Post archive – by topic

Cost of living decreases if carbon price repealed?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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Carbon Pricing: It Works, Bitches (redux)

Updated on Friday, November 22, 2013 at 10:55 by Registered CommenterMCJ

I dragged the sign out for yesterday’s climate change rallies, and while I wasn’t parading it as prominently as in 2011, pictures of me ended up online again. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

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How I'm voting (election resources)

(Note: This post suggests a decion-making-process, not a particular decision.)

For my lower house vote I’m going to Below the Line to check out my candidates and draw up a list. There are few enough candidates that I can just remember what order to put them in.

For my upper house vote I’m putting a bit more effort in. I’m using Senate IO instead of Below the Line here. Senate IO  also lets your start from a party’s registered preferences list, but it also lets you start with a blank ballot and add parties one at a time. I prefer that, since it’s easier to see which parties you still need to make decisions about, and easier to compare them to existing choices

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Myki wants to fine me for hypothetical trips

Updated on Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 17:39 by Registered CommenterMCJ

“You would be fined because you may have on a previous journey been travelling on an invalid ticket.”

Excuse me? I want you to be very sure of what you’re saying to me, I told the operator: you’re suggesting that, if I get ‘caught’ on a tram with six-monthly Zone 1+2 ticket, but don’t touch on, you might fine me because on a previous day I might have travelled in Zone 3?


You’d would fine me for the possibility of previous invalid journeys?



Astonishing. Ludricrous. And so wholly without justifiable rationale it’s both laughable and insulting. The primary purpose of a ticketing (enforcement) system is to make sure passengers pay for the trips. Everything else is secondary. Fining people for taking a trip they have paid for is outrageous – it’s not fare evasion, it’s “tracking-system-evasion” at worst. Public Transport Victoria – don’t be dickheads. The problem I’m seeing isn’t one of technology, or infrastructure – it’s a “them’s the rules” culture lacking flexibility and compassion toward your consumers.. No wonder people don’t like Myki.

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Equivalised Income: How do you compare to other Australians?

Updated on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 17:46 by Registered CommenterMCJ

Updated on Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:49 by Registered CommenterMCJ

Updated on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 16:49 by Registered CommenterMCJ

Per Capita recently released their latest report into public attitudes toward taxation and government expenditure. Between this and the federal government’s contemplation of increasing superannuation tax rates for high earners, there’s been another round of discussion about incomes and who is “rich”. One of the aspects that, as always, struck me was the disconnection between how well off people are and how well off they think they are.

The ABS publishes data on household incomes, both gross (pre-tax) and equivalised disposable. I’ve pulled this data together so you can see where your weekly (household!) income falls relative to other Australian households. I guess it’s then up to you to decide how many people you want to be earning more than before you consider yourself “rich” (or high income, at least).

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States of decay: Complementing the federal carbon policy

Updated on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 23:10 by Registered CommenterMCJ

With the centrepiece of Australia’s climate policy not even a year old, most Australians are sick of it, or sick of hearing about it – fewer than 13% trust what politicians say about major public issues like climate change. And in the shadow of the Clean Energy Future package (CEF), state and federal governments are quietly letting other climate policies slip.

This “abdication of climate policy”, as Tristan Edis calls it, wouldn’t be so bad if Australia’s climate policy were perfect. But it isn’t; no policy is. The carbon price, while worth having, is a broad, blunt tool that covers but two-thirds of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The rest of the CEF fills in some gaps, but there is ample room for further complementary climate policy at a state and federal level.

I wrote last year on this topic, giving reasons why state (or other federal) climate policies could still be worthwhile under the CEF. This would mean innovative approaches:

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Time-of-use Pricing Uncomfortable, But Not Flawed

Discussing the Government’s renewed push for electricity market reform on ABC Breakfast radio, in particular time-of-use pricing and the ability for households to shift their consumption, Dr. Lynne Chester from USyd said,

we all know when we’ve got a household full of children and teenagers it’s incredibly hard getting them to switch off all those appliances and not use electricity in particular heavy use periods.

Well, yes: getting people – adults or children – to change their behaviour is hard – but it’s also absolutely necessary.

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DEHSt discussion paper: Prospects for CDM in Post 2012 Carbon Markets

Earlier in the year I contributed to a discussion paper about the prospects for the Clean Development Mechanism; the part of the Kyoto protocol that enables the creation of internationally traded carbon offsets.

The German Emissions Trading Authority (DEHSt), part of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), was/is worried about the fragmentation of international carbon markets without a clear successor to the Kyoto protocol, and wanted to look at provisions for offsetting by potential major carbon credit
buyers such as Australia, California, South Korea, and Japan.

The paper is now live on their website:

Discussion Paper: Prospects for CDM in Post 2012 Carbon Markets


Preventive health response to alcohol problems

Health researchers Michael Thorn (CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education) and Professor Sandra Jones (Director of Centre for Health Initiatives at University of Wollongong) had an interesting article in Crikey yesterday pulling together some research on preventive health responses to alcohol problems. It’s paywalled (readable with a free trial), but here are some excerpts:

Price response: Studies consistently show that lower socioeconomic groups and people with limited disposable income (young people, indigenous groups and heavy drinkers) are more responsive to price.

Alcohol floor price: The Australian National Preventive Health Agency has made an economically convincing case that reforming the wine equalisation tax (WET) must come before introducing minimum price regimes. A view supported by brewers, distillers and two of Australia’s largest wine corporations.

Alcohol taxation benefit cost analysis: The research is clear that alcohol taxation reform is justified. 85% of Australians will be better off as a consequence. Access Economics’ analysis has been repudiated and the $20 billion a year cost estimate of alcohol’s “harm to others” confirmed.

Rational thinking: This is not a moral case. There are social, health and economic arguments that fully justify acting to reduce the more than $10 billion a year cost to government. These are tangible alcohol-related police, justice and health care costs that far exceed the $6 billion of alcohol tax collected each year.

Thorn and Jones’ article is in response to Bernard Keane’s piece two days previously decrying preventive health measures as attempts by “taxpayer-funded elites to crack down on what they disapprove of.”


Economics for five-year-olds

My neighbour’s daughter asked what my job was. “I’m an economist,” I replied.
“What’s that?”

Normally I tell people that economists think about cost and benefits; the demand and supply of goods and services. I tell them we want to maximise ‘utility’, but since we can’t measure it directly or ask people, we watch what people do instead (e.g. in markets) and use prices (money) as a proxy for utility.

From there, I explain that my field – environmental economics – is about valuing things that don’t have markets, e.g. the environment. If they’re really paying attention, I may even talk about externalities.

My neighbour’s daughter, however, is five. She doesn’t understand markets, or utility, or costs and benefits in an abstract sense. So I was stumped.

Months later, I’ve got a good answer:

An economist figures out how to share things so that everyone can be as happy as possible.

You’re welcome.