John Quiggin-Stephen Hicks Debate

to Launch The Brisbane Dialogues

5.45pm for 6-8pm Mon 9 March

Customs House 399 Queen St Brisbane

Tickets from $20


In a sold out event on Monday 9 March in the Brisbane CBD, we were privileged to have  the following speakers to launch The Brisbane Dialogues, Australia's first civil discourse organisation:


MC  - Christine Jackman, author and journalist

Debate chair - Hon Rachel Nolan, former State Labor minister and  MP for Ipswich

Professor John Quiggin, Australian democratic socialist economist 

Professor Stephen Hicks, Canadian-American libertarian philosopher

on the topic that "Postmodernism is a right wing philosophy".

John Anderson, AO FTSE, former Deputy Prime Minister and host of "Conversations with John Anderson" sent a video message of support. 

It was a great start , which could evolve in many ways. As a few accidental amateur event organisers, we are very happy about the night and grateful to all the volunteers who made this seminal event happen. To those who turned up in numbers in pelting rain, your support was appreciated enormously. We all DID something to restore civil discussion and move society forward.

The original description of the event follows.




Polarisation and toxic discourse - old-fashioned intolerance and incivility on 21st century steroids - should be everyone’s concern. It’s not just in the public arena and not just online, they are seeping through everywhere, affecting day-to-day life and making it near-impossible to have productive discussions about the enormous challenges - and opportunities - facing humanity.



Enter The Brisbane Dialogues, which has been formed to stimulate and support civil discourse about “big issues” in a non-partisan spirit. We aim to turn one-way lectures and one-sided discussions into active, respectful dialogues between people of many points of view, raising the quality of public discourse in Brisbane and beyond.

For our launch event, The Brisbane Dialogues is excited to bring together two outstanding speakers with very different world views to debate a topic which is highly relevant to our purpose. Hear two big thinkers show how people of opposing perspectives can conduct a respectful debate, agree on some things and disagree strongly on others, enlighten listeners and maybe even enjoy it and learn something themselves!



What is this about and why is it important?


Even if you know nothing about postmodernism, the debate will shed light on some of the ideas underlying polarisation and toxic discourse.

Postmodernism is seen by many (generally “conservatives”), as being the philosophical force behind the rise in identity politics, extreme political correctness, the victim mentality of minorities, emphasis on individual rights over social responsibilities and the resulting loss of social cohesion, all of which contribute to the breakdown of civil discourse.

Others (generally “progressives”) view postmodernism as a positive development and improvement upon a set of ideas which has produced an inequitable, materialist modern society under a neoliberal world order built on colonialism and other unjust -isms, in which most individuals are unhappy and alienated.

The stark contrast between these views has a lot to do with how hard it is getting to talk to each other. However, there are many shades of grey, as the professors’ nuanced, contrasting perspectives will demonstrate. “Postmodernism”, “conservative” and “progressive” are very broad labels of questionable value. This debate will help everyone dig down below the surface of labels and superficial positions into the substrate of specific ideas and draw connections to the big problem we started with.


Visiting Canadian-American philosopher Professor Stephen Hicks is a libertarian who believes that the Enlightenment ideas and values which have underpinned extraordinary human progress are being undermined by dangerous postmodern ideas which threaten our future, mainly from the left.

University of Queensland economist Professor John Quiggin is a democratic socialist who believes that postmodernism is in terminal decline and does not present any significant threat from the left. If there is a threat, it arises from the co-opting of postmodernist ideas by right wing agents and interests.


The debate will be chaired by the Hon Rachel Nolan, a former State Labor minister and MP for Ipswich. The MC for the evening will be Christine Jackman, a respected senior journalist who has just finished writing a book on social fragmentation in the digital age.

Opportunities to hear speakers of this calibre together in public do not come along very often; don’t miss out. Most of all, come along and show your support for civil discourse.


Please arrive by 5.45pm latest to be seated for the debate starting at 6pm. Doors will open at 5.30pm. Books by both speakers will be on sale. There will be up to half-an-hour after the debate for Q&A with the audience. Premium ticket holders may then stay for a brief meet and greet with the speakers and have books signed.

There is a small number of free tickets for volunteers - please get in touch if you would like to help with mailing lists, social media, graphic design, website management, ushering on the night, or have other skills to contribute.

Flat rate parking after 5pm is available nearby for $9. Details here.