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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Will there be an airport as well?


Planning blueprint would produce 90,000 homes – quickly

Matthew Moore

April 30, 2012

Brad HazzardNSW minister for planning, Brad Hazzard in his Sydney office. 22 March 2012.. AFR Portrait by Andrew Quilty.Supports a blueprint to accelerate $900 million worth of housing development … Planning Minister Brad Hazzard. Photo: Andrew Quilty

VAST tracts of housing estates could be built in Sydney outside areas now planned for population growth after the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, supported a blueprint to accelerate housing development.

Sydney’s historically low home-building rates have led to a chronic undersupply of housing in the city and contributed to some of the highest property prices and rents in the world.

Analysis by the Urban Development Institute of Australia has sought to identify land where 90,000 homes could be built quickly, mainly in areas not now designated for housing.

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Much of the land identified in the report, Building Blocks, written by the development group Cardno, an institute member, lies entirely outside the north-west and south-west growth centres earmarked by the previous Labor government for new housing. The new housing sites include a tract to the west of Campbelltown.

Some sites are inside these two growth centres but in areas that will not be developed for many years.

Mr Hazzard said the report was worth “10 out of 10” for stimulating debate. He agreed with the institute’s argument that there had been a failure in meeting Sydney’s housing requirements and a new strategy was needed. “There’s no doubt putting lines on maps and calling them growth centres … has to some degree been a flop,” he said.

“It failed to take into account local issues like lack of infrastructure, fragmented ownership of land and some lots having an almost nil likelihood of being converted from agricultural to residential land and a general failure to really recognise the local needs of developers.” The institute has briefed Mr Hazzard and several other ministers including the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, on its research to persuade them to partly fund $900 million of infrastructure in three areas where the 90,000 extra dwellings could built over five years.

While sympathetic to the need to develop outside growth centres, Mr Hazzard said funding the infrastructure would be “an almighty challenge in the state’s economic circumstances”.

To find land attractive to developers, Cardno conducted an audit of holdings bigger than 10 hectares, within a kilometre of main roads or rail lines, within a kilometre of major power lines

and trunk water infrastructure and within five kilometres of an “existing urban fringe”.

It then costed the required infrastructure and the likely number of housing sites that could be delivered.

It found land in and around the north-west growth centre could provide 31,000 lots if $335 million was spent on infrastructure; 33,000 lots could come from the south-west at a cost of $480 million, while the area around Appin and Wilton could provide 13,000 lots immediately if $85 million was spent.

The institute’s chief executive, Stephen Albin, said that while there was “long-term merit” in planning growth centres, a policy was needed to kick-start the development industry, with new-home rates now at a 50-year low.

“You can’t just plan and pray. You have to be commercial and work out what are the real drivers of the economy … and resolve the commercial issues,” he said.

The research, to be released tomorrow, shows some of the land identified for development is owned by institute members but Mr Albin said the project was an attempt to revive development, not serve his members’ interests.

Mr Hazzard said: “It could be viewed as a cynical developer exercise … but I’d like to think the community is a bit more mature and could see mutual interest of a community who would like to buy homes at a reasonable price and developers who can deliver them at a reasonable price.”–quickly-20120429-1xt3x.html

Wow. We now have an economy of debt-burdened, loss making people in the suburbs. Miserable with no dispposable income and making no profit or making negigible capital gains…
Leith Van Onselen

April 30, 2012 – 3:25PM

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New housing developmentThe risk of widespread selling of investment properties is likely to intensify. Photo: Paul Rovere

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has released its Taxation Statistics for the 2009-10 financial year, which once again revealed that Australia is a nation of loss-making landlords.

According to the ATO, there were 1,751,679 property investors declared to the ATO in 2009-10 – representing one in seven taxpayers – an increase of 59,235 from the 2008-09 financial year.

Total losses on investment properties were $4.810 billion in 2009-10, or $2746 per property investor, down from $6.528 billion ($3857 per investor) in 2008-09.

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Of the 1,751,679 property investors recorded by the ATO in 2009-10, 63% or 1,110,922 were “negatively geared”, meaning that holding costs (eg, interest payments, maintenance, and other costs) outweighed income from rents.

Of these negatively geared investors, nearly three-quarters earned less than $80,000 in 2009-10, and the average loss was $9132 per negatively geared investor, or $176 per week.

Not only are investment property holdings In Australia concentrated in lower-to-middle income groups, but also older age cohorts.

According to the 2009-10 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Household Wealth and Wealth Distribution, nearly three-quarters of Australia’s investment properties by value were held by individuals aged 45 and over, with Australia’s Baby Boomer generation (45 to 64 years-old in 2009-10) holding just over 55 per cent of these homes.

Risk of widespread selling rising

The concentration of negatively geared properties in lower income and older age cohorts has potentially important ramifications for the Australian housing market.

First, negative gearing is only attractive as a tax minimisation strategy when there is labour income to offset rental losses against. However, once an investor enters retirement and ceases working, they lose the ability to offset losses for taxation purposes, and negatively geared property investment loses its attractiveness.

Second, once somebody enters retirement, they tend to become more risk-averse and more concerned with achieving a stable flow of income rather than potential capital growth.  Retirees with inadequate income are also more likely to become net sellers of property (as well as financial assets) in order to generate the funds necessary to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

With the oldest Baby Boomers having turned 65 in 2011, the large migration into retirement in Australia has already officially begun, and will only gain strength throughout the decade as more and more Baby Boomers exit the workforce.

Logically, therefore, the incentive to unwind property holdings would be greatest amongst the lower-to-middle income earners and the older age cohorts that hold the bulk of Australia’s negatively geared investment properties.

In addition, the risk of widespread selling of investment properties is likely to intensify once Australia’s 1.1 million negatively geared investors come to the realisation that there is little prospect of a resumption of past strong rates of capital growth and they are stuck with a loss-making investment.

With the release of these figures by the ATO, the big question remains: with Australian housing values down over 5 per cent since 2009-10, and with the outlook for capital growth subdued, will Australia’s 825,000 middle to lower income earners continue pay their property a dividend in the hope that it repays them with capital growth?

Leith Van Onselen is an economist who has previously held positions at the Australian and Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs. This is an extract from a report on negative gearing available free at MacroBusiness.

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April 30, 2012
Ben Cubby

Food, health, local crime and safety are the most dominant national concerns.Food, health, local crime and safety are the most dominant national concerns. Photo: Warren Hackshall

CONCERN for the environment has dwindled into a ”middling” issue that many people do not have strong feelings about, a major study into Australian attitudes towards society, politics and the economy has found.

Food, health, local crime, safety and rights to basic public services – the tangible things that people confront on a daily basis – are dominant national concerns. ”Australians are effectively indifferent to global and societal issues, rating these significantly lower,” according to the report What Matters to Australians, produced by the Melbourne Business School and the University of Technology in Sydney, with the support of the Australian Research Council.

”What we see in these results is a picture of a relatively conservative society concerned with local issues that influence its members’ daily lives.” People’s concerns about industrial pollution, climate change, renewable energy and depletion of energy resources plummeted when compared to an identical study carried out in 2007, with only logging and habitat destruction remaining among the top 25 issues of concern.

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In 2007, environmental sustainability was the only set of global issues that was ranked as highly important. When the same questions were repeated in 2011, no global issues appeared among the nation’s top concerns.

”Overall, this reveals a startling decline in the Australian population’s concerns about environmental sustainability,” the researchers wrote. ”It is possible that 2007 was nothing more than an aberration when the debate about environmental sustainability became a matter of ordinary, everyday concern. ”What we now see in Australia and across Western countries is likely closer to a long-term trend in the value of environmental matters to the general population.”

The study is based on a sample of 1500 adults who completed detailed questionnaires. The subjects were forced to select a series of different issues that they felt strongly about and gradually exclude the least compelling ones, until only the most important remained. Parallel studies were conducted in the US, Britain and Germany, with Australians exhibiting a similar range of concerns to Americans and Britons.

Professor Devinney said the lower priority accorded to environmental concerns may indicate that 2007 was an ”outlier” year in terms of large attention being placed on environment issues, with 2011 seeing a return to the norm.

The findings also show that Australians are relatively disengaged with party politics.

”More than two fifths of people in the study were either aligned with an independent political position or did not feel their political values aligned with any of the political representation options available to them through organised party politics,” the report said.

The report will be launched in Melbourne on Thursday.

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April 28, 2012

<em>Illustration: Karl Hilzinger</em>Just rewards … in the post-GFC world, investors expect a financial filip. Illustration: Karl Hilzinger

The post-global financial crisis era has been the age of the dividend. As investors have realised that those capital gains they enjoyed so much in the boom were no longer a sure thing – and capital losses a distinct possibility – attention has turned back to dividends.

And why not? Unlike capital growth, dividends are money in your pocket. They provide a degree of certainty in an uncertain investment climate and companies with a track record of improving their dividends tend to do better in recoveries than those with more question marks hanging over them.

As conditions in Europe look increasingly uncertain, the focus on dividends will intensify.

Not even a solid dividend will protect investors from potential market falls but it will reduce the impact.

A recent report by the head of equities research at Morningstar, Peter Warnes, has questioned whether many leading Australian companies are playing fair with their shareholders in terms of dividends.

Warnes says shareholders are often at the bottom of the food chain when companies decide what to do with their free cash flow and deserve better treatment.

Ironically, in this age where dividends are king, this could also be working against both companies and their shareholders by limiting potential share-price growth.

The main companies in Warnes’s firing line are resource stocks, which have always tended to think they have better things to do with their cash than pay high dividends and traded on lower yields than the average industrial stock.

Their argument is that their return on equity is much higher than a shareholder could get on a sustained basis somewhere else, so it makes sense to keep the money and reinvest in the company’s future. Maybe so.

But as Warnes points out, this attitude has persisted through one of the greatest commodities booms in decades, when companies have been generating so much cash that they could afford to increase their dividends while still having plenty to invest for future growth.

There’s not a lot companies can do with their excess free cash flow.

Warnes says it comes down to three ”buckets”. They can reinvest in the business; they can reduce their gearing; or they can give money back to the people who ultimately own the company. That’s the shareholders, not management, though sometimes you’d wonder.

Overall, Australian companies have record levels of cash and low gearing levels, so debt is not an issue for many. Yet shareholders have not been harvesting the results of the boom. Warnes points to Iluka Resources, which recently enhanced its dividend policy and committed to paying out at least 40 per cent of free cash flow, provided the outlook is reasonably predictable. The share price, Warnes says, has outperformed other mining stocks since.

Is this a coincidence? He thinks not. He also cites the example of the US gold miner, Newmont Mining Corporation, which has a policy of paying an ”enhanced” dividend when the realised gold price is

more than $1700. So at a $1700 gold price, the normal 40¢ quarterly dividend becomes 42.5¢ and as the gold price rises further, the dividend increases significantly. If the gold price is $2000, the old 55¢ dividend is enhanced to 67.5¢. Warnes says it has also outperformed other stocks.

Eldorado Gold also introduced a gold-price linked dividend policy in October and seen its share price benefit.

BHP has recently come under fire from its institutional shareholder, BlackRock, which has challenged the group’s distribution of free cash flow to expansion rather than dividends. BHP has a progressive dividend policy, where dividends increase by a small amount each year rather than rising and falling with market conditions.

That’s arguably a good thing, as it gives certainty to shareholders and to management, which can continue to invest through the full market cycle. But Warnes says that may not be a good thing.

”It could pay to be a bit more circumspect on how it’s spending its money and the bang it gets for its buck, especially when capital costs have gone through the roof to get projects up and running,” he says.

”Olympic Dam is a classic example. When BHP acquired WMC six years ago, the capital costs for that project were $6 billion. They’re now $20 billion-plus. When you push the button, you want to be very sure you’ll get the return on investment you’re looking for.”

Warnes reckons that if BHP embraced the Iluka policy of paying out 40 per cent of its free cash flow in dividends, it would have still had $17 billion of free cash flow to invest in 2011. But it would have paid out about double the amount in dividends, lifting its fully franked yield from about 2.8 per cent to 5.6 per cent.

If that happened, Warnes asks, would its share price still be languishing at about $35?

In an age of super mining profits, shouldn’t shareholders be entitled to a super dividend?

But it is not just the miners that Warnes says need to clean up their dividend act. He says timing of dividend payments is also an issue.

Why, for example, does Harvey Norman pay its December dividend in May? And Woolworths at the end of April?

As Warnes points out, in an uncertain world, many things are beyond the control of company management. But dividend payments are not.

In the post-GFC era, he says people are not going to invest in assets that don’t pay a reasonable and efficient rate of return on their investment. Companies need to catch up with that.

* The author owns shares in BHP and Woolworths.

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If this is true, I wonder if action will be taken against the auditors who signed off on this? (In addition to action against the officials.)_________________________________________________________________

Revealed: Where the HSU millions have gone

  • by: By Malcolm Farr, National Political Editor
  • From:
  • April 30, 2012 6:26PM


  • Investigation into HSU uncovers big spending allegations
  • Cash spent without basic checks on value-for-money
  • Interim report stresses contents are allegations only

Related Coverage

AN INVESTIGATION into the notorious East Branch of the Health Services Union has uncovered allegations of big spending on a supplier linked to an official of the union.

It also has found major contracts were let through without the union even seeking quotes from competing suppliers.

Staggering amounts of cash were spent without basic checks on value-for-money with other sources.

In one case an IT company was paid $15,000 a month to look after the union’s computers which had an HSU official on its board while another company was actually doing the work, according to an interim report into the HSU’s finances by Ian Temby QC.

The interim report, commissioned by the union, stresses that its contents are allegations only.

However, the allegations relate to large contracts let to companies without the usual precautions. It criticises the union for a lack of formalised controls on outlays, and notes most of the bills were paid by credit card.
“It s not union practice to call tenders or otherwise market test the amounts charged by suppliers of goods and services to the union,” the interim report states.

“The amounts involved are large.”

The contracts included $750,000 a year to Compugraphics Pty Ltd for printing, including $2.6 million between March 2007 and September 2011 for the union magazine.

The interim report comes the day after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced MP Craig Thomson, union secretary from 2003 to 2007, would quit the ALP and sit as an independent.

The Temby report does not lay blame with individuals, saying that “we have not sought to allocate responsibility for the present unsatisfactory situation”.

But it makes clear the practices have to be fixed.

This is unlikely to happen before court action by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten to wind up East Branch, which covers the HSU in NSW and Victoria, and appoint an administrator.

The Temby interim report also noted that from October 2007 to September 2011 a company called Access Focus was paid $5 million. It suggests there was no round of tendering for that contract.

The HSU East Branch tonight said it welcomed the interim report into governance issues and said it had highlighted “a number of issues around the procurement procedures, budgeting and accounting resources”.

“The Union Council will review Mr Temby’s report, report back to the members on its findings and conclusions.”Read more:

What a great achievement, if it could be done.  But will the Government rush into disaster by pushing an already over-stretched public service to rollout a huge, complex scheme in record time? Will it be a repeat of the roof-insulation and school capital works program fiascos?


Thousands to benefit as $8bn National Disability Insurance Scheme rolled out

  • by: By Malcolm Farr, National Political Editor
  • From:
  • April 30, 2012 5:08PM


  • National Disability Insurance Scheme rolled out early
  • More than 10,000 people set to benefit from mid-2013
  • People with permanent disability will receive lifetime care


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THE National Disability Insurance Scheme will start a year ahead of schedule with 10,000 people set to benefit from mid-2013, it was revealed today.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the early start to be followed by a further 10,000 to be covered in 2014.

“The timeframe announced today means the first stage of an NDIS will be delivered a full year ahead of the timetable set out by the Productivity Commission,” the Prime Minister said.

“For the first time in Australia’s history people with significant and permanent disability will receive lifetime care and support, regardless of how they acquired their disability.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has previously backed the scheme and today supported progress on its introduction while repeating an offer of Opposition help in its implementation.

However, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey questioned the financing of the insurance policy, weakening the bipartisan sentiment of his leader.

“Look, the NDIS is a very worthy scheme but it sounds to me like the dying days of a government when they make big heroic announcements about massive programs and they won’t tell you how they’re going to pay for it,” Mr Hockey said.

“This is the problem, this is the legacy of Gough Whitlam, it looks like it’s going to be a legacy of Julia Gillard.

“Australians have to pay for it. It’s the fundamental point and I expect if the Government is going to claim that it is proceeding with the National Disability Insurance Scheme it will tell Australians how it’s going to pay for it.”

The scheme will cost some $8 billion a year to fully implement, with a payment of $67,000 a year for an individual.

Mr Hockey said that amounted to an extra $1000 a year in tax for taxpayers.

The Prime Minister added the scheme would be put together with the help of the states but wouldn’t further elaborate on funding.

“Well, you’ll see the provision we’re making for the launch sites in the Budget next week,” Ms Gillard told reporters.

“On working with the states and territories, at the last Council of Australian Governments meeting we actually took some positive steps on working together.

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 Catherine Armitage April 28, 2012

THE phenomenal success of a ”crazy idea” by a Stanford University professor, Sebastian Thrun, to open free online enrolments in his artificial intelligence course has pundits sounding the death knell for higher education as we know it.

In March last year, Thrun was at the TED annual ideas conference in California showing off the driverless car developed by Google’s secret projects division, Google X, of which he is the founder and head. There he heard Salman Khan talk about the Khan Academy, a ”global one-world classroom” of more than 3000 tutorial videos on YouTube with 144 million hits and counting. Thrun was electrified.

In July, he and fellow Stanford professor Peter Norvig invited all comers to enrol in their artificial intelligence course at the Californian university, which they would teach rather than just offer passive online study. They had 160,000 enrolments, nearly three times greater than total enrolments at Monash University, Australia’s largest.

Takers came from 195 countries. One was Michael Bewley, 27, a Sydney electrical engineer. He was preparing to start a PhD in robotics and machine learning at Sydney University.

The course, CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, which ran for 12 weeks last year, came at the right time. The fact it was being run by two of the biggest names in the field was a ”big drawcard”.

Each week Bewley watched one or two hours of lectures and did about six hours of further work. Lectures were segmented with pauses for students to attempt questions. Bewley says student support was taken very seriously.

 ”They took emails from everyone and then answered the hot topics,” he says. Among the Stanford initiative’s many predecessors, MIT’s decade-old OpenCourseWare, which provides full course materials online for people to work through, is probably best known.

Thrun differentiated Stanford’s free offering with enrolments, scheduled assignments and exams and a ”statement of accomplishment” on students’ completion.

A disclaimer states the class does not count towards any Stanford credit, grade or qualification. Thrun has resigned from teaching at Stanford (where he is still a part-time research professor). Smitten with the online ability to reach tens of thousands of students as opposed to just hundreds at university, he hopes never to teach a lecture-style class again. His new venture is Udacity, a 20-person free online education start-up funded by venture capital. More than 130,000 people signed up for the first two courses in January – building a robotic car and a web-search engine.

 He believes that in 50 years, there will be a small number of institutions – maybe only 10 – offering ”amazing educational products that will educate many millions of students”. He says ”as technology allows for scale, the number of providers will shrink”, noting this has happened in ”pretty much every industry”.

For PhD candidate Bewley, the Stanford online artificial intelligence course was ”fantastic background … I definitely plan to do more of them, both while I’m doing a PhD, and working full-time later on.”

Professor Derrick Armstrong, the deputy vice-chancellor (education) at the University of Sydney, says the Stanford-Udacity story is a ”fascinating development … which we at Sydney are watching closely”. ”However it is not the model which we are pursuing for the majority of our students because we understand the importance of face-to-face teaching,” he says.

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by Dom McInerney 30 Apr 05:50am

 The Australian Vaccination Network stuck its head over the parapet again this week, and almost immediately copped one between the eyes.

American Airlines pulled the group’s anti-vaccination ad from its flights before it even aired. It’s the latest in a series of setbacks for the controversial organisation, which is increasingly struggling for air in the Australian media.

The media has been exemplary on this topic, refusing to indulge a group that is full of rhetoric but light on evidence. Most famously, Tracey Spicer demolished the AVN’s president, Meryl Dorey, on 2UE. The well-researched Spicer gave Dorey short shrift, eventually hanging up on her.

But the media treatment of this topic raises a serious question about another group: why do climate change deniers continue to hold such sway in the public realm, and why are they treated differently to groups like the AVN?

Compare the two groups side by side: Both climate change deniers and the AVN have ignored the overwhelming scientific consensus of their respective topics. Both groups ignore volumes and volumes of rigorous peer-reviewed research, and misrepresent isolated facts to make their cases. Cherry-picked data is presented, devoid of context, as unassailable truth.

Yet the fortunes of the two movements couldn’t be more different. The AVN is hanging on grimly, despite being rightly tested – or ignored – by the Australian media.

Meanwhile, the stocks of climate change denialists have never been higher. They appear to have a charmed run in large swathes of the Australian media, which often seems happy to run their questionable positions unchallenged. The pursuit of ‘balance’ in reporting has long been held up as justification for coverage of climate change sceptics. But if this is the case, the standard is being applied inconsistently, as coverage of the anti-vaccination movement demonstrates.

Internationally, some media outlets have learnt their lesson. A July 2011 BBC Trust review of impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of science found the broadcaster’s coverage of both the safety of the MMR vaccine and the existence of man-made climate change were examples of “over-rigid” application of the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. The review said the BBC often failed to take into account the “non-contentious” nature of some science stories. It also highlighted the need to avoid giving “undue attention to marginal opinion”. The BBC editorial guidelines were changed accordingly. O

f course reporting on public opinion or policy matters is not the same as reporting on science – the climate change policies of both the Government and the Opposition are fair game for analysis, critique and dissenting opinion.

But in terms of the scientific cases that the AVN and climate change deniers are trying to make, there is no compelling point of difference between the two groups that justifies the varying coverage they receive in the Australian media. The inconsistency should prompt some uncomfortable reflection among Australian media outlets.

Robert Cialdini (‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’) identifies six ‘weapons of persuasion.’ 

Humans have been testing their own trial-and-error persuasion techniques forever. (Ryan Snook, For the Los Angeles Times / April 27, 2012)
By Chris Woolston, Special to the Los Angeles Times

April 28, 2012 

Mitt Romney on the stump, singles at the bar, car salesmen on the lot: All sorts of people are practicing the art of persuasion, with varying degrees of success.

We like to think that we make our own decisions, that we’re in control. But we’re all open to persuasion by others, says Robert Cialdini, professor emeritus of psychology at Arizona State University and author of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.”

Humans have been testing their own trial-and-error persuasion techniques forever, Cialdini says. Now, for better or worse, the professionals are moving in. Or, as he puts it, “the art of persuasion has turned into a science.”

Through experiments and real-world observations, researchers have unlocked some of the mysteries of persuasion: what works, what doesn’t work and why so many of us end up with candidates, dates and cars that we never really wanted.

People who learn these secrets can keep themselves from getting duped, Cialdini says. With practice, they can even reach the ultimate goal: getting others to do their bidding.

Strategic persuasion can pay huge dividends, adds Steve Martin (not the guy you’re thinking of, but Cialdini’s colleague and the British director of the consulting company Cialdini founded, For example, the British government recently asked him for advice to encourage delinquent taxpayers to pay up. Martin suggested a simple tactic: Instead of threatening people with fines, the government should send out a letter saying that the great majority of Brits pay their taxes on time.

That kind of peer pressure works. “So far, they’ve collected about $1 billion more than they would have otherwise,” Martin says.

Cialdini’s own research has identified six “weapons of persuasion” that can bring people to your side. Read and learn:

A rare find: Job seekers should do more than make the case that they’re right for a job; according to Cialdini, they should present themselves as a unique fit. As he explains, nobody wants to miss out on a scarce opportunity. The allure of scarcity explains why people line up at Best Buy at 4:30 a.m. on Black Friday and why inside info is valued more than common knowledge.

Count on payback: “Reciprocity is a part of every society,” Cialdini says. A classic experiment from the 1970s found that people bought twice as many raffle tickets from a stranger if he first gave them a can of Coke — proof that even tiny favors can work to your advantage. Likewise, your buddy is more likely to help you move that couch if you’ve ever given him a ride to the airport.

Be likable: A tough assignment for some, that’s for sure. But Cialdini’s research has found that a little easygoing pleasantness can be just as persuasive as talent or actual ability. Perhaps unfairly, looks count too: A study of Canadian elections, for example, found that attractive candidates received more votes than their less-blessed opponents,, even though voters claimed they didn’t care about appearances.

Society’s seal of approval: Your friend is more likely to try something — recycle, eat at the new tapas place, watch “Glee” — if you mention that lots of other people are doing it. That’s why his letter to Brit taxpayers was a billion-dollar success, Martin says. People may not want to follow the herd, Cialdini adds, but they do assume that other people make choices for a reason.

Play the consistency card: People will go to great lengths to avoid seeming flaky or wishy-washy. As Cialdini explains in his book, car salesmen exploit this trait by making fantastic “lowball” offers to potential customers. Once a customer decides to buy a car, he’s unlikely to want to flake out on the deal even if the price mysteriously balloons — Oops! There was a mistake! — before he gets the keys. Or, for a less slimy example, you’re more likely to get that raise or a promotion if you remind your boss that she has a long history of treating her employees well. (Surely she wouldn’t want to change her tune now.)

Speak from authority: Your suggestions will go a lot further if people think you’re pulling them from somewhere other than thin air. Martin has an example: In a recent study, a real estate company significantly increased home sales when the receptionist took a moment to inform potential customers of each agent’s credentials and experience. “The statements were true,” Martin says, “they didn’t cost anything — and they worked.”,0,1249614.story

ADELAIDE’S most powerful union wants bus drivers to offer passengers a “late slip” they can give to their bosses if their bus is 15 minutes late.

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association secretary Peter Malinauskas said the union had intervened on behalf of a “disproportionate” number of members in the past six weeks who were formally warned by their boss for being late to work because of late bus services.

Mr Malinauskas met with Transport Services Minister Chloe Fox yesterday and raised his plan for drivers to issue “late slips”. He envisaged drivers would be given a stack of pre-printed slips to issue to passengers who asked for one.

“If an employee does not get to work on time because a bus is five minutes late, then the worker should catch an earlier bus, so we’re being sensible about this and we’re not blaming the buses across the board,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“But we think where a bus is running late by more than 15 minutes it is useful for both employee and employer if the worker can demonstrate the legitimacy of their circumstance.”

Last month Ms Fox revealed she would fine three Adelaide bus companies a total of more than $38,400 for contract breaches – mostly missed or “excessively” late services.

She added that bus companies should be “in no doubt” they faced possibly greater fines in the future if they did not improve their performance.

Adelaide’s three bus contractors – Southlink, Torrens Transit and Transfield – have until close of business today to respond to performance data collected by the Government and justify their performance before another round of fines is considered.

“They have various reasons, which I’m looking forward to  reading, about why their service is not running properly,” Ms Fox said.

She is expected to make an announcement on fines for bus companies next week.

Ms Fox said she would consider Mr Malinauskas’ idea.

“However, we are currently looking at timetable changes for July and have already asked the bus contractors to find solutions to their worst-performing routes,” she said.

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