About ALS

The Australian Libertarian Society (ALS) is a central portal for information about the libertarian movement in Australia.

Active since 2000, the ALS supports free-markets, individual liberty and the promotion of peaceful, voluntary interaction between people. The aim of the ALS is to bring together the many different strands of libertarian thought spread through Australia, including objectivisistsRothbardiansclassical liberalsanarcho-capitalistsmoderatespragmatic libertariansAustrian economistsfree-marketeers, and anybody else who believes in freedom.

The main activities of the ALS are: to arrange events, the largest of which is the Friedman Conference; provide a forum for libertarians to discuss and debate ideas; collate information about libertarian events, groups and important issues in Australia; publish occasional articles or submissions to government; and to support other organisations and projects that share a libertarian agenda. One of the main projects of the ALS is to support the Australian Students for Liberty, which has hundreds of members and branches in universities across Australia. The ALS also hosts the original “australian political quiz“.

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  • Committee

John Humphreys (President) did his PhD at the University of Queensland, and is currently the Managing Director of the Professional Research Institute of Management and Economics (PRIME) and President of the Human Capital Project (HCP).

Tim Andrews has a Masters degree from the University of Sydney, and is the founder and Executive Director of the Australian Taxpayers Alliance (ATA), and board member of the H.R. Nicholls Society.

Austen Erickson did his PhD at the University of NSW, and holds positions with the Liberal Democrats and the ATA.

Terje Petersen is an IT specialist and long time liberty activist.

Frank Redpath is the web guy who values his privacy.

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  • Mission

Work with like-minded groups and people to build a strong and vibrant Australian libertarian community, and provide information and resources to people interested in libertarian ideas.

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  • History

The Australian Libertarian Society (ALS) was founded by John Humphreys in January 2000, after a year of research and preparation. From the beginning, the ALS has been an organisation dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, free markets and shrinking the size of government.

Since 2013, the ALS has hosted the annual Friedman Conference, which is the largest annual libertarian event in the Asia-Pacific region, and since 2014 has included the presentation of the annual Liberty Awards.

The conference has attracted prominent and powerful speakers, including international guests such as Dr Tom Palmer (USA), Dr Eric Crampton (NZ), Phorn Bopha (Cambodia), Park Yeonmi (North Korean defector), Herve Novelli (France), Julie Borowski (USA), and Dr Pat Michaels (USA)… as well as prominent Australian professors Jason Potts, Judith Sloan, Sinclair Davidson, Jim Allan, Phil Lewis, and Henry Ergas… politicians such as David Leyonhjelm (LDP, Senator), Dr Peter Phelps (Liberal, NSW MLC), Dr Gary Johns (Labor, former minister), Alex Hawke (Liberal, federal MP & assistant minister), Mark Latham (Labor, former federal leader), Fiona Patten (Sex, Vic MLC), Dom Perrottet (Liberal, NSW Finance Minister), Sam Dastyari (Labor, Senator), and James Paterson (Liberal, Senator)… and other prominent thinkers including Cass Wilkinson, Chris Berg, Ben O’Neill, Mikayla Novak, Tim Wilson, Jeremy Shearmur, Simon Cowen, Trisha Jha, Andrew Norton, Helen Dale, and Parnel McGuinness.

The role of the ALS has evolved over the years. Early on, members were involved in pro-trade protests (which got national media coverage), a radio debate on JJJ, publishing discussion papers and a newsletter (2000-2002), contributing to the Celebrate Capitalism campaign, and hosting the Canberra libertarian dinners.

In January 2003, on its three year anniversary, the ALS moved to its new online home at http://www.libertarian.org.au, and started a blog with continuous commentary on current affairs, public policy and libertarian issues. In 2006 the ALS blog merged with the “Thoughts on Freedom” group blog. Blog authors included Helen Dale, Terje Petersen, David Leyonhjelm, John Humphreys, Duncan Spender, Frank Redpath, Sukrit Sabhlok, Peter Rohde, Andrew Russell, Rafe Champion, Chris Vinall, Kirk Fletcher, and many others. Some articles from the ALS were also published at the online men’s magazine “get frank“.

In 2012 the blog was shut down and the forum for discussion was shifted from the blog to the ALS discussion group on facebook, which remains the largest libertarian discussion forum in Australia. The ALS footprint on facebook also includes half a dozen smaller discussion groups with niche interests such as crypto-currencies, anarchy, seasteading, drug law reform, Labortarians, and free speech.

The ALS has run occasional projects, including the “peace project” during 2003 which argued against the invasion of Iraq. In 2006 the ALS set up the “Kyoto campaign” which argued against drastic policy action on climate change, also co-sponsoring the 2nd, 3rd and 4th International Conference on Climate Change hosted by Heartland, and supporting the Stop Gillard’s Carbon Tax website. The ALS also contributed a speaker to the inaugural Festival of Dangerous Ideas (2009) and is an Associate Supporter of The International Coalition Against Prohibition.

In 2004 the ALS helped to coordinate several candidates at the federal election, running as independents (NSW Senate) or candidates for the “liberals for forests” (Queensland & Victoria Senate), or the “Outdoor Recreation Party” (Eden-Monaro, in NSW). The candidates in Queensland and Victoria helped to prevent the election of extra Green Senators. Since the federal registration of the Liberal Democratic Party, the ALS has not been directly involved in politics.

Since 2010 the ALS has run semi-regular “Friedman dinners” in Brisbane, which have included speakers such as Prof Jim Allan, Prof Jason Potts, the Hon Peter Reith, Prof Judith Sloan, Dr Jonathon Crowe, Dr Tom Palmer, Prof Deirdre McCloskey, Brendan O’Neill, and the Hon Dr Gary Johns.

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  • Prominent Australian libertarians

To create a thoroughly unscientific and subjective list of active Australian libertarians, we ran an opinion poll at the ALS facebook page between 15-21 July 2016, with the following top-20 results:

  1. David Leyonhjelm, LDP Senator for NSW
  2. Tim Andrews, Executive Director for ATA
  3. John Humphreys, President of ALS & founder of LDP
  4. Tim Wilson, former “freedom commissioner” and Liberal MP
  5. Gabe Buckley, LDP national president & Senator for QLD (hopefully)
  6. Chris Berg, Senior Fellow at IPA & regular columnist
  7. Sinclair Davidson, RMIT Professor of economics & IPA Fellow
  8. Clinton Mead, LDP Councillor for Campbeltown
  9. Adam Frost, Anarchist activist
  10. Mikayla Novak, IPA Senior Research Fellow
  11. Trisha Jha, CIS Policy Analyst
  12. Simon Breheny, IPA Policy Director & libertarian Harry Potter
  13. Mark Hornshaw, ACU Lecturer of economics
  14. Margie Illiescu, Liberty on the Rocks & Ladies for Liberty
  15. Ron Manners, founder of Mannkal & supports CIS, IPA, ATA, ALS, etc
  16. Terje Petersen, ALS board member & LDP activist
  17. Jason Potts, RMIT Professor of economics & IPA Fellow
  18. Jessica Carswell, online activist & author
  19. Vikas Nayak, founder of Taking Liberties Radio
  20. Peter Phelps, Liberal member of the NSW upper house

There are plenty of important, active, and excellent libertarians who are not on this list, and it should not be taken as indicative of anything. Some great Australian libertarians have died or left the country, others work behind the scenes, some have a public profile that obscures their libertarian leanings, and many are still “up and coming” and will be famous soon enough.

Sadly, the list gives little credit to the many excellent academics we have in Australia (Ben O’Neill, Henry Ergas, Judith Sloan, Alex Robson, Brad Taylor, Will Coleman, Jeff Bennett, Mark Harrison, Suri Ratnapala, Wolfgang Kasper, Vera teVelde, Jonathan Crowe, Trent MacDonald, John Thrasher, etc)… and even the inclusion of Professor Sinclair Davidson at 7th might have been helped by his role in running the Catallaxy Files blog.

The list is also quite biased towards people who have had a relatively high online profile, and so neglects many of the liberty warriors who helped build the movement during the early years. Particular credit should go to people such as Greg Lindsay (CIS) and John Roskam (IPA) who have helped to push Australian political debate in the right direction by running hugely important organisations, while not taking much credit for themselves.

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