Your unvaccinated friend is roughly 20 times more likely to give you COVID

Originally published on

As lockdowns ease in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT, and people return to work and socialising, many of us will be mixing more with others, even though a section of the community is still unvaccinated.

Many vaccinated people are concerned about the prospect of mixing with unvaccinated people. This mixing might be travelling on trains or at the supermarket initially. But also at family gatherings, or, in NSW at least, at pubs and restaurants when restrictions ease further, slated for December 1.

Some people are wondering, why would a vaccinated person care about the vaccine status of another person?

Briefly, it’s because vaccines reduce the probability of getting infected, which reduces the probability of a vaccinated person infecting someone else. And, despite vaccination providing excellent protection against severe disease, a small proportion of vaccinated people still require ICU care. Therefore some vaccinated people may have a strong preference to mix primarily with other vaccinated people.

But what exactly is the risk of catching COVID from someone who’s unvaccinated?

Read more:
As Melbourne cautiously opens up today, what lies ahead?

What’s the relative risk?

Recent reports from the Victorian Department of Health find that unvaccinated people are ten times more likely to contract COVID than vaccinated people.

We also know that vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the disease even if they become infected. The Doherty modelling from August puts the reduction at around 65%, although more recent research has suggested a lower estimate for AstraZeneca. Hence for this thought experiment, we’ll take a lower value of 50%.

As the prevalence of COVID changes over time, it’s hard to estimate an absolute risk of exposure. So instead, we need to think about risks in a relative sense.

If I were spending time with an unvaccinated person, then there’s some probability they’re infected and will infect me. However, if they were vaccinated, they’re ten times less likely to be infected and half as likely to infect me, following the numbers above.

Hence we arrive at a 20-fold reduction in risk when hanging out with a vaccinated person compared to someone who’s not vaccinated.

The Conversation, CC BY-ND

The exact number depends on a range of factors, including the type of vaccine and time since vaccination. But, in Australia we can expect a large risk reduction when mixing with fully vaccinated people.

The calculation holds true whether you yourself are vaccinated or not. But being vaccinated provides a ten-fold reduction for yourself, which is on top of the risk reduction that comes from people you’re mixing with being vaccinated.

So, dining in an all-vaccinated restaurant and working in an all-vaccinated workplace presents a much lower infection risk to us as individuals, whether we are vaccinated or not. The risk reduction is around 20-fold, but as individuals, we need to consider whether that’s meaningful for our own circumstances, and for the circumstances of those we visit.

There are also added complexities, in that there are three vaccine brands available, and eligibility is still limited to those aged 12 and older. Although, we do know kids are less susceptible and less likely to show symptoms.

However, as more information emerges, we can always update our estimates and think through the implications on the risk reduction.

What about people who can’t be vaccinated?

Some people haven’t been able to get vaccinated because they’re either too young or they have a medical exemption. Other people are immunocompromised and won’t get the same level of protection from two doses as the rest of the community.

Increasing our coverage across the board will help protect those who aren’t fully protected by vaccination (whether that’s by eligibility, medical reasons or choice).

Those at higher risk also enjoy the risk reduction if they’re able to mix primarily with vaccinated people.

And other choices we make can help reduce the risk of transmission when vaccination is impossible, for example, wearing masks, washing hands carefully, and so on.

Do rapid antigen tests help?

Some people have proposed that frequent testing could be used to suppress COVID spread for those who are unwilling to be vaccinated.

Health minister Greg Hunt said Australians can buy rapid antigen tests from November 1, so they can test themselves at home or before entering certain venues.

So how much does a rapid antigen test reduce risk to others?

To answer that question we need to consider test sensitivity.

Test sensitivity is the probability a rapid test will return a positive result, if the person is infected.

It’s challenging to get an accurate estimate. But rapid antigen tests are about 80% as sensitive as a PCR test, which are the traditional COVID tests we do that get sent off to a lab. The PCR tests themselves are about 80% sensitive when it comes to identifying someone with COVID.

So, if you did a rapid antigen test at home, it’s about 64% likely to pick up that you’re positive, if you did have COVID.

Therefore, rapid antigen tests can find about two-thirds of cases. If you’re going to a gathering where everyone has tested negative on a rapid antigen test, that’s a three-fold reduction in risk.

Even though rapid tests provide a reduction in risk, they don’t replace vaccines.

When used in conjunction with high levels of vaccination, rapid tests would provide improved protection for settings where we’re particularly keen to stop disease spread, such as hospitals and aged care facilities.

Read more:
Home rapid antigen testing is on its way. But we need to make sure everyone has access

Consequently, despite the high efficacy of COVID vaccines, there are still reasons a vaccinated person would prefer to mix with vaccinated people, and avoid mixing with unvaccinated people.

This is particularly true for those at higher risk of severe disease, whether due to age or disability. Their baseline risk will be higher, so a 20-fold reduction in risk is more meaningful.

Christopher Baker receives funding from The Australian Government Departments of Health and Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Andrew Robinson receives funding for biosecurity research from the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Keith Pitt on the climate plan and coal’s future

Originally published on

Resources minister Keith Pitt might have been a “no” when the Nationals debated the government’s climate plan but he was a winner in the deal struck between Scott Morrison and the Coalition’s minor partner. He has been restored to cabinet, just months after Barnaby Joyce relegated him to the outer ministry.

The coal industry faces a bleak future as the world tackles global warming. But Pitt, a forthright voice for coal, is anxious to provide reassurance that the climate plan will not do anything to accelerate its decline.

“We’re not closing the coal sector, we’re not closing the gas sector, we’re not closing offshore oil. We will continue to work on markets that are available.”

He says right now thermal coal is in a “very strong position [..] we’ve got more people involved and employed in thermal coal mining than we’ve had since 2012.

“In the midst of the pandemic, thermal coal was under $50 US spot price – it’s currently over $240 [US].”

“We’ve looked at the International Energy Agency forecast […] they’re saying there’ll be continued increases in demand for thermal coal out to about 2030, and I expect it to drop off peak by about 2050 by around 20 per cent. So there’s still coal-fired power stations being built. There’s still demand. And keep in mind, we have one of the highest quality products in the world. That’s why there’s demand for Australian coal.”

Pitt is coy when pressed on what the Nationals got out of their negotiations with Scott Morrison – apart from his elevation and a commitment to having the Productivity Commission review progress of the plan every five years. “I’m sure we’ll have more to say in coming weeks […] there’s always process.”

On how Nationals members are feeling after the rough ride over the climate plan Pitt says, “this is a democracy at work and in Canberra nearly every decision is difficult […] we’re all knockabout sort of people”.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Does the government’s new national plan to combat child sexual abuse go far enough?

Originally published on


In 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse handed down its final report.

This came after years of social action and advocacy by survivors and their supporters, during which they were often ignored and dismissed. Thousands of survivors shared their stories and testimony with the royal commission, as well.

Throughout the life of the royal commission, Australians were confronted by horrific stories of child sexual abuse from victims and survivors, as well as case studies highlighting the widespread prevalence of abuse in institutions such as churches, out-of-home care, schools and sporting organisations.

There were also many stories documenting the failure of organisations to identify, prevent and respond to children’s suffering as a result of this abuse.

As former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who established the royal commission, observed,

the institutional failures and cover-ups that compounded and prolonged the suffering of victims are a stain on our country’s history.

Today, four years after the royal commission handed down its report, Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled a new national strategy to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. He said:

This is a watershed day for Australia. Today we deliver the first-ever, long-term, truly national plan to protect our children from the scourge of sexual abuse.

So, what’s in the national plan, and does it go far enough?

The final report of the royal commission at Government House in 2017.
Jeremy Piper/AP

What’s in the plan?

A comprehensive national strategy of this nature was one of the 409 recommendations handed down by the royal commission. The commission said it was needed to change the cultures, conditions and practices that have enabled child sexual abuse to continue to occur in Australia.

While outside the terms of reference for the royal commission, it was widely acknowledged many children are sexually abused in family and community contexts.

The national strategy, developed in partnership with state and territory governments, aims to tackle not only institutional child sexual abuse, but all other types of sexual abuse experienced by children and young people in their families and communities.

It identifies five key elements, including:

raising awareness, providing sexual abuse prevention education and building child-safe cultures

supporting and empowering victims and survivors

enhancing responses to children who display sexual behaviours that are harmful to themselves or others

offender prevention and intervention

improving the evidence base on what works in child sexual abuse prevention and supporting survivor recovery and healing.

Alongside the release of the strategy, the Australian government has pledged A$307.5 million over four years to implement the first national plan.

Positive investments

The plan responds to many of the recommendations from the royal commission. Among the priorities was implementing a national awareness campaign on the impacts of child sexual abuse, including the development of resources for teachers, children and young people, parents and families.

Research in Australia and abroad has shown the stigma attached to child sexual abuse makes it difficult for victims and survivors to raise concerns and seek support.

And without ample information, survivors and their families often don’t know where to go when they experience abuse.

Read more:
Child sex abuse survivors are five times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault later in life

The government’s strategy also highlights its ongoing commitment to the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, which provide guidance on what organisations need to do to reduce the risks of child sexual abuse and better respond when it occurs. The principles are based on what experts believe will make a difference, but have not yet been tested.

Ongoing research and evaluation is required to ensure that the implementation of the principles are, in fact, achieving their intended outcomes and that children and young people are safer as a result.

Responding to children with harmful sexual behaviours

The strategy also focuses on developing the capacity of the community and clinical workforce to better understand and respond to harmful sexual behaviours among children and young people.

In institutions such as schools and residential care – and within the broader community – young people are much more concerned about being harassed, assaulted or victimised by their peers than adults. There is a significant gap in the availability of trauma-informed services for children demonstrating these types of behaviours.

The national plan also invests A$10.9 million in the co-design of culturally safe models to foster healing among child sexual abuse survivors in Aboriginal communities. And it allocates A$3.8 million towards working with Aboriginal experts to develop resources for front-line health workers.

Read more:
‘My mob is telling their story and it makes me feel good’: here’s what Aboriginal survivors of child sexual abuse told us they need

For some time, organisations such as the Healing Foundation have stressed the need to understand how child sexual abuse causes trauma for individuals and communities. Recovery and growth can only be achieved through culturally safe practices, they maintain.

The national strategy is also underpinned by a commitment to build a larger evidence base for what works in child sexual abuse prevention and ensuring initiatives are meeting their objectives – namely the reduction of child sexual abuse in Australia.

More targeted supports for at-risk children

Although the strategy aims to improve the safety of all young people, there is limited recognition of the fact that some children are more vulnerable than others.

Those who are more at-risk include:

those who have already experienced abuse or maltreatment

children with disabilities and mental health issues

LGBTQI children and young people

those who live in out-of-home care

those who rely on services and supports.

As the strategy is implemented, it is crucial to give deep consideration to how these initiatives can target those who are most vulnerable.

Read more:
What do children and young people have to say about safety in institutions?

In the royal commission’s research and hearings, survivors, children and young people also stressed that child sexual abuse occurred because young people were not valued and their needs and views were not seen as a priority.

They reported feeling disempowered and silenced and had little confidence in adults and organisations when they were not seen as partners in their own protection.

Although it puts a central focus on survivors, the plan is lacking detail about how the it will be shaped, overseen or evaluated by its key beneficiaries (young people). As survivors’ advocate Grace Tame commented this week, efforts to reduce child sexual abuse may be compromised without meaningful dialogue with survivors.

Survivors may also be frustrated by the lack of investment to help them recover and heal from child sexual abuse. The strategy provides no additional funding for victim support services beyond information resources, websites and helplines.

As survivors reported to the royal commission, the lack of appropriate and survivor-centred services means many experience prolonged trauma from their ordeals, with significant emotional, social and economic costs.

The national strategy provides a framework for reducing child sexual abuse, empowering survivors and their families, and improving our responses to those who have been harmed.

To be effective, such initiatives must be driven in dialogue with survivors, children and their families. These programs must also be evaluated to ensure they achieve their lofty goals.

The authors would like to thanks Craig Hughes-Cashmore, chief executive and managing director of Survivors & Mates Support Network (SAMSN), for his contribution to this article.

Tim Moore is Deputy Director at the Australian Centre for Child Protection (UniSA) and has participated in consultations to inform the development of the National Strategy. He was lead researcher on the Children’s Safety Studies funded by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Amanda Paton is part of the Australian Centre for Child Protection, which receives funding from state and territory governments to conduct research and provide services to sectors working with children and young people who have experienced sexual abuse or who are displaying harmful sexual behaviours.

Patrick O’Leary receives funding from Terre des Hommes Foundation Lausanne.

A new proposed privacy code promises tough rules and $10 million penalties for tech giants

Originally published on


This week the federal government announced proposed legislation to develop an online privacy code (or “OP Code”) setting tougher privacy standards for Facebook, Google, Amazon and many other online platforms.

These companies collect and use vast amounts of consumers’ personal data, much of it without their knowledge or real consent, and the code is intended to guard against privacy harms from these practices.

The higher standards would be backed by increased penalties for interference with privacy under the Privacy Act and greater enforcement powers for the federal privacy commissioner. Serious or repeated breaches of the code could carry penalties of up to A$10 million or 10% of turnover for companies.

However, relevant companies are likely to try to avoid obligations under the OP Code by drawing out the process for drafting and registering the code. They are also likely to try to exclude themselves from the code’s coverage, and argue about the definition of “personal information”.

The current definition of “personal information” under the Privacy Act does not clearly include technical data such as IP addresses and device identifiers. Updating this will be important to ensure the OP Code is effective.

Which organisations would be covered and why?

The code is intended to address some clear online privacy dangers, while we await broader changes from the current broader review of the Privacy Act that would apply across all sectors.

The OP Code would target online platforms that “collect a high volume of personal information or trade in personal information”, including:

social media networks such as Facebook; dating apps like Bumble; online blogging or forum sites like Reddit; gaming platforms; online messaging and videoconferencing services such as WhatsApp and Zoom

data brokers that trade in personal information, including Quantium, Acxiom, Experian and Nielsen Corporation

other large online platforms that collect personal information and have more than 2.5 million annual users in Australia, such as Amazon, Google and Apple.

The OP Code would impose higher standards for these companies than otherwise apply under the Privacy Act.

Read more:
It’s time for third-party data brokers to emerge from the shadows

Higher standards for consent – maybe

The OP Code would set out details about how these organisations must meet obligations under the Privacy Act. This would include higher standards for what constitutes users’ “consent” for how their data are used.

The government’s explanatory paper says the OP Code would require consent to be “voluntary, informed, unambiguous, specific and current”. (Unfortunately, the draft legislation itself doesn’t actually say that, and will require some amendment to achieve this.)

This description draws on the definition of consent in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

In the EU, for example, “unambiguous” consent means a person must take clear, affirmative action – for instance by ticking a box or clicking a button – to consent to a use of their information.

Consent must also be “specific”, so companies cannot, for example, require consumers to consent to unrelated uses (such as market research) when their data is only needed to process a specific purchase.

Requests to stop using and disclosing personal information

The ACCC recommended we should have a right to erase our personal data as a means of reducing the power imbalance between consumers and large platforms. In the EU, the “right to be forgotten” by search engines and the like is part of this erasure right. The government has not adopted this recommendation.

However, the OP Code would include an obligation for organisations to comply with a consumer’s reasonable request to stop using and disclosing their personal data. Companies would be allowed to charge a “non-excessive” fee for fulfilling these requests. This is a very weak version of the EU right to be forgotten.

For example, Amazon currently states in its privacy policy that it uses customers’ personal data in its advertising business and discloses the data to its vast corporate group. The proposed OP Code would mean Amazon would have to stop this, at a customer’s request, unless it had reasonable grounds for refusing.

Ideally, the code should also allow consumers to ask a company to stop collecting their personal information from third parties, as they currently do, to build profiles on us.

Read more:
How one simple rule change could curb online retailers’ snooping on you

Increased protections for children and vulnerable groups

The draft bill also includes a vague provision for the OP Code to add protections for kids and other vulnerable people who are not capable of making their own privacy decisions.

A more controversial proposal would require new consents and verification for kids using social media services such as Facebook and WhatsApp. These services would be required to:

take reasonable steps to verify the age of social media users

obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information of a child under 16

ensure its data practices are “fair and reasonable in the circumstances”, with the best interests of the child as the primary consideration.

What is ‘personal information’?

A key tactic companies will likely use to avoid the new rules is to claim that the information they use is not truly “personal”, since the OP Code and the Privacy Act only apply to “personal information”, as defined in the Act.

The companies may claim the data they collect is only connected to our individual device or to an online identifier they’ve allocated to us, rather than our legal name. However, the effect is the same. The data is used to build a more detailed profile on an individual and to have effects on that individual.

Australia needs to update the definition of “personal information” to clarify it includes data such as IP addresses, device identifiers, location data, and any other online identifiers that may be used to identify an individual or to interact with them on an individual basis. Data should only be de-identified if no individual is identifiable from that data.

Increased penalties and upgraded enforcement

The government has pledged to give tougher powers to the privacy commissioner, and to hit companies with tougher penalties for breaching their obligations once the code comes into effect.

The maximum civil penalty for a serious and/or repeated interference with privacy will be increased up to the equivalent penalties in the Australian Consumer Law.

For individuals, the maximum penalty will increase to more than A$500,000. For corporations, the maximum will be the greater of A$10 million, or three times the value of the benefit received from the breach, or (if this value cannot be determined) 10% of the company’s annual turnover.

The privacy commissioner could also issue infringement notices for failing to provide relevant information to an investigation. The maximum penalty will be A$2,644 for individuals or A$13,320 for companies.

Such civil penalty provisions will make it unnecessary for the Commissioner to resort to prosecution of a criminal offence, or to civil litigation, in these cases.

Don’t hold your breath

Once legislation is passed, it will take around 12 months for the code to be developed and registered.

The tech giants will have plenty of opportunity to create delay in this process. Companies are likely to challenge the content of the code, and whether they should even be covered by it at all.

Katharine Kemp receives funding from The Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation. She is a Member of the Advisory Board of the Future of Finance Initiative in India, the Centre for Law, Markets & Regulation and the Australian Privacy Foundation.

Graham Greenleaf is a board member of the NGO, the Australian Privacy Foundation.

Can artists revive dead city centres? Without long-term tenancies it’s window dressing

Originally published on

After 18 months of lockdown, the City of Melbourne is understandably anxious to get people back to the CBD and inner areas. Commercial vacancy rates are high, international student numbers have plummeted and the streets are dead.

The council’s $A2.6 million plan to provide “creatives and entrepreneurs” with “flexible, short-term licence agreements” should, however, ring alarm bells.

You can’t just add instant culture to activate an area. These kinds of efforts are not just exploitative, there is no evidence that they work.

Temporary use arrangements in Australia keep artists on the edge of being thrown out at any time.

As the council CEO Justin Hanney notes, artists will have the space month-to-month and the properties can be “taken back by the landlords/owners at any point in time”.

Serious cultural producers will tell you one of the most important components of their ability to work is security of tenure.

Perhaps unwittingly, though, the shopfront program may hold promise. Economists predict the current economic slump will persist for at least a year, meaning temporary users will likely be looking at a more meaningful time frame.

In addition, Lord Mayor Sally Capp’s extension of the program to “performance, new retail pop-ups, entrepreneurial activities, even community radio stations” opens out the field.

The program is part of the joint state government and council A$100m recovery fund, in addition to the state’s $A15 million package to support the hard hit creative sector.

These are positive initiatives. In crisis there is opportunity. Now, let’s think about how best to use this opening.

Read more:
How COVID all but killed the Australian CBD

Melbourne’s streets emptied during the city’s lockdowns.

What do artists actually need?

Arts, music, performance and other cultural activities should be treated as neither saviours nor indicators of a city’s economic health. They exist in their own right, with many spin-off and flow-on effects for the city including associated anti-racist, anti-fascist, LGBTI+-welcoming, social, environmental and political activism.

The strength of a city’s cultural scene is not linked to its economic success. The exception is that the more successful the city becomes, the more the scene is at risk.

Some of the world’s best cultural scenes are in poorer cities: New Orleans, Chicago, Berlin. Some of the world’s best scenes that have since died were in cities that became rich: New York, London, Paris. In all of these cities, along with cities like Austin, Seattle, Brisbane and Melbourne, two key conditions existed for the seeds of those scenes to be sown. Plenty of space and cheap rent.

Cities known for their arts and cultural activity today make a point of supporting those scenes – such as in New Orleans with a stream of world famous festivals employing only local artists and paying them well – or still have land available for cultural use and cheap housing, such as in Chicago and Berlin.

But Berlin is changing rapidly. The city celebrated for its alternative scene is gentrifying, with vacancy rates shrinking and property prices and rents increasing (due more to the large tax incentives offered to companies to relocate to Germany’s capital than to any cultural activity). These trends place the scene under pressure.

Cultural entrepreneurs are responding by buying their venues, often with institutional assistance, before the land becomes too expensive. Housing activists are building their own co-ops, and artists are campaigning effectively for more social housing, rent caps and freezes and renationalisation of private housing companies.

Most of these initiatives are aided by considerable financial or government support, with cultural producers and entrepreneurs recognised and respected members of civil society.

Read more:
How to help artists and cultural industries recover from the COVID-19 disaster

What could Melbourne do?

Melbourne’s large cultural scene has been fighting gentrification for decades. Organisations such as Fair Go for Live Music, Save Live Australia’s Music and most recently, Save Our Scene have clearly shown the threats from economic growth to local culture. Until very recently, government support has been sorely lacking.

But in the current economic climate, with vacancy rates higher and property prices and rents lower than they have been for years in the inner-city and stricken CBD, a real opportunity exists to literally as well as metaphorically embed the scene in the city’s fabric.

Part of the $A100 million recovery fund should provide deposits and guarantees for artist and artist-collective purchases of inner-city property. That would take those places out of the market and secure a place for the arts for the long term.

The state government and council could broker secure, long-term leases for cultural producers, using influence and incentives to negotiate reasonable rentals that would give owners secure, long-term revenue streams.

They could help venues, performance spaces, galleries and cinemas to fully open up again. Permanent arts spaces could be secured in the Nicholas Building – a hive of cultural production right on the doorstep of the Town Hall.

The Nicholas Building is on the market, and artists fear they may lose it to development. Could it, instead, enter into public or collective ownership?

The pandemic-induced slump will pass and Australia’s cities will come to life again. They are stable and secure places to invest. Students will return, vacancies will decline and commercial and residential rents will increase, irrespective of the health of arts and culture.

Now is the time to act. If Melbourne’s state and city governments do not take the chance now to value what we are lucky to still have, we may lose it forever.

Kate Shaw has received funding from the Australian Research Council, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, and the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius Gastwissenschaftsprogramm für Stadtforschung an der HCU (Fellows Program
for Urban Research at HafenCity University Hamburg) .

Consumers are wise to ‘woke washing’ – but truly ‘transformative branding’ can still make a difference

Originally published on


With brands increasingly engaging in social change campaigns and leveraging their influence to be “purpose-led”, the time has come to ask a couple of big questions: is this a viable strategy, and how sceptical should we be of so-called “brand activism”?

In recent weeks alone, Ben & Jerry’s has launched a new ice-cream flavour called “Change is Brewing” to support Black-owned businesses and raise awareness of the People’s Response Act, proposed legislation to establish a new public safety agency in the US.

Lego declared it would promote inclusive play and address harmful gender stereotypes with its toys. Mars Food rebranded Uncle Ben’s rice to Ben’s Original in response to criticisms of the racial caricatures in its marketing.

At the same time, businesses have a chequered history when it comes to engaging with societal problems, from self-serving “box ticking” corporate practices under the guise of social responsibility to shifting responsibility to consumers to make ethical choices (such as reusable coffee cups).

More recently, “woke washing” has seen brands promoting social issues without taking meaningful action. Consider fast fashion brands that promote International Women’s Day while simultaneously profiting from the exploitation of female workers.

Lego has pledged to combat gender stereotyping in its toys.

Change from within

How then can brands legitimately shoulder responsibility to support or promote societal transformation?

Our research introduces the idea of “transformative branding”. This involves companies working with customers, communities and even competitors to co-create brands that lead on both market and social fronts.

Read more:
Woke washing: what happens when marketing communications don’t match corporate practice

Transformative branding can be achieved by for-profit organisations, not-for-profits and social enterprises. The common factor is balancing business and societal goals to create change from within the market system.

Marketing concepts with a social edge have proliferated in the past 50 years, but finding actual solutions has been less successful. We ask how corporations can act to genuinely contribute to society and show how transformative branding can help brands shoulder that responsibility.

The Patagonia clothing brand’s ‘worn wear’ scheme promotes recycling over new purchases.

Beyond making money

Transformative branding works via two main market-shaping elements: leadership and collaborative coupling. These enable companies to partner with stakeholders to change their business landscapes.

First, leadership involves building a vision for the transformation. This requires leaders to think flexibly and creatively, work to long time horizons and stay attuned to changing ideologies. This involves fundamentally re-imagining what branding can do – beyond making money.

Read more:
Athlete activism or corporate woke washing? Getting it right in the age of Black Lives Matter is a tough game

Second, collaborative coupling involves implementing this vision across the different dimensions of the brand. Key to this is mobilising stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors, suppliers, governments, communities and competitors.

When the brand and its stakeholders collectively throw their weight behind the goal of transformation, it signals commitment, distributes expertise and resources and establishes legitimacy.

Leadership and collaborative coupling work together to change the business environment. Our research shows this has ripple effects, creating opportunities for transforming economic, regulatory, socio-cultural and political environments.

Ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s builds social responsibility and activism into its corporate ethos.

Transformative branding in practice

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is a good example of transformative branding at work, particularly in his candid admission that the notion of a fully sustainable business is “impossible”. Instead, Patagonia has reframed its priorities around responsibility, with Chouinard re-imagining the brand as a solution to environmental degradation.

This vision is central to the brand’s iconic “demarketing” campaign, “Don’t buy this jacket”, which aims to shift the consumption ideology from purchase to repair.

Read more:
Brand activism is moving up the supply chain — corporate accountability or commercial censorship?

More recently, Patagonia’s “Buy Less, Demand More” campaign and its “Worn Wear” scheme for used apparel have brought the notion of a circular economy into the company’s strategy to promote a culture of reuse rather than always buying new.

Dutch chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely demonstrates collaborative coupling in its campaign to clean up production and supply chain practices in the chocolate manufacturing industry, and to eliminate illegal child labour and modern slavery.

The company’s “open chain platform” helps all industry players, including competitors, to foster equitable and transparent supply chains and ensure a living income is paid to cocoa farmers. The brand actively erodes its own potential competitive advantage in the process.

Staying sceptical

But transformative branding is complex and dynamic, and authenticity is paramount. For instance, earlier this year, Tony’s was removed from watchdog organisation Slave Free Chocolate’s ethical producers list over its partnership with a major chocolate producer being sued for allegedly using slave labour.

Tony’s responded by claiming it was important to educate and inspire business partners and competitors to adopt ethical principles and practices.

This complex and often slow process of negotiating what it means to be ethical is all part of transformative branding. It adapts to the differing goals and values of many stakeholders.

And while transformative branding offers a path towards a more sustainable and equitable future, we should continue to cast a critical eye on brands claiming to be a force for good, challenge them and hold them accountable where necessary.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Are employers and workers at odds over NZ’s workplace vaccine mandates? Our research suggests they might be

Originally published on


The New Zealand government’s announcement yesterday of expanded mandatory vaccination requirements raises important questions about legality and compliance.

Vaccination will become mandatory for staff at any business where vaccine certificates are required for customers, including hospitality, hairdressers and gyms. But our research suggests this will not be without its challenges.

The new system comes into effect under the government’s recently revealed “traffic light” protection framework, central to transitioning the country out of the current COVID elimination strategy. The system requires each regional district health board to achieve at least a 90% vaccination rate.

Vaccination had already been mandated for border and other frontline workers through the Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021. Mandates for health and disability workers and teachers were then announced on October 11.

Yesterday’s public health order amendment broadens the scope of vaccine mandates and will allow businesses to terminate the employment of someone who refuses to comply.

This is a major shift in policy. Mandated vaccination has existed in New Zealand before, between 1863 and 1920 to combat smallpox, but compliance was very low. Since then, New Zealand has largely relied on education to encourage vaccination, not compulsion.

Employers have generally welcomed the latest news, but how do workers feel about mandatory vaccination and the new rights conferred on employers?

Jacinda Ardern and Workplace Relations & Safety Minister Michael Woods announce the government’s expanded vaccine mandate policy on October 26.

Who supports vaccine mandates?

Our research, conducted between June and August 2021, examined support for employer mandated vaccinations. We surveyed 1,852 New Zealanders and found 46.4% of participants agreed or strongly agreed with employers having the right to require employees prove they have been vaccinated.

Breaking this down, we found 46.2% of Pākehā, 51.9% of Māori, 25% of Pasifika, and 58.6% of others agreed or strongly agreed with a workplace’s right to require vaccination proof.

Looking at it politically, we found 32.8% of National, 52.2% of Labour, 40.9% of Green, 51.3% of Māori and 32.2% of other voters agreed or strongly agreed with this requirement.

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Parents were fine with sweeping school vaccination mandates five decades ago – but COVID-19 may be a different story

We also asked participants the extent to which they supported an employer having the right to terminate the employment of someone who refuses to get vaccinated.

We found 56.7% of participants disagreed or strongly disagreed with this employer right. Ethnically, 54% of Pākehā, 56.5% of Māori, 75% of Pasifika and 44.8% of others disagreed or strongly disagreed.

And by party preference, 69.6% of National, 53% of Labour, 60.9% of Green, 55.9% of Māori and 64.4% of other voters disagreed or strongly disagreed.

How will a new law work?

These results suggest there is limited support for businesses either knowing the vaccine status of their employees or having the power to terminate their employment if they are unvaccinated.

On the other hand, businesses appear willing to mandate vaccination out of a duty of care but are cautious due to legal uncertainty. The Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum found “a solid desire […] to take a risk-based duty of care”, but a desire for greater clarity from the government about how to do that.

For its part, the government has signalled a

new law to introduce a clearer and simplified risk assessment process for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work.

Read more:
To be truly ethical, vaccine mandates must be about more than just lifting jab rates

That law will need to align with existing legislation in this area. The Bill of Rights Act guarantees the right of citizens to refuse medical treatment and thus vaccinations. However, the Health and Safety at Work Act places obligations on managers and organisations to evaluate risk and protect workers and customers from harm.

While businesses can require workers to be vaccinated when they are in certain frontline jobs (with higher risks) or supporting those in frontline roles, how this is enforced remains confusing.

The Health and Safety at Work Act states employers must provide a workplace with no unreasonable levels of risk and must actively pursue this. And yet the health and safety watchdog Worksafe advises that any risk evaluation must take into account the prevalence of COVID-19 in the region.

A mandate for vaccine mandates?

So, while most legislation states businesses cannot generally require all employees to be vaccinated, businesses can require certain roles involving certain kinds of work be done only by the vaccinated – but only if the virus is prevalent in a particular area.

This leaves businesses such as Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport, which want to require vaccination for all frontline employees, in a potential legal quandary.

Read more:
Vaccination status – when your medical information is private and when it’s not

But New Zealand is not alone in grappling with these issues. Many companies in the US have said they will require all staff interacting with customers to be vaccinated. And many other countries are introducing strict vaccine mandates for various sectors of their workforces.

Such measures are always contentious. Given our own research findings that suggest only limited support for employees having to reveal their vaccination status, or for employer rights to terminate employment for the unvaccinated, they will remain contentious in New Zealand, too.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

If all 2030 climate targets are met, the planet will heat by 2.7℃ this century. That’s not OK

Originally published on

If nations make good on their latest promises to reduce emissions by 2030, the planet will warm by at least 2.7℃ this century, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found. This overshoots the crucial internationally agreed temperature rise of 1.5℃.

Released today, just days before the international climate change summit in Glasgow begins, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report works out the difference between where greenhouse emissions are projected to be in 2030 and where they should be to avoid the worst climate change impacts.

It comes as the Morrison government yesterday officially committed to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The government made no changes to its paltry 2030 target to reduce emissions by between 26% and 28% below 2005 levels, but announced that Australia is set to beat this, and reduce emissions by up to 35%.

The UNEP report was conducted before Australia’s new 2050 target was announced, but even with this new pledge, global pledges will undoubtedly still be short of what’s needed.

The report found global targets for net-zero emissions by mid-century could cut another 0.5℃ off global warming. While this is a big improvement, it will still see temperatures rise to 2.2℃ this century. If we don’t close the global emissions gap, what will Australia, and the rest of world, be forced to endure?

Pledges are falling short

As of August 30 (the date the UNEP report reviewed to), 120 countries had made new or updated pledges and announcements to cut emissions.

The US, for example, has set an ambitious new target of reducing emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030. Similarly, the European Union will cut carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

But the UNEP report shows all these pledges are falling short. It finds we must take an extra 28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent off annual emissions by 2030, over what’s already promised.

Read more:
Morrison’s climate plan has 35% 2030 emissions reduction ‘projection’ but modelling underpinning 2050 target yet to be released

The UNEP also found that while effectively delivering on net-zero targets by mid-century could mitigate the predicted temperature rise, current plans are vague, with many delaying action until after 2030, which is too late. These net-zero targets, including Australia’s, are also based on technologies that don’t exist on a large-scale yet, such as carbon capture and storage.

UNEP’s findings echo a briefing note by Australian climate scientists on Monday, who say even if global emissions reach net-zero by mid-century, there’s still a high chance temperatures will exceed 2℃ this century if we neglect to increase short-term action.

When the UNEP report was conducted, 49 countries plus the EU had pledged a net-zero target, which accounts for a third of the global population and half of global emissions. Eleven of these targets are enshrined in law, which accounts for 12% of global emissions.

Emissions Gap Report 2021/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Did COVID-19 make a difference? While carbon emissions fell by 5-6% in 2020, this was due to widespread lockdowns and other restrictions worldwide, rather than long-lived changes in how society functions.

The report notes that as restrictions ease, emissions are expected to sharply rise again this year to a level only slightly lower than in 2019. To avoid the worst climate change effects, a sustainable year-on-year reduction in carbon emissions is required.

What does this mean for Australia?

To date, the world has warmed by about 1.2℃ since pre-industrial levels, and we’re already experiencing significant climate change impacts and worsening extreme weather events.

The western North America heatwave in late June this year saw temperature records and heat-related deaths spike. This event would have been virtually impossible without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet.

Similarly, the extreme rainfall that led to recent floods in central Europe which tore through towns in July were very likely enhanced by global warming.

In Australia, we’ve seen our own share of extreme events in recent years that were intensified by climate change, including record hot summers and the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020.

Meeting the Paris Agreement and keeping global warming below 2℃ or even 1.5℃ would still lead to continued sea level rise and worsening heatwaves on land and in our oceans.

If we fail to meet the Paris Agreement and warm the world by closer to 3℃ by 2100, then the impacts of climate change worsen considerably.

Read more:
Seriously ugly: here’s how Australia will look if the world heats by 3°C this century

Warm water coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, are already stressed by frequent bleaching events and might be on the brink already. Most coral reefs would likely not survive sustained 1.5℃ warming, much less likely 2℃ global warming, let alone 3℃ of warming. However, limiting warming to 1.5℃ rather 2℃ makes a huge difference for many other ecosystems.

Historically hot summers, such as the Angry Summer of 2012 and 2013 and the Black Summer of 2019 and 2020, would be cooler than most Australian summers in a 2-3℃ warmer world. Parts of Sydney and Melbourne would likely see 50℃ temperatures during heatwaves.

Corals will not likely survive more than 2℃ global warming.

And at 2-3℃ global warming, most of the continent would experience more short bursts of extreme rainfall that causes flash flooding, Meanwhile, droughts are projected to worsen, especially in the southwest and southeast of the continent.

While Australia would experience major climate change impacts if the world fails to meet the Paris Agreement, the outlook is much worse and more devastating for less wealthy nations. Intensified heatwaves, more extreme rain events and droughts would make life harder for many, as developing nations don’t have the resources to adapt.

A big task for COP26

It is imperative we avoid the impacts of climate change that come with a 2 to 3℃ average temperature rise.

To have any chance at meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, all countries will need to significantly increase their ambition and pledge much greater reductions in carbon emissions in Glasgow.

Wealthy, high-emitting countries should lead the way with stronger pledges, and agree on terms to finance climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

Time is fast running out to avert more dangerous climate changes, and the world cannot afford a missed opportunity at COP26.

Read more:
A successful COP26 is essential for Earth’s future. Here’s what needs to go right

Andrew King receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Malte Meinshausen is Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, is Lead Author of the IPCC WG1 AR6 and Core Writing Team Member of the IPCC Synthesis Report. He also is scientific co-director of Climate Resource, with Climate Resource also providing NDC quantifications that contributed to the UNEP Gap report. He received funding from various government, international organisation and private grants and consultancies. As scientific adviser to the German government, he advised the German Ministry of Environment on UNFCCC negotiations from 2005 to 2015.

View from The Hill: Morrison’s net-zero plan is built more on politics than detailed policy

Originally published on

Boris Johnson enthused about the Morrison government’s belated embrace of the 2050 net-zero target. “They’ve done a heroic thing, the Australians, in getting to that commitment,” Johnson said.

“[It] was actually very difficult for Australia to do … because Australia is very heavily dependent on coal and on lots of carbon-producing industries.”

Scott Morrison relished the British PM’s praise. “Heroic” could, however, be applied to the plan he and energy minister Angus Taylor released on Tuesday in a less gushing sense.

That plan relies on many “heroic” assumptions which may or may not turn out to be reasonable.

Of course given the three-decade timeframe, any roadmap must be open to question, because it is impossible to accurately predict that far ahead. But the fine detail of the plan’s assumptions is important, and the government has yet to release the modelling.

The plan, which doesn’t contain new policy, is constructed on a narrative which can be more easily and immediately judged, and that narrative is false.

Morrison’s claim the plan is based on “technology not taxes” is sophistry, designed for political warfare rather than policy truth-telling.

The “technology” side is correct enough, but “taxes” are very much there. The government boasts of the multi-billions it is investing to drive the technology. This involves taxpayer funds.

Indeed in its reaction to the plan, the Carbon Market Institute lamented that “the taxpayer rather than business will remain the main driver with $20 billion earmarked to underwrite the transition”.

Read more:
Morrison’s climate plan has 35% 2030 emissions reduction ‘projection’ but modelling underpinning 2050 target yet to be released

Morrison also likes to give the impression this massive transformation to a cleaner economy can be a relatively painless exercise. But this too is misleading.

We obviously must make the change to a low emissions future, for environmental and economic reasons, and there will be many opportunities, in the form of new industries and jobs, produced by it. But there will be costs – for industries, businesses and individuals.

There’s a useful comparison with Australia’s slashing of tariffs in the 1980s and early 1990s.

As is happening with net-zero, the world was the whip hand, forcing Australia to open and reform. The resulting structural changes brought lasting benefits for the economy and for households.

But in the process, certain industries faded, businesses failed and workers lost jobs. Some people retrained; others never got back on their feet. Inevitably, big economic restructurings have winners and losers, the old story of pain as well as gain.

Morrison doesn’t focus publicly on the losers but the Nationals do. Climate change denialism drives the attitudes of some Nationals, but they are also deeply worried about the reaction of their base in mining areas in particular.

After noisily pursuing a package of safeguards and trade offs, what the Nationals have obtained remains unclear.

Read more:
View from The Hill: Will Barnaby Joyce be less ‘on board’ with net zero when he’s in the backblocks?

There will be a Productivity Commission review of the plan’s progress every five years. And the minor Coalition party has obtained an extra seat in cabinet.

Beyond that, Nationals sources selling the agreement point to two things. The first is that the plan is not to be legislated, and does not envisage government action to shut down coal or any other resource industry. The fate of those industries is left to the market.

Secondly, they say a number of specific measures are in the pipeline for later announcement.

Delaying these announcements does seem an odd tactic after the Nationals made so much of needing visible safeguards. It’s not really explained by the line that there are cabinet processes to be gone through.

The messy spectacle of nailing down Nationals’ agreement to the plan has delivered a hit to Barnaby Joyce, who becomes acting PM after Morrison leaves for the G20 and Glasgow late Thursday.

Joyce’s angst is obvious, as he’s painfully caught between his past vocal rejection of net-zero and his current forced public acceptance of it.

He struggled, with the prime minister and with his colleagues, during the Coalition negotiations. He struggles in question time. And he will struggle as he campaigns to hold Nationals seats in Queensland.

Boris Johnson’s effusiveness about Australia suggests he is easing the way for Morrison at Glasgow next week. Australia’s 2030 position – taking an updated “projection” rather than an updated “target” – may attract some negativity, because 2030 has become the main focus of COP26. On the other hand, Australia is a bit player.

Read more:
Coalition drops in Newspoll; Australia “not doing enough” response on climate change falls

Now that the government’s plan, inadequate as it might be, is out, attention will turn to Labor.

Anthony Albanese has understandably waited until after Glasgow to release the opposition’s policy. He can’t credibly avoid the moment much longer.

In general, Labor doesn’t have much policy in the public arena. If it is as serious about the climate issue as it claims, it needs to get an alternative out before Christmas.

Labor can easily promise to legislate targets. Beyond that, for Albanese the challenge is to position the opposition’s policy so it is distinct from the Coalition’s – which means being more ambitious – but not so radical that it makes Labor a dangerously big target.

Finding that sweet spot will be tricky for Albanese, especially if there are some internal differences about precisely where it is.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Scott Morrison’s (thin) climate plan for Glasgow

Originally published on

As well as Michelle Grattan’s usual interviews with experts and politicians about the news of the day, Politics with Michelle Grattan now includes “Word from The Hill”, where all things political will be discussed with members of The Conversation’s politics team.

In this week’s episode, they canvass the government’s plan, released on Tuesday, to get to net-zero emissions reduction by 2050. It relies overwhelmingly on technology, some of which is yet to be developed. Scott Morrison’s mantra is “technology not taxes” but his plan spends a lot of taxpayer money to drive his technology journey.

The experts are already sceptical about the plan’s thinness, and the detailed modelling is still to come. Meanwhile, after all that Coalition agonising, the safeguards the Nationals obtained remain mostly under wraps.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.