14 February 2007

Two quick-thinking UQ students have been named runner up 2007 World University Debating champions – the best ever result by a Queensland team.

After 12 preliminary rounds, UQ Debating Society (UQDS) members Erin O'Brien and Evan Goldman made it to the grand final in Vancouver along with teams from Cambridge, Oxford and the University of Sydney.

The competition is held in British Parliamentary style, where four pairs compete against one another – two forming the "government" and two the "opposition" to a motion.

With only 15 minutes preparation for each debate, Ms O'Brien and Mr Goldman spoke on a number of controversial topics including land redistribution in South Africa, the banning of cosmetic surgery, and whether those sentenced to life imprisonment should be allowed to choose the death penalty.

In the grand final the team argued against the motion that economic growth is the solution to climate change.

"Thinking on your feet is the most important skill in debating at this level," Mr Goldman said.

"In the finals series especially, all our best and debate-winning arguments were essentially thought up on the spot in response to what other teams had put out there."

Ms O'Brien said it was gratifying to compete against the world's debating elite.

"It's the first time that a Queensland team has ever made the grand final, so it was exciting to be there," she said.

"Sydney, Oxford and Cambridge are regulars in the world's grand final so it certainly indicates that Queensland will be a force to be reckoned with in the future."

It's not the first time the pair have achieved international debating success – Mr Goldman coaches the current world champion Australian high school team, and Ms O'Brien won the 2005 European debating championship while studying at Durham University in the UK.

UQ had a particularly successful competition in Vancouver with a second team of Tom Gole and Julian Ensby making it late into the draw and fellow UQDS members Rob Leeds and Michael Bonning selected to adjudicate in the finals.

With ongoing support from the UQ alumni network, UQDS members save throughout the year to fund their trips to the National, Australasian and World Championships.

Ms O'Brien said the strength of UQ debating was due to the hard work and talent of society members past and present.

"Having a team in the final, another team in the quarter-finals, and one of the largest contingents at the competition is an achievement for the society that has been many years in the making," she said.

Media: Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, c.pegg@uq.edu.au)