financial penalties on people who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Please welcome the first speaker of the affirmative to open the debate.

AUGUSTE MCNALLY: Now, how would you feel if your old elderly parents, who rely upon the immunity of the community, get sick from a person who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Or your young child who is yet to experience its life is taken away due to the dangerous nature of COVID-19 for those who are immunocompromised and for those who are not fully developed yet and those who are vulnerable? For it only takes one person getting sick with COVID, an especially violent disease with easy-spreading capabilities, for this to occur and the immunocompromised to be hurt.

We can only stop the harm of these immunocompromised people with a complete stoppage of the COVID virus through mandatory vaccinations and through force and through inducing financial penalties on people who refuse to take the vaccine. Within this speech, I'll be talking about three main issues. Firstly, about how it only takes one person to restart an outbreak; secondly, about how we are protecting those who are unable to protect themselves; and thirdly, about how we are going to be creating broader change against anti-vax ideas.

But before I get onto that speech, a piece of setup for my model. Firstly, our model is going to be applying just large financial penalties on those who refuse to get the vaccine, except for those who have medical reasons to be exempt. This is those who are going to be harmed by taking the vaccine. We see that if someone, for religious reasons, cannot take, say, a needle vaccine for getting punctured, we also see that oral vaccines are also being developed. And so there is currently no religious reason to specifically get out of the vaccine because there are many ways of taking this vaccine. And so we see that all major religions are compatible with modern medicine and agree with it completely.

And what we are doing is simply taking the status quo to its natural progression, creating pushing a greater harm into those, because there is a greater repercussion for the actions. The piece of setup is looking at anti-vaxxers as the main oppressor of this policy. Firstly, we see that they are going to be people who are of generally lower SES because they are less likely to have an extended or a higher level of education. And these people are generally concentrated in suburbs together and communities of anti-vax people. They live with their ideals together. And overall, most of these anti-vaxxers have anxieties and worries about it all because they've never had this experience of vaccines. And it's easier to buy into the narrative presented by other anti-vaxxers.

And as a result, this represents a majority of anti-vaxxers who then, if they had to make their own decision, would refuse to take this vaccine as a result. And we see that it is only-- the only media that reaches these people is social media. And this just continues to fuel them and fuel their ideas.

So now let's take a look onto the first issue, specifically talking about how it only takes one person to start an outbreak. So, why is this the case? Firstly, we see that COVID is an especially viral disease. We can see this in its spread today. Some examples we can see within Australia itself, within Melbourne, we see that it only took a few guys to get sick for the entire second wave to start up again, or in Korea where it took one super-spreader going to church to spreading into a massive community and forcing the country into shutdown. And tens of thousands have gotten sick as a result.

So as a result, those who are immunocompromised and cannot take the vaccine are especially at risk if someone is sick, because if they get sick, this is a life-and-death situation for them that is more likely to push into the sections of death. And as a result, we see that anti-vaxxers and those who are likely to downplay the harms of people who are going to downplay the harms of this disease, because they choose to deny the science and they choose to not take these vaccines, they are coming up with justification as it is going to-- against science, against what is proven with numerous studies about causing autism or causing harm to the body.

And so this means, as a result, that complete herd immunity is going to be necessary. Because if one anti-vaxxer gets sick, then they can go around spreading it about to other people. One person who refuses the disease can go around and spread it to others. And the opposition might come out claiming to you today that we can have partial herd immunity and that this group, if they don't take the vaccine it's fine because everyone else will have the vaccine. However, it does not-- to this case, due to the special-- the spread of and the ability of COVID-19 to spread about the place that even if some of these people get sick, you know, they're going to go to other places. It's very easy for others to get sick as a result. And secondly, we see that vaccines also aren't 100% efficient, but they're more efficient than not having a vaccine at all.

So if those people are infected, they're going to have less people spreading COVID-19, less chance of those who are vaccinated getting infected as a result. And this is just generally better, as it also protects those immunocompromised people and those who are vulnerable, the most important stakeholder within this debate.

Secondly, under this, we see that thus partial herd immunity does not exist due to COVID-19. And another point under this is that generally anti-vaxxers are going to be concentrated in areas together. That is because they generally share similar upbringings, and they generally-- for example being low SES, they're going to be generally in suburbs together. And so there is no herd immunity within these anti-vax communities as a result. And so if one person gets sick within this area, we see that then, as a result, there's going to be a massive outbreak due to the amount of spread and how quickly it can spread to these people.

And another harm as a result from this is that in local hospitals, that these people are going to be taking up the beds of others as well, due to the partial chance of overloading the hospital as well. And then that can harm those who would need this medical attention. One of these people-- there'll have to be a specific choice as well. And what it also means is it only takes one of these people moving to another community to continue to spread the disease.

And as we have seen, what has happened under the status quo, under our own experiences of COVID-19, that this has happened and that it has spread very far. And so we see that this is something that is going to happen if you do not have this complete immunisation and force, as a result, upon these financial penalties, which create a pressure, which create a deterrent, as a result for people to take the vaccine which I'll be talking in my third point. And as a result, this is why specifically it only takes one person to restart an outbreak and why we need to have this complete immunity.

Now secondly, the second idea is looking at protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. The idea of complete immunisation is to protect the young and the sick.

[one bell]

These are the people who cannot get the vaccination itself. Those who cannot protect themselves due to their compromised position of allergies or due to their immune system being weakened. These are the most vulnerable stakeholders within the debate the idea isn't about self-autonomy and making decisions for yourself. It's about where your rights and where others' begin. And if your actions have impacts on others, such as taking a vaccine and hurting others, not taking a vaccine and harming others because you get them sick, then you are going-- then it is simply you are infringing upon their rights. And so then we see that we are here protecting the rights of the immunocompromised. And so those who can take the vaccine but refuse and cannot take the vaccine are likely to severely hurt society as a result.

These choices have directly impacted another person's rights. The comparative is under the opposition's side. These individuals are unlikely-- are going to be at risk of COVID-19, as they have not been sufficiently protected by the government. So we see that the government has a burden to protect these people. And therefore under our side, we create a greater change in protecting these people who are most at harm. And opp fails the burden of protecting these individuals who are immunocompromised as a result, due to the risk of exposing these dangers. And as a result, that's why we see those principles to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Now, finally, onto the last point about the broader change in anti-vax ideas-- so under this, firstly, we look at these anti-vaxxers are going to be getting their news from fringe communities and social media. No major media outlet is going to go against science and going to go against vaccines. They go to communities that agree with them-- this looks like social media-- and also community groups as well, due to their living in this area.

And so, as a result, they have never really experienced-- had this experience of vaccination themselves. And they're more likely to believe in the pain and the stories of others. And they're going to have these anxieties and worries which cause them to not take these vaccinations as a result. The financial penalty exists as a big deterrent. It forces them to change their ideas and take the vaccine because they can't lose this money due to their positions, and it just has too much of an impact on them.

And so they have this experience of the vaccine. And they realise it's not too bad. And as a result, we see two cases under this. Firstly, they just get the COVID vaccine, which is a big win in itself, as we are protecting those immunocompromised people--

[two bells]

--and we are helping those who are unlikely to get it otherwise as well. And secondly, we are going to change their-- and secondly, we could change their ideas and change their worries and fears about vaccines and so they get more vaccines overall, which is good for protecting the community.

Secondly, we see it empowers willing participants. So kids who might be the children due to unwilling parent can question and pressure their parents. They can ask, Dad, why did you not give me this vaccine and have them all behind there? These kids are also experienced teachers to children and to activities like Healthy Harold. And being the child, as a result, they have this emotional pressure on the parent, which is heightened by the financial pressure as a result. And parents are going to generally listen to their children for having this empathetic connection and for being their children. And they care about their kids.

And so these kids are going to, as a result, create pressure and create this change within the anti-vaxxers and likely get vaccinated for themselves and hopefully for their parents as well, which is a benefit because we, again, are protecting the immunocompromised people. And as a result, we feel that we have created a broader change under the anti-tax ideals which the opposition cannot really do.

[bell ringing]

And as a result, I am proud to affirm. Thank you.


ALEX GARMAN CHRISTENSEN: The opposition today has given us a lot of compelling rhetoric regarding how dangerous COVID is as a virus and how important it is that we achieve the largest proportion of the population to be vaccinated as possible. Where they then fall down is never having-- the question we have for them today is how this will actually be the most effective way of addressing the existing population of anti-vaxxers and why a financial penalty would actually be more effective than any other more equitable and more directly responsible solution that we, as a negative, can actually propose to you today.

So the opposition has come out with a lot of ideas regarding how one person can start, can restart a cluster, how important the immunocompromised population is and essentially how important it is that we should be protecting all of these people. However, the only mechanism that they have provided for doing so is just the vague idea of a large financial penalty, which so far they have only identified one stakeholder which this could affect, which is potentially the lower-- the lower income population of the-- proportion of the lower income population who are anti-vaxxers, and in doing so have ignored a major proportion of the population who are anti-vaxxers but actually rich and able to pay these fines.

So as first speaker today, I'll be discussing why financial penalties are disproportionately harmful to lower income populations and where they will be incredibly ineffective in the circumstances of higher income populations who can also be anti-vaxxers. And secondly, how we will provide you the best mechanism to vaccinate the population through a counter model regarding high levels of education. And my second speaker will be discussing how we have such an active responsibility to most effectively denounce the conduct of these offenders.

So here we propose a counter model for why we find it best to not have financial penalties. We find that it would be much more effective to introduce first several stages of education so that we have the potential to actually combat the sentiment at the very root, rather than just throwing this financial penalty at people without having the chance to actually address the often very valid anxieties regarding the COVID vaccine particularly as being a relatively rushed vaccine.

And then in the circumstances where-- even after education, even after conferences with doctors which will allow them to talk out these anxieties-- even after all that, in these circumstances, we would introduce more strict punishments, such as, say, house arrest, which will actually allow us to isolate the proportion of the population who is unvaccinated and poses an active threat.

So, first, onto my first piece of substantive of why are financial penalties simultaneously so harmful to our lower income populations and ultimately ineffective in the cases of any other populations? So while the opposition has correctly identified one stakeholder of the anti-vaxxer population, which is the lower income population, who we often see to be people with, like, a history of medical mistrust or broadly disenfranchised from the medical system-- say, people who don't have the ability to regularly visit the doctor, people who have historically had their communities wronged by the medical system, or people who don't speak English as a first language and don't feel their needs are catered to, or people who are just generally less educated or grew up in a culture in which it's less normal to actually engage with the medicine and such.

We find that the best case that the opposition has supplied to us is where all these lower income people do take the vaccine because they're afraid of the large financial penalty. Even in this case, we still see a massive active harm existing in the rights of these lower income people have been, in their eyes, ignored. In the eyes of these people, their bodily autonomy has been completely overrided by the government. They have been threatened with a massive fine which could potentially destroy their lives and are likely to be incredibly frustrated or angry and even more disenfranchised from a system which never catered to them to begin with, and therefore are unlikely to, say, vaccinate their children voluntarily in future, they're unlikely to practise COVID-safe guidelines because they are so frustrated at what they have been forced to do.

In the worst-case scenario, these people still don't take the vaccine and are confronted with a massive penalty, we see this is still somewhat likely to happen because a fine is a one-time penalty, whereas taking a COVID vaccine is not something you can change back. Often these people have quite entrenched views which are not directly addressed by a fine itself, and often people have the ability to, in some ways, get away from this fine, such as having it reduced in light of their status as a lower income person or, say, spending time in gaol directly proportionate to the fine, which is what we see in examples of speeding tickets, say, in lower income communities are often paid off by spending time in gaol, which we see as being an incredibly steep harm, because the last thing we want is a higher proportion of a lower income population that is unvaccinated in gaol.

And nevertheless, we find that in any circumstance in which these people are not vaccinated or refuse to pay the fine, they remain in the community and retain the ability to actually spread the disease to other people.

[one bell]

And as such, they still pose a very active threat.

Secondly, a stakeholder that the opposition entirely ignored is people who are rich and actually have the ability to pay the fine. We find that within the population of higher income people, there are many people who profit off of peddling an anti-medicine or alternative medicine ideology, particularly those who sell essential oils or otherwise people who profit off of selling this ideology to lower income people, or in other ways consider themselves above the system or its consequences.

In best case, these people get vaccinated but were still likely to peddle an anti-vaccine ideology because their underlying ideals have not actually been addressed. And at the worst case, they are likely to be incredibly able to-- incredibly able to pay the fines because they never mentioned these fines being at all scalable. They're more likely to be able to deal with this fine by lawyers or, in many ways, challenge it. And once they have paid this fine, they are still in the community, as I previously established as being a massive harm, and have the even greater ability to be super-spreaders because rich people have a tendency to travel more frequently or are generally less likely to obey guidelines, which we've seen currently in so many circumstances of celebrities and just completely ignoring COVID-safe guidelines as is. So they propose a massive and active harm.

So why is it so important that these stakeholders still exist and aren't properly dealt with? Because first of all, they risk immunocompromised people, as the opposition has outlined. Secondly, they pose a risk to the vaccinated population, because you can still get a virus even if you're vaccinated. And thirdly, they provide a pool of people in which the virus can mutate, and as such, as well target vaccinated people, because the vaccine can't work for a mutated virus.

[two bells]

So we found that our counter model was always going to be more effective, as education would be able to directly target these COVID-specific anxieties. They would be able to reestablish a connection between these disenfranchised communities and the medical system. And generally-- and we also found that house arrest was always going to be a better disincentive, because it's an ongoing punishment. It also has the ability to actually contain them and separate them from the remainder of the population. It has sustained consequences, and it has these symmetrical consequences across classes, regardless of the actual financial status. And as such, we were always proud to negate.


ROSHAN HUSSAIN: Ladies and gentlemen, the people who choose not to vaccinate are those that have already been disenfranchised by the status quo. These are the people who have been failed by the education system, those that are not cared for under the status quo and the government's tax policies, and those who were tossed to the side of the road. And it follows that giving these people further education amplifying information from the same traditional media streams that they already reject does nothing in persuading-- nothing relatively large in persuading people to get the vaccine. And it follows that we must impose a hard-line law which sets in stone like an incentive for these people to go and get vaccinated.

We've found two clashes in this debate so far. Firstly, it is the model clash, which is which works better-- financial penalties versus further education. We came out at first and gave you a substantive about how it only takes one person to infect a population. So we told you that, especially when it's viral, it's really important. And we told you that complete immunity is necessary in this circumstance because these low SES people do group together in communities. And so one person getting in these communities actually hurts the community because lots of them aren't vaccinated.

So we've established that in this debate. That is, it's so important that these people do get vaccinated. So we're willing to bypass, to make people have to compromise on what their current beliefs are. So I think-- so what side neg came out and said is that financial penalties are not the best way to persuade anti-vaxxers.

They firstly came out with this higher counter model of education, right. But firstly, we can add education on our side of the house. It's not mutually exclusive. But we think that education does not work on its own to persuade people. It has a really minuscule effect, because education hasn't worked already. Like, if it's already working, we wouldn't have anti-vaxxers, because these people are so inexperienced and anxious. We think that education isn't the way to persuade these people.

So we think that when-- we think that our model proposes a broader change, because these people currently get their information from social media and alternative news streams and societal rumours. And they never had an experience. But what a financial penalty does is it makes these people go to these places. And what happens is that they're empowered, because they go to these places, they get these vaccines, and they see that nothing bad is happening to them. And what happens is a larger impact because they gained more trust in medicine and science. There's more trust in vaccines, and these people will tell their friends, who are also anti-vax, about how good these vaccines are-- like, that wasn't too bad, things like that. And what this means is that more people are more trusting of these vaccines and is less seen as a political thing more than just a straight scientific factual matter.

And also, doing this is a concrete stance, because when you have education, you're still kind of saying, this is your choice. When you give people an option, you're implying there's a trade-off to be had in this circumstance. So when you're giving people the option, oh, you can vaccinate, or if you want to you can, you can vaccinate, the government is implying that there's something wrong with vaccinating, that people have to have the choice to make the trade-off with.

But by having a hard-line, we're saying, no, you have to vaccinate, because there is nothing-- you're essentially losing from it if you're not allergically compromised to it. So this is why we have to have a hard-line stance, which is these financial penalties, which are set in stone and set in the law.

And finally they came out and said-- the first thing they said, that people would go to gaol and things like that. But we thought that this is a poor characterisation, because people of these low-SES communities, they have families to feed for. We don't think that these people are so entrenched in their ideas that they're going to literally risk time in gaol, which the government fully controls them in. So we thought that it was contradictory to say that these people would just straight up go to gaol.

And secondly, they said that rich people will obey this. And we already established at first. We gave you a substantive at first about why the people are likely to be low SES in the first place. But even if these people were obeying this, under their comparative, what are they doing, right? Because rich people are just being educated, further educated, and these rich people who side neg have characterised as being above the law and things like that, how is education going to change their mind?

So when we come down to the clash of this debate, what we have is side negative, who aren't imposing any pressure. Because in our worst-case scenario, maybe just a few people are going to get vaccinated. But we are putting pressure, we are sending the message, like a set-in-stone message which is in the law, that you must get vaccinated and there's nothing wrong with getting vaccinated. So even in our worst-case scenario, where we don't get many people vaccinated, we are still sending a message.

But what side negative is doing is doing more of the same. They're putting more pressure on the same education that these people already reject. And they're sending the same message through media, which these people already reject. So we thought that even in a worst-case scenario, we're still doing more to affect this circumstance, which both sides can agree, it's really vital that everyone takes the vaccine, because it only takes one person to jeopardise this whole situation.

So the second clash in this debate is, like, do people deserve the right to refuse the vaccine? First, negative came out and said that the rights of these people have been ignored and that their bodily autonomy is compromised. But firstly, we said that it's not about protecting-- firstly, we say that this debate isn't about self-autonomy, because your rights end when it compromises other people. So when your rights impede on someone else's, it's not your own right.

[one bell]

It's something that you must consider holistically when you weigh up the benefits and negatives. And so we thought that it was never just going to be about just the single people who were getting vaccinated, because they are essentially jeopardising the community around them. And also, like this debate, we care a lot about protecting people who can't-- who can't vaccinate, like the immunocompromised, the people who are allergic, the old people who can't withstand the pressure of a needle.

So we thought that in this debate, the principle of these people deserving the right to vaccinate does not stand because they're compromising people around them. So it's not their choice to make. It's just like, we don't give people the right to commit hate speech because it impedes on the safety of others. We don't give people the right to murder people in the most extreme circumstance because it impedes on the safety of others. So this is an exact scenario.

So at the end of this debate, we're leaving the lives of these vulnerable people in the hands of these people's opinions. Like, these people's opinions basically control whether these people can live or die if you look at it in the most extreme sense of it. And we decide firmly to choose not to live in a world where this can happen. So for these reasons, we're proud to affirm.


AVA BROINOWSKI: The opposition's entire case was devoted to stepping out why exactly we must at all costs ensure that all people and all parts of the population are vaccinated. But they have so far ignored, first of all, never actually given us any content about our count model. And second of all, they have ignored a critical hole in their case.

If you're wealthy, you don't want a vaccine and you want to continue your lifestyle going on cruise ships, visiting expensive restaurants, and god forbid, going to concert halls, you can still do all of these-- don't worry-- as long as you pay a financial penalty that would probably just cost a fraction of the cost of your private jet. And as the opposition said themselves, it only takes one person to start a new supercluster.

So, in this debate I've defined it down to two main issues and clashes. First of all, which side of the house offers the most fair and just and just generally best incentive. And second of all, which side of the house, as a result, has the best community outcomes? So beginning on the first topic, which side of the house offers the most fair and just incentive-- so essentially we're going to prove to you why we offer the most appropriate and effective punishment that is simultaneously justified and fair and far more proportionately affects all those in the population.

So the opposition mentioned specifically their main stakeholder were those who mistrust vaccines who are generally from lower SES backgrounds because they're under-educated or they have a history of medical mistrust. But the opposition's entire model is extremely detrimental to this group for a couple of reasons. First of all, they never stepped out education as a preemptive measure until second speaker, where they really never addressed it to our extent-- which means that at the opposition's best case, first of all, medical distrust remains in these groups, because they're never actually told why they should be taking the vaccine before they're given a hefty fine for it. And second of all, if these people do take the vaccine, which is the opposition's best case, medical distrust and anger remains and become stronger because they are forced without this education.

At the opposition's worst case, however, the point where these people do not take the vaccine, first of all, they are disproportionately harmed financially because means testing doesn't really exist to any good extent, and they will always be disproportionately harmed as compared to those who can just pay a fine. Second of all, they lose livelihood and were never educated in this role. And so therefore under either side, best or worst case, medical mistrust and anger endures, and those who are in lower SES backgrounds are always going to be disproportionately affected.

So whereas on our side, first of all, we offer multiple rounds of education before it ever gets to this point. Therefore we have more effort put in to eradicate medical distress. And finally, we just essentially offer far more empathy for such an entrenched social issue and those who are the most vulnerable in this issue of financial points.

And so yeah-- and also, the other thing that the opposition did bring up is we received a push at second after they stated that they would include education that even so, traditional education would never change the minds of those who wouldn't want to be taking a vaccine. A couple of our responses to this. First of all, this is only true-- three stakeholders, really. First of all, traditional education will only not change the minds of those who are extremists. I'll elaborate on that more later. Second of all, education would work for those who are curious about the vaccine, slightly sceptical because of how short it took to develop, AKA, those who are on the fence. We've stepped out at first very comprehensively why this would work for those.

And third, as I've just stated, relying on this education as a first step is better and more likely effective for those who are affected by medical distrust. So overall, we've proved why on our side of the house, our model is fairer, it's far more proportionately effective, and it's just more justified.

So moving on to the second and most crucial practical issue in this debate. So we're going to basically-- I'll prove to you why we're going to fulfil our duty of care in protecting the community and saving lives most effectively and to the greatest extent. So first of all, which side of the house is essentially more capable to protect those who can't protect themselves? We agree with the opposition's characterisation that those who are immunocompromised and cannot take the vaccine for any reason are especially at risk. The opposition-- basically, the financial incentive doesn't work as effectively, as has been stepped up repeatedly, first of all, because it's easier for those who are rich to avoid. Therefore there'll be more community transmission because they can just go out still anyway.

And second of all, as I'll elaborate more on later, financial incentives are just generally taken less seriously. You know, no one really cares about parking tickets in the same way those who are rich aren't really going to care as much-- whereas on our side of the house, first of all, house arrest is far less easy to hide from other people, meaning that people are far more stigmatised, which is good, if they're really refusing to take a life-saving vaccine. Second of all, house arrest is easier to monitor with an ankle bracelet. The opposition never gave us any sort of content against our counter model and never actually explained how they would actually isolate those who are a massive threat to the population.

And finally, house arrest is just far more serious and severe for those who could avoid fines, AKA, those who are very wealthy. So as I already mentioned in my introduction, there's a massive loophole in the opposition's case because at their best case, even if these rich people who are very much threats to the population did pay a financial punishment, first of all, they're still allowed into the community, meaning that all of the opposition's practical harms that they were claiming actually just basically tear apart their case because, first of all, there's more community transmission, rich people can get away with going about their lives, whilst actually hiding the fine because it's far more easy to obscure and evade than house arrest. And essentially, we proved that there is more incentive to vaccinate for those who do not. And for those who actually don't actually want to pay a fine, we are actually able to isolate them from the rest of the community, which is necessary at that point.

[one bell]

So then moving on to my substantive, where I'm going to integrate some last bits of rebuttal-- why we have a responsibility to denounce the conduct of those who aren't getting vaccinated. First of all, it generates awareness around, first of all, the risk of not getting vaccinated, risk of being around those who are vaccinated, and the severity of COVID-19. So ultimately, this is a symmetrical principle. I think we can both agree on this, just as we agreed on making sure that as many people get the vaccine. Therefore, this was always going to come down to which side of the house actually succeeds in this better.

So why our counter model is far more effective in denouncing the misconduct of those not taking the vaccine, and thus why we claim all of the above benefits. So first of all, house arrest, as we've stepped down the bench, is a far more serious punishment and just generally better for protecting the rest of the community. Second of all, after all of our stages of education that are pointed out in their model, the severity is stressed, and essentially that's just more social stigma generated. This is the most important aspect, is that fines can be covered up.

So on our side of the house, ultimately house arrest can't be covered up. It can't be hidden. Because, well, you're on house arrest, you're isolated-- which means, first of all, our side of the house is more effective in letting others know who hasn't been vaccinated. Therefore it helps people who are immunocompromised to avoid them, which is, first of all, good for those people, but also good for those who are actually vaccinated. Because keep in mind, doesn't matter if you're vaccinated, you can still develop other strains, which is why it's so crucial to isolate these people. So therefore, our side of the house successfully generates more social stigma around misconduct and therefore we have more messaging, far more stigma around those who deserve to be stigmatised at that point, and more vaccines are taken and more risks are avoided. And this is why I am very proud to negate.


THOMAS ZHENG: We have consistently told you down the bench that one person can infect the country. This is something that very specifically impacts low socioeconomic people, and that is why we have focused on this throughout the debate. The problem that the opposition does not recognise is that communities of low socioeconomic people look like communities of disenfranchisement, which are grouped together. This looks like people who are poor and don't engage with the government living in a single area. This looks like Cabramatta or Claymore, where the government has no influence on them.

The importance of this is that because of that, you have big communities which do not have any immunity at all. That is what we have been trying to stress to you. This is by no means comparative to rich communities, because rich people are so much closer to the government, education, and doctors, and they already live in vaccinated communities, which at least contain some sort of herd immunity. That's why we have stressed to you why it is so important to target low socioeconomic people, as Auguste has said, because compared to the one or two rich people getting sick, entire communities breeding the virus in Cabramatta is the worst outcome of all.

Look, at the end of the day, you can have one or two rich people. But that is ultimately something the opposition cannot manage either. They talk about rich people going to concerts or going to operas, but that is something that they do not change. They want to counter model in stuff like educational outcomes and more isolation or quarantine sort of stuff. Sounds familiar? Yes, it is, because it is stuff that already happens now. We did not view it as necessary to incorporate in our model stuff that is already part of the existing health response. We fully agree with these things. We just think that we need more concrete things to target low socioeconomic people-- as we have said, the most vulnerable stakeholder of this debate.

Two things here. First of all, I'll look at how socioeconomic people react. Second of all, I'll look at why financial penalties are absolutely, absolutely necessary here. Firstly we'll talk about how socioeconomic people will react. I have four things to say here. The first is to say that the opposition has brought out talking about how they will view it as a massive violation of their own bodily autonomy, that this will be a vaccine forced upon them. This isn't a nuanced look at it, because most anti-vaxxers actually aren't actively anti-vax but have no experience with it, which means that they're anxious going in.

It looks like someone who's never done it before, which makes them more liable to narratives which say that it might be bad for you. It means that especially if you have a lot of social media telling you that that's the case, it means that they don't actively think that vaccinations are really, really bad. It just means that they're anxious or have reservations and given the chance of having it you wouldn't do it.

Importantly, it's not a strictly ideological stance that these people have. It's just one based on uncertainty and inexperience. This is significant because provided with the correct incentives, it's not too difficult to change their beliefs and anxiety. I have three things to say here. The first is to say that governments taking a really strong and concrete stance on this saying you must do it or we will literally fine you is a really reassuring mechanism. It reaches out to this community saying this is something that you must do. We haven't reached out to you before, but this is something that is good for the broader community.

The second thing is to say it reaffirms the material that Auguste brought to you that their kids are getting at school-- that vaccinations keep you healthy-- and empowers them to go and say, look, Dad, why aren't we doing this? It's a lot easier for kids, as we said it, to look up and talk to their parents when they know that they have the law and authority behind their side.

The third thing is to say that people do not exclusively hold purely anti-vax views that cannot be weighed against everything else. The opposition wants to reduce people to that, but that is not the case. People have competing mechanisms that exist. They have their kids. They have their financial states. Anti-vax fears are likely to weigh less compared to that, because since compared to very concrete things, like your family and your money, anti-vax ideas are themselves based on feelings, anxieties, and usually contradictory things from social media, which means that they are so much less likely to weigh up against the very concrete things that we brought to you.

At the end of it, even if it is the case that unfortunately we have to violate the, what they call, bodily autonomy of anti-vaxxers, we say that this is a very short-term harm, because people are only anti-vax for so long that they aren't vaccinated. It is a lot easier to believe that it will damage your brain or whatever when you haven't taken it, take it, and then a couple of days later, you still feel OK, then people realise that it's all fake and all the narratives are really bad.

This is really important, because it means that people who have the vaccination can go and tell their friends it's not all that bad. It's a lot more believable when you have someone with actual experience against social media telling you nothing. It affirms their kids' experiences and empowers them to speak out their vaccination belief.

And ultimately you have to weigh-- Auguste told you the harm of finding out that you have to weigh against the more arguable harm of people finding out that vaccinations are actually good for you maybe in a less than ideal way compared to the massive harms of these things propagating, spreading inside people, damaging the government's ability to keep the country safe, and also the massive harms of the immunocompromised potentially dying. Just like weigh it up here.

On the second part of this issue--

[one bell]

--we'll look at why financial penalties are absolutely necessary. I have seven things to say here. The first is to say that financial penalties added on, co-opted with educational outcomes, tap into different sorts of things. The education is itself a really soft means of doing so. The financial incentives are really concrete, which means you're looking at two avenues at once. The second thing is to say that you need financial penalties, because otherwise it makes it seem as if the government is legitimising the anti-vax perspective. That is what happens when you hand people with two choices, right? Oh, you can pick yes or you can pick no. It makes the no seem so much more legitimate than it actually is.

The third thing is to say that the government has forever been unable to reach these demographics. It is crucially important, then, that the government introduces financial penalties because it is the only thing that is concrete enough for low socioeconomic people to recognise the importance of it. The opposition wanted to straw man us and say that financial incentives don't seem very concrete. But to people who literally aren't able to pay and are living rent to rent, they are. The only thing that breaks this current drought of information is necessarily the most important stakeholder. Therefore, that is why financial incentives are the most important.

The fourth thing I want to say is that the most important time is now, because we have spent a lot of time in quarantine and lockdown, and it has sent a lot of us onto social media. Empirically you see that this has resulted in a big rise in anti-vax propaganda. It's necessary, then, for the government to really have a strong message, put in a strong stance, to combat this.

The last thing we want to say is that the COVID-19 pandemic is a very real and unique chance to destroy these anti-vax views through financial penalties. Measles, diphtheria, HPV, et cetera, are stuff that we are currently vaccinated against, but they are also rare diseases that people don't have a lot of experience with.

[two bells]

Vaccinations don't seem important, as a result. But COVID is a very real risk to everyone. It is something that everyone fears really concretely, which means that vaccinations and their effect in this time is uniquely felt by everyone. It means the difference between staying at home in lockdown and partying out on the streets, which means that it is critically necessary now to enforce this pro-vaccination message, because now is the time when it will be felt the most. And its effects will be most felt.

The last two things I want to talk about is stuff about backlash and discourse. The opposition says that people in the end, like the really extreme people who will continue to push anti-vax ideas-- given the existing empirical evidence, most people already believe in vaccinations. And that means that you'll never really access any level of popular support in your backlash. You'll continue to spread--

[bell ringing]

--on the social media platforms where they currently exist. But this is something that's largely symmetric. In the end, because we-- in the end because we break down these anti-vax beliefs because we are the principled side, and we protect Australia. That is why we are so proud to affirm. Thank you.


MAYA ANDERSON: In this debate, the opposition has consistently refused to engage with our model of enforced isolation and refused to engage with a very important stakeholder of rich people who are anti-vaxxers. They have just ignored Brent the millionaire from Byron Bay who is anti-vax and denies COVID, who is now just walking away with a meaningless fine of, what, a few grand at max-- probably far cheaper than his latest dinner-- and they're giving his COVID-rich anti-vax friends-- they could be infected by him, his co-workers could be infected, and eventually this could spread to the immunocompromised that the opposition is so desperate to protect.

Sufficient herd immunity is only possible on our side with our effective model of forced isolation, which the opposition still hasn't adequately addressed. And on our side we've addressed all the stakeholders. We've told you about low SES and the rich people and other anti-vaxxers. And so we get the most comprehensive immunity on our side.

Two main issues in this debate so far. First of all, which side has the best incentive for people to get vaccinated. And then second, slightly smaller issue of which side gets the best community outcome and least transmission. So on the best incentive, we think we are able to win this issue because we have the most appropriate punishment that encourages people to be vaccinated and is actually fair. And we ultimately get less people being punished and more people being vaccinated.

But why do we get this? So the opposition has told you that anti-vaxxers are people from low SES backgrounds stuck in small communities with only social media to engage them. So firstly, we think that we agree there are a significant amount of anti-vaxxers in this situation, but we think that we've explained down the bench how we can more adequately reach these people with our model. Because if the only education that they're getting is social media, then that kind of contradicts with what the opposition was saying about how traditional education has already been tried, because clearly social media is not traditional education. So we think by actually engaging with these communities, by getting them to talk to their doctor, and by making that compulsory, we give them more education than just social media.

But we also just think that fines would make these people really angry and even more disenfranchised. If they're already struggling to pay the rent, then forcing them to pay a fine won't particularly make them likely to get vaccinated. But most importantly, even in our worst-case scenario, where our incentive doesn't work and they still won't get vaccinated, at least they are not in their community. At least they're still in their house, and there is some degree of protection in their community.

But on to the other stakeholder in this debate about rich anti-vaxxers. So we think it's really not enough for the opposition to ignore rich anti-vaxxers who won't really be impacted by fines and just say that most anti-vax people are from low SES backgrounds. We think that this is because even if there were only a few people who are rich and anti-vax, they are still bad because of their extended travel, because they don't just stay in a small community, which means that they have the potential to be super-spreaders and to be really dangerous for the COVID epidemic, which is why we really care about this stakeholder.

But secondly, why we think that these rich people do actually exist-- first of all, we think that there are plenty of isolated communities that are relatively wealthy and where people are anti-vax. The best example is Byron Bay. It's historically got really low vaccination rates, but it's also affluent. And we think as the opposition identified, the main reason why people are anti-vax is from misinformation and because of echo chambers, not just because of their social class-- although it does contribute. And we think these echo chambers can exist in all social classes because of the polarising nature of social media.

And we also think that rich anti-vaxxers are also generally the ones who lead the movement and kind of keep it going, because they capitalise off it, because they sell their alternative medicines instead of vaccinations, because they have the social media platform to spread misinformation and advocated about it. So we can actually see their existence, and we also think even if there are only a few, they are so important to this debate. That is never enough for the opposition to just ignore them and say that they only care about anti-vaxxers from low SES backgrounds.

But thirdly, we think that we pull ahead in this issue of stakeholders because we actually address both. We proved why we had the best incentive for both rich stakeholders and low SES stakeholders, because people from lower SES backgrounds would be really disadvantaged by these high fines, and they'll be angry at the government, because they won't be able to afford the fines because they'll go to gaol or be stuck in these overcrowded gaols where COVID can just spread, because they'll be likely to take that option because it's probably only a couple of days, and because we've proved to you that now rich anti-vaxxers have an actual incentive to get vaccinated. And we think the fact that we've been able to address both of these stakeholders proves that we have a stronger case.

So onto the other issue on this point about how they get broader change in their ideologies by children pressuring their parents. First of all, we think that children are not necessarily a big stakeholder because they're most likely believing their parents. And secondly, the children simply are not impacted as much by financial harms. It's only indirect, and they probably don't understand them.

But assuming the children do understand this and would put pressure on their parents, we think the pressure is better on our side because isolating is much worse for children than an indirect financial harm, because they have to stay home from school, they can't see their friends, and therefore they're far more involved and they're a lot more likely to pressure their parents into changing their anti-vax ideas. They're also more likely to listen to the education that's provided, and therefore they're more able to change anti-vax ideologies when they're actually more directly impacted. And so we get more societal change under our side.

Secondly, on the issue of our education-- even though we think the isolation part of our model is more important, the reason why the education is also a good incentive, we have three reasons why. First of all, we think that conversations and conferences with a doctor allows people to feel like-- to ask questions and be heard. Yes, this is available under the status quo, but it's not compulsory, and that's the key point here. By forcing people who refuse to vaccinate to have this conversation with their doctor--

[one bell]

--we give them the chance and we give them the means to actually feel heard and not feel ignored by the medical system. And thirdly, we accept that this doesn't always work, which is why it was not the only component of our model and why we have the stronger incentive and the hard-line incentive of isolation.

And why our incentive is much better than financial incentives, the opposition has literally consistently refused to engage with our model of isolation and then house arrest. All they've talked about is our education model. And yes, we think that we will get more education, more engagement from education, as I just explained. But we also think that it is important to send a strong message. And that's why we would force people to isolate, which will also keep them out of the community. So we get this double benefit that the opposition just has ignored. And so it is always going to be a better incentive on our side, because we still have the hard government line, and we also are keeping people out of community.

And now briefly on the second issue of which side gets the best community outcome-- first of all, unlike the principle about which side fulfils its duty to protect the most, we think we agree that people don't have the right to refuse vaccination, which is why we would force them to isolate. But we think this is a symmetric principle, as we've told you down the bench. And the opposition has wasted a lot of their time explaining to you why it's important when we've agreed with them all along.

And then secondly on the issue of COVID being particularly infectious, as we've told you, we also agree with this, and opposition has also wasted time on this, because we also agree that it's infectious, immunity is important, which is why we're trying to get a better incentive to vaccinate people. And we also think that by addressing the rich people who are more likely to be super-spreaders, we're actually decreasing transmission more than just addressing lower SES people.

And secondly, on the issue of a hard-line message from the government and how that's important-- first of all, we don't think it's true that a financial penalty is necessarily hard-line. The other things-- think about the other things you get a financial penalty for, like speeding, parking wrong.

[two bells]

People do that all the time. That's entirely different to endangering the health of thousands. And it's not particularly sending the right message to be like, you could speed or you could not get vaccinated, that's the same thing, we don't really care. We think isolation is far more hard-line because you actually-- people don't want to isolate, as we've all experienced. And so they're far more likely to actually listen to this incentive from the government, and that's a much better message. So at the end of this debate, we think that we have adequately addressed why all stakeholders will have a better incentive to be vaccinated under our side. And we've also explained how this leads to the best community outcome with less transmission and a better government message. And that is why our counter model is better. And I'm proud of it.


JEREMIAH EDAGBAMI: OK, cool. All right. So the first thing in general feedback I'll give you guys is that there was a lot of discussion of contingent principles. So the principle of trying to make everyone have a better life by reducing COVID, we have an obligation to people who might die from the virus-- that is a good principle, but I would encourage speakers to make their principles dual, in that one of their principles, or perhaps more than one, is not based on practical outcomes.

So for example, from the affirmative, we could have heard something about how even if this is not effective, we should still penalise people who don't take the virus as an act of retribution. Secondly, also from the negative team, they could have also spoken about how you should never financially harm someone just because they choose to do something for themselves or choose not to do something for themselves. For example, we don't financially harm people for choosing to, I don't know, not exercise. So that's one piece of general feedback I'll give you.

The next is to please spend less time on material that is agreed upon. I think about 50% to 60% of this debate was just a discussion of what things we just all agreed upon, whole clashes in this debate, whole arguments were things that had already been agreed upon or were likely going to be considered by opposition teams. So be careful about spending time on material that is likely going to be agreed upon-- for example, obviously we want people to not die of the virus.

So there are two issues in this debate. And in terms of the decision, I'm going to start with that first, because in year 11, and I think you're mature enough to listen to the adjudication for its justification. We gave this debate to the negative team on a close margin. So congratulations to the negative team and commiserations to the affirmative.

The two reasons why the affirmative won are, firstly, will this model incentivize people to take the vaccine. And secondly, what provides the best medical outcome. The best question on whether or not this model will provide an incentive to take the vaccine-- there are a few things that the affirmative said. The affirmative team tells us the government can cut into the echo chamber of those who are unlikely to take the vaccine, and also that if the government does this, it compounds the teaching that kids have in school, and also that this reduces the anxiety of taking the vaccine.

Just starting with the anxiety material, we don't think that this was explained well enough, because obviously, this model requires people to take the vaccine first in order for them to reduce their anxiety in order to take further vaccines. We think that this specific mechanism for trying to incentivize people relies on people taking the vaccine already, and that is not established.

The second thing to say about school kids and re-entrenching what children know-- this is under-explained. We're unclear on why this must be two different things, that one must entrench the other in order for it to work. Additionally, the stuff about the government cutting into echo chambers, this also didn't make too much sense. It is unclear why the government now entering communities and saying we are going to find you now makes people listen to the government a lot more. It probably requires a few more steps in that argumentation to make sense.

The other thing that is said is that there is a financial deterrent against people who are poor. This is a strong mechanism that is given, and I think that this is where the affirmative team does the better job of explaining argumentation. Firstly, though, it is too late in the debate. A new mechanism cannot be provided at third. But even if we are to credit this mechanism, which I think we kind of do, we think that it is not established in terms of how much of the scale of the benefit this might be, because maybe it is true it incentivizes a lot of poor people to take the vaccine now. But it is unclear how this benefits all of society if it is true that the affirmative sets the burden at being pretty much 100% immunity. And even if it is true that you increase herd immunity to, say, 90% by using a financial deterrent, as the first affirmative outlines, even one person having that disease is enough to still spread it, so it is unclear how this specific mechanism benefits in the debate.

So the conclusion is this-- firstly we don't think the incentives have been fully substantiated enough at the conclusion of the affirmative's material. And second, we also think that even if there is some change in how many people take the vaccine and the incentive still exists, it is unclear if the virus is benefited or changed substantially under the affirmative side.

The second issue, then, in terms of why we gave this debate to the negative team is what provides the best medical outcome. The negative tells us two things-- A, the rich are likely to still be super-spreaders of the virus. We think this was strong material. And we also think, B, the material about backlash of poor people wanting to re-entrench their views about distrust in the medical system and also choosing to vaccinate their kids is actually a reason for why the virus might get worse. We actually think that the negative team kind of drops this very strong material which should have been talked about later down the line.

So at the conclusion of that, it means that it is probably better to not do things like financially harm or harm poor people by giving them this fine. Instead it is probably better to educate them. But the affirmative tells us, well, education is impotent. So the first thing to say is that we are unclear as to why education is impotent. But secondly, even if education is impotent, the negative team can still provide a change in the debate by using house arrest. We think that this is kind of a contradiction from the negative team to say that they would house arrest, because surely if you were arrested, you wouldn't be able to go to work. So why wouldn't you, as a poor person, be angry about that?

But we still think that if you are going to alienate poor people and make them feel worse about the government, you might as well be effective in doing so. The financial harm that is done to alienate poor people still spreads the virus. At least on the negative side, when they do alienate poor people, they can fully and substantially and concretely stop that virus when they do house arrest people. So for those reasons, we think it is better to not alienate people through this model. However, if we do do so, it is probably better to utilise something like house arrest. We think that while it is true that this is somewhat symmetric-- this mechanism is similar, so the affirmative can do this as well, it is unclear why we might implement this specific model if it is true that house arrest alone can work, and also if we can do things, like avoid house arrest and utilise education to stop alienation of people happening.

I hope this adjudication was clear. It is shorter than your speeches. But I still think that it was quite comprehensive. Any questions, please let every one of us know-- the panel. Congratulations to both teams.

MENHAAZ HOSSAIN: So first off, I'd like to thank the debating coaches and coordinators from both schools for allowing us to do this competition. And thank you to the adjudicators and the organisers of PDC for providing us with a really good way to debate even in the middle of a literal pandemic.

Congratulations to Sydney Boys High School for making it to the finals. I think it's really rare that we get to verse each other. So this is one of our most interesting and enjoyable debates so far. We had a lot of fun. And we hope to debate you guys again in the future. Congratulations.


ANSON CHAN: On behalf of Sydney Boys High School, I'd just like to thank Sydney Girls for a compelling debate. I'd like to thank the chairperson. I'd like to thank the technical advisor who's helped us out. I'd like to thank all the teams who have come out to just watch this finals debate. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated. I'd like to thank the teachers who are involved here. They put in a tremendous amount of work to make this happen. And I'd like to thank the organisers as well. So thank you.


MENHAAZ HOSSAIN: So first off, I'd like to thank the debating coaches and coordinators from both schools for allowing us to do this competition. And thank you to the adjudicators and the organisers of PDC for providing us a really good way to debate even in the middle of a literal pandemic.

Congratulations to Sydney Boys High School for making it to the finals. I think it's really rare that we get to verse each other. So this is one of our most interesting and enjoyable debates so far. We had a lot of fun. And we hope to debate you guys again in the future. Congratulations.


ANSON CHAN: On behalf of Sydney Boys High School, I'd just like to thank Sydney Girls for a compelling debate. I'd like to thank the chairperson. I'd like to thank the technical advisor who's helped us out. I'd like to thank all the teams who have come out to just watch this finals debate. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated. I would like to thank the teachers who are involved here. They've put in a tremendous amount of work to make this happen. And I'd like to thank the organisers as well. So thank you.


End of transcript