Australia-Asia Debating System

(taken from

Australia-Asia Debate is a form of academic debate. In the past few years, this style of debating has increased in usage dramatically throughout both Australia and the Asian region. The context in which the Australia-Asia style of debate is used varies, but in Australia is mostly used at the Primary and Secondary school level, ranging from small informal one-off intra-school debates to larger more formal inter-school competitions with several rounds and a finals series which occur over a year.


Australia-Asia style debates consist of two teams who debate over an issue, more commonly called a topic or proposition. The issue, by convention, is presented in the form of an affirmative statement beginning with “That”, for example, “That cats are better than dogs,” or “This House,” for example “This House would establish a world government.” The subject of topics varies from region to region. Most topics however, are usually region specific to facilitate interest by both the participants and their audiences.

The two teams in Australia-Asia debating are called the “Affirmative” or “Proposition” and the “Negative” or “Opposition”. The Affirmative Team agrees with the topic and presents arguments supported by evidence to demonstrate the truth of the topic. The Negative Team disagrees with the topic and presents arguments supported by evidence to disprove the truth of the topic. To rival their opposition, each team has the goal of convincing the adjudicator(s) (judge(s)) that their side of the topic is correct and that their opposition’s is incorrect. Depending on the context in which a debate is being presented it may be appropriate for the audience to decide the winner of the debate. In formal debating, the adjudicator is responsible for deciding the winner of the debate. The criteria for suitable evidence in a debate varies according to the rules that both teams have agreed to debate under.


Each team comprises three members, each of whom is named according to their team and speaking position within his or her team. For instance, the second speaker of the affirmative team to speak is called the “Second Affirmative Speaker” (or “Second Proposition Speaker”, depending on the terminology used). Each of the six speakers (three affirmative and three negative) speak in succession to each other beginning with the Affirmative Team. The speaking order is as follows: First Affirmative, First Negative, Second Affirmative, Second Negative, Third Affirmative, and finally Third Negative.

Each speaker has a set speaking time according to the rules agreed to by both teams. The first warning usually comes at 2 minutes to the final warning (such as at 6 minutes in a 6-8 minute speech). The second warning is then given the end of allotted time signaling the debater to round off as soon as possible or risk losing points as in the case of many Australian schools. Sometimes a double bell will sound the second time to allow a distinction to be drawn between the first and second bells. Some competition rules specify that a speaker must complete his/her speech within 30 seconds either side of the final bell, the warning bell acting only as a warning and not as an indicator that a speaker may stop speaking. In formal debate contexts, such as school debating competitions in Australia, the speaking time is proportional to the school Year Level division that a team is competing in. For example, Year 6 debaters may have a speaking time of ~3 minutes, while Year 11 and 12 debaters may have a speaking time of ~8-10 minutes. Again the specific times and divisions vary according to the rules under which the debate is being conducted and there is no universally adopted speaking time.


In formal debating contexts speakers are scored according to three categories: Matter, Manner and Method. Matter is the category that assesses the content of a speaker’s speech which includes the arguments and evidence that they present to support his/her team’s side of the topic. Manner is the category that assesses the way in which a speaker presents his/her material and usually includes factors such as eye contact, gesturing and voice projection. Method is category that assesses the way in which a speaker structures his/her speech and includes factors such as dynamics (the way that a speaker responds to their opposition’s strategy) and rebuttal. The specific assessment criteria of Matter, Manner and Method depends on the rules under which the debate is conducted. The score ranges that are used to score Matter, Manner and Method, again vary. Generally speaking the entire speech is scored out of a total of 100 points, with 40 points allocated to Matter and Manner respectively and 20 points allocated to Method. To allow consistency in scoring some programs have adopted another system derived from the 100 point system. This other system reduces the range of scores. Both Matter and Manner are reduced from 40 points to 32 points, with a minimum score of 28 points respectively. Method is reduced from 20 points to 16 points, with a minimum of 14 points. Thus the score range is 70 points to 80 points with an average of 75 points. Since there are three speakers on each team the team’s score can range from 210 points to 240 points with an average of 225 points. The team that is victorious in a debate has a higher team score than their opposition. On the rare occasion that a team is not prepared for a debate or unable to attend the other team is automatically given maximum points.

In the event that there are several rounds, teams generally are given a preparation time ranging from several weeks to half an hour. Debates where teams have less than a day to prepare are called Short Preparation or Impromptu debates. In these particular formats teams are usually restricted in the material that they have access to. In the event of restricted materials the speaking times may be shortened. Short Preparation debates are used in some programs as several debates are held on the same day, while others where rounds are held on different days over a longer period of time have Short Preparation debates in one or more of the rounds to compliment the prepared debates. Some programs call the day on which several debating rounds are held “Gala Day”.


There are a number of variations to the Australia-Asia style of debating. One variation is that there are four members on each team, the fourth member acting as an adviser to the other three. Another variation is that one of the three speakers in each team speaks an additional time after the Third Negative speaker. This is known as the Reply-Speaker format of debate. The order in which the additional speakers speak is dependent on the specific rules that the Affirmative and Negative Teams have agreed to debate under. Another variation used by The Australasian Intervarsity Debating Association is the Affirmative Action requirement, whereby the top three teams from each university must have at least three female members and one third of the entire contingent must be female.

Another variation used at university level debates is the ‘secret topic’ debate, where debate topics and sides are allocated only an hour before the debate. This format is primarily used at a university level, and is used by SAAUCC for intercollege debates. It is, however, also used in some high school-level debates, such as in the New South Wales Premier’s Debating Challenge


6 thoughts on “Australia-Asia Debating System

    • I am into debate so intensely recently, Nurosama. However, if you like to have more details, I could refer you to my brother and cousin who surely master the rules (even more than I do, since they a world-caliber debaters) and love to share you what you need. Please kindly add my Facebook account (you can search for my email and I’ll share their profiles and contacts πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for your visit πŸ™‚

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