Tag Archives: Monash

The Nationals should support carbon farming, not coal

The Conversation

Andrew Hopkins, Australian National University

National Party MP George Christensen has invited other Nationals to join the recently formed pro-coal “Monash Forum”. But is coal in the best interests of their rural constituents, particularly farmers?


Read more:
The pro-coal ‘Monash Forum’ may do little but blacken the name of a revered Australian


Farmers stand to lose from any weakening of the government’s climate change policies. That is why farmers and their political representatives should be concerned about a current review of the government’s greenhouse gas reduction policy.

What is at stake here is the strange-sounding idea of carbon farming. To explain this idea takes several steps, so bear with me.

The policy under review is a legacy of the Abbott era. As prime minister, Tony Abbott abolished the carbon tax and replaced it with an Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). The ERF was to be used to pay businesses to reduce their carbon emissions, or to capture and sequester (store) carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.


Read more:
Carbon tax axed: how it affects you, Australia and our emissions


As it turns out, most of the funding has gone to rural enterprises that have developed various farming projects that qualify for funding – hence the term, carbon farming.

For example, these projects include:

  • regenerating native forest on previously cleared land
  • changed farming practices to allow for crop stubble retention
  • capturing and destroying the methane from effluent waste at piggeries.

How does carbon farming work?

To make it all work, the government first created the system of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). This system commodifies the outputs of carbon farming, so these can be traded.

In this system, a carbon farmer must show either a reduction in emissions, or carbon sequestration (or ideally both), according to clearly specified criteria. The government will then issue (free of charge) one credit for every tonne of carbon dioxide (CO₂) – or CO₂ equivalent – abated in this way. Farmers can then sell these credits, thus receiving a direct financial return for their efforts.

The primary buyer of ACCUs at the moment is the government, via its Emissions Reduction Fund. Farmers (individually or as collectives) who want to embark on carbon farming projects are asked to nominate a price they would need to make it profitable for them to go ahead with the project. Through a reverse auction, the fund selects the lowest-price proposals.


Read more:
Explainer: how does today’s Direct Action reverse auction work?


In this way, the government gets the greatest carbon abatement for the least money. Successful bidders embark on their projects knowing that they have a guaranteed price for their carbon abatement outcomes. There is nothing magical or mystical about it. It is simply the price at which the buyer and sellers of carbon credits find it mutually advantageous to do business.

The average price paid at the last auction round was A$12 per tonne of CO₂ abated. This is the current carbon price in this particular market.

The Safeguard Mechanism

A second potential set of buyers of carbon credits was created by the Safeguard Mechanism, introduced by the Abbott government. This caps emissions from big industrial emitters in order to to ensure that abatement achieved by the ERF is not offset or cancelled out.

The cap is set at whatever the maximum emission rate from the emitter has been. So it is not designed to reduce emissions from these big emitters, but simply to hold them to current levels.

The scheme covers just over 150 facilities, which are responsible for about half of Australia’s emissions. Emitters that go over their limit can remain in compliance by buying enough carbon credits to compensate for their “excess” emissions and surrendering these to government.


Read more:
Australia’s biggest emitters opt to ‘wait and see’ over Emissions Reduction Fund


This policy is now beginning to bite. The government has just announced that in the first period for which the policy has been in effect, some 16 large emitters were in excess and had to buy 448,000 carbon credits to remain in compliance. Among the biggest buyers were:

  • Anglo Coal’s Capcoal mining operations
  • Glencore’s Tahmoor Coal
  • Rio Tinto’s Alcan Gove aluminium operations
  • BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Coal/BM Alliance.

These companies bought their credits from carbon farmers who abated more carbon then they had calculated, and so had a surplus left over for sale.

But what is most interesting is the price that excess emitters were willing to pay for the surplus credits. Most of the sales were in the region of $14-15 per tonne (T), but the price rose to $17-18/T as the deadline approached.

This means that the price spiked at 50% higher than the most recent ERF auction price of $12/T.

Commentators describe this as a secondary market, and the price in this market is exciting news for carbon farmers. According to Australian Carbon Market Institute CEO Peter Castellas, “Australia now has a functioning carbon market.” Carbon farmers – who make up an increasing proportion of the Nationals’ constituency – will do well if this market expands.

One way to develop the market would be to slowly lower the caps on big emitters so they must either buy more carbon credits or find ways to reduce their own emissions.

From this point of view, there is good reason to progressively and predictably reduce the emissions allowed under the Safeguard Mechanism.

The current review

Here’s where we get to the current review. As already noted, the Safeguard Mechanism does not seek to reduce emissions from big emitters. In fact, it allows for an increase in emissions to accommodate business growth. Nevertheless, big emitters are still unhappy.

The government’s review is a response to business concerns. An initial consultation paper has proposed making it easier to raise the cap on a company’s emissions as its activity grows.


Read more:
An Emissions Reduction Fund could work, if well designed


If the rules are altered in this way, the demand for carbon credits may stall, and even decline, bringing to an end to this promising new source of revenue for farmers.

That is why members of parliament with rural constituencies should take note. Rural MPs should not sit by and allow the government to respond to the interests of the coal industry and other lobby groups.

The ConversationCarbon farming depends on reducing the caps under the Safeguard Mechanism, not raising them. This would also be a step in the direction of achieving the emissions reduction target to which Australia agreed at the Paris meetings in 2015.

Andrew Hopkins, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Posh accents, discrimination and employment in Australia

The Conversation

Howard Manns, Monash University

UK researchers recently reviewed the hiring practices of 13 elite law, accountancy and financial companies, and found that applicants with posh accents were favoured over their working class counterparts.

So, does a similar process hold in the Australian context? Are your employment chances rooted and rooned by not having a posh accent?

Not in Australia. But the UK study serves as a caution of sorts, and it’s worth reviewing the dynamics of accent and employment in the UK, Australia and beyond.

How we judge accents

We don’t judge accents themselves, but rather the speakers of those accents and our perceptions of those speakers’ qualities. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (1519-1556), reputedly spoke Spanish to God, French to men, Italian to women and German to horses.

We commonly judge accents and their speakers along dimensions of prestige and pleasantness.

To these ends, Brits with posh accents may be doubly advantaged. Many are born into these accents or acquire them at elite public schools. And, on the pleasantness spectrum, we tend to be drawn to accents most like our own.

Therefore, if you happen to be one of the estimated 3-5% of Brits who has a posh accent, and you’re reviewing the application of poor Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, then, yes, for poor Eliza, a job will ardly hever ‘appen.

My Fair Lady.

But accents index both positive and negative attributes to employers and potential customers, and posh accents have been fraying in the British sphere since the 1990s. Studies have shown while posh accents index “intelligence” and “success” they are also considered “less friendly” and “less trustworthy” than regionally marked or difficult-to-place accents.

This has led, among other things, to the emergence of what has been labelled Estuary English, a mix of a posh accent and certain Cockney features, such as glottal stops. Tony Blair and Princess Diana were well known speakers of Estuary English.

Linguist Emma Moore talks about Tony Blair and Estuary English in the following video:

Alongside this process, Scottish accents have emerged as having a certain value add in British society. For instance, a 2008 survey found Scottish accents to be the most reassuring and soothing in a crisis. And a 2012 survey found them to be hardworking and reliable in business.

‘Posh’ accents in Australian English

Australian English is judged variously and inconsistently throughout its history, both at home and abroad.

Winston Churchill called Australian English “the most brutal maltreatment that has ever been inflicted on the mother-tongue of the great English-speaking nations”.

Historian Joy Damousi notes American writer Mark Twain, for his part, was fond of the English spoken in Ballarat.

Twain was impressed with how Ballarat speakers rendered thank you to a simple Q and you’re welcome to km. Such shortenings he mused, give the tongue “a delicate whispery and vanishing cadence which charms the ear …”.

Within Australia, there has historically been a clear social distinction between Cultivated (British-oriented) and Broad or General, distinctly Australian ways of speaking.

This distinction can be traced to the early decades of the colony. In the early 19th century, GA Wilkes notes new arrivals from Britain garnered the label stirling after money with official standing.

Conversely, those born in the colony bore the label currency, a money with less standing and less value. By 1827, one British observer noted the currency could be identified by their Aussie pride, poor teeth and “nasal twang”.

The tide arguably turned in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when, as lexicographer Bruce Moore observes, Australians derided the migrant whinging poms, who the Australians believed were often openly and vocally disappointed by the new country.

Among other things, Moore links the word “pom” to the fondness of early 20th century Australian children for giving nicknames, and the subsequent playground rhyming of immigrant, jimmygrant and pomegranate for Brit children. The term whinging pom itself had emerged by 1962.

The late 20th century saw the decreasing relevance of British-oriented, cultivated ways of speaking. This can be linked to a number of factors, including increasing Australian nationalism and the establishment of an Australian Language Research Centre. The ABC first permitted distinctly Australian accents in its broadcasts in 1952.

The prime minister’s office maintained a cultivated feel until 1966 with RG Menzies, who, as Moore points out, described himself as “British to the bootstraps”:

British to the bootstraps.

But, by 1972, Gough Whitlam had given the prime minister’s office a distinctly Australian voice:

In contemporary Australia, linguist Felicity Cox observes that a cultivated accent might work against you. She writes, “many Australians feel that that Cultivated accent is not reflective of Australian values”.

“Vowel cancer” and crabs in the workplace

While posh accents are less relevant in Australia, the UK study does illustrate a critical point which is valid in Australia. Accent remains fair game when it comes to racism and classicism. Where it might be unacceptable, to pass comment on ways of dress or manner, ways of speaking tend to fly under the radar.

This process is well-studied within the US and the British spheres. For instance, Rosina Lippi-Green has famously argued that accents in Disney films draw on as well as reinforce minority stereotypes.

Lippi-Green notes that African American accents leading up to the 1990s are predominantly attached to animal rather than humanoid characters in these films. More so, the male minority characters in these films are generally unemployed, and seem to be concerned with nothing more than having fun and please themselves.

This is instructive for the Australian sphere, where speakers of any number of non-standard or broad accents might have the potential to be marginalised.

Writer Kathy Lette (with Gabrielle Carey) brilliantly documents the Australian vernacular the 1979 novel Puberty Blues. Yet, Lette has also been known to warn teens off such colloquial ways of speaking, calling them “vowel cancer”, and encouraging teens to practice “tongue fu”.

It can be dangerous and misleading to judge a job applicant along a single social dimension such as accent. Perhaps this is best illustrated in closing with the 19th century writer Price Warung’s yarn about an Echuca steamboat deckhand named Dictionary Ned. Warung’s stories often focus on the inequities of the convict system.

Ned loved words and carried a dictionary with him wherever he went. Over time, Ned came to memorise the entire dictionary. Yet, Ned found his Aussie pronunciation of these words constantly derided by College Bill, a man of position and the town drunkard.

In the yarn’s climax, Ned, realising his Aussie accent will never be accepted, shocks the town by shifting into French. From that point onward, College Bill is known in town as Ned labels him: “mo-va-soo-jay” (mauvais sujet “evil”). And more relevantly, the town folk come to realise that their myopic focus on Ned’s accent has led them to underestimate his wit and linguistic prowess.

The ConversationHoward Manns is Lecturer in Linguistics at Monash University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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