Post archive – by topic

How much superannuation do I need?

Don’t panic about your superannuation. You probably won’t need as much as you think – 80% of current retirees spend less than ASFA’s “modest” standard, and the current Age Pension mostly covers that.

(That said, long term compound growth investment is terrific, and I encourage you to invest in your super if you can afford it.)

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Research vs consent: the Australian Census

I’m quite conflicted about the Australian Census this year. Basically I’m torn between loving the Census and thinking the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are handling the process – especially the privacy concerns – like out-of-touch chumps.

On the one hand, the Census is great. It provides data that are incredible valuable and important for many, many aspects of policy in Australia. My work and research would be so much harder without the ABS in general, and the Census in particular. I want both to continue and to be excellent.

On the other hand – what the fuck are the ABS doing? Linking our Census data with data from other sources may be incredibly valuable from a research perspective, but it’s also a massive reduction in privacy. The trade may well be worth it – but for fuck’s sake, that’s not a decision an agency just gets to announce.

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Spätzle recipe

On request: how I make Spätzle and Kässpätzle.

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Victoria's Citizens' Jury on Obesity #1: Introduction

We have an obesity problem.
How can we make it easier to eat better?

The newDemocracy Foundation and VicHealth are running a Citizens’ Jury on obesity, and I’ve had the luck to be one of 100 people randomly selected. I intend to post about the experience along the way, both here and probably on Twitter.

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The CCA's implicit social cost of carbon

Australia’s Climate Change Authority (CCA), in its 2014 Targets and Progress Review, recommended that Australia pursue a minimum reduction in GHG emissions of 19% by 2020 (vs. 2000). In modelling that target, the CCA estimated that it would involve carbon prices of up to $30/tCO2-e in 2020, in real terms. (See p. 135)

The CCA used the damage costs of carbon (i.e. the social costs) in making its recommendations. While not explicitly stated, the CCA’s preparedness to recommend an abatement target that imposes costs of $30/tCO2-e in 2020, in real terms, implies the CCA regards the social costs of carbon as ≥$30/tCO2-e.

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Additionality in the VEET

When I reviewed energy efficiency trading schemes a few years ago,* the VEET was the only scheme we considered to address additionality. The section of the VEET Act 2007 we referred to was Division 2 (Prescribed Activities), §15 (2):

An activity may be prescribed to be a prescribed activity if the activity will result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that would not otherwise have occurred if the activity was not undertaken.

However! I think we (I) referred to the wrong section – I think Division 2 (Prescribed Activities), §19 (2) is the appropriate one:

Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), the discount factors are to take into account any uncertainty associated with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that would eventuate from a specified prescribed activity or specified class of prescribed activities but for the existence of the VEET scheme.


* Betz, R., Jones, M.C., MacGill, I.M., and Passey, R. (2013). Trading in energy efficiency in Australia: What are the lessons learnt so far? [PDF]


Trading Costs and the Efficiency of Emissions Trading – Evidence from the EU ETS

I’ve lost a track a little of how the research projects I worked on at the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets progressed since I left, but it looks as though at least one of them is proving useful: my former boss, Regina Betz, presented some of our work at the 4th IAEE Asia Conference in Beijing this September just gone.

Trading Costs and the Efficiency of Emissions Trading – Evidence from the EU ETS [pdf]

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Climate Change and Health: Speech to the MDSC

I was honoured to today sit on a panel at the University of Melbourne MD Student Conference with Professor David Griggs, Associate Professor Marion Carey, and Senator Richard di Natale. Our panel topic was Climate Change and Health: The Greatest Moral, Economic and Social Challenge of Our Time.

Professor Griggs spoke on the sciene of climate change, I spoke on the economics of climate change, A/Prof. Carey spoke on the health effects of climate change, and Senator di Natale – who was busy and missed most of our speeches – spoke across all three topics.

The text of my speech is below.

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Explainer: East coast gas price rises

In their currently-running determination for retail gas prices, IPART has received proposed price increases of 20% from gas retailers AGL and Origin. (The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, IPART, is the body that regulates energy prices in New South Wales.) Other states are expected to face similar price rises.

A 20% rise in prices over a single year is significant, and unlike electricity price rises in recent years it has little to do with network investment. Here’s what’s going on, from the ground up (if you’ll excuse the pun):

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Cost of living decreases if carbon price repealed?

I was asked this week to pull together some information on what effects the Federal Coalition’s repeal of the carbon price could have on households, specifically as regards their income and expenses (excluding environmental costs/benefits), with the background of whether any cost of living decreases could be used to justify cutting back on other welfare programs. This is only a very quick analysis (and I’ve doubtlessly missed some more rigorous analysis that others have done), but my short answer is that cutting welfare programs due to an abolition of the carbon price is a bad idea.

The most recent and comprehensive source of information on this is the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 Explanatory Memorandum. I’ve only skimmed it, but the gist is:

  • The carbon price will be removed
  • Household compensation will be kept at current levels, but no longer increased
  • The ACCC will have new powers to investigate failure to pass through carbon price reductions for regulated supply (i.e. gas and electricity)

Taking these in turn:

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