Tuesday, January 19, 2021

'Removing conscientious objection: the impact of ‘no jab no pay’ and ‘no jab no play’ vaccine policies in australia': New Paper

I have a new paper with Ang Li (reseachgate here) just published in Preventive Medicine on the impact of No Jab, No Pay  and No Jab, No Play on vaccine coverage rates.

We found that these policies, which removed non-medical exemptions from government benefits and childcare enrolments, were occasioned by an increase in vaccination coverage across states between 2-4% for one-year olds, 1-1.5% for two-year olds, and 1-3.5% for five-year-olds.

We also found that the effect of the policy differed significantly depending on characteristics of the area.

Areas that were characterised by either: lower socio-economic status, lower median income, more Family Tax Benefit recipients, or higher pre-intervention coverage had greater responsiveness to the policy changes.

Variation in response to the policy changes across areas suggest the effect was largely led by lower-socioeconomic status parents who were nudged towards full vaccination, while more affluent parents were relatively unaffected.

Title: Removing conscientious objection: The impact of ‘No Jab NoPay’and ‘No Jab No Play’vaccine policies in Australia


  • Removing conscientious objection increased overall childhood vaccination coverage.
  • The policy responses were heterogeneous.
  • Socioeconomically advantaged areas were less responsive to policy changes.
  • Benefit-dependent and lower-income areas were more responsive to policy changes.
  • Areas with pre-existing low coverage were more persistent and less responsive.

Abstract: Vaccine refusal and hesitancy pose a significant public health threat to communities. Public health authorities have been developing a range of strategies to improve childhood vaccination coverage. This study examines the effect of removing conscientious objection on immunisation coverage for one, two and five year olds in Australia. Conscientious objection was removed from immunisation requirement exemptions for receipt of family assistance payments (national No Jab No Pay) and enrolment in childcare (state No Jab No Play). The impact of these national and state-level policies is evaluated using quarterly coverage data from the Australian Immunisation Register linked with regional data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics at the statistical area level between 2014 and 2018. Results suggest that there have been overall improvements in coverage associated with No Jab No Pay, and states that implemented additional No Jab No Play and tightened documentation requirement policies tended to show more significant increases. However, policy responses were heterogeneous. The improvement in coverage was largest in areas with greater socioeconomic disadvantage, lower median income, more benefit dependency, and higher pre-policy baseline coverage. Overall, while immunisation coverage has increased post removal of conscientious objection, the policies have disproportionally affected lower income families whereas socioeconomically advantaged areas with lower baseline coverage were less responsive. More effective strategies require investigation of differential policy effects on vaccine hesitancy, refusal and access barriers, and diagnosis of causes for unresponsiveness and under-vaccination in areas with persistently low coverage, to better address areas with persistent non-compliance with accordant interventions.


Here is link for full access: https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1cR7yKt2py2po

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Effects of Graduating during Economic Downturns on Mental Health: New paper

I have a new paper with Ang Li (reseachgate here) just published in Annals of Epidemiology looking at the effects of graduating during economic downturns on mental health.

We found that graduating during a time of increased unemployment is not good for either short-term mental health or long-term mental health. The scarring effect is particularly pronounced for men, people who don't receive government payments, and people with only vocational or secondary qualification.

People with higher education seem to do better and graduating during downturns had less of a lasting effect.



This study examined the effects of economic downturns at the time of graduation on short-term and long-term mental health of graduates.


Using a large longitudinal dataset whose respondents graduated from their highest level of education between 2001 and 2018 in Australia, the study investigated the effects of initial labor market conditions on psychological distress measures, quality-of-life mental health scales, and diagnoses of depression or anxiety since graduation.


Evidence suggests the presence of a scarring effect of graduating during a recession on the mental health of young adults, particularly significant and persistent for men. Higher unemployment rates at graduation were associated with increased risks of high psychological distress and diagnoses of depression or anxiety, and lower levels of social functioning and mental well-being among men lasting over a decade. The psychological effect was largely driven by young adults with vocational or secondary qualifications or receiving no government allowance at graduation.


Policies should consider the psychological effect of graduating during recessions and focus particularly on vulnerable groups who are susceptible to adverse labor market conditions, such as graduates who are in cyclically sensitive occupations and have less or no work benefits and social protection. 

The full article can be found herehttps://authors.elsevier.com/a/1cOsO3k7xFjOxS

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Vaccine Sentiments and Under-vaccination: New Paper

New paper out co-authored with Ang Li on the issue of vaccine hesitancy and under-vaccination that looks at the factors associated with vaccine attitudes (very strongly agree with vaccines to very strongly disagree with vaccines) and vaccine behaviours around the MMR vaccine (full dosage, partial dosage, no dosage).  And the consistency between factors associated with attitudes and behaviours, showing when practical barriers impede the translation of positive vaccine attitudes into full uptake. 

Title: “Vaccinesentiments and under-vaccination: Attitudes and behaviour around Measles,Mumps, and Rubella vaccine (MMR) in an Australian cohort



The study aimed to examine the consistency in factors associated with attitudes towards vaccination and MMR vaccination status.


Using the nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Australian Children matched with the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register, 4,779 children were included from 2004-2005 to 2010–11. Different MMR vaccine dosages and general attitude towards vaccination were modelled individually with multinomial logit regressions, controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and health related factors of the children and their primary carers.


The group with non-vaccination and negative attitudes was characterised by more siblings and older parents the group with under-vaccination but positive attitudes was characterised by younger parental age; and the group with under-vaccination and neutral attitudes was characterised by less socioeconomically advantaged areas. The presence of parental medical condition(s), being private or public renters, and higher parental education were associated with under-vaccination but not with attitudes towards vaccination, whilst parental religion was associated with attitudes towards vaccination but not reflected in the vaccine uptake.


Vaccine attitudes were largely consistent with MRR vaccine outcomes. However, there was variation in the associations of factors with vaccine attitudes and uptake. The results have implications for different policy designs that target subgroups with consistent or inconsistent vaccination attitudes and behaviour. Parents with intentional and unintentional under-vaccination are of policy concern and require different policy solutions.


Here is a share link that allows free access for the first 50 days: https://t.co/XJlSK3Jcix?amp=1

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Review: Sun and Steel

A short Goodreads Review of Sun and Steel by Yukio Mishima that I wrote a little while ago.

I have to say – I do not quite get the adoration that people have for this book on YouTube.

People talk about it as a kind of masculine self-help book about mastering the “discipline of the steel”, weightlifting and weapons, and embracing your physical being and physical experience.

The book does detail Mishima's journey to leave his room and transform himself through lifting steel, running, and fencing. Flirtations with the military, etc. Yet it isnt simply that, as the subtitle suggests "Art, Action and Ritual Death", it presents a worldview on relationship between word (spirit) and action (body) and their reconciliation in death.

One of the notions that I was sympathetic to is that there is a problem of overindulging in introspection and the idea that the ‘surface’ of things might contain its own kind of depths (of experience) and that the ‘depth’ within oneself are a series of eddies that lead nowhere. Mishima writes near the beginning of the book:

“Yet why must it be that men always seek out the depths, the abyss? Why must thought, like a plumb line, concern itself exclusively with vertical descent? Why was it not feasible for thought to change direction and climb vertically up, ever up, towards the surface? […] I could not understand the laws governing the motion of thought – the way it was liable to get stuck in unseen chams whenever it set out to go deep; or, whenever it aimed at the heights, to soar away into boundless and equally invisible heavens, leaving the corporeal form undeservedly neglected.”

That idea is somewhat appealing to me, which is probably why I read the book, that and as an insight into the author’s suicide. And there is a lot of insight into the latter – the book would seem in retrospect to be a manifesto for his eventual death by seppuku.

There is a long critique of the intellectualist’s neglect of bodily experience and embrace of ‘nocturnal thought’ – which seems to be why there is a focus on the ‘corrosive’ nature of thought and words.

There is a lot of ontological speculation about the relation or tension between words and action and the spirit and the body, which in the epilogue he suggests need to be balanced. This speculation is interesting at times, and sometimes rather vague.

A lot of the book is about embracing the discipline of the steel and the sense of power and efficacy that one gains from this. Yet, the aim is not a better quality of life, but a better quality of death. To attain a beautiful body required for a noble death.

The underlying fixation on self-annihilation in service of the group and attaining a beautiful death that clearly resonates with fascistic ideals that are deeply odious.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Review: The New Authoritarianism: Trump, Populism, and the Tyranny of Experts

This post is a review I wrote of Salvatore Babones's book 'The New Authoritarianism'  for Good reads a couple of years ago. I intended to write an extended post on the book for the blog but never did. So here is the original review:

Babones offers an account of a “new authoritarianism”: an illiberal transformation of liberalism from the classical philosophy of individual freedom to a rights-based discourse that ‘empowers’ people on their behalf and removes rights from the realm of democratic contestation.

This transformation of liberalism is underpinned by the authority (or rather tyranny) of a new liberal expert class of professionals and managers that control liberal institutions, nationally and globally, and filter the range of policy options presented to the voting population.

This is an intriguing thesis – elements of the argument ring true. Garrett Hardin suggested that human right frameworks that enshrined freedom to breed forbade policy action that could save the world from overpopulation and Malthusian crisis.

Not that many people would forgo that right and it seems that the demographic transformation will not render it a necessity. It is obvious that constructing a universal right is at least an attempt to put it beyond the realm of political contestation – or at least makes political challenge harder and less legitimate. And supernational institutions, when conceded too, explicitly shift the site of control.

Babones sees this as limiting the sovereignty of the demos and establishing a sovereignty of experts. And It is this that Babones sees as the relevant background for understanding nativist and populist discontent.

The rhetoric of global elites, liberal elites, EU apparatchiks concentrated in liberal enclaves that pervades political discourse would suggest that there is something to this account – at least as far as it reflects the populist imagination.

Babones provides a description of the sociological basis for the support of both new authoritarianism and populism. Socio-economic class, occupational order, and migration status are the axes that predispose groups towards the liberal consensus or an attempt to break this through populist strategies.

It is not hard to see, in the years following the breakdown of the ‘great moderation’ supposedly ensured by the management of neo-liberal economic experts and the financial crisis, that groups most hurt by these economic changes have a distrust of experts and mainstream institutions.

Babones’ account of the 2016 US election had an interesting discussion of the divergent class trajectories among American woman and the split between those who could imagine themselves running for office themselves one day and those more concerned with stagnate real wages and underemployment.

It was this latter group, among white women, that were more likely to side with Trump.

Elements of a political economy of the rise of populism and new authoritarianism thread throughout the book and I would have liked to read more about this. And the relationship between these political economic shifts and neoliberalism.

Another quibble is the lose use of the term 'liberalism' throughout the book. Babones talks about the linguistic confusion that arose when F.D.R. developed a more 'progressive' interpretation of classical liberalism without acknowledging that he was changing the meaning of the term. It isn't always clear what version of the term he is employing and therefore talking about a generic liberalism obscures the extent to which other political traditions have help establish modern political systems, including international human rights frameworks.

Babones' suggestion for dealing with these two political trends is to more fully engage with a democratic politics that puts real policy options in front of the voters -- trusting the demos to run the polis and moving beyond the consensus of the expert class.

This book, offering an account of populism, could be seen as a justification of Brexit and Trump. It isn't hard to see that an account of 'new authoritarianism' that identities liberal experts as limiting democratic processes could be seen to embolden right-populists.

Yet, understanding these concerns is extremely important. Why do people challenge experts and the elites of the global cities? How do we get people to invest in their democracy and keep it strong? - I think those who read this book, especially those of a certain occupational order, should remember this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson: "the truth that is suppressed by friends is the readiest weapon of the enemy".

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

An Examination of the Violence of Abjection and Suffering During the Holocaust

Society is underpinned by standards and expectations as to what social worlds should resemble and operate. But when the very foundations of that world are rocky and open to misuse and abuse, the society is left in a destabilized position. What remains is the question of how these worlds are tolerated in this destabilized form? Can they continue indefinitely in such a way? This place of discomfort is the abject, that which is contrary to everyday harmony. Often the locus of the abject can be expressed in violence. In the case of the Holocaust the abject impacted the individual Jewish people and the wider community of Germany and the world. The meaning that was derived to spark the violence and the meaning that remains are in stark contrast.

Prior to the Holocaust the Jewish people were not abject to their community, but with a little guidance and propaganda they were led to a mass hysteria that the world hopes to never witness again. During Europe’s enlightened period the annihilation of over 5 million Jews and Gypsies occurred in Europe without a blink of an eye. It was tolerated, accepted and some leaders such as the Vichy government of France contributed to the Nazi effort by gathering their Jews and handing them over to the German’s to protect themselves as best they could from the German occupational army. The fear that gripped Europe and strangled the very humanity out of those in power validated and added meaning to the Nazi ideology. As their power increased through the pain and suffering of individuals within those social worlds their domination over the region continued to surge. If violence is triadic in generating meaning it requires a victim, perpetrator and witness, thus in having the people of Europe witness the demise of the vile cancerous Jew they saw the power of the Nazi’s in ability to control and strip the rights of its own population and later other parts of Europe. As Foucault states “...public execution did not re- establish justice; it reactivated power” (1977: 49).

The purpose behind the Nazi violence was the establishment of control over its people with a goal of world domination. Violence as abjection is something contrary to the human condition, it impacts individuals and the community in the sense that it cannot be tolerated, but what happens when it is tolerated as in Nazi Germany. How does a community bear witness to suffering and pain of the Jewish people and accept it as normal? How does meaning produced by violence make it acceptable on any terms? The use of abjection by Hitler to create distinctions and validate the actions taken against the European Jews, through propaganda and unsubstantiated claims marked the period. Violence that creates meaning rarely does so for those that it violates, typically the impetus is to incite fear and terror. In the case of the holocaust, the violence served as a means of creating fear in the hearts of the Jews throughout Europe and their sympathizers, so that no one would stand in the way of what Hitler viewed as a necessary task to remove the impurities from his nation. The violence impacted both the Jews and Gypsies and the worlds in which they both belong and are outcast.

Hitler’s use of “transcendental genocide...is based on theories of the absolute need to eliminate all members of a category, because of their intractable vileness, wickedness, dangerousness or opposition” (Preez 1994: 11). Hitler portrayed the Jews as the root cause of all that was wrong with Germany and the only means of recreating all that was once great in their national identity and nation through the elimination of that which contaminated the German State and world alike. Jews were described to be “a cancer within the German social body” (Appagurai 1998: 913) this statement highlights this use of the abject to discredit the Jew’s as people with rights that belong within society. Here they are likened to disease which is always to be eradicated. They are the parasites taking jobs and the livelihood for the German people; hence the governments created this state of emergency whereby the suspension of rational though and disgust at the policies that strip people of their dignity and identity. This served as a further means of creating the Jew as the ‘other’, so that good German folk did not have a problem bearing witness to their mass annihilation. As Kristeva (1982: 31) states “the abjection of Nazi crime reaches its apex when death, which, in any case kills me, interferes with what, in my living universe, is supposed to save me from death: childhood, science, among other things.”. This is what makes the Holocaust so difficult a pill to swallow.

During this period perhaps for the German people and especially those in powerful positions perhaps the fact that they did not view Jews in the same vein as themselves, it was easier to carry out the task. As Bauman (1989: 21) asserts “...moral inhibitions against violent atrocities tend to be eroded once three conditions are met...violence is authorized, actions are reutilized, and the victims are dehumanized”. In creating images of the Jews as subhuman, cancerous and abject to the German people it became “...the arbitrary termination of life against the will of the individual and on behalf of the collective will of the state” (Horowitz 1976: 33), for its own protection. As in all types of ethnic cleansing the imagery of the stain or blemish on society that needs to be efficiently removed so as not to impact on the national identity, so too did “...the Nazi theory demanded the elimination of all Jews and many other ‘impurities’ from the nation” (Preez 1994: 11).

If the mass annihilation of the Jew “is unimaginable...its representation must be fit into existing, acceptable discourses: patriotism, retaliation for real and imagined past injustices, separatism, terrorism, communism, subversion, anarchy, the need to preserve the states and territorial integrity, the need to protect the nation from subversion through ethnic cleansing...” (Nagengast: 120; citing Lyotard: 172). This is what the Nazi party did by making the Jew a distinguishable difference to the German national identity by forcing them to wear the Star of David, by tattooing prisoners of concentration camps with numbers. It created a lasting difference that would forever be recognized a Jewish within that culture. The very fact that each Jew in the concentration camp was numbered dehumanized and removed them as a valuable commodity within that society. They no longer had an identity other than the fact that they were Jewish, similar to that of branding cattle. In this same way “what kept the murdering machine going then was solely its own routine and impetus. The skills of mass murder had to be used simply because they were there” (Bauman 1989: 106) and they were a part of the bureaucracy that failed to see the collective pain of the individuals it destroyed.

The Jewish people were “...shot, hung, electrocuted, gassed to death by [the state]...for political misdeeds: criticism of the state, membership banned political parties or groups, or for adherence to the “wrong” religion; for moral deeds...homosexuality” (Nagengast, 1994: 120). They were no longer accepted as part of the German state hence they were not protected by it. As is typically utilized by certain powers wanting to grasp control of populations, part of that control can involve forcibly removing groups from that national identity that they view as not cohesive. This violence can take the form of genocide against a race or peoples, as they may be classed as outsiders to that nation’s identity. Alternatively, as in the case of Germany, the Jews were seen to be a threat or stain to the national identity. For example, the state of emergency that was created by the Nazi government is highlighted in Article 48 of the Weimar constitution which states:

The president of the Reich may, in the case of a grave disturbance or threat to public security and order, make decisions necessary to re-establish public security, if necessary with the aid of armed forces. To this end he may provisionally suspend the fundamental rights...(Cited by Agamben 1998: 167).

This section of the constitution created a legal loophole for the Reich to decide that those deemed to be ‘threats to public security to have all fundamental rights revoked and “taken into custody”, i.e. concentration camps without question. It is not hard to envisage how easy it was to take advantage of this power within the German constitution. It allowed for rights to be stripped with the wave of a pen.

Through the use of abjection, it became simple to turn the pain of the Jewish people into a silent cry that the German people could not here, it was the ‘other’. As Scarry (1985: 29) affirms “for the torturers, the sheer and simple fact of human agony is made invisible, and the moral fact of inflicting that agony is made neutral by the feigned urgency and significance of the question. For the prisoner, the sheer, simple, overwhelming fact of the world to which the question refers. Intense pain is world destroying”. In the Jewish context it is clear that the Jews had found themselves in an intolerable state in which they were not welcome and were stripped of their very identity for the purpose of mass extermination. Their worlds were forcibly destroyed before their eyes as step by step their identity and rights were forcibly removed, until they had no control or power and were bound off together to be slaughtered and removed from the life and world that they had once known. Their friends and neighbour became enemies, the fear of the unknown and who was a spy for the government, this fear and paranoia is another essence of abjection. The fear that paralyses you to the point where you don’t run you can’t.

The use of abjection to produce meaning in violence that is committed against the ‘other’ can be different from the various viewpoints that people hold. Hitler’s use of the abject and their being likened to a cancerous disease allowed them to be separated and created a collective meaning within the German identity. It reactivated the power of the German government. It reduced the pain and suffering of Europe’s Jews and Gypsies to a silent voice of the powerless. For those that bore witness to the atrocity and found it abject it holds different meaning. The Holocaust is an event in history that will forever plague the world; it was mass murder on a scale never envisioned previously. The meaning derived from this mass atrocity today is very different to its purpose.

It is abject to the very human soul that a society could allow men, women and children to be dehumanized and murdered through a bureaucratic process that belied their human value. As Kristeva states “the abjection of Nazi crime reaches its apex when death which, in any case kills me, interferes with what, in my living universe, is supposed to save me from death: childhood, science, among other things” (1982: 31). This is what made the Holocaust so difficult a pill to swallow. These people were held in various work camps, concentration camps and marked for death, for no crime other than having the wrong identity. For the Jewish people that have been impacted personally or by a family member, their response is to commemorate it so that the world never forgets what it did. Various films have depicted the abject nature of this atrocity, perhaps to create a new meaning, ‘absolute power absolutely corrupts’ and we should not stand by and allow mass atrocities to occur as we are as guilty as the perpetrators. The one message that should be taken from their harrowing experiences is that no human should ever go through that and that there is now meaning in the world that can excuse it.

by Natalia Maystorovich Chulio, written 2009. 


  1. Appadurai, Arjun (1998) ‘Dead Certainty: Ethnic Violence in the Era of Globalization’ in Develop and Change, 29: 905-925.
  2. Agamben, Giorgio (1995) The Camp as the ‘Nomos’ of the Modern in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power & Bare Life, Stanford University Press (Chapter 7) pp166-180.
  3. Bauman, Zygmunt (1989) ‘Social Production of moral indifference’ in Modernity and the Holocaust, Cornell University Press, New York, pp18-23.
  4. Bauman, Zygmunt (1989) ‘The role of Bureaucracy in the Holocaust’ in Modernity and the Holocaust, Cornell University Press, New York, pp104-106.
  5. Du Preez, Peter (1994) Genocide: The Psychology of Mass Murder, Bowerdean Publishing Co. Ltd, London.
  6. Engel, David (2000) The Holocaust: The Third Reich and the Jews, Longman Press, Essex, UK.
  7. Horowitz, Irving (1976) Genocide: State Power and Mass Murder, Transaction Books, New Jersey
  8. Kristeva, Julia (1982) ‘Approaching Abjection’ Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, new York Columbia University Press, pp1-31.
  9. Nagengast, Carol (1994) ‘Violence, Terror and the Crisis of the State’. Annual Review of Anthropology 23:109-36.
  10. Scarry, Elaine (1985) ‘The Structure of Torture’, in The Body in Pain, pp27-59. 

Author biography:  Natalia Maystorovich Chulio recently was awarded her PhD and works in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. Her research interests include humanitarian and human rights law; transitional justice; the archaeological recovery of mass graves; and the capacity of social movements to elicit social, political and legal change as they seek justice for victims.  Her focus is on socio-legal research and qualitative methods in an attempt to merge her political and social interests with a scholarship which may enact social change. Since 2012 she has worked with the Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica (ARMH – Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory) in an attempt to draw attention to the difficulties experienced by victims and their relatives in the recuperation of their missing.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Teaching@Sydney post: Integrating Text and Data Mining into a History Course

I co-wrote a short piece on using computational methods in a history course.  If you're interested in teaching text and data mining, digital humanities, and digital methods - you might be interested in this.