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What ‘psychological warfare’ tactics do scammers use, and how can you protect yourself?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mike-johnstone-106590">Mike Johnstone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/georgia-psaroulis-1513050">Georgia Psaroulis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p>Not a day goes by without a headline <a href="https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjvaym/people-share-worst-scam-stories">about a victim being scammed</a> and losing money. We are constantly warned about new scams and staying safe from cybercriminals. Scamwatch has <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/research-and-resources/tools-resources/online-resources/spot-the-scam-signs">no shortage of resources</a>, too.</p> <p>So why are people still getting scammed, and sometimes spectacularly so?</p> <p>Scammers use sophisticated psychological techniques. They exploit our deepest human vulnerabilities and bypass rational thought to tap into our emotional responses.</p> <p>This “<a href="https://www.thecut.com/article/amazon-scam-call-ftc-arrest-warrants.html">psychological warfare</a>” coerces victims into making impulsive decisions. Sometimes scammers spread their methods around many potential victims to see who is vulnerable. Other times, criminals focus on a specific person.</p> <p>Let’s unpack some of these psychological techniques, and how you can defend against them.</p> <h2>1. Random phone calls</h2> <p>Scammers start with small requests to establish a sense of commitment. After agreeing to these minor requests, we are more likely to comply with larger demands, driven by a desire to act consistently.</p> <p>The call won’t come from a number in your contacts or one you recognise, but the scammer may pretend to be someone you’ve engaged to work on your house, or perhaps one of your children using a friend’s phone to call you.</p> <p>If it is a scammer, maybe keeping you on the phone for a long time gives them an opportunity to find out things about you or people you know. They can use this info either immediately or at a later date.</p> <h2>2. Creating a sense of urgency</h2> <p>Scammers fabricate scenarios that require immediate action, like claiming a bank account is at risk of closure or an offer is about to expire. This tactic aims to prevent victims from assessing the situation logically or seeking advice, pressuring them into rushed decisions.</p> <p>The scammer creates an artificial situation in which you are frightened into doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Scam calls <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-have-filed-a-case-under-your-name-beware-of-tax-scams-theyll-be-everywhere-this-eofy-162171">alleging to be from the Australian Tax Office</a> (ATO) are a great example. You have a debt to pay (apparently) and things will go badly if you don’t pay <em>right now</em>.</p> <p>Scammers play on your emotions to provoke reactions that cloud judgement. They may threaten legal trouble to instil fear, promise high investment returns to exploit greed, or share fabricated distressing stories to elicit sympathy and financial assistance.</p> <h2>3. Building rapport with casual talk</h2> <p>Through extended conversation, scammers build a psychological commitment to their scheme. No one gets very far by just demanding your password, but it’s natural to be friendly with people who are friendly towards us.</p> <p>After staying on the line for long periods of time, the victim also becomes cognitively fatigued. This not only makes the victim more open to suggestions, but also isolates them from friends or family who might recognise and counteract the scam.</p> <h2>4. Help me to help you</h2> <p>In this case, the scammer creates a situation where they help you to solve a real or imaginary problem (that they actually created). They work their “IT magic” and the problem goes away.</p> <p>Later, they ask you for something you wouldn’t normally do, and you do it because of the “social debt”: they helped you first.</p> <p>For example, a hacker might attack a corporate network, causing it to slow down. Then they call you, pretending to be from your organisation, perhaps as a recent hire not yet on the company’s contact list. They “help” you by turning off the attack, leaving you suitably grateful.</p> <p>Perhaps a week later, they call again and ask for sensitive information, such as the CEO’s password. You <em>know</em> company policy is to not divulge it, but the scammer will ask if you remember them (of course you do) and come up with an excuse for why they really need this password.</p> <p>The balance of the social debt says you will help them.</p> <h2>5. Appealing to authority</h2> <p>By posing as line managers, officials from government agencies, banks, or other authoritative bodies, scammers exploit our natural tendency to obey authority.</p> <p>Such scams operate at varying levels of sophistication. The simple version: your manager messages you with an <em>urgent</em> request to purchase some gift cards and send through their numbers.</p> <p>The complex version: your manager calls and asks to urgently transfer a large sum of money to an account you don’t recognise. You do this because <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/fraudsters-use-ai-to-mimic-ceos-voice-in-unusual-cybercrime-case-11567157402">it sounds exactly</a> like your manager on the phone – but the scammer <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2021/10/14/huge-bank-fraud-uses-deep-fake-voice-tech-to-steal-millions/?sh=1329b80e7559">is using a voice deepfake</a>. In a recent major case in Hong Kong, such a scam even involved a <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/04/asia/deepfake-cfo-scam-hong-kong-intl-hnk/index.html">deepfake video call</a>.</p> <p>This is deeply challenging because artificial intelligence tools, such as Microsoft’s VALL-E, can create <a href="https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2023/01/microsofts-new-ai-can-simulate-anyones-voice-with-3-seconds-of-audio/">a voice deepfake</a> using just three seconds of sampled audio from a real person.</p> <h2>How can you defend against a scam?</h2> <p>First and foremost, <strong>verify identity</strong>. Find another way to contact the person to verify who they are. For example, you can call a generic number for the business and ask to be connected.</p> <p>In the face of rampant voice deepfakes, it can be helpful to <strong>agree on a “safe word” with your family members</strong>. If they call from an unrecognised number and you don’t hear the safe word just hang up.</p> <p>Watch out for <strong>pressure tactics</strong>. If the conversation is moving too fast, remember that someone else’s problem is not yours to solve. Stop and run the problem past a colleague or family member for a sanity check. A legitimate business will have no problem with you doing this.</p> <p>Lastly, if you are not sure about even the slightest detail, the simplest thing is to hang up or not respond. If you really owe a tax debt, the ATO will write to you.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223959/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mike-johnstone-106590"><em>Mike Johnstone</em></a><em>, Security Researcher, Associate Professor in Resilient Systems, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/georgia-psaroulis-1513050">Georgia Psaroulis</a>, Postdoctoral research fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-psychological-warfare-tactics-do-scammers-use-and-how-can-you-protect-yourself-223959">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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New Woolies CEO's huge salary revealed

<p dir="ltr">Woolworths have announced their new CEO, just hours after Brad Banducci shared the news of his <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/retirement-life/woolies-ceo-quits-after-disaster-interview" target="_blank" rel="noopener">retirement</a>. </p> <p dir="ltr">After almost nine years at the helm, Banducci is stepping down after a <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/finance/money-banking/i-think-i-m-done-the-question-that-made-woolies-ceo-leave-interview" target="_blank" rel="noopener">trainwreck interview</a> with ABC’s <em>Four Corners</em>, and while still facing backlash over the decision to not stock Australia Day merchandise. </p> <p dir="ltr">Now, his replacement has been announced, with Amanda Bardwell set to step into the role in September. </p> <p dir="ltr">Ms Bardwell was appointed to the role following an “extensive international search process”, which Woolworths Group Chair, Scott Perkins said was supported by external consultants.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Amanda as the incoming and 13th Managing Director and Group CEO of Woolworths Group, as the Group starts its next century of creating better experiences together for a better tomorrow,” Mr Perkins said in a statement.</p> <p dir="ltr">When Ms Bardwell steps into the role, she is set to receive a generous pay packet of $2.15 million, as well as additional generous bonus incentives.</p> <p dir="ltr">While this number seems extravagant, it pales in comparison with the $7.65 million Banducci took home last year. </p> <p dir="ltr">Mr Banducci’s pay was even higher in 2022, with a take home pay of $8.37 million, but money was knocked off from his short term bonuses, after the discovery that there was nearly $600 million in underpayments across Woolworths’ payroll going back years.</p> <p dir="ltr">The revelation of his extortionate pay packet in the wake of his resignation has angered many, with social media users airing their grievances over his salary, given that many Aussies continue to struggle to keep up with the rising costs of supermarkets as the cost of living crisis continues. </p> <p dir="ltr">Mr Banducci’s retirement was announced in a statement to the ASX on Wednesday morning, with the former boss saying it has been a “privilege” to be a member of the Woolworths team and one he has “never taken for granted”.</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesman for Woolworths said Mr Banducci’s retirement announcement was not connected in any way to the recent <em>Four Corners</em> interview.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Woolworths</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Burial plot up for sale for $100,000

<p>It turns out Australia's housing crisis extends beyond the grave, as it's now equally expensive to die in Sydney as it is to live. </p> <p>A graveyard in Sydney has wait lines longer than that of an Eastern Suburbs rental property, with plots at the exclusive Waverley Cemetery now up for sale for up to $100,000. </p> <p>Eyebrows were raised online when the plot at the cemetery was advertised for sale on Facebook Marketplace, with the ad reading that the plot is “used – like new” and is available “in perpetuity”.</p> <p>To sweeten the deal, the burial site’s owner states it has “ocean views” and is in a “quiet neighbourhood,” which is no doubt what one must take into consideration your forever home. </p> <p>Other plots in the same cemetery are also up for sale for a lesser $50,000 and $70,000. </p> <p>Talking to <em><a title="9now.nine.com.au" href="https://9now.nine.com.au/a-current-affair/sydneys-cemetery-crisis-exposed-as-100k-grave-listed-on-facebook-marketplace/fc2311a8-3591-4625-84f2-340de78d9f98" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A Current Affair</a></em>, Ben Kelly from the Australasian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association, said cost of living pressures, or perhaps cost of dying pressures, were a factor even in the graveyard industry, given the rising cost of cemetery maintenance. </p> <p>“Waverley Cemetery is a beautiful, historic cemetery with extremely limited capacity left,” Mr Kelly said.</p> <p>“As the population grows these cemeteries are filling up and they are creating new ones but they are further and further away.</p> <p>“So when the spots do come available they are obviously of a premium.”</p> <p>A place in Waverley Cemetery has long been highly sought after, with the heritage listed site boasting impressive Victorian and Edwardian monuments and memorials, as well as ocean views that are... to die for. </p> <p>While there are definitely some people prepared to fork out the expensive sum for their prime spot in the ground, others weren't so sure. </p> <p>“It sounds disgraceful to be honest,” one passer-by told <em>ACA</em>, when told of the price of a plot at the graveyard.</p> <p>“I think that’s ridiculous”.</p> <p>Competition to get into Waverley Cemetery is so fierce that new plots with perpetual rights are no longer available, with the graveyard instead offering renewable internment rights. </p> <p>This allows for the burial of human rights for a minimum initial term of 25 years which then has to be renewed, and even then, there's an extensive waitlist. </p> <p>The extortionate prices after reflected in a 2020 report by the NSW Government, which found some of Sydney’s largest and most well-known public cemeteries were in there “final years” of being able to accommodate new burials and will likely be full by 2032.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Facebook / A Current Affair</em></p>

Money & Banking

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"I think I'm done": The question that made Woolies CEO leave interview

<p>Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci has cracked under the pressure during a tense interview with ABC's <em>Four Corners</em>. </p> <p>The supermarket boss sat down with reporter Angus Grigg as part of a deep dive into the supermarket industry in Australia amid the ACCC's investigation into allegations of unfair price gouging.</p> <p>The program questioned how supermarkets have been profiting from rising prices amidst the cost of living crisis and spoke with a number of key players, including Banducci and Coles boss Leah Weckert. </p> <p>The supermarkets have long denied the allegations have since become the focus of investigations by both the Senate and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).</p> <p>“Rod Sims, the former head of the ACCC, says that we have one of the most concentrated supermarket [sectors] in the world, is he lying?” Griggs asked Banducci.</p> <p>“It’s not true. [He’s] retired, by the way,” Banducci said.</p> <p>The comment caught Griggs off guard, to which he responded, “I don’t think you would impugn his integrity and his understanding of competition law. He retired 18 months ago.”</p> <p>Banducci then began to appear agitated and asked if his comments could be removed.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This is what happened when Four Corners asked Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci about the lack of competition in the Australian grocery market. </p> <p>Watch the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/4Corners?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#4Corners</a> documentary tonight: <a href="https://t.co/dDRYGLaw2i">https://t.co/dDRYGLaw2i</a> <a href="https://t.co/bsrJD9IETB">pic.twitter.com/bsrJD9IETB</a></p> <p>— ABC News (@abcnews) <a href="https://twitter.com/abcnews/status/1759391473567490367?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 19, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>“Can we take that out? Is that ok? Angus, are we going to leave it in?” he said.</p> <p>“I shouldn’t have said that about Rod, about him being retired. I mean, he is retired, but I shouldn’t have said that. Are we going to leave that in there?”</p> <p>Upon being told that his comments were “on the record” and would not be taken out, Banducci said, “I think I’m done guys.”</p> <p>“I do this with good intent, and I don’t do this with bad intent,” he said as he walked away.</p> <p>“Really, you’re walking out?” Grigg asked.</p> <p>Banducci then disappeared from view, reportedly to talk with his PR team, before returning a few moments later to complete the interview.</p> <p>Speaking to <em>ABC’s News Breakfast </em>on Monday after the episode aired, Griggs called the move “pretty startling”.</p> <p>“I think it shows you that, there you have the boss of the largest supermarket chain in the country really unwilling to face too many questions,” he said. </p> <p>“It shows how little scrutiny they’ve had over the years and I think that’s a really big problem.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: ABC</em></p>

Money & Banking

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War veteran loses $18,000 to Netflix scam

<p>Shane Arnold, 71, was left with nothing after he fell for an elaborate Netflix scam, allegedly run by a teenager. </p> <p>The war veteran was robbed of $18,000 when he thought he was entitled to a refund after receiving a fake Netflix email.</p> <p>After he entered his personal banking details, the accused scammer allegedly used this information to call Arnold the following day claiming to be a security officer from Commonwealth Bank.</p> <p>"(It was) extremely convincing," Arnold told <em>9News</em>. </p> <p>"He spoke in a posh English accent."</p> <p>Arnold was allegedly told by a 19-year-old, whose voice had been disguised with AI, that his account had been compromised and ordered to put his bank cards in a bag, to be collected by a driver.</p> <p>Hours later, the accused teen who is from Braybrook, Melbourne allegedly withdrew thousands of dollars from ATMs in Braybrook and West Footscray, and purchased dozens of gift cards from Kmart.</p> <p>He also allegedly filled up on fuel, bought a new iPhone, and some strawberry milk and ice cream. </p> <p>The teen has since been charged over the incident, but Arnold is still fighting hard to get his money back. </p> <p>"I've worked for 50-odd years to get that money," he told the publication, adding that he felt "like my heart had been ripped out".</p> <p>The senior also claimed that the bank was partly to blame, and has lodged a report to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) who are currently managing his case. </p> <p>Arnold added that Commonwealth Bank had only offered to reimburse him $1000, and said that everyone who'd been scammed deserved to have their money returned to them.</p> <p>"I hope all those people get their money back," he said.</p> <p>"None of them deserved to be scammed and none of them did anything wrong."</p> <p><em>Images: Nine News</em></p>

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Five tips for developing and managing your budget – even in tough economic times

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/oluwabunmi-adejumo-1370664">Oluwabunmi Adejumo</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/obafemi-awolowo-university-2843">Obafemi Awolowo University</a></em></p> <p>There’s nothing quite like a new year to prompt us to take stock of our lives, our health, our goals – and our finances. Many people will start a new year by contemplating how best to budget, plan and save. This is always a good set of aims, but it’s especially important in the inflation-prone and unpredictable economies we’re seeing <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/268225/countries-with-the-highest-inflation-rate/">all over Africa and the world</a>.</p> <p>Budgeting is especially key. It is the most effective method to <a href="https://www.thebalancemoney.com/how-to-make-a-budget-1289587">monitor income and expenditure</a>. <a href="https://www.uslendingcompany.com/blog/key-differences-in-writing-a-household-budget-vs-a-personal-budget/">Personal budgets</a> can help you to monitor your resources in pursuit of larger financial goals. Budgeting also offers <a href="https://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/v46/acr_vol46_2411998.pdf">more opportunities</a> to save money, reduce your debts and live a comfortable life. It can even <a href="https://prucomm.ac.uk/assets/uploads/blog/2013/04/Personal-Budgets-review-of-evidence_FINAL-REPORT.pdf">improve your mental health</a>.</p> <p>But where should you start? What questions do you need to answer in creating a budget? Here are some tips that I’ve learned – not just as an economist, but as a research cost analyst and someone who keeps a budget too.</p> <h2>1. Understand the broader economic conditions</h2> <p>It is imperative that individuals keep themselves aware and up-to-date on the realities of their country’s economic landscape. You don’t have to be a professional economist, but keep an eye on new developments like free business registration, small business development funds and printing of new money notes. What is the current exchange rate? What’s the political landscape and what international factors, like the price of crude oil, are at play? You should also watch the inflation rate and have a sense of unemployment trends.</p> <p>This economic awareness will prepare you to draft your own budget and you’ll have a sense of when external factors mean it’s time to revisit your plans.</p> <h2>2. Review your income sources</h2> <p>The ability to earn income is critical to sustaining livelihoods. Having a definite source of income is the bedrock of budgeting.</p> <p>Some important questions you should ask about your income – and how you might budget with it – include:</p> <ul> <li>What is my current income?</li> <li>What do I use my income for?</li> <li>Am I able to save, given my current income?</li> <li>What proportion of my income do I save and what proportion do I spend?</li> <li>Do I have the capacity to earn more than this?</li> <li>How can I improve my income?</li> </ul> <p>Your answers can help you to identify gaps or untapped potential. Those with irregular or unpredictable income should factor in the element of time-gap in their income, for effective budgeting. Time gap is when they are not earning income. And everyone should make allowance in their budgets for uncertainties like health issues, social engagements, inflation, unemployment, recession and price shocks.</p> <h2>3. Appraise your expenses</h2> <p>Expenses can be broadly categorised into “variable” and “fixed”.</p> <p>Fixed expenses recur within a short period: housing, food, transport, medical costs, electricity, utilities, toiletries and clothing. Variable expenses are more long-term and irregular, such as investment in property or interest-yielding assets, and the purchase of machinery.</p> <p>The main essence of revising our expenses is to analyse and possibly improve our spending habits. In reviewing our expenses, we can consider issues such as:</p> <ul> <li>What is the proportion of consumption-savings ratio from my income? This is how much do I spend compared to how much I save.</li> <li>What are my regular expenses?</li> <li>What are my fixed, capital or investment expenses?</li> <li>What are my extraordinary expenses that need modification?</li> <li>Have there been emergency or extraordinary expenses?</li> </ul> <p>A careful response to the issues raised above offers an occasion to re-evaluate the pattern and direction of our expenses. For instance, overspending, unplanned or extraordinary expenses can be identified. This can lead to an optimal, efficient reallocation of available resources.</p> <h2>4. Stabilise your finances through savings</h2> <p>Savings have been <a href="https://klinglercpa.com/bedrock-principles-for-saving-money/">described</a> as a financial stabiliser, given their potential to cater for urgent needs and create opportunities for investments.</p> <p>Of course, savings have more value when they grow faster than the rate of inflation. Inflation erodes the value of savings. For instance, an amount of 300,000 naira (US$676) saved to purchase an autorickshaw today may be impossible in two months’ time with an inflation rate of 10% when the tricycle price rises to 330,000 naira (US$744). The reverse is the case when there is deflation.</p> <p>Therefore, it is advisable to improve the value of savings through investments in interest-yielding assets such as stocks, shares, bonds, microfinance and production.</p> <p>That’s not to say it’s always easy to save. Many income earners spend as they go, not seeing savings as part of their budgets. Harsh economic realities can also make it difficult – sometimes seemingly impossible – to save. But it’s not impossible: savings can be made in small amounts, through a daily, weekly or monthly contribution to collections, cooperative schemes or microfinance affiliations. For instance, a point of sale business in Nigeria can permit a daily contribution of 500 naira (US$1.13) over 25 work days, giving an average saving of 12,500 naira (US$28.18) per month.</p> <p>The Point-of-Sale business started in Nigeria in 2013 when the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced the agent banking system. A POS agent operates and processes transactions through a POS service provider. Providers of such services include banks, microfinance banks and fintech companies.</p> <h2>5. Run a flexible budget</h2> <p>Once your budget is created, remember that it’s not set in stone. It should be flexible if anything changes in your life. For instance, an amount saved to buy a car can be invested in a promising venture buying shares through public offerings or private placements in multinational organisations like Nestle or Unilever.</p> <p>Also, health emergencies or career advancement programmes can require taking some money out of our savings.</p> <p>In all, budgeting should be flexible enough to incorporate exigencies, especially when catering for the current situation will culminate into a greater good.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/195590/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/oluwabunmi-adejumo-1370664">Oluwabunmi Adejumo</a>, Lecturer/Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/obafemi-awolowo-university-2843">Obafemi Awolowo University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-tips-for-developing-and-managing-your-budget-even-in-tough-economic-times-195590">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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"Absolute joke": Hefty pay rise for traffic controllers met with outrage

<p>A new union pay agreement that would see junior labourers and traffic controllers working 36-hour weeks earn $120,000 a year has received mixed reviews. </p> <p>According to reports by the <em>Herald Sun</em>, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU) was close to cementing a new pay agreement with the Victorian state government that will see its workers given “at least” a 5 per cent pay rise.</p> <p>The three-year agreement would guarantee that basic labourers and traffic controllers would earn more than $2000 per week plus another $260 a week in travel allowance, equating to 23 per cent more than the average full-time weekly income of $1838.</p> <p>Those working overtime or more than five days per week would earn much more than the $120,000 a year figure, which is for a basic 36-hour week.</p> <p>CFMEU boss John Setka told the publication that the rise was to help workers combat the rising cost of living. </p> <p>“It could be more than 5 per cent,” he said.</p> <p>“Everyone is allowed to increase the cost of everything but we are not allowed to increase wages — fair dinkum? We want a pay rise to keep up with the cost of living and we are not allowed? We are not going to be the sacrificial lambs.”</p> <p>The proposal was met with mixed reactions online, with some people on social media wondering how the labourers were able to make higher wages than those with valuable degrees. </p> <p>“Let me see. Get a tertiary education and become a teacher or a paramedic. Or hold up a pole all day and get paid 50 per cent more. Only in Victoria,” one person wrote.</p> <p>“Visit any of the train crossing removal sites around town and you’ll see dozens of people doing nothing but standing around and looking at their phones, and just a handful doing anything that could be described as work. It’s an absolute joke,” another said.</p> <p>A third added, “Who other than the union thinks it’s realistic for a labourer to earn $120,000 in the same state where a trained doctor earns $83,000 first year post grad and doesn’t get to $120,000 until five years post grad.”</p> <p>Despite the outrage, many came to the defence of workers, saying the pay rise is well overdue. </p> <p>“It’s called traffic control and it is dangerous, hard work,” one X user wrote.</p> <p>“We respect trades in this country do not try to be America about this. Also a field that’s becoming more and more female dominated I’m sure that plays no part in the righteous indignation of men who earn $200,000 a year to say things on radio.”</p> <p>Another said, “I dare anyone talking s**t about this job to do it for a single summer day.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Why prices are so high – 8 ways retail pricing algorithms gouge consumers

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-tuffley-13731">David Tuffley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p>The just-released report of the inquiry into <a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/">price gouging and unfair pricing</a> conducted by Allan Fels for the Australian Council of Trades Unions does more than identify the likely offenders.</p> <p>It finds the biggest are supermarkets, banks, airlines and electricity companies.</p> <p>It’s not enough to know their tricks. Fels wants to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission more power to investigate and more power to prohibit mergers.</p> <p>But it helps to know how they try to trick us, and how technology has enabled them to get better at it. After reading the report, I’ve identified eight key maneuvers.</p> <h2>1. Asymmetric price movements</h2> <p>Otherwise known as <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/25593733">Rocket and Feather</a>, this is where businesses push up prices quickly when costs rise, but cut them slowly or late after costs fall.</p> <p>It seems to happen for <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140988323002074">petrol</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S105905601730240X">mortgage rates</a>, and the Fels inquiry was presented with evidence suggesting it happens in supermarkets.</p> <p>Brendan O’Keeffe from NSW Farmers told the inquiry wholesale lamb prices had been falling for six months before six Woolworths announced a cut in the prices of lamb it was selling as a “<a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">Christmas gift</a>”.</p> <h2>2. Punishment for loyal customers</h2> <p>A <a href="https://theconversation.com/simple-fixes-could-help-save-australian-consumers-from-up-to-3-6-billion-in-loyalty-taxes-119978">loyalty tax</a> is what happens when a business imposes higher charges on customers who have been with it for a long time, on the assumption that they won’t move.</p> <p>The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has alleged a big <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-qantas-might-have-done-all-australians-a-favour-by-making-refunds-so-hard-to-get-213346">insurer</a> does it, setting premiums not only on the basis of risk, but also on the basis of what a computer model tells them about the likelihood of each customer tolerating a price hike. The insurer disputes the claim.</p> <p>It’s often done by offering discounts or new products to new customers and leaving existing customers on old or discontinued products.</p> <p>It happens a lot in the <a href="https://www.finder.com.au/utilities-loyalty-costing-australians-billions-2024">electricity industry</a>. The plans look good at first, and then less good as providers bank on customers not making the effort to shop around.</p> <p>Loyalty taxes appear to be less common among mobile phone providers. Australian laws make it easy to switch <a href="https://www.reviews.org/au/mobile/how-to-switch-mobile-carriers-and-keep-your-number/">and keep your number</a>.</p> <h2>3. Loyalty schemes that provide little value</h2> <p>Fels says loyalty schemes can be a “low-cost means of retaining and exploiting consumers by providing them with low-value rewards of dubious benefit”.</p> <p>Their purpose is to lock in (or at least bias) customers to choices already made.</p> <p>Examples include airline frequent flyer points, cafe cards that give you your tenth coffee free, and supermarket points programs. The purpose is to lock in (or at least bias) consumers to products already chosen.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/advertising-and-promotions/customer-loyalty-schemes">Australian Competition and Consumer Commission</a> has found many require users to spend a lot of money or time to earn enough points for a reward.</p> <p>Others allow points to expire or rules to change without notice or offer rewards that are not worth the effort to redeem.</p> <p>They also enable businesses to collect data on spending habits, preferences, locations, and personal information that can be used to construct customer profiles that allow them to target advertising and offers and high prices to some customers and not others.</p> <h2>4. Drip pricing that hides true costs</h2> <p>The Competition and Consumer Commission describes <a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">drip pricing</a> as “when a price is advertised at the beginning of an online purchase, but then extra fees and charges (such as booking and service fees) are gradually added during the purchase process”.</p> <p>The extras can add up quickly and make final bills much higher than expected.</p> <p>Airlines are among the best-known users of the strategy. They often offer initially attractive base fares, but then add charges for baggage, seat selection, in-flight meals and other extras.</p> <h2>5. Confusion pricing</h2> <p>Related to drip pricing is <a href="https://www.x-mol.net/paper/article/1402386414932836352">confusion pricing</a> where a provider offers a range of plans, discounts and fees so complex they are overwhelming.</p> <p>Financial products like insurance have convoluted fee structures, as do electricity providers. Supermarkets do it by bombarding shoppers with “specials” and “sales”.</p> <p>When prices change frequently and without notice, it adds to the confusion.</p> <h2>6. Algorithmic pricing</h2> <p><a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">Algorithmic pricing</a> is the practice of using algorithms to set prices automatically taking into account competitor responses, which is something akin to computers talking to each other.</p> <p>When computers get together in this way they can <a href="https://www.x-mol.net/paper/article/1402386414932836352">act as it they are colluding</a> even if the humans involved in running the businesses never talk to each other.</p> <p>It can act even more this way when multiple competitors use the same third-party pricing algorithm, effectively allowing a single company to influence prices.</p> <h2>7. Price discrimination</h2> <p>Price discrimination involves charging different customers different prices for the same product, setting each price in accordance with how much each customer is prepared to pay.</p> <p>Banks do it when they offer better rates to customers likely to leave them, electricity companies do it when they offer better prices for business customers than households, and medical specialists do it when they offer vastly different prices for the same service to consumers with different incomes.</p> <p>It is made easier by digital technology and data collection. While it can make prices lower for some customers, it can make prices much more expensive to customers in a hurry or in urgent need of something.</p> <h2>8. Excuse-flation</h2> <p><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-09/how-excuseflation-is-keeping-prices-and-corporate-profits-high">Excuse-flation</a> is where general inflation provides “cover” for businesses to raise prices without justification, blaming nothing other than general inflation.</p> <p>It means that in times of general high inflation businesses can increase their prices even if their costs haven’t increased by as much.</p> <p>On Thursday Reserve Bank Governor <a href="https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/inflation-is-cover-for-pricing-gouging-rba-boss-says-20240215-p5f58d">Michele Bullock</a> seemed to confirm that she though some firms were doing this saying that when inflation had been brought back to the Bank’s target, it would be "much more difficult, I think, for firms to use high inflation as cover for this sort of putting up their prices."</p> <h2>A political solution is needed</h2> <p>Ultimately, our own vigilance won’t be enough. We will need political help. The government’s recently announced <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/review/competition-review-2023">competition review</a> might be a step in this direction.</p> <p>The legislative changes should police business practices and prioritise fairness. Only then can we create a marketplace where ethics and competition align, ensuring both business prosperity and consumer wellbeing.</p> <p>This isn’t just about economics, it’s about building a fairer, more sustainable Australia.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223310/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-tuffley-13731"><em>David Tuffley</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Applied Ethics &amp; CyberSecurity, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-prices-are-so-high-8-ways-retail-pricing-algorithms-gouge-consumers-223310">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Mum's list of chores for babysitter divides internet

<p>An American mum and schoolteacher has divided social media after she shared a list of chores that her 17-year-old babysitter could do for extra cash. </p> <p>Katrina Ivan hired a former student, who is now a senior in high school, to babysit her two-year-old son.</p> <p>The busy mum, who had been struggling to maintain her home, left an optional list of chores the babysitter could do for some extra cash. </p> <p>“You are more than welcome to hang out and watch TV but if you want to earn some extra cash these are up for grabs,” the note read.</p> <p>She claimed that her son was already asleep when the babysitter arrived at 7:30pm and she would be looking after him until 11:30pm.</p> <p>The babysitter was being paid $115.45 for the four hours of work.</p> <p>The extra chores included organising the kitchen island, which would earn the student $15, as would cleaning the windows and mirrors in the house and sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor.</p> <p>Cleaning out the fridge would earn the her $23, while vacuuming the couch would earn her $4.</p> <p>A few other optional chores included re-organising the toys, organising the kitchen island, and re-organising the silverware, which were all chores that would earn the student $15. </p> <p>The babysitter earned an extra $92 for the chores she chose, and a few social media users have said that this was a great idea. </p> <p> “I wish they did this when I was a babysitter. Would have loved the opportunity to earn extra," one wrote.</p> <p>“This is a great idea!! Sometimes it’s boring to just to sit and watch TV, this makes time go by quicker and sometimes it’s things I would do to help," another said. </p> <p>“I think since it’s optional or not you can give whatever amounts. It’s still the babysitters choice whether to do it or not,” a third added. </p> <p>However a few others weren't as impressed. </p> <p>“Those are 1990 prices,” one social media user wrote. </p> <p>“$23 for the fridge that’s wild," another added. </p> <p>“I think if you mention it ahead of time ‘oh I left a chore list if you’re interested in any of them it’s extra cash for you!’ Because if I just arrived to this note I might be a little uncomfortable,” a third said. </p> <p><em>Images: TikTok</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Is Valentine’s Day worth the romantic investment? Here’s what we can learn from economics

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/selma-wather-1510222">Selma Wather</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sussex-1218">University of Sussex</a></em></p> <p>Expressing affection can be expensive. Spending on heart-shaped gifts, romantic cards, chocolates and flowers (other gifts are available) to celebrate Valentine’s Day has reached <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/510981/valentines-day-total-spending-great-britain/#:%7E:text=In%20the%20United%20Kingdom%20%28UK%29%20alone%2C%20Valentine%E2%80%99s%20Day,increased%20by%20just%20over%20300%20million%20British%20pounds.">close to £1 billion</a> in the UK.</p> <p>So the value of Valentine’s to retailers seems clear enough. But just how valuable is the annual ritual to consumers? What return can you expect for the money you invest in that bouquet of roses or candle lit meal?</p> <p>Broadly speaking, and depending on your relationship status, buying into Valentine’s Day traditions suggests two possible scenarios. You might be sending a card or gift to a potential partner to inform them of your interest; or you might be giving something to your current partner to remind them of your continuing love.</p> <p>Research suggests that both options have intrinsic economic value.</p> <p>For those seeking to express interest, sending a card is like dipping your toe into what economists might refer to as the “marriage market” – the search for someone you like, who likes what you have to offer in return.</p> <p>This search can happen smoothly, with plenty of information about your potential match, or it can be paved with obstacles, where you may not know much about who is available, and <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1703310">learning about potential partners</a> takes time.</p> <p>So suppose you are searching for a partner, and comprehensive information about potential matches is not freely available. What do you do?</p> <p>One option might be to put all your hopes into meeting someone on your daily journey to work. You pray that one day, just like in the movies, you will simply bump into “the one”.</p> <p>A second option might be to focus your search on single work colleagues, or people you know socially, and send Valentine’s Day cards to those you are attracted to.</p> <p>The option with the highest chance of success is the second one. You are using reliable information – knowledge of who is single. And sending a card to them can provide them with important information about you – that you’re also single, and that you’re interested. This is why research suggests that sending a Valentine’s Day card can be a <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2938374?origin=crossref">logical investment</a> of time and money.</p> <h2>‘Match quality’</h2> <p>Fast forward five years or so and imagine you are happily married to the recipient of one of those cards. Is it worth repeating the gesture now that you’re settled down together?</p> <p>Economists think of marriages or partnerships as having an inherent “<a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-2354.2006.00385.x">match quality</a>”, which reflects how good (or bad) your relationship is – and the likelihood of you breaking up.</p> <p>If match quality falls below the level of happiness you might expect to have if you were to leave, a <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2759255">separation may well follow</a>. But many studies also show that <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2535409">match quality is malleable</a> – that it can change, for better and indeed for worse, over time.</p> <p>You can invest in trying to improve match quality in various ways. It might be starting a family, sharing hobbies and interests, or gestures such as cooking a special meal or exchanging gifts on the 14th day of February. Improving your match quality <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228431914_How_Does_the_Change_of_Marriage_Quality_Affect_Divorce_Decisions">directly reduces the probability</a> of a separation.</p> <p>Then there’s the question of commitment – the willingness to stay in a relationship rather than walking away. And again, gestures can make a difference.</p> <p>Imagine you have just started a new job, and your employer asks you to complete an intensive training session in your free time, for a skill that would only be useful for that particular role. If you expect to hold the job for a long period, you might happily invest your time. But if your employer is struggling financially and redundancy is on the cards, you are much less likely to agree to perform the task.</p> <p>Relationships work in a similar way. People are more prepared to invest in things like having children or buying a house together if they expect the relationship to last. Given that commitment is not guaranteed by a marriage certificate, people <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=950688">need to find other ways</a> to signal their continued devotion.</p> <p>Celebrating Valentine’s Day is one way of making such a signal. It can show faith in your shared commitment, signify that you wish to continue investing in the relationship and improve match quality, further stabilising the partnership.</p> <p>So even if deep down you think that Valentine’s Day has become over commercialised and meaningless, research suggests it makes good economic sense to send that card.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223128/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/selma-wather-1510222"><em>Selma Wather</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sussex-1218">University of Sussex</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-valentines-day-worth-the-romantic-investment-heres-what-we-can-learn-from-economics-223128">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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How baby boomers are benefiting from Australia's "worst financial mistake"

<p>A financial expert has explained how baby boomers have remained largely unscathed by the ongoing housing crisis in Australia. </p> <p>ABC finance guru Alan Kohler described the crisis as Australia's "worst financial mistake", as Adelaide has now become the country's second least affordable city. </p> <p>The South Australian capital, which has long been known as one of the more affordable places in the country to live, has skyrocketed in price, as the median price for houses and units in Adelaide was $721,376 in January, which is 7.9 times higher than the state's average full-time salary of $91,026.</p> <p>"There are a couple of things that might surprise you: Adelaide became the second, least affordable Australian city last year," Mr Kohler explained.</p> <p>"Adelaide has just taken over from Hobart in second place."</p> <p>"What's going on: put simply, incomes in Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane are not keeping up with house prices, which are being pushed up by fast-rising population and by first-home buyers."</p> <p>Mr Kohler, a baby boomer, noted that when he and his wife bought their first home in Melbourne for $40,000 in 1980, he was earning $11,500 as a journalist, meaning his home cost just 3.5 times his income before a mortgage deposit.</p> <p>"When my wife and I bought our first house in 1980, the average house price was 3.5 times average income," he said. "Now, it's 7.5 times and rising."</p> <p>"That didn't have to happen: it's Australia's worst, economic mistake."</p> <p>Mr Kohler said parents were increasingly propping up the mortgage deposits of first-home buyers, as first-home buyer subsidies from the federal government only pushed up property prices.</p> <p>"Despite rising prices and crushing interest rates, first-home buyers were the fastest-growing type of borrower," he said.</p> <p>"The Bank of Mum and Dad coughing up early inheritances and politicians showering them with grants and concessions, desperate to appear to be doing something about affordability while actually making it worse."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock / ABC</em></p> <p class="mol-para-with-font" style="font-size: 16px; margin: 0px 0px 16px; padding: 0px; min-height: 0px; letter-spacing: -0.16px; font-family: graphik, Arial, sans-serif;"> </p>

Money & Banking

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Funding for refugees has long been politicized − punitive action against UNRWA and Palestinians fits that pattern

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nicholas-r-micinski-207353">Nicholas R. Micinski</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-maine-2120">University of Maine</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kelsey-norman-862895">Kelsey Norman</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rice-university-931">Rice University</a></em></p> <p>At least a dozen countries, including the U.S., have <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/01/1145987">suspended funding to the UNRWA</a>, the United Nations agency responsible for delivering aid to Palestinian refugees.</p> <p>This follows allegations made by Israel that <a href="https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/at-least-12-u-n-agency-employees-involved-in-oct-7-attacks-intelligence-reports-say-a7de8f36">12 UNRWA employees participated</a> in the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack. The UNRWA responded by <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/un-palestinian-refugee-agency-investigates-staff-suspected-role-israel-attacks-2024-01-26/">dismissing all accused employees</a> and opening an investigation.</p> <p>While the seriousness of the accusations is clear to all, and the U.S. has been keen to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/30/us/politics/aid-gaza-israel.html">downplay the significance</a> of its pause in funding, the action is not in keeping with precedent.</p> <p>Western donors did not, for example, defund other U.N. agencies or peacekeeping operations amid accusations of <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/01/11/un-peacekeeping-has-sexual-abuse-problem">sexual assault</a>, <a href="https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/former-un-general-assembly-president-and-five-others-charged-13-million-bribery-scheme">corruption</a> or <a href="https://www.hrw.org/legacy/summaries/s.bosnia9510.html">complicity in war crimes</a>.</p> <p>In real terms, the funding cuts to the UNRWA will affect <a href="https://www.unrwa.org/where-we-work/gaza-strip">1.7 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza</a> along with an additional 400,000 Palestinians without refugee status, many of whom benefit from the UNRWA’s infrastructure. Some critics have gone further and said depriving the agency of funds <a href="https://jacobin.com/2024/01/unrwa-defunding-gaza-israel">amounts to collective punishment</a> against Palestinians.</p> <p>Refugee aid, and humanitarian aid more generally, is theoretically meant to be neutral and impartial. But as experts in <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/reluctant-reception/558E2A93FF99B8F295347A8FA2053698">migration</a> <a href="https://www.routledge.com/UN-Global-Compacts-Governing-Migrants-and-Refugees/Micinski/p/book/9780367218836">and</a> <a href="https://press.umich.edu/Books/D/Delegating-Responsibility">international relations</a>, we know funding is often used as a foreign policy tool, whereby allies are rewarded and enemies punished. In this context, we believe the cuts in funding for the UNRWA fit a wider pattern of the politicization of aid to refugees, particularly Palestinian refugees.</p> <h2>What is the UNRWA?</h2> <p>The UNRWA, short for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was established two years after about <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-nakba-at-75-palestinians-struggle-to-get-recognition-for-their-catastrophe-204782">750,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from their homes</a> during the months leading up to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli war.</p> <p>Prior to the UNRWA’s creation, international and local organizations, many of them religious, provided services to displaced Palestinians. But after <a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/refuge-and-resistance/9780231202855">surveying the extreme poverty</a> and dire situation pervasive across refugee camps, the U.N. General Assembly, including all Arab states and Israel, voted to create the UNRWA in 1949.</p> <p>Since that time, <a href="https://www.unrwa.org/what-we-do">the UNRWA has been the primary aid organization</a> providing food, medical care, schooling and, in some cases, housing for the 6 million Palestinians living across its five fields: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, as well as the areas that make up the occupied Palestinian territories: the West Bank and Gaza Strip.</p> <p>The mass displacement of Palestinians – known as the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-nakba-at-75-palestinians-struggle-to-get-recognition-for-their-catastrophe-204782">Nakba, or “catastrophe</a>” – occurred prior to the <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/about-unhcr/who-we-are/1951-refugee-convention">1951 Refugee Convention</a>, which defined refugees as anyone with a well-founded fear of persecution owing to “events occurring in Europe before 1 January 1951.” Despite a <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/legacy-pdf/4ec262df9.pdf">1967 protocol extending the definition</a> worldwide, Palestinians are still excluded from the primary international system protecting refugees.</p> <p>While the UNRWA is responsible for providing services to Palestinian refugees, the United Nations also created the U.N. Conciliation Commission for Palestine in 1948 to seek a <a href="https://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe2e5672.html">long-term political solution</a> and “to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation.”</p> <p>As a result, the UNRWA does not have a mandate to push for the traditional durable solutions available in other refugee situations. As it happened, the conciliation commission was active only for a few years and has since been sidelined in favor of the U.S.-brokered peace processes.</p> <h2>Is the UNRWA political?</h2> <p>The UNRWA has been <a href="https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/palestinian-refugees-dispossession">subject</a> to political headwinds since its inception and especially during periods of heightened tension between Palestinians and Israelis.</p> <p>While it is a U.N. organization and thus ostensibly apolitical, it has <a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/refuge-and-resistance/9780231202855">frequently been criticized</a> by Palestinians, Israelis as well as donor countries, including the United States, for acting politically.</p> <p>The UNRWA performs statelike functions across its five fields – including education, health and infrastructure – but it is restricted in its mandate from performing political or security activities.</p> <p>Initial Palestinian objections to the UNRWA stemmed from the organization’s early focus on economic integration of refugees into host states.</p> <p>Although the UNRWA officially adhered to the U.N. General Assembly’s <a href="https://www.unrwa.org/content/resolution-194">Resolution 194</a> that called for the return of Palestine refugees to their homes, U.N., U.K. and U.S. <a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/refuge-and-resistance/9780231202855">officials searched</a> for means by which to resettle and integrate Palestinians into host states, viewing this as the favorable political solution to the Palestinian refugee situation and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this sense, Palestinians perceived the UNRWA to be both highly political and actively working against their interests.</p> <p>In later decades, the UNRWA <a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/refuge-and-resistance/9780231202855">switched its primary focus</a> from jobs to education at the urging of Palestinian refugees. But the UNRWA’s education materials were <a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/refuge-and-resistance/9780231202855">viewed</a> by Israel as further feeding Palestinian militancy, and the Israeli government insisted on checking and approving all materials in Gaza and the West Bank, which it has occupied since 1967.</p> <p>While Israel has <a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/refuge-and-resistance/9780231202855">long been suspicious</a> of the UNRWA’s role in refugee camps and in providing education, the organization’s operation, which is internationally funded, <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/east-mediterranean-mena/israelpalestine/242-unrwas-reckoning-preserving-un-agency-serving-palestinian-refugees">also saves</a> Israel millions of dollars each year in services it would be obliged to deliver as the occupying power.</p> <p>Since the 1960s, the U.S. – UNRWA’s primary donor – and other Western countries have <a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/refuge-and-resistance/9780231202855">repeatedly expressed their desire</a> to use aid to prevent radicalization among refugees.</p> <p>In response to the increased presence of armed opposition groups, the <a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/refuge-and-resistance/9780231202855">U.S. attached a provision</a> to its UNRWA aid in 1970, requiring that the “UNRWA take all possible measures to assure that no part of the United States contribution shall be used to furnish assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) or any other guerrilla-type organization.”</p> <p>The UNRWA adheres to this requirement, even publishing an annual list of its employees so that host governments can vet them, but it also <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/east-mediterranean-mena/israelpalestine/242-unrwas-reckoning-preserving-un-agency-serving-palestinian-refugees">employs 30,000 individuals</a>, the vast majority of whom are Palestinian.</p> <p>Questions over the links of the UNRWA to any militancy has led to the rise of Israeli and international <a href="https://cufi.org/issue/unrwa-teachers-continue-to-support-antisemitism-terrorism-on-social-media-un-watch/">watch groups</a> that document the social media activity of the organization’s large Palestinian staff.</p> <h2>Repeated cuts in funding</h2> <p>The United States has used its money and power within the U.N. to block criticism of Israel, vetoing at least <a href="https://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/scact_veto_table_en.htm">45 U.N. resolutions</a> critical of Israel.</p> <p>And the latest freeze is not the first time the U.S. has cut funding to the UNRWA or other U.N. agencies in response to issues pertaining to the status of Palestinians.</p> <p>In 2011, the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE79U5ED/#:%7E:text=WASHINGTON%20(Reuters)%20%2D%20The%20United,grant%20the%20Palestinians%20full%20membership.">U.S. cut all funding to UNESCO</a>, the U.N. agency that provides educational and cultural programs around the world, after the agency voted to admit the state of Palestine as a full member.</p> <p>The Obama administration defended the move, claiming it was required by a 1990s law to defund any U.N. body that admitted Palestine as a full member.</p> <p>But the impact of the action was nonetheless severe. Within just four years, UNESCO was <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1758-5899.12459">forced to cut its staff in half</a> and roll back its operations. President Donald Trump later <a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/u-s-and-israel-officially-withdraw-from-unesco">withdrew the U.S. completely from UNESCO</a>.</p> <p>In 2018, the Trump administration paused its <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/31/us/politics/trump-unrwa-palestinians.html">US$60 million contribution to the UNRWA</a>. Trump claimed the pause would create political pressure for Palestinians to negotiate. President Joe Biden restarted U.S. contributions to the UNRWA in 2021.</p> <h2>Politicization of refugee aid</h2> <p>Palestinian are not the only group to suffer from the politicization of refugee funding.</p> <p>After World War II, states established different international organizations to help refugees but strategically excluded some groups from the refugee definition. For example, the U.S. funded the <a href="https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/last-million-eastern-european-displaced-persons-postwar-germany">U.N. Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to help resettle displaced persons after World War II</a> but resisted Soviet pressure to forcibly repatriate Soviet citizens.</p> <p>The U.S. also created a separate organization, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ijrl/article-abstract/1/4/501/1598187">the precursor to the International Organization for Migration</a>, to circumvent Soviet influence. In many ways, the UNRWA’s existence and the exclusion of Palestinian refugees from the wider refugee regime parallels this dynamic.</p> <p>Funding for refugees has also been politicized through the earmarking of voluntary contributions to U.N. agencies. Some agencies receive funding from U.N. dues; but the UNRWA, alongside the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, receive the majority of their funding from voluntary contributions from member states.</p> <p>These contributions can be earmarked for specific activities or locations, leading to donors such as the <a href="https://www.peio.me/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/PEIO12_paper_107.pdf">U.S. or European Union dictating which refugees get aid and which do not</a>. Earmarked contributions amounted to nearly <a href="https://unsceb.org/fs-revenue-agency">96% of the UNHCR’s budget, 96% of the IOM’s budget and 74% of UNRWA funding in 2022</a>.</p> <p>As a result, any cuts to UNRWA funding will affect its ability to service Palestinian refugees in Gaza – especially at a time when so many are <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/30/middleeast/famine-looms-in-gaza-israel-war-intl/index.html">facing hunger, disease and displacement</a> as a result of war.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222263/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nicholas-r-micinski-207353"><em>Nicholas R. Micinski</em></a><em>, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-maine-2120">University of Maine</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kelsey-norman-862895">Kelsey Norman</a>, Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rice-university-931">Rice University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/funding-for-refugees-has-long-been-politicized-punitive-action-against-unrwa-and-palestinians-fits-that-pattern-222263">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Supermarkets, airlines and power companies are charging ‘exploitative’ prices despite reaping record profits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384">Sanjoy Paul</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australians have been hit by large rises in grocery, energy, transport, child and aged care prices, only adding to other cost of living pressures.</p> <p>While extreme weather and supply delays have contributed to the increases, an inquiry into what’s causing the hikes has confirmed what commentators and consumers suspected - many sectors are resorting to dodgy price practices and confusing pricing.</p> <p>Headed by the former Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) boss, Allan Fels, on behalf of the ACTU, the inquiry found inflation, questionable pricing practices, a lack of price transparency and regulations, a lack of market competition, supply chain problems and unrestricted price setting by retailers are to blame for fuelling the increases.</p> <p>The inquiry, which released its <a href="https://www.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web9-1.pdf">final report</a> on Wednesday, is one of four examining price rises. The other three are being undertaken by a Senate committee, the Queensland government and the ACCC, which has been given extra powers by the government.</p> <h2>Prices vs inflation</h2> <p>The inflation rate in Australia peaked at <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/latest-release">7.8%</a> in December 2022 and has been gradually dropping since then.</p> <p>While the inquiry found higher prices contributed to inflation, it reported that businesses claimed it was inflation that caused price rises - making it a chicken-or-egg kind of problem.</p> <p>However, many businesses made enormous <a href="https://theconversation.com/amid-allegations-of-price-gouging-its-time-for-big-supermarkets-to-come-clean-on-how-they-price-their-products-219316">profits</a> in 2022-23, which the inquiry said contributed to rising prices and inflation. In most cases, post-pandemic profit margins were much higher than before the pandemic.</p> <h2>How prices are set</h2> <p>Business pricing strategies had a big impact on product prices.</p> <p>In Australia, businesses often provided partial and misleading pricing information which differed from the actual price. For example, supermarkets were “<a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/accc-warns-supermarkets-about-discount-claims-20240114-p5ex1s">discounting</a>” products by raising prices beforehand.</p> <p>These practices helped raise prices and were “exploitative”, the inquiry found.</p> <p>A lack of transparent pricing information caused a poor understanding by consumers of how prices were set. This was significantly worsened by a lack of competition. While market concentration was a major issue, the inquiry found prices in Australia are way higher than in many other less competitive markets.</p> <p>Large price increases occurred across many sectors:</p> <p><strong>AVIATION</strong></p> <p>While it is free to set any price for airfares, Australia’s largest and highest profile aviation company, Qantas, has been <a href="https://www.thenewdaily.com.au/life/2023/12/28/qantas-deceptive-conduct-accc">accused</a> of price gouging since the pandemic.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, Qantas made a profit of $1.7 billion in 2023 - 208% higher than in 2019. At the same time, its reputation has been badly damaged by unreliable timetables, lost baggage and so-called <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/qantas-files-legal-defence-refutes-accc-case-and-ghost-flight-claims/9a6296c9-9238-4053-9f36-cc3cbf1f8a55">“ghost” flights</a> (selling tickets for a flight that’s been cancelled or doesn’t exist).</p> <p>Despite its huge profits and poorer service, Qantas passed on extra expenses to consumers in the form of higher airfares, the inquiry found.</p> <p><strong>BANKING</strong></p> <p>The banking industry has a long history of being tardy in passing on the Reserve Bank’s cash rate cuts to consumers. However, when the reserve raised the cash rates, banks immediately increased their standard variable rates and passed them on to customers. This practice keeps the bank’s profit margin higher.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, the major banks’ average profit margins have been higher since May 2022 than in the 15 years before the pandemic. For 2022-23, the four big Australian banks’ profit margins were 35.5%, compared to an average of 32.4% from 2005 to 2020.</p> <p><strong>CHILDCARE</strong></p> <p>Australian households spent a good portion of their income on childcare, and for many of them, it was <a href="https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/mitchell-institute-assessing-childcare-affordability-in-Australia.pdf">unaffordable</a>.</p> <p>In Australia, the lack of availability and difficulty in switching services makes it even harder for working parents to find alternative options. This indicates parents are forced to pay more if the service providers raise prices.</p> <p>The inquiry found the childcare sector increased fees by 20% to 32% from 2018 to 2022. Accordingly, Australian households’ out-of-pocket expenses for childcare increased more than the rate of wage growth. For-profit childcare businesses have higher margins than not-for-profit centres.</p> <p><strong>ELECTRICITY</strong></p> <p>In recent years, electricity price increases have impacted all Australian households. The inquiry found both wholesale and retail electricity pricing strategies were responsible for these increased prices.</p> <p>It reported that wholesale price increases were mainly responsible for an estimated 9% to 20% increase in electricity bills in 2022-23.</p> <p>The report noted the “price bidding system” was largely responsible for increasing wholesale electricity prices.</p> <p>The inquiry was critical of the profit margin of AGL, a leading electricity retailer:</p> <blockquote> <p>It would seem that AGL needs to explain why consumers are paying $60.10/MWh more than seems to be justified by cost differentials. That is, for every consumer bill of $1,000 there is an apparent excess to be explained of $205.61 relative to prices charged to large business customers and not accounted for by genuine cost differences.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>SUPERMARKETS</strong></p> <p>Supermarket prices have received the most attention recently with the main providers being accused of price gouging.</p> <p>As has occurred in other sectors, profit margins were well above pre-COVID levels. In 2023, the margin was more than 3.5% compared to less than 3% in 2017 and 2018.</p> <p>In Australia, <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/not-happy-little-vegemites-food-prices-rising-faster-than-inflation-20230522-p5da9w.html">food prices</a> also increased well above the inflation rate.</p> <p>According to the inquiry, the price increases for groceries between March 2021 and September 2023 varied between 19.2% and 27.3% for different categories, including cheese, bread, milk, eggs, dairy products and breakfast cereals.</p> <p>Farmers recently <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/aussie-farmer-shipping-beautiful-melons-to-japan-rather-than-deal-with-coles-and-woolworths/news-story/bd685cd91f934f31c02c764097f496ae">accused</a> supermarkets of making too much profit from their crops.</p> <p>This was backed by the inquiry, which found the disproportionate market power held by supermarkets and food processors was of significant concern.</p> <p>The report noted that supermarkets increased prices when there was a shortage or cost increase, but the opposite did not happen easily when supplies were plentiful and prices were cheaper.</p> <h2>Issues common to all sectors</h2> <p>Among the issues common to all sectors were weak competition, a lack of price transparency, the difficulty consumers face switching between suppliers and providers, a lack of pricing policies and a lack of consumer awareness.</p> <p>While the price rises imposed by service providers and retailers were <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/pricing/setting-prices-whats-allowed">not unlawful</a>, the increases in all sectors were significant and were hurting everyday Australians.</p> <h2>Fels’ recommendations</h2> <p>Many of the recommendations were sector-specific, but the one that applied to all areas related to the lack of regulation and pricing policies.</p> <p>The ACCC should be empowered to investigate, monitor and regulate prices for the child and aged care, banking, grocery and food sectors, the inquiry found. This was necessary to ensure businesses used fair and transparent pricing.</p> <p>A review of all existing policies was also recommended. For example, the government should use the current aviation review to remove international and domestic restrictions on competition. It was important aviation stakeholders, such as airlines and airports, were involved in the process.</p> <p>The report suggested the grocery <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/industry-codes/food-and-grocery-code-of-conduct">code of conduct</a> should be mandatory for the food and grocery sector, and a price register for farmers should be created. This should be a government priority to protect farmers from unfair pricing by major supermarkets and food processors.</p> <h2>Change is needed</h2> <p>The current pricing practices for all business sectors must improve for greater transparency and to protect Australian consumers from unfair pricing.</p> <p>The inquiry report’s findings and recommendations are helpful in ensuring fair and transparent pricing policies and improving the current regulations for price settings.</p> <p>Implementing the recommendations will improve fair and transparent pricing practices and may help Australians get relief from the cost of living pressure in future.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222755/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384"><em>Sanjoy Paul</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, UTS Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/supermarkets-airlines-and-power-companies-are-charging-exploitative-prices-despite-reaping-record-profits-222755">original article</a>.</em></p>

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“Unbelievably legitimate”: Deb Knight falls victim to popular scam

<p>Deb Knight has shared how she fell victim to a popular scam, losing $1,200 while trying to get Taylor Swift tickets for her daughter's birthday. </p> <p>Like many people around Australia, the veteran journalist was eager to get her hands on tickets to the highly anticipated Eras Tour as a once in a lifetime surprise for her eight-year-old daughter's birthday present.</p> <p>After missing out on tickets through all official channels, Deb thought hope was lost, until a friend reached out to her. </p> <p>“A really good friend, who I’ve known all my life, contacted me and said, ‘do you still want Taylor Swift tickets?’” Knight told <em>A Current Affair</em>.</p> <p>“It was my daughter’s eighth birthday and getting my hands on these tickets would be the best present ever."</p> <p>“My friend put me in contact with her friend who had the tickets – or so I thought.”</p> <p>Knight had received a phone call from her close friend who said her cousin was selling tickets, but unbeknownst to everyone involved, the friend’s Facebook account had been hacked. </p> <p>Deb promised to pay half the cost of the tickets as a bond, then pay the rest after she had seen the tickets, which she said looked “unbelievably legitimate". </p> <p>Tech expert Trevor Long joined Deb on <em>ACA</em>, and noticed one major error about the fake tickets. </p> <p>“The difference is a genuine Taylor Swift ticket in an Apple Wallet right now does not have that barcode.”</p> <p>Alarm bells started ringing for the veteran journalist when the so-called seller said the payment had not come through, but by then it was too late.</p> <p>Deb contacted her bank but it was too late to get her $1,200 back, and her hunt to find Taylor Swift tickets continued. </p> <p>“I realised I’d been scammed. I felt sick to the stomach, absolutely humiliated. I also felt embarrassed and ashamed,” she said.</p> <p>“I was reluctant to speak publicly about this but I think we’ve got to. We have to normalise it so people feel there’s less of a stigma about it."</p> <p>“It happens to everyone, even Deb Knight – it’s disgusting, what’s happening, so something needs to be done.”</p> <p>Police have warned Swifties who missed out on tickets to the singer’s upcoming tour not to fall prey to ticketing scams, and only to purchase tickets through official channels such as Ticketek marketplace. </p> <p>Since tickets for the Eras tour went on sale last June, and subsequently sold out in record timing, Victoria Police said there had been more than 250 reports of ticketing scams for Taylor Swift shows alone.</p> <p><em>Image credits: A Current Affair</em></p>

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Tax boost announced for 1.2 million people

<p>Low-income earners will receive a tax boost with the Medicare levy threshold set to rise. </p> <p>The income threshold at which taxpayers will have to pay a two per cent Medicare levy will increase by 7.1 per cent, in line with inflation. </p> <p>Currently single people who earn below $24,276 do not have to pay the levy. Under the changes, the two per cent levy only has to be paid by anyone earning over <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">$26,000</span></p> <p>The <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">Medicare levy </span><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">threshold for seniors and pensioners will increase to $41,089, up from the initial benchmark of $38,365. </span></p> <p>For families, this threshold has increased to $43,486 up from the previous $40,939. </p> <p>Treasurer Jim Chalmers said that the increase was part of the broader measures taken to relieve the increase in cost-of-living. </p> <p>“This will ensure people on lower incomes continue to pay less or are exempt from the Medicare levy,”  he said on Tuesday. </p> <p>“It means 1.2 million Australians get to keep a bit more of what they earn.”</p> <p>The boost in the Medicare levy threshold was announced alongside changes to income tax cuts, with those earning under $150,000 set to receive greater benefits. </p> <p>“This is about doing what we responsibly can to ease some of the pressure being felt by Australians right around the country, but especially for people on lower incomes, young people, seniors and women,” Chalmers said.</p> <p>This comes just days after Medicare celebrated it's 40th anniversary, with an exhibition launched at Parliament House.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

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Science finally proves "Money doesn't buy happiness"

<p>A new study has proven that the old adage "money can't buy you happiness" is true. </p> <p>Historically, economic wealth and higher income households are often seen to have an increased level of wellbeing and happiness, with the extra money making way for less stress and more general comfortability. </p> <p>However, researchers from Canada and Spain have concluded this may not be true, with such surveys often including responses from people in industrialised areas only. </p> <p>People in small-scale societies where money does not play a central role in every day life are often excluded from these studies, as the livelihood of residents in these small communities usually depend more on nature. </p> <p>Now, 2,966 people from Indigenous and local communities in 19 locations across the globe have been included in a study, with researchers now finding that societies of Indigenous people and those in small, local communities report living very satisfying lives despite not having a lot of money. </p> <p>The researchers wrote, "The striking aspect of our findings... is that reported life satisfaction in very low-income communities can meet and even exceed that reported at the highest average levels of material wealth provided by industrial ways of life."</p> <p>Researchers concluded the findings are strong evidence that economic growth is not needed to be happy, with only 64 percent of households included in the survey reported having any cash income.</p> <p>Eric Galbraith, lead author of the study, said, "Surprisingly, many populations with very low monetary incomes report very high average levels of life satisfaction, with scores similar to those in wealthy countries."</p> <p>Researchers added that high life satisfaction is shown in these communities "despite many of these societies having suffered histories of marginalisation and oppression."</p> <p>Galbraith added, "I would hope that, by learning more about what makes life satisfying in these diverse communities, it might help many others to lead more satisfying lives while addressing the sustainability crisis."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Zimmerman founder sets new price record for Bondi home

<p>Simone Zimmerman has set a new home price record for Bondi, and she didn't even need to take out a mortgage. </p> <p>The fashion guru and founder of Zimmermann has splurged $30 million for her four-bedroom, three-bathroom home just moments away from the iconic Bondi Beach. </p> <p>“This ocean front executive residence is tucked away in a quiet street only moments to the iconic Bondi Beach and all it has to offer,”  the listing for the beachside home read. </p> <p>According to property records, the home - which is located just behind the popular Bondi to Bronte walk - last sold for $5.75m in June 2008.</p> <p>The fashion mogul is reported to have bypassed local real estate agents, purchasing the home directly from a local investor. </p> <p>No major changes have been made to the home since, but prior to Zimmerman's purchase it was being rented out at $4,400 per week. </p> <p>According to PropTrack the median house price for Bondi is around $3.75m, which went up by 4.7 per cent over the past year. </p> <p>The stunning home features 4 double bedrooms, all with large built-in wardrobes and a separate study perfect for the business-woman. </p> <p>It also has a gourmet kitchen with a stainless-steel benchtop and large open dining room. </p> <p>The lounge room opens onto a large deck with beautiful ocean views and plenty of natural lighting. </p> <p>This comes after the luxury womenswear label sold a majority stake in its company to private equity investors in August last year. </p> <p>Sisters Simone and Nicky Zimmerman are founders of the brand, which initially began as a stall in Sydney’s Paddington market, before the sisters opened their first local shop in Darlinghurst. </p> <p>It now operates across 58 global destinations in the USA, UK, Europe and China, with the sisters now having an estimated net worth of around $1bn each. </p> <p><em>Images: Realestate.com.au</em></p>

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“So tacky”: Bride slammed for using GoFundMe to pay for wedding

<p dir="ltr">A cash-strapped bride has been slammed for considering using GoFundMe to help pay for her wedding. </p> <p dir="ltr">Taking to a wedding page on Facebook, the bride explained that she and her partner had been saving as much money as possible for their wedding, but were struggling with their finances. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Our wedding is next year but I'm still so stressed that we won't be able to pay for the things that we need let alone actual decorations,” the bride began.</p> <p dir="ltr">Given the large expense of a wedding, the bride questioned if it was “tacky” to use GoFundMe, a crowd-funding website used for emergencies, to fund her big day. </p> <p dir="ltr">People were quick to chime in on the idea, with many people labelling it as “inappropriate” to use such a site for wedding expenses. </p> <p dir="ltr">The bride didn't share how much extra money she needs to fund the wedding, but many said she should continue to save rather than rely on others.  </p> <p dir="ltr">“Have the wedding you can afford, or wait and save,” one said bluntly. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Personally I think it is [tacky]. If you want to have a wedding you should be funding it yourself. If you can't afford all the things you want, then I guess you have to decide if you would rather go without or postpone until it's in your budget,” another wrote. </p> <p dir="ltr">One woman said it's “insensitive” since GoFundMe pages are for emergencies only, such as medical situations. </p> <p dir="ltr">“If you can't afford to have the wedding you want you really have two choices - postpone until in a better position financially or scale back your plans to fit within your means,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p> </p>

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Stage 3 stacks up: the rejigged tax cuts help fight bracket creep and boost middle and upper-middle households

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ben-phillips-98866">Ben Phillips</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a></em></p> <p>The winners and losers from the Albanese government’s <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2024-01/tax-cuts-government-fact-sheet.pdf">rejig</a> of this year’s Stage 3 tax cuts have already been well documented.</p> <p>From July 1 every taxpayer will get a tax cut. Most, the 11 million taxpayers earning up to A$146,486, will also pay less tax than they would have under the earlier version of Stage 3, some getting a tax cut <a href="https://theconversation.com/albanese-tax-plan-will-give-average-earner-1500-tax-cut-more-than-double-morrisons-stage-3-221875">twice as big</a>.</p> <p>A much smaller number, 1.8 million, will get a smaller tax cut than they would have under the original scheme, although their cuts will still be big. The highest earners will get cuts of $4,529 instead of $9,075.</p> <p>But many of us live in households where income is shared and many households don’t pay tax because the people in them don’t earn enough or are on benefits.</p> <p>The Australian National University’s <a href="https://csrm.cass.anu.edu.au/research/policymod">PolicyMod</a> model is able to work out the impacts at the household level, including the impact on households in which members are on benefits or don’t earn enough to pay tax.</p> <h2>More winners than losers in every broad income group</h2> <p>We’ve divided Australian households into five equal-size groups ranked by income, from lowest to lower-middle to middle to upper-middle to high.</p> <p>Our modelling finds that, just as is the case for individuals, many more households will be better off with the changes to Stage 3 than would have been better off with Stage 3 as it was, although the difference isn’t as extreme.</p> <p>Overall, 58% of households will be better off with the reworked Stage 3 than they would have under the original and 11% will be worse off.</p> <p>Importantly, there remain 31% who will be neither better off nor worse off, because they don’t pay personal income tax.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="0CWXE" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/0CWXE/4/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>But it is different for different types of households.</p> <p>In the lowest-earning fifth of households, far more are better off (13.5%) than worse off (0.2%) with the overwhelming bulk neither better nor worse off (86.3%).</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="KC5zy" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/KC5zy/3/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>In the highest-earning fifth of households, while more than half are better off (54.4%), a very substantial proportion are worse off (42.3%).</p> <p>Very few (only 3.1%) are neither better nor worse off.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="WSkSL" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/WSkSL/3/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>But high-earning households go backwards on average</h2> <p>In dollar terms, the top-earning fifth of households loses money while every group gains. That’s because although there are more winners than losers among the highest-earning fifth of households, the losers lose more money.</p> <p>The biggest dollar gains go to middle and upper-middle income households with middle-income households ahead, on average, by $988 per year and upper-middle income households by $1,102. The highest-income households are worse off by an average of $837 per year.</p> <p>As a percentage of income, middle-income households gain the most with a 1% increase in disposable income. Lowest income households gain very little, while the highest-income households go backwards by 0.3%.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="kAPmC" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/kAPmC/3/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>The rejig does a better job of fighting bracket creep</h2> <p>And we’ve found something else.</p> <p>The original version of the Stage 3 tax cuts was advertised as a measure to overcome <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-2-main-arguments-against-redesigning-the-stage-3-tax-cuts-are-wrong-heres-why-221975">bracket creep</a>, which is what happens when a greater proportion of taxpayers’ income gets pushed into higher tax brackets as incomes climb.</p> <p>We have found it wouldn’t have done it for most of the income groups, leaving all but the highest-earning group paying more tax after the change in mid-2024 than it used to in 2018.</p> <p>The rejigged version of Stage 3 should compensate for bracket creep better, leaving the top two groups paying less than they did in 2018 and compensating the bottom three better than the original Stage 3.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="YG0cT" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/YG0cT/1/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Not too much should be made of the increase in tax rates in the lowest income group between 2018 ad 2024 because some of it reflects stronger income growth.</p> <p>We find that overall, the redesigned Stage 3 does a better job of offsetting bracket creep than the original. It is also better targeted to middle and upper-middle income households.</p> <p>Having said that, the average benefit in dollar terms isn’t big. At about $1,000 per year for middle and upper-middle income households and costing the budget about what the original Stage 3 tax cuts would have cost, its inflationary impact compared to the original looks modest.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221851/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ben-phillips-98866"><em>Ben Phillips</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, Centre for Social Research and Methods, Director, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/stage-3-stacks-up-the-rejigged-tax-cuts-help-fight-bracket-creep-and-boost-middle-and-upper-middle-households-221851">original article</a>.</em></p>

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