May 16, 2017 Print

Photo: John Temujin Humphreys

More than 350 people attended the largest pro-liberty gathering in Australia’s history when they gathered for the fifth annual Australian Libertarian Society Friedman Conference, held April 28–30. Joining the wide array of attendees from Australia were visitors and speakers from New Zealand, as well as speakers from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Hungary.

“It is truly inspiring to see a vibrant, unified liberty movement in Australia dedicated to working together to restore freedom,” said Tim Andrews, executive director of co-sponsoring organization the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. “It was particularly heartening to see how many young people were present — a great portent for years to come.”

Started in 2013, as a joint initiative between the Australian Libertarian Society and the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, the conference attracts an audience of senior policy makers, academics, business leaders, and the best and brightest of Australia’s activist community.

"I went to Sydney to meet some Australian libertarians and I found an entire movement,” said Rainer Heufers, executive director of the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies in Indonesia. “It had everything a movement needs: the movers and the shakers, academic heavyweights, think tanks and other catalysts of classical liberal ideas, the businesses and the politicians who are sometimes on our side. Everyone was brought together by a highly professional team of organizers who facilitated the networking among participants and ensured that ideas were exchanged, coalitions formed and projects developed. Nobody walked away without feeling inspired and part of something larger than their own life.”

Speakers at this year’s conference included Duke University economist Mike Munger; Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist; Reason’s Nick Gillepsie; Australian Federal Senators David Leyonhjelm, Cory Bernardi, and Malcolm Roberts; the Federal Member for Goldstein, Tim Wilson; former UK TaxPayers’ Alliance  CEO Matthew Sinclair; and Stossel producer Naomi Brockwell.

The conference also featured a $5,000 “Dragon’s Den” contest sponsored by Atlas Network, modeled after an Australian television show similar to Shark Tank. The event, judged by Sinclair, New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union founder Jordan Williams, and Mannkal Economic Education Foundation founder Ron Manners, featured three pitches from young conference attendees. The winner was a “wild card” entry from a team of Mannkal interns who proposed eliminating the luxury car tax.

"I was motivated to attend after years of being confronted with violent socialists on campus," said Jack McGuire, director of the Australian Students' Association and former QUT Student Union President. "It made me realize how important the fight for liberty is on a grassroots, conversation by conversation level. The conference arms people with the ideological, philosophical, and logical points as arsenal in the grassroots fight."

View more videos of conference proceedings on YouTube and read attendee updates by following the #Friedman17 Twitter hash tag.