The 2nd annual LibertyFest conference took place this past long weekend from 28-29th September at Royal on the Park in Brisbane. It was organized by LibertyWorks, a pro-liberty advocacy organization based in the city which hosts forums and other regular events in the city. The conference attracted 300 attendees which the Unshackled was a proud sponsor of.
Despite the name LibertyFest the conference attracted not just libertarians but also conservatives and nationalists. The speakers and panels covered a wide variety of political issues from liberty activism, the success of capitalism and the importance of free speech and free debate and the threats to it. While the Unshackled was there for most of the conference the mainstream media only came to a few sessions to gain soundbites from some of the more controversial speakers.
Bettina Arndt who has embarked on a national tour of university campuses to debunk the campus rape crisis narrative gave a presentation on both days. Her Friday talk focused on attacking the legislation of affirmative consent laws. Arndt who came to prominence in 1970s as a sex therapist attacked feminists’ spreading of anti-sex attitudes which have seen consensual sexual encounters deemed rape. Fairfax’s headline lead with a quote from Arndt ‘Most of us are having illegal sex‘.
Arndt during her campus tour has not only been getting important information out to university students about how their campuses are actually some of the safest places for women but opening up a national political discussion about free speech at universities. Her talks have attracted aggressive protests from feminist and leftist groups on campuses and her appearance at LibertyFest saw the venue threatened with protests who nearly cancelled the whole conference at the last minute.
Daisy Cousens, a regular on Sky News and also well known for her anti-feminist views gave a presentation the conference on feminism’s victim politics. Fairfax again had a reporter in the audience eager to report on anything controversial Cousens said. What gained their attention was a comment from a male audience member that feminists were “generally pretty unattractive”. Cousens agreed that those on the right were on average more attractive, confident and wealthier citing a study published in the Journal of Public Economics.
Several Coalition MPs spoke at the conference including Senators James Paterson, Amanda Stoker and MPs George Christensen and Craig Kelly. Given that free speech was key theme of the conference much of the discussion from these MPs was if 18C can still be repealed and what is the most effective to protection religious freedom in the age of same sex marriage. Again what only interested Fairfax was Amanda Stoker calling the female MPs’ bullying claims “pathetic” and “bizarre”.
A surprise guest at LibertyFest was patriot activist Blair Cottrell who was invited by his lawyer John Bolton who was present to help launch Rite-On a new grassroots conservative advocacy organisation designed to be the right’s answer to GetUp. Rite-On had a soft launch during the Queensland state election campaigning in marginal seats. A conservative Get Up has been suggested and talked about for many years, whether Rite-On can match the influence and manpower of GetUp remains to be seen.
The LibertyFest Gala Dinner featured Craig Kelly has the keynote speaker. He spoke about his most passionate issues energy affordability and immigration pressures. Kelly shared with the audience a not well known aspect of his life that his work as an MP is made possible by his supportive wife who cares for their 22 year old son who has down syndrome and autism.
There were two awards presented at the end of the evening. First was the Free Speech Coalition’s Independent Media Award for which the Unshackled was a finalist for. Unfortunately we lost to Bernard Gaynor who after being dismissed from the Australian Defence Force in 2013 for his views against the LGBT agenda now reports on politically correct and social justice policies in the ADF.
Then there was the Liberty Award which last year was presented to Anthony Morris QC who defended the QUT 18C students who objected to being ejected from an indigenous only computer lab. This year the winner was Viv Forbes a lifelong liberty advocate who most recently has been campaigning against climate change policies and exposing the fraudulent science behind it.
Occurring on the Saturday afternoon in Brisbane at Speakers Corner not far from the venue was a Rally Against Safe Schools organised by the True Blue Crew Queensland and attended by the Proud Boys. Antifa Brisbane who assaulted our reporter Martin Hartwig in July and who have repeatedly had their Facebook pages deleted for violating community standards staged a counter protest. The masked Antifa briefly visited the conference before heading to the rally but all they could muster was a repetition of childish insults.
The Unshackled at the conference spoke with Bettina Arndt, Daisy Cousens, conference organiser Andrew Cooper and YouTubers Independent Man and James Fox Higgins. Friday afternoon we also visited the office of Katter Australian Party Senator Fraser Anning and interviewed him about his last few months in politics.
Overall it was great to meet up with many of our colleagues and followers in person and network with other like-minded people. The Unshackled will continue tour on the ground coverage and reporting of conference, meetings activism and rallies. LibertyFest was again a success and we look forward to it continuing and perhaps being rolled out to other cities.
For the moment you had see our Facebook Live debrief after the conference. Our interviews our other highlights will be posted over the coming days.