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A Big Dialogue: Could Universal Basic Income Work In Australia?

The Brisbane Dialogues presents...

A Big Dialogue: Could Universal Basic Income Work In Australia?

6:00pm, Mon 20 July, 2020
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Event Details

With JobKeeper set to expire in September, the topic is more topical by the day. Find out what it’s all about and break out of lock down at a stimulating, real event, with recognized authorities, where you can carry on the discussion with friends old and new in the congenial atmosphere of the iconic Tiv.

And of course it’s all about civil discourse in the contest of ideas, which the world needs a lot more of. You won’t find it on social media, so take a night off and be part of Brisbane leading the way, getting the tribes talking!

The Topic

UBI: an idea whose time has come to many; anathema to many others. Government responses to the pandemic have heightened interest in the subject.

The concept of universal basic income (UBI) or variations appeal to people at various points on the political spectrum, but could an income support scheme possibly be universal, adequate to live on and affordable? Or is it a utopian distraction from the hard policy graft of allocating scarce tax dollars to those most in need? Alternatively, are there elements of UBI which could usefully guide post-pandemic welfare reform? 

The Purpose

A lot has been written, but there have been few actual public discussions in Australia and all seem to have been something of a rehash of the same main arguments for and against. This discussion will take UBI out of the largely conceptual realm it inhabits and into a practical Australian context. 

We also aim to raise the bar for public discussion more generally, staging a genuine dialogue between speakers with very different views, rather than an adversarial debate. The intention is to establish enough common ground to explore issues collaboratively and point to areas for further reflection and discussion, to policy options and trade-offs, even to possible resolutions and solutions.

Disagreement is inevitable, and might be lively, but it should be enlightening, not bewildering!


Speakers have been chosen for balance, knowledge of UBI, public communication skills and most importantly of all, their willingness to contribute their time to try something different and better in public discussion. They are (subject to change):

  • Gigi Foster, Professor and Director of Education, School of Economics, UNSW and co-host of “The Economists”, ABC Radio National
  • Greg Marston, Deputy Executive Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Queensland and Australian representative of the global basic income movement, BIEN
  • John Humphreys, Sessional Lecturer, University of Queensland and founder of the Australian Libertarian Society and the Liberal Democrats
  • Simon Cowan, Research Director, Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney

The facilitator will be Bob MacDonald, journalist at the new independent journal InQueensland and former trade commissioner and state government adviser. Kayci Gillies, actress and QUT Creative Industries student, will be MC.

The Organisation

The Brisbane Dialogues (TBD) is Australia’s first dedicated civil discourse organisation, a wholly independent, non-aligned, intergenerational, not-for-profit project to stimulate and civilise public discussion about big ideas and issues. Our mission is to generate support for other organisations to turn one-way talks and one-sided discussions into genuine, respectful dialogues or debates.

TBD operates by “The Brisbane Rule” for public discussion:
“All participants agree to listen carefully, speak civilly, and concentrate on the content of discussions, not on personalities - before, during and afterwards, online as well as offline.”


Doors: 6:00pm
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Date: Monday 20 Jul 2020
Address: The Tivoli, 52 Costin St, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006

Consistent with Stage 3 restrictions, only 150 tickets are on sale. Seating will be at tables, socially distanced. There will be ample opportunity for audience participation. 

Premium ticket holders will have the best seating and the opportunity to meet and greet speakers after the discussion, and other benefits (see ticket details above). All ticket holders will have free access to the recording and receive early notice of our next event.

The What’s Golden bar adjacent to the main auditorium will be open from 6:00pm for non-alcoholic drinks. Guests will be able to mix at the bar or tables to enjoy further social discussion until late, at the discretion of venue management. A COVID-Safe plan will be in place.

In the now unlikely event of renewed COVID-19 restrictions unexpectedly reduce the audience size and travel by interstate speakers, premium ticket holders (only) will be invited to the What’s Golden space to participate in a videoconference, with all of the speakers and other ticket holders at remote locations. See details by ticket type above for more information.

Parking and other venue information here.

Please to arrive 6:45pm at the latest for a prompt 7:00pm start for the dialogue.