Video transcript
NSW Premier's Debating Challenge 2022 - Years 11 and 12 state final

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[intro music]

JUSTINE CLARKE: Hey. Good morning, everyone and welcome. Now that we've got all our speakers here, I think we'll make a start. My name is Justine Clark. I'm the Speaking Competitions Officer at the Arts Unit for the Department of Education. And it's my great privilege to welcome everybody to this 2022 state final of the Premier's Debating Challenge for years 11 and 12 for the Hume Barbour trophy over here, which is quite an impressive trophy for one of our schools to take home today.

I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today. It's the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. I'd like to extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today, and acknowledge that this is and always will be Aboriginal land.

Before we begin our debate today, I'd like to welcome some special guests that have joined us from the Department of Education. We have Emma Kriketos, who is the Acting Executive Director, School Specialist and Support Programmes for the department. We also have Jordi Austin, Director, Arts Sport and Initiatives, and Marianne Powles, leader at the Arts Unit. Thank you so much for joining us.

I'd also like to say thank you to joining us to Kate Small, who's Deputy Chief of Staff Officer for the Vice Chancellor and President from the University of Sydney. And thank you for allowing us to use this beautiful venue for our debate today.

Of course, I'd like to extend a big welcome to all of the schools that have joined us today. It's so great to have a live audience for such a beautiful event. And I'd also like to welcome all of our coaches, principals, teachers, supporters, friends, parents of our debaters here today. Congratulations to both Sydney Girls High School, and to Rose Bay Secondary College for making the state final.

As you know, this year we had a knockout championships to make it a little bit easier for schools in a tough year. And these 2 teams are the final 2 standing after knocking out pretty much all of the great teams from the 145 or so who entered this year. So really big well done, and thank you everyone for joining to support them.

All right. My final job is to introduce two very important people-- our chairperson and time keeper, both from Engadine High School, who made the quarter finals of this competition. And I believe they were knocked out by Sydney Girls. But a really great achievement to make the quarter finals.

I'd like to welcome Tamara McEwen, who will be our timekeeper, and Jessica Frater who will be our chairperson. And I am now going to hand over to Jessica to take over proceedings for today. Thanks, everyone.


JESSICA FRATER: I welcome you to the State Final of the Premier's Debating Challenge for years 11 and 12 for the Hume Barbour trophy. This debate is between Rose Bay Secondary College and Sydney Girls High. The affirmative team from Rose Bay Secondary College is first speaker, Ellie Dickinson; second speaker, Benjamin Lore; third speaker, Holly Phillips; fourth speaker, Doug Kench. The negative team from Sydney Girls High School is first speaker, Ariane Varnava; second speaker, Anna Kremer; third speaker, Neve Mikulic; fourth speaker, Josephine Perry.

The adjudicators are Ellie Stephenson, Jeremiah Edagbami, and Gemma Hedayati. Ellie Stephenson won the Hume Barbour Trophy in year 12, and was also a speaker on the National Schools Debating Championships, winning New South Wales representative team. At University, she has been a chief adjudicator of the Australian Intervarsity Debating Championships and the Australian Women's Debating Championships. She has also reached the semi-finals of the World University Debating Championships, and was a top 10 speaker at the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships.

Jeremiah Edagbami is a 7-time intervarsity debating competition champion. He led and conducted the adjudication of the Australian Intervarsity Debating Championships Grand Final, the highest calibre debate in the country. And internationally, he is the 15th best speaker in Australasia and the fifth best judge in Asia.

Gemma Hedayati was on the Hume Barbour winning team whilst at school just 2 years ago. Her team won the state finals in years 10 and 12. She currently coaches debating at Fort Street High School, and enjoys adjudicating debates for both secondary and primary school competitions across New South Wales.

Today each speaker may speak for 8 minutes. There'll be a warning bell at 6 minutes, with 2 bells at 8 minutes to indicate that a speaker's time has expired. A bell will be rung continuously if the speaker exceeds the maximum time by more than 1 minute. The topic for this debate is that we should stop having a prime minister. The affirmative speaker, Ellie Dickinson, will begin the debate.


ELLIE DICKINSON: In Australia, the current political hierarchy is the prime minister, then the governor-general, then the queen. This dates from a colonialist days, and is rapidly becoming outdated. What is wrong with it? We have 3 reasons why this system is utterly just not in keeping with modern Australian values.

The first of these is that it is archaic. The queen is literally chosen by the divine right of kings. And this is not who we should have as the head of state in our Democratic nation.

Secondly, it complicates our system of government. Laws have to go through the governor-general before they can be passed, which is a clunky and unnecessary system. And it gives the most power to someone whose best interests are not with Australia. Our decisions and laws do not affect the queen. She doesn't care about us.

So how can we fix this system? So what we on the negative-- affirmative team would like to propose is the abolishing of the monarchy. So we'd like to remove this archaic system and make Australia a republic. We'd like to move away from our colonialist past, and instate a president as the head of state, rather than a random old lady on the other side of the world, and a prime minister who operates under her. And we'd like to let the complicated system of a prime minister fade away and replace it with an Australian president.

So why is this better than the status quo? So this will lead to the greatest power being in the hands of an Australian. As my second speaker will elaborate on, it simplifies the system. There are no longer all these clunky steps.

Laws can be passed by an Australian head of state. And it means that Australia is not held back by the rapidly sinking ship that is Britain. After Brexit, prime minister scandals, and a disgraced monarchy, Australia's post-war trajectory of severing ties with Britain should continue.

So who does our system-- who does our model benefit? It benefits Australian citizens who will receive a head of state who is invested, who lives here, and is affected by the decisions made here. Our head of state should not be a queen who has visited Australia once or twice.

It should be a president of Australia who lives here, who understands the complexities of our country, and is properly qualified to lead our country. And it also benefits parliament. It rapidly simplifies the system of government, and it creates a clear and cohesive system.

And as for who it harms, we don't believe that anyone is disadvantaged by this system. Australia receives no specific benefit from the Commonwealth, except perhaps like an ego boost from the Commonwealth Games. And so overall, we submit that it is essential that Australia becomes a Republic, removes the prime minister, and instals a president. We are proud to affirm.


JESSICA FRATER: The first negative speaker, Ariane Varnava, will begin their case.


ARIANE VARNAVA: In order for Australia to Institute a presidential system, they have to completely delegitimize the system we have right now, invest billions of dollars in capital into running a campaign, and obliterate public trust in the government we have by saying it is so inefficient that we need to completely change it.

A few things in this speech-- firstly, why we just don't think it's worth delegitimizing our entire government to get a president who is essentially going to do the same thing. Secondly, how having a president that isn't elected by the party will lead to disunity within the party, making a more hostile environment that leads to less things being done. And thirdly, how this is going to lead to a very polarised media landscape, and a game of personality politics rather than actual policy.

So firstly, what do we tell you about their model of changing things? Firstly, we think that in order for this to happen, a, there needs to be a referendum; b, there needs to be literally billions of dollars of capital invested to running campaigns for the referendum; c, it just costs so much money to do it; and, d, we need to change the entire structure of our constitution and things. Think about how much money this is, and then think about if it's actually worth doing.

Why is this? We think that right now, yes, maybe having a queen seems archaic, but it doesn't actually have any real harm. The queen is an apolitical role who is there simply as an extra accountability measure and a symbol of our history. They don't have any power anymore. The queen is not going to dissolve Australian government. The governor-general isn't going to veto any bills that are passed. It is simply there because it is not worth spending so much money.

So what is like 5 other things we could use this money for? We could use it to close the gap, put it towards Indigenous outcomes that I think would actually be a way better way of reconciling our colonial past than getting rid of the queen. We think this is probably a better thing to do.

Secondly, we can just make government more efficient. We can reduce bureaucratic barriers by hiring more staff. We think that this money can just be used in so many ways that it is simply not worth the capital investment that they're going to do. And so for these reasons, we think that it's just not the worthwhile decision.

But what do we tell you about why doing this reduces public trust in the government, and why this is inherently a very bad thing? We tell you that right now people understand the government of Australia. People have been used to it. It's been the same since Federation, which is 117 years. And currently, Australians feel like they can engage in politics to a certain degree because they understand what is going on. They understand who our leader is.

When you tell the public of Australia that the highest officer of the government, the prime minister, is so inefficient and so bad that it needs to be abolished, you are telling them that they should not have trust in the government, that for the past 117 years we've been using a bad system. It also creates the perception that our government is so unstable, because think about the way the entire system needs to change.

So why is this bad? By decreasing trust in the government, and saying that our most esteemed office is obsolete to the point of getting rid of it, you inherently decrease trust in the government, which means that you're more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. You're more likely to have very aggressive and polarised rhetoric. You're more likely to have a public that doesn't want to listen to advice from the government.

So, for example, in the pandemic, people are less likely to follow health advice because they simply don't believe the government is capable. So for these reasons, we think it's simply not worth it.

But why do we also tell you that even if you don't believe that, governments actually become less official. Right now, the parties vote for who the leader of the party is, and that is the role of the prime minister. We tell you that when the public elects it and not the party, the party is not going to agree with and necessarily think that the person who's in power is someone they can work with and reconcile.

Because right now, you're obviously going to vote for the person to be leader of the party who you think has leadership qualities, who you think you can follow, who you think you can work with. The public doesn't see this side. The public sees the charisma that you show them, which means that what they represent to the public might not be how they are in the party room, which means that people aren't going to want to listen to them. It's going to be a lot harder to work with them. And it means that things are less likely going to get done.

We think this is just simply a risk that we are not willing to take because we think it is so important that party rooms are as efficient as they can be with the best personalities that can work together. And we think this is more important than having a slightly more Democratic thing, because we would prioritise politicians actually being able to engage in meaningful teamwork and get things done. So this is why we just don't think this is a good idea.

But even if you don't believe any of that, why do we still think it's not worth it? We think that inherently by having a presidential race, the entire landscapes of politics in Australia change, and you move towards a system like America when there is extreme polarisation. Why is this?

Presidential races don't rely on policies because policies come from the party. Presidential races rely on rhetoric. They rely on charisma. They rely on pure personality that you can show the public. We think this is just a terrible thing because we think it is far more important for people to actually listen to your policies the way they do in the status quo.

We saw this with the rise of independence. People are able to engage with their local member and listen to their policies in the status quo. Under their system, you completely lose out on independence and things because they're no longer an option. It is simply a presidential figurehead from either of the major parties.

We also think that the media just becomes significantly more polarised because instead of voting for the parties, you're voting for 2 presidential figures. In order to encapsulate most of the population in your charisma, you're probably going to shift more to the extreme because that enables you to be more charismatic and to promise more.

So we saw this with the rise of Donald Trump in the US, which would never have got in under a parliamentary system. Why? Because he's impossible to work with. Party members would never have voted for him. And b, because a lot of his policies weren't in line with the rest of his party.

However, under their side now we can have individuals who say things that the rest of the party doesn't believe, but they can still do it because they also get to be a figurehead without the support of the party.

We also think this is especially harmful because presidents have executive powers that prime ministers don't have, which means that the president can go and do things like veto bills or create bills without the support of the Parliament. That doesn't happen in the status quo.

We think this is inherently less democratic than right now, when you know what you're getting in for, when you know who you're voting for, when you know what's going to happen. And they don't have-- and you know that the entire government has to vote to support it than having president. So we think that it's simply not the case that it actually becomes more democratic at all.

So for all of these reasons, we think that it is simply not worth having personality politics. We think it is not worth having politician campaigns being turned into who is more charismatic, focusing on random details about the president's past like, oh, was Obama born in America or Hawaii? Because you're voting for the individual, not the party. We think you need to vote for policy. And for all of these reasons, we think it is simply not a risk we are willing to take.

We think it is going to create a very poor party room environment that makes making legislation difficult and impractical. And we also think because it changes the landscape of Australian politics to be purely about personality, we just do not think this is something the negative team can support. And that's why I'm proud to oppose.


JESSICA FRATER: The second affirmative speaker, Benjamin Lore, will continue their case.


BENJAMIN LORE: The opposition would have you believe that the status quo is fine. But we are still ruled over by someone who is not even a citizen of our great country of Australia. This is absolutely ridiculous. But before I go on with that, I would like to rebut some of the flaws in the opposition's case.

So they said that presidents will-- establishing a president will cost billions, and they'll still essentially do the same thing as a prime minister. But it's not going to cost billions. A referendum would happen. But this is [inaudible]. And we didn't really receive evidence of how this would be a massive capital investment.

They also said that there are collaborative personalities in Australian politics. I'm going to move on from that. But they also used an example of Donald Trump as a bad president, but that's a very highly publicised person who is seen as a bad president. But you know who else was a President? Nelson Mandela.

Are any of you going to tell me that Nelson Mandela, the guy who ended the last part of constitutional racism in the world was a bad person? And they also said that this gives the president, the leader of the country, too much power with bills. But we still will have policies that are undergoing checks and balances that already exist, like the Westminster system or the Senate, that already make sure that the president cannot just sign away any law that will exist.

They also said there would be a decreased trust in the government. But we believe this is vastly incorrect. If Australia has a head of state, a revered figurehead that is ultimately in charge, this will probably make them trust the government more. Yeah.

Finally, they also said that a President would polarise society like it does in America. But we would like to argue that America's politics aren't as polarised because they have a president, but rather because they have a two-party system, which is something one of the founding fathers actually warned about. They also said that the public would be choosing the party leader of the-- that is going to run. But the presidents are still chosen by their party representatives.

And now for my substantive. Why is-- so negative team's model, which is the status quo, is ridiculous. A person that does not even live in Australia has the most power. This means that the most powerful person acts in the interest of the country they reside in, Great Britain. And this person is-- and here's-- and this person, of course, is the queen. And here are the reasons why it's not a good thing that the queen is the most powerful person over Australia.

So first, I would like to state that the queen is old fashioned, nonadaptable. She's unable to keep up with the modern world. She is 95, even though she looks like she's not. And she might seem like she's going to live forever, but she's probably not.

And the queen is also democratically elected. And this means that the person with the most power over Australia does not even reflect the public opinion of us, let alone-- and not even her own country. The queen is meant to be chosen by God. And so the person we trust has been chosen by God. But this is absurd.

Surely you can see in today's society that someone chosen like this shouldn't be the one deciding our future. Why is it that in a country of religious freedom with people from all walks of life, many of who do not follow the Church of England, be ruled by someone whose God told them that she should be ruling over them. And this is not even a God that most-- that many citizens recognise exists.

I would also like to point out that she is not acting necessarily always in our best interests of our country, as she represents England first and foremost. And everyone else in the Commonwealth, including us, is second priority. This means she could be signing off on laws and policies that are more beneficial for Britain than Australia.

Finally, she does not live in Australia, meaning that she's most likely less knowledgeable about Aussie culture and issues, meaning that not only is she not the most aware of impact that her laws will have, but she's not even going to be affected by them herself. Thank you.


JESSICA FRATER: The second negative speaker, Anna Kremer, will continue their case.


ANNA KREMER: It was telling how tenuous the opposition's case was when they wrested the entire-- when they were willing to trade state stability, like the actual proper handover of power and operation of government for pure symbolism that truly did not achieve anything. If you wanted to improve things for First Nations people, you didn't spend billions of dollars on dismantling your government. You spent that money on actually investing in resources that would change people's lives. This was superficial at best. And, in fact, we bring you all of these massive destabilising harms that make this truly not worth it.

What am I going to talk about here today? Firstly, I'm going to talk about how the government changes under the opposition's side of this house. Secondly, on how media and voting changes. Thirdly, on our role on the international stage. And finally, we're going to talk about how we can actually improve the issues that they wanted to talk about on First Nations people.

Let's firstly talk about how the government changes. We think that firstly, you get much less minister unity now because you do not have a cabinet that is chosen by the prime minister themselves. You have a bunch of factions that now have to eventually support someone who's risen to the top because of their charisma.

This can be seen in the example of Sanders-- Bernie Sanders having like a massive political faction that did not properly become cohesive with Hillary Clinton's campaign. You get massive factions within your party that truly do not-- are not conducive to actually making swift and cohesive changes.

We think this means that you-- as a result, you have-- you destroy the efficiency that you would otherwise have in the government. We think this means that you do not have someone who can put their foot down and have the respect of the people in their cabinet. This is crucial in times of public crisis, for example, in a pandemic.

We think when Scott Morrison could put his foot down on vaccines when our Health Commission was flip-flopping, that was incredibly important because you needed that sort of drive and unity in times of crisis. You don't get that when you have people who simply do not respect the person who is holding the mantle because they did not choose them themselves.

We also think that policy, secondly, will take a back bench onto this side of the house. We think you have shifted the focus from what the party is going to offer the country, to the type of charisma or the personal charm that the person at the head can offer.

That is crucial because it means that you're no longer going to focus on policy that will actually change things. We point you to Indigenous issues, which they want to fix. You're actually going to get people whose power was invested in them based on the image they could produce, not their policy party. And therefore, their incentive is not to improve their policy when they are in office. They're going to try and preserve basically what gave them their power in the first place, which is that image.

We think that this is crucial in basically just dismantling the government sort of unity. It makes bureaucracy so much worse. But also, you have to basically reform the entire political landscape to start prioritising how people can basically charm people into voting for them.

How does this, as a result, change the media-- change what media looks like? And why is that very harmful? We think that firstly, now you're going to dilute media attention, as you have different factions who are going to try and rise up and gain power in the media.

You no longer sort of have a prime minister who had the prime support of his party. You now have different members who are going to try and take the lead. And because it is so focused on personality, they are going to be trying to take the spotlight. This is so harmful for so many reasons.

We think, firstly, it means that you have less scrutiny overall because you've diluted the focus of the media over multiple different people at once. It means, secondly, personality politics is cemented. My first speaker already told you how you've already formed the political landscape to do this. But this happens not only when you're talking about the now President, I suppose, but also any other sort of minister of parliament.

It means you have-- it's much harder to hold people accountable with their individual portfolios because there's less media focus on all of them. And it means that you don't-- and you have that-- sorry. Oh, yes. That's incredibly harmful because it means that you don't have-- people are more focused on pleasing people, and they're focusing on [? optics ?] instead.

But we think, secondly, people are going to use much more sensationalist language now because you have to be able to appeal to what people want to hear. You want to get that air time. That means you necessarily are going to divide factions even more irrevocably. And that was incredibly harmful for unity, which you needed a government body to be able to do in order to act swiftly in times of crisis.

I think this is pretty well illustrated in America's response to the pandemic, in that you had multiple different people saying different things. And they could not make up their mind in time to actually stop the catastrophe that eventually unfolded.

Let's secondly talk about national security because we think this is probably one of the larger harms the opposition just unnecessarily wants to bring upon Australia. You're essentially just revoking your ties from a major ally that we have, which is going-- and it's going to do nothing, as we've already told you. And what will this do instead?

It means we think in the wake of having China's aggressive threats on the South China Sea, you've now just eliminated another ally that you would have on your side. It means you have more enemies all round. It means this is essentially going to be a major sort of insult to Britain. And what they-- and our ties with them.

That's incredibly harmful because it means that you're just unnecessarily making enemies around you, or burning bridges that you never had to, and at what cost? And that's-- and so at the end of that point, it's incredibly clear that we're going to firstly destroy our ties with an existing ally, which is Britain. But secondly, it sort of just dilutes the legitimacy of what you can-- of your ties with other countries as well.

If they see that you're so willing to basically throw away a long-term friendship, other countries are probably less likely to invest in your relationship. It means Australia's power on the international stage is far more dilute. It means that in the end, countries are unwilling to want to negotiate or make long-term promises with Australia. And we're going to essentially be ridiculed on the international stage. At the end of that point, it's incredibly clear that our international ties are essentially demolished, and that was for basically no cost.

Let's finally talk about fixing the issue that the opposition wants to talk about being so important, which is Aboriginal issues and how this symbolism is going to change things. We think symbolic changes have notoriously been some of the worst kind of-- worst forms of change that we could have.

This is like why even though the apology by Kevin Rudd was incredibly important, still we have not seen widespread changes to close the gap. That was incredibly important because it illuminated the fact that making sort of symbolic changes, these wide-sweeping gestures, were not actually going to do much for the people on the ground.

I don't think people living in housing commission, like far Western Sydney, really are going to care whether or not the queen is still our head of government. I think they're going to care if money is going to be invested in the schools around them, if they're going to have better living standards. That changed a lot more for those people.

I think we have a massive amount of money that was spent on dismantling a system that worked perfectly fine. And we could rather invest that money in changing things on the ground for people who would actually feel those implications much more profoundly.

We think, therefore, that the symbolism that they want to use as the impetus for their entire case at the cost of literally 4 pieces of material that I pointed out to you are going to be extremely harmful. It made no sense why we were going to dismantle the system for the pure reason of getting rid of historic symbolism.

At worst, the symbolism was bad. But you made things far more worse because you diluted the ability of media and politicians to focus on changes. You made things more focused on personality politics and people's charisma. You removed long-standing allies and reduced our legitimacy on the international stage. And for all those reasons, it was simply not a good enough reason to remove the status of Prime Minister we're so proud to oppose.


JESSICA FRATER: The third affirmative speaker, Holly Phillips, will now conclude their case.


HOLLY PHILLIPS: To win this debate, the opposition essentially needed to prove that the prime minister, and therefore, the monarchy has an array of benefits and is generally better for the public than our proposed model. Here are 3 reasons why they have not proved this, and not inherently proved that the status quo is more beneficial than our proposed one.

One, there was a lot of debate about the cost of the issue. However, the referendum is a cost that is well spent. And our referendum is a cost that is well spent. And overall, this is a good use of Australian money.

We'd like to point out that there are many instances in which our government is spending a lot of money on things that are a lot less necessary than this, such as billions of dollars on stadiums and stuff. And in comparison, this is a great cost that will actually help our country a lot more.

They also talked about difficulties for the general public, which was a massive part of the case. However, unlike the queen, the general public is adaptable and will push their president to get their views represented, which you can't do with the queen, who obviously lives on the other side of the world. And three, the queen doesn't-- they talked about how the-- we talked about how the queen doesn't make good choices for us and didn't see any sufficient rebuttal of that point.

On the other hand, we have made the claim that the induction of a president over the prime minister would be more beneficial to Australia as a whole, and lead to a final decision made by someone acting in the best interest of our country, which is not achieved in the current status quo.

This has been proven through one, the old fashioned and unacceptable nature of the monarchy; two, the poorly reflected public values of the monarchy, and therefore, the governor-general's views due to not being democratically elected; and three, the fact that the final decisions about laws and bills in Australia are made by someone who does not have the best interest of Australia in mind, and is not directly affected by these decisions, and hold Australia as a second priority to their own country.

Overall, the harms of the current status quo far outweigh the positives outlined by the opposition. And we have successfully proved our model to be a model that is more beneficial to the majority and the general public of Australia, who are ultimately the primary stakeholders in this debate, as one, the person making the final decision about our country is somewhat affected by a decision that would have the best interest of Australia at heart.

And it allows for the person making the final call to be more representative of the general public, and more affected by the decisions and the opinions of the general public due to the democratic election process. And we don't incorporate an individual that may have an inherent bias towards another country, which has been outlined as an issue in the status quo.

Now, onto some smaller clashes and issues present throughout the case. The opposition stated that presidents are essentially going to do the same thing, so why waste a lot of money establishing this system? It might be true that presidents would do similar things.

But their laws-- but in our model, which they cannot-- which is a claim that they cannot-- something they cannot claim in their model, the laws do not have to go through the governor-general and the queen, and they're passed by people who actually have the best interest of Australia in heart, because they live in Australia, and they are affected by decisions that are made in Australia.

They also have said that our system has been the same since Federation, and changing it will lead to distrust from the people in this bad system, which have essentially proved that this system is outdated, since it's been around since the Federation. We are removing ourselves from the British monarchy.

And we're not saying that there's a problem with the prime minister. We're saying there's a problem with the system that the laws are decided by-- the final say is given by someone who does not have the best interests of Australia at heart.

They also said that the party may not agree with the person who is elected in a presidential system. Well, the person-- but the person who is elected would better reflect the public opinion, meaning they were acting under the public opinion. They also said that-- again, they were talking a lot about costs.

There is no evidence into that outrageous cost. And even if we are willing to admit that there may be some costs, they have not said what those costs will be. And we would like to say that this is money well spent.

We can use-- this money helps us separate from the monarchy, meaning the person who makes the final decision would be actually impacted directly by these decisions. And it would allow Australia to gain more independence from a crumbling monarchy.

We would also like to point out some other examples of money being spent under the opposition's model, such as billions of dollars on a stadium, and point out that this use of money is far better use than all that stuff, and is actually a justified use of money, even if it does cause some. Our system allows for Australia to separate from this crumbling monarchy, which is ultimately a better thing for Australia.

They also gave a lot of examples of things that the Prime Minister has done, such as Scott Morrison with the vaccine. But we would like to point out that presidents can still make all these things, and presidents can still enact sufficient change. They are very similar to our prime minister, but they allow us to be separate from the monarchy and this system.

They also talked about the damage to our relationships with Great Britain. But what are is the evidence that this would actually affect our relationships with Britain? We talk to many countries outside the Commonwealth, and our relationship with Britain as part of the Commonwealth won't inherently be affected. There are also the other countries like America who have left the Commonwealth and still have relationships with Britain.

They also talked about the people in Australian politics work together and are cooperative. This is not a mutually exclusive point in their case. The system that we currently have still does involve fighting, and still does involve issues with politics. And that is not something that is generally going to happen more under our model.

They also say it gives too much power to presidents and bills. But policies still undergo checks and planning. It doesn't give presidents absolute power. It just gives them the final say, as is given to the queen in our current status quo. And ultimately, we have proved that it is better for someone like a president to have the final say, because they actually have the best interest of Australia at heart.

They also talked about personality politics and polarised government. It is not really a massive change. It's just a consolidation of Australian power in Australian hands, and we rightfully believe it should be. This will not topple our entire government system. For these reasons, I am proud to affirm.


JESSICA FRATER: The third negative speaker, Neve Mikulic, will conclude their case.


NEVA MIKULIC: I think if side opposition wanted to do something as drastic as removing the queen as head of state, and utterly rewriting Australia's Constitution, and reframing its leadership systems. It needed something more than symbolic value to prove that this was going to be beneficial. They needed to do something more than just nebulously tell us that the queen can sign things, or get mad at poor Elizabeth for living in England, instead of actually giving us tangible ways in which she shapes the Australian political system.

We tell you, on the side opposition, that the alternative is not ignoring Australia's colonial history, but using these resources which are significant to enact meaningful change. We were always going to prefer actual tangible benefits than symbolic value when you were talking about democratic political systems. Side opposition just ignores this.

I'm going to talk about two things today. The first point is titled queen versus president. And the second point is titled what are we going to do about the legacy of colonialism? On the first point of queen versus president, I think it's quite ironic that all of the characterization that side opposition gives you as to why the queen is bad is because she's self-interested. And all of the characterization that they give you for president is that they're not.

The difference here is that the queen has a guaranteed position of power. She in no way has to ensure that she continues to have that legacy. Whereas, a president's popularity is contingent on election cycles. That meant that they were always going to do things to preserve their own chances of re-election, and to fight for their own political longevity. The queen was never going to do that.

We tell you instead that the queen has an interest in making the Commonwealth look stable and united. What does that mean? It meant she was going to support things that were in Australia's long-term interest and in the interest of stability. We thought that that was actually quite selfless, and that was probably a good check and accountability measure that we needed, as opposed to someone prone to election cycles.

The other thing that we think that the side opposition simply doesn't engage with in this debate is that the queen as a figure of power in Australian society is very, very marginal, which is to say that they can't actually give you a single example of what she does beyond sign laws. And the queen herself doesn't sign the laws. It's the governor-general.

Personally, I would much prefer someone with a history of working as a judge and in the legal system who is not attached to a particular political party signing on Australia's laws, than a populist president who is relying on political rhetoric in order to ensure their job, their position, and their reputation. That was always going to be far more preferable.

On the second point, side opposition seems to think that removing the queen exists in a vacuum where the political system stays the same. But now your name isn't prime minister, it's president. That was never going to happen. Australia has no precedent for this kind of a change, which meant that we were always going to model this system on an American system, or on a similar kind of presidential-style system.

What did that mean? It meant that you were going to have a president with executive orders. It meant that people were going to vote directly for a president instead of for a party. That was always going to be extremely harmful because now populist rhetoric increases.

When we point out the harms of populist rhetoric, opposition just kind of goes, oh, well, Trump is an anomaly. Everybody thinks Trump is an anomaly. So it's fine. It's not fine. Trump was extremely harmful to democracy globally and to the kinds of polarised rhetoric that he pushed.

You never would have gotten a leader like Trump under a democratic system, where you're voting for a party instead of a figurehead. He would have been knocked out of his party because the party didn't need his support in order to be popular, in order to dominate media rhetoric. Instead, you still would have gotten presidents like Nelson Mandela under a democratic side. You never get that on the side opposition. When they increased the impetus for polarisation, that was always going to be such a huge harm.

We tell you finally that on this point, the side opposition principally perverts democracy by giving more power to a singular person. And this seems to be their entire premise for getting rid of the queen, is that she as an individual has too much power for her personal interest.

It was extremely uncomfortable for us then that all they did was replace us with a political leader who had the exact same incentives, and yet no incentive to ensure stability. This was an opposition who all of their reasons for getting rid of the queen are reasons that a president tangibly would be incredibly bad.

If side opposition wanted to win this point, they needed to engage more realistically with how a president actually looks, as opposed to presenting this idealised version of a unified leader that represents Australia. And their only criticism of the queen was that she lives far away.

We think that immigrants can come to Australia and become Australian politicians, and have a hugely positive impact on Australian society. The fact that they were born overseas doesn't discount them. That was never going to be enough from side opposition.

What do we see at the end of this point? We see that politics principally now becomes a personality game. It becomes more polarised, and individual leaders have more power. That was always going to be a huge harm because even if bad individual leaders were rare, you were still going to have all of the harms incurred. Whereas, you were never going to get that under a Democratic side.

So even if Trump is an anomaly, we still win this point because it was so devastating that that capacity for change was there. Note the capacity for change is enough to win us this point because that's all that side of position can give you for the queen, of oh, she has the capacity to act in her self-interest, when in history, she's never actually done that beyond protect Australian stability.

On to my second point of what tangible impacts do we actually get in terms of change and things like closing the gap? The first thing to note here is that contrary to what side opposition wants to tell you, they do use a lot of resources.

It takes a lot of resources to hold a referendum, to hold election campaigns based on a leader, to rewrite the constitution, to rewrite all of your allyship agreements, to get rid of the governor-general, to completely transform where people live and how Australian democracy works, to take down the flag, to change literally the entire political system, and then spend a lot of money campaigning to convince people that this is a good idea, and unify them under this new model.

It's not enough for side opposition to say, oh, we waste money on stadiums, so it's OK. We shouldn't be wasting even more money. If anything, that was a good reason as to why we probably had to be careful about our spending, and to use it in a sensible way.

And notably, this isn't just about financial spending. It's also about the political capital you use when you tell people that we're getting rid of Australia's colonial past, and all the problems are fixed now because the queen is gone. That kind of political rhetoric makes it much harder to enact tangible change and to actually close the gap.

On the second point, then, of what would we do instead, we think it's far easier under our side to invest in things like Indigenous health care, and getting an Indigenous voice to parliament when you have the political capital to do so. We also think you can get symbolic change moving away from colonialism under our current system. We see that with all kinds of referendum chips-- referendum shifts that have happened in Australia. We see that in Anthony Albanese's election speech, talking about the Uluru statement from the heart. We think these are important symbolic positions that we get under our side anyway.

Secondly, we think that the monarchy can also be a symbol of progression and anti-colonialism. How does that function? We tell you that the queen herself isn't walking around perpetuating racist ideology.

We tell you instead that being unified under a Commonwealth and having a shared system with shared problems and a shared impetus to fix the like devastating legacies of colonialism was probably going to be a good thing, in enabling us to draw attention to these issues.

Whereas, now when you present yourself as severed from that colonial past, and you necessarily have to in order for people to agree with your model, it becomes a lot harder to bring light to these kinds of issues. We think that the monarchy is evolving into the 21st century. We see that with Meghan Markle. Even if it's like a bumpy shift, we think that they're getting there. And we think that the actual tangible harms incurred to democracy were never going to be worth it.

So what do we see at the end of this point? We tell you that we justifiably get better outcomes for Indigenous Australians. We tell you that side opposition were relying on a symbolic shift which they didn't necessarily get. And we tell you thirdly, the risk and the way in which this can be weaponized as a symbol of colonialism now, when you portray the queen as an active symbol of colonialism, was always only ever going to be a harm.

So what do we see at the end of this debate? Inside opposition's best case scenario where this model functions perfectly and the president is amazing and all colonialism is now gone because we have this precedent, we still lose valuable ties in terms of allyship.

We still lose the capacity to meaningfully talk about Indigenous issues because we're now focused on personality politics. We still erase all of the progress that we have done historically to ensure change for Indigenous people. That was never going to be justifiable when all side opposition could tell you was that the queen shouldn't be signing things because she lives far away. So proud to negate.


JESSICA FRATER: The adjudication panel will now retire to consider their verdict. Ellie Stephenson from the adjudicating panel will now deliver the adjudication and announce the result of this debate.


ELLIE STEPHENSON: Hi, everyone. Awesome. So first up, I want to thank everyone in this debate for a really interesting and intellectually exciting debate. It was very exciting to be back in person in this very impressive venue, and watching some of the state's best debaters clash. So that was very exciting for us as a panel.

And obviously, I want to congratulate everyone on making it this far. It is a really, really excellent achievement to reach a state final. And so I think that everyone should be incredibly proud of themselves. So firstly, just round of applause for everyone in the debate.


Awesome. So let's get into it. What I'm going to do in this adjudication is firstly start off with 3 pieces of general feedback, so that we can learn from the debate a little bit. We love learning experiences. And then secondly, we're going to go through how the panel saw it the debate, which was thankfully largely in a pretty similar way.

So firstly, in terms of general feedback-- 3 pieces of general feedback. Number one-- this debate, as many people in the audience might have noticed, is kind of speculative. We're making quite a big change to the way that Australian democracy is set up. And what that means is we really would have liked to see a little bit more kind of concrete illustration of what a president versus a prime minister looks like.

So we really wanted teams to be telling us what kind of policy does a president propose that a prime minister might not? Or what kind of campaigns does a president run that a prime minister might not? And doing that really concrete and kind of illustrative analysis is a great way to kind of concretize what is otherwise a very speculative debate. So that's a piece of feedback number one.

The second piece of feedback is we think that both teams at times could be a little bit more comparative. So what we mean by that is both teams do a really good job of pointing out different flaws with the system that they're opposing. So they can point out problems with, for example, bureaucracy, or problems that exist in the political incentives that different parties or politicians might have. But it's really important to follow that up by telling us why those same problems don't exist on their own side of the debate.

So why a problem with bureaucracy, rather, or a problem with a desire to be politically problematic in some way, why that doesn't exist on either side of the debate? Why is it unique to your opposition? Explaining that is super important because it helps us to have a really clear picture of what actually changes from the affirmative's world to the negative's world.

The final piece of feedback is about principled arguments. We thought that a lot of the arguments in this debate were kind of adjacent to a really principled or moral argument. And that makes sense because it's a debate about politics. It's a debate about democracy. And we think that both teams could probably have made some of those principled arguments a bit more explicit. So we think it would have been really helpful for teams to make explicit moral claims about how they think democracy should work, and to explain why those claims are really important in adjudicating this debate.

OK. I hope that feedback is helpful. Let's get into the actual adjudication. And obviously, the decision is going to come at the end because we like suspense. So there are going to be 3 parts to this adjudication.

Firstly, is the monarchy harmful in the status quo? Secondly, how does the model affect the functioning structure of Australian democracy? And then thirdly, how does a republic change the political landscape or political incentives of Australia?

So firstly, is the monarchy harmful in the status quo? Affirmative I think does quite a good picture of the monarchy. They tell us that it is very separate and alienated from Australia. It's very difficult to relate to very wealthy people in England who probably don't care all that much about us. They tell us that the queen herself is pretty old, even if she might not look it. And they tell us that there are a variety of scandals that have affected the monarchy that have damaged its reputation.

I think overall this paints quite a good picture of some of the flaws with the monarchy. Although, I do think that affirmative could have done a bit more work to explain how those flaws really manifest themselves in Australian democracy. Because negative's response is to point out that these harms are largely symbolic. While the monarchy may not look great, they don't necessarily play a big role in the actual day-to-day functioning of Australian democracy.

They tell us that the queen has no meaningful impact on policy creation, that it is very rare for laws to be vetoed by the governor-general. And what that means is that while affirmative can establish a symbolic harm of anachronism and of having this quite problematic body being technically our head of state, negative is broadly correct that this doesn't make a huge practical difference in the way that laws are enacted. So at the end of this question, we definitely do have harm of the monarchy, but it is a largely symbolic one.

Let's move on then to how the model would affect the way that Australian democracy broadly works. Affirmative's key claim here is that this model would improve efficiency because it would kind of remove a step in the enactment of laws. You wouldn't have to wait for the governor-general to sign off on those laws.

Negative has 2 lines of response. The first thing that they do is to suggest that the presidential system is probably not comparatively more efficient. And they have a number of reasons to believe that. The first thing they suggest is that the president doesn't always work well with the government. They might be by virtue of being elected in different kind of elections, they might be from different parties. They might just not get on very well. And that could mean that the president can be a significant obstruction to enacting policy.

They additionally suggest that presidents might be more willing to use their veto power, and suggest that presidents are really subject to election cycles. They care a lot about getting reelected. That might sometimes mean that they have perverse incentives in the way that they run democracy. So I think that does a really good job of suggesting to us that even if the current system is not perfectly efficient, a presidential system would also have issues with efficiency.

Negative's second push is to suggest that there is an additional harm to Australian democracy because this model might damage trust, or suggest that our current system of government is kind of bad. But we didn't necessarily think this was the most persuasive harm in the debate, just for the reason that it wasn't necessarily really clear how this message was sent, or how people kind of came to believe that problem existed.

So at the end of this issue, we thought that this model would probably not make Australian democracy particularly more efficient. And, in fact, that there was a pretty significant risk of presidents, in fact, being less efficient, or being obstructions in the way democracy functioned.

Let's finally move on then to how a republic would likely change Australia's political landscape. So negative provides us with a pretty large variety of harms that could occur in politics. The first claim they make is that this likely uses money to inefficient and kind of bad ends. It's not a particularly wise use of money.

Negative responds to this in 2 ways. Firstly, they downplay the amount of money that is really being spent here. I think that this is defended pretty persuasively by negative, who explains why it uses resources. But secondly, and importantly, affirmative tells us that there are many ways in which governments spend money. Some of them are wiser than others. And this is not probably a uniquely bad way of spending money.

I think that's a fair response, which suggests that this idea of the efficiency of resource use is probably contingent on other ideas in the debate about whether this is actually a good idea. Because if it was a good idea, we would probably be happy to spend that money. But negative provides a set of other harms as well.

So firstly, they suggest that this change is political and media incentives, because now the political system is much more driven around trying to win these super polarised, super personality-driven elections. They tell us that this distracts from policy goals and leads to polarisation. And secondly, they tell us that this erodes international support for Australia because it makes us look unstable and like a bad ally.

Negative's-- affirmative's responses-- sorry-- basically have 2 pushes. On the international thing, they suggest that this is probably not a huge deal internationally. Many other countries have become independent. And maybe most countries in the world don't really care about this, which does mitigate that harm pretty substantially.

And then on the idea of the kind of political incentives that change, they suggest that realistically the actual political system doesn't meaningfully change that much. We're just changing the head of state. But I do think that negative has done enough work at this point in the debate to explain why when you change the head of state, and you give them a different set of incentives than they otherwise would, this does create a structural change in democracy.

So I think that the kind of negative mechanism here of telling us that when you actually politicise the highest office in the country, when that's something that you have to win elections to obtain, that does polarise things and make them about personality in a meaningful way, and in a way that changes from the status quo.

So at the end of the debate, what do we believe? Well, firstly, we do agree with the side affirmative that there are symbolic harms to the monarchy, that it is a somewhat outdated institution, that it is imperfect. But we thought that the negative was able to explain pretty well why this would have problems for the setup of democracy.

It would lead to things like instability. It would lead to a risk that the president was an obstruction, and secondly, why this could be damaging to the political landscape for the reason that it politicised the head of state. So for that reason, we thought the debate fell to side negative. So massive congratulations to side negative [inaudible].


And, of course, a massive congratulations to both teams because, as I said, this was a really excellent debate. So congratulations, everyone.


JESSICA FRATER: A team member of Rose Bay secondary College will now congratulate the winners.


DOUG KENCH: On behalf of Rose Bay Secondary College, we would like to thank Sydney Girls in what was really awesome about today. And we wish them the best of luck with their futures, as well as their trials. Personally, as a year 8, you won't see me in trials anytime soon. We have a year 10 and year-- 2 year 11-- 2 year 10s and a year 11 on the team. So yeah. We wish you the best of luck with that.

Thank you to Sydney University for letting us use this great venue. It's really an honour to compete in here. And yeah, it was a really fun and challenging debate. Thank you to the coordinators and organisers and the Arts Unit because this competition's been so fun, and we've really learned a lot.

And thank you to our coaches, as well as Ms. Godby and our organisers for really helping us. And thank you to our school. I know there's an incursion going on of people watching us. So yeah. I hope we made you proud. And then thank you to the adjudicators. And yeah, it's such an honour to compete for this trophy. So thank you.


JESSICA FRATER: A member of Sydney Girls High will now respond.


JOSEPHINE PERRY: So obviously, there are so many people to thank today. First and foremost, we'd like to thank Rose Bay so much for what was a challenging, and yet really eye-opening debate. You all debated incredibly well, and we wish you guys good luck in all future endeavours, debating and otherwise.

But we'd also like to extend this thank you to everybody involved in the organisation of this competition, particularly everybody from the Arts Unit, and all the adjudicators and timekeepers and chairpeople, and also USYD for this gorgeous place to debate, and which was really an honour.

And we'd also like to thank [? rena, ?] the fifth member of our team, and particularly our coordinators, Ms. Nguyen and Ms. [inaudible] for their constant support, especially during a very stressful time.

Finally, just thank you so much to everyone in the audience who came and watched this debate today. I think this was our last high school debate ever, so it made the experience just that little bit more special. Thank you so much.


JESSICA FRATER: I would like to welcome to the stage Marianne Powles, Leader of the Arts Unit; Jordi Austin, Director, Arts Sport and Initiatives for the Department of Education; and Emma Kriketos, Acting Director School Specialist and Support Programmes for the Department of Education.


To the runners-up, Ms. Austin will present certificates. Ms. Kriketos will present medallions. So for Rose Bay Secondary College, we have first speaker, Ellie Dickinson;


second speaker, Benjamin Lore;


third speaker, Holly Phillips;


and fourth speaker, Doug Kench.



Ms. Powles, Ms. Austin, and Ms. Kriketos will now present the 2022 champions with certificates and medallions. Ms. Powles will present certificates, Ms. Austin will present medallions, and Ms. Kriketos will present the trophy.

From Sydney Girls High we have first speaker Ariane Varnava;


second speaker, Anna Kremer;


third speaker, Neva Mikulic;


and finally, fourth speaker, Josephine Perry.


And now Ms. Kriketos will present the Hume Barbour trophy to this year's winner. Congratulations to Sydney Girls High.


JUSTINE CLARKE: Obviously, we don't expect Ms. Kriketos to pick up that huge trophy. So she's-- it's a symbolic handing over, which I think is appropriate to today's debate. We can take some more photos for a little while, and then we can--



We do actually have a medallion for both of our coaches as well. So if I could ask Christy Godby and [? chan-- ?] OK-- one of the Sydney Girls coaches. Sorry. You have to share.


Having been a debating coach myself, I know how much hard work goes into it. So congratulations on the achievements [inaudible].


Thank you, Jordi, Emma, and Marianne, for helping us out with that. We really appreciate you being here to support the students. That concludes proceedings for today. Just before I finish up, I want to say a big thank you to our chairperson and time keeper, Jessica and Emma. They did a great job today.


And a final congratulations from me to both teams today. That was a really entertaining debate, and 2 of the best thank you speeches at the end from our fourth speakers that I've ever heard. So well done to both of you. And congratulations Sydney Girls on what was a great debating career, and I'm sure we'll see you again.


And I'm sure we'll see you again as adjudicators, of course, because we need [inaudible] debaters. All right. That concludes everything. Thank you so much, everybody, for being here. Thank you particularly to our student audience. It was so great to have such a good audience today. Invited guests-- teams and their guests are invited to lunch. But other than that, thank you so much for coming. Have a great weekend, and a great rest of the term.


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