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Tonight - lives in ruins, the

firestorm takes a heavy toll.

It just exploded as quick as

that. It is horrific. It's an

empty feeling. Are you thinking

about what is gone. Telstra and

Government - once again they

are polls apart. Clear and

present danger - Australians on

the Afghan front-line. And Swan

Lake, Sydney cools off ahead of

the grand final.

Good evening, this is ABC

News. Their lives are in

turmoil, the rest of us have

been been put on notice.

Yesterday's devastating

bushfires not only destroyed

seven homes, they were a

frightening foretaste of what

could come in the months ahead.

For the victims what is

particularly hard to stomach is

the news that arsonists are

being blamed for many of the

fires. The main trouble spots

were around South Maroota and

Cattai where three houses were

lost and further south at

Pickton where four homes were

destroyed. Tonight 30 fires are

burning, but they are contained

and should be out by

tomorrow. This house didn't

stand a chance. Its 71-year-old

owner was in a nursing home so

there was no-one around to

protect it. Today her niece

could hardly bare to

look. Elsewhere all hands were

on deck to save property, but

it didn't help. The owner of

this house was hospitalised

after trying to stop the

fire. It jumped the road as an

embers attack and this property

here just went up in

flames. Today there was anger

that a significant number were

deliberately lit. The rural

fire commissioner says there is

no other explanation, apart

from arson. One of the fires

further to the north had eight

separate ignition points and

there were no other obvious

causes. Seven homes have been

lost. Today the firefighters

who protected 450 properties in

Sydney's south, north-west and

in the north were thanked by

the Premier. There is no doubt

hundreds of properties have

been saved and lives have been

saved as a result of the

firefighters. Conditions courage of our

yesterday were atrocious. It

was the third hottest day ever

recorded in September. Winds

reached almost 120km/h... Which

makes firefighting almost

impossible. Water turns back on

one's self when attempting to

suppress fires. In some cases,

embers travelled from fire

fronts up to 5km to start fresh

outbreaks. Last night, cooler

conditions brought relief to

firefighters, enabling them to

conduct successful back-burns.

Today with little wind and a

temperature in the early 20s,

all the fires were put out or

contained. Fire authorities

say yesterday's conditions

normally only take place in

December. They've warned it's

likely to happen again at some

stage over the next five months

during a long, hot summer. The

NSW Government has offered up

to $10,000 in immediate

assistance to those who lost

their homes. But for many, no

amount of compensation can make

up for the heartbreak of losing

a lifetime of memories. It's

virtually pointless, but it

feels like it's the only thing

you can do, pick through the

pieces in the hope that

something remained in tact. All

the glass melted, the fire was

so hot. It was incredible what

happened. This was Simon

Davidson's parent's home at

South Maroota. They left for an

overseas holiday on Wednesday,

knowing the weekend weather

could prove hazardous. It's heartbreaking. When I got the

news and we were told the house

was leveled by fire. It was a

sick feeling. A burning ember

gliding over the Hawkesbury

River set the house on fire.

The Rural Fire Service is investigating claims that the

bushfire here was started by

logs that weren't extinguished

properly from a hazard

reduction two weeks ago. In

all, three homes in Sydney's

north-west were gutted. Nancy

White stayed with her home at

Oakville hoping to save it.

Quick action by the neighbours

saved her. The neighbour come

and said, "No, Nancy, you have

to go away." They took her down

behind the shed and it just

exploded. Just went up. As

quick as that. Nancy has lost

so much. Her husband died just

11 months ago and now her newly

renovated home is gone too. Up

the street, the owner of this

home came home to find the

entire ground floor charred.

Firefighters managed to stop

the blaze spreading

upstairs. The owners of the

houses said they did all the

right things and took all

precautions to protect their

homes, but the conditions were

so ferocious that in the end it

made no difference. There are

no guarantees, but a

well-prepared home will be easier for firefighters to

defend and hopefully people

then will be safe and will have

a home to come to at the end of

the day. They weren't just

mopping up fires today. Crews

were cleaning up the damage

left behind by yesterday's

100km/h winds. Power has been

restored to more than 100,000

homes with the last of them to

be reconnected tonight. The

Federal Government is locked in

yet another brawl with Telstra.

The company is refusing to

accept a new board member

nominated by the PM. And

Telstra's chief, Sol Trugillo,

is warning that the dispute

could turn investors off the

pending $8 billion share

float. Telstra had just filed

its annual report showing Sol

Trugillo was paid $8.7 million

in his first year with the

company. But it's not his job

that is causing the

headaches. With just weeks to

go until the T3 float, Telstra

and its biggest shareholder are

again in open conflict. This

time over the Government's

nomination of Jeffery Cousins

to the board. He knows

telecommunications in Australia

very intimately. I don't know

him. I don't know his

background or who he is other

than what I've read. Telstra is

refusing to accept the former

advertising chief and media

director who, until last month,

was also a communications

consultant to the PM. He is

eminently well-qualified for

the job. Sol Trugillo accuses

the Government of by-passing

proper process, not giving

Telstra the time it needs to

background. There are only check Mr Cousin's

problems if there is an issue

of qualification or an issue of independence. That remains to

be determined. As majority

shareholder, the Government is

assured of getting its way. Sol

Trugillo is quick to remind

Canberra that victory could

come at a price when the $8

billion T3 sale gets under

way. I think it raises a lot of

questions in the eyes of many

investors as well as potential

investors. Labor agrees,

arguing that existing

shareholders will be hurt by

instability on the board. This

is a disgraceful act of

political thuggery by John

Howard. Jeffery Cousin's

nomination will be confirmed at Telstra's annual meeting in

November. He's been told by

both sides of politics,

including his own, to quit his

job as a senior prosecutor.

Greg Smith is going nowhere, at

least for the moment. The Liberal candidate for the seat

of Epping is staying on as

deputy director of the DPP to

finalise a number of important

cases. Yesterday he was Greg

Smith, political combatant at a

Liberal Party pre-election

talkfest. Today the senior prosecutor returned to his day

job at the office of the DPP

it's a controversial combination and this afternoon

his boss, Nicholas Cowdery,

resisted pressure for a speedy relution. Mr Smith has a number

of important cases that the

office of the DPP wishes him to

complete and he wishes to

complete. Citing the interest

of victims of crime, Mr Cowdery

decree ed his prosecutor's last

case would begin in six weeks

time. After that, he will take

leave before eventually

resigning in early February

ahead of the March

election. The Government says

that timetable will damage the

independence of the office of

the DPP I think Mr Cowdery has allowed himself to be

influenced by the fact he wants

to back an employee. Peter

Debnam is disappointed his

candidate in Epping is not free

to concentrate on politics. If

Nicholas Cowdery could resolve

the workload sooner, then I'd

be happier. Not all Liberals

see a problem in Mr Smith

continuing on in both jobs. The

right thing to do is to obey

the law. The law requires you

to resign your position when

the writs are issued for the

election. The State Government

is warning the Opposition can

now expect another torrid week

in Parliament. We will continue

to pursue this. This is

outrageous. The Police Minister

is demanding an explanation

from Mr Cowdery on Mr Smith's

pre-selectors about his law and

order credentials. Carl Scully

is angry about a reference to

rising crime rates when

official figures show they are

falling. An army rescue team in

Nepal has located the wreckage

of a helicopter which disappeared

disappeared two days ago. Australian conservationist Jill

Bowling was one of 24

passengers on the helicopter

which went missing in bad

weather 300km from Kathmandu.

Her brother, Mark Bowling, is

on his way to the region. To be

honest, I've felt helpless at

such a distance. It really is a

case of waiting, hoping for a

miracle and there's not much

you can do here. Rescuers have

not been able to land at the

crash site, but said there were

no signs of life. In

Afghanistan, Australian troops

are digging in for the fight

against a resurgent Taliban.

The Australians are part of the

NATO-led force. Peter Lloyd has

been given exclusive access to

the Australian base under

construction in the central

province of Oduzstan. Fast and

low on board an American

blackhawk helicopter, armed,

ready and rehearsing for

trouble. This was safe passage

terrain, falling increasingly

back under Taliban control,

five years after America

banished the movement for

harbouring al-Qaeda. Touchdown

at a bustling military base

constructed in the Afghan

heartland. This desert for tres

houses Australian troops on

their latest and arguably most

dangerous overseas mission in

the so-called war on

terror. The purpose of the

Australian reconstruction task

force being here is to help

build that basic infrastructure

that the local people should

have an entitlement to. It's

about giving them a fair go,

like what we expect back

home. But first the diggers

have to build their own homes

and in conditions that are

hardly ideal. That's the

remoteness, that's the largest

challenge we're facing at this

stage. You need a lot of

bottled water. Around 200

soldiers have already arrived,

building up to a total force of

400. They will be working

alongside a larger contingent

of Dutch troops for the next

two years. Once they've

established a firm footing, the

Australians will then take

their first tentative steps out

into the community. That's when

they face their greatest risk

of attack by a Taliban-backed

insurgents, who regard the

Australian soldiers as just

another occupying force to be

captured, killed, or expelled from the country. A large

number of British and Canadian

soldiers on similar missions

have been killed this

year. There is threat out there

and that's why they send

soldiers. We are well-trained

and prepared. We are

well-equipped and the soldiers

are well led by junior leaders

and are ready to get out there and undertake the mission

they've been given. What they achieve depends in large part

on the Taliban, lurking

somewhere yonld the perimeter.

In the United States, a

leaked American intelligence

report says the war in Iraq is

increasing the global terror

threat. The Democrats have

seized on it, accusing the

President of misleading mmpbs

and making the country less

secure. Republicans say

terrorists wanted to attack the

United States before the

invasion of Iraq. Families are

burying the dead and caring for

the wounded after another day

of bloodshed. Car bombs and

mortar attacks kill more than

20 people. The United States

Government calls Iraq the

central front in its war on

terror. A fight the White House

repeatedly says is making

America safer. We are safer

because we are on the offence

against our enemies overseas. A

top-secret US report

contradicts that claim,

concluding the war is fueling

extremism and increasing the

global terror threat. I think

it's obvious the difficulties

we've experienced in Iraq have

emboldened, lack of success

always does that, but I would

argue that these people didn't

need any motivation to attack

us on September 11. It's not

just Republicans who are

feeling the heat on the

issue. You bid on this show.

You did your hit job on

me. Former president Bill

Clinton mounted an angry

defence of his record saying he

drew up plans to kill Osama bin

Laden in 2000. Did you do

enough? No, because I didn't

get him. At least I tried. That's the difference between

me and the right-wingers

attacking me now. They had

eight months to try and they

did not try. I tried. So I

tried and failed. The Democrats

argue the intelligence report proves the Government's Iraq

policy is a disaster. The Republicans say the only

disaster would be cutting and

running in Iraq. Congressional

elections will be held in November and a debate over

whether Iraq is helping or

hurting national security is by

no means over. Overseas

military deployments are just

one reason that Australia's

defence budget has gone ahead

by leaps and bounds. Today in a

move dismissed by the

Opposition as a flight of

fancy, Treasurer Peter Costello

took a bird's eye view of how

some of the money is being spent, swapping his shirt and

tie for a flying suit. There is

something about politicians and

weapons of war. Peter Costello

isn't the first to strap

himself into a war plane. It is

a great blast. It is literally

a blast. President Bush did it

to declare premature success in

Iraq. So did Kim Beazley in the

long ago days when he was

Defence Minister. At

Williamstown base, the air

force turned it on for the man

who controlled the nation's

purse strings. He played arcade

games in a $20 million FA 18

sim lator. Then preparations

for the real thing. When we

lock on to the bag guys and

shoot them. There was plenty of

that sort of talk as Mr

Costello was brief #d for a 1.5

hour aerial combat exercise

high above NSW. Have you got

coordinates? We will spin

around, do a pop up attack and

see the other environment.

Fight our way back out of the

target and then we're home for

tea and medals. Any

questions? Not really, it was

already time to wrestle his way

into his pressure suit. It's

not tight, it's the zipper, I

can assure you. It's not just a

chance for Peter Costello to

dress up and play top gun, but

a rare opportunity for the

Treasurer to see Australia's

$20 billion defence budget at

work. It was the ride of a

lifetime. Good. Money well

spent according to the

Treasurer. An even greater fun

than facing the Opposition in

Question Time, he declared.

Tonight's top story -

authorities blame arsonists for

some of yesterday's big

bushfires. Still to come -

familiar territory, the Swans

prepare for Saturday's AFL

grand final.

The state's top policeman

says a whole generation of

young people is at risk from

the drug ice. Commissioner Ken

Moroney wants to destroy the

myth that the amphetamine is a

party drug. In reality, he

says, it's worst than heroin.

At this inner city hospital

emergency department, staff are

having to deal with hundreds of

patients a year who have used

ice. They are so aggressive it

can take up to five people to

restrain them. I regard it as

probably the greatest scourge

that's impacting on our

community today, far more

dangerous than heroin. Ice is

the purest form of amphetamine.

It's estimated 73,000

Australians regularly take the

drug or double the number who

use heroin. The problems are

very different. We saw large

numbers of people at the height

of heroin use in this country.

We saw large numbers of people

overdosing and people dying as

a consequence of heroin use.

With ice abuse, police,

ambulance officers and

hospitals are dealing with a

different addict. Scrotic

episodes an extreme violence

are common. They are actively

la lusinnating. They are

hearing voices and seeing

things. In severe cases they

feel things crawling and

walking on their bodies. We

risk losing a generation of

young people. Typical users are

aged between 21 and 29. Ken

Moroney fears the drug is

becoming more popular with

18-year-olds. Yet there is

little research on ice and few

prevention campaigns or

treatment programmes. A former

policeman who lied to the

Police Integrity Commission has

been sentenced to six months

jail for contempt. It's likely

that Christopher Walker will be

allowed to serve his time at

home. He's been released on

bail until November while his

suitability for home detention

is assessed. Onto finance and

the Government's main

commodities forecaster has

predicted a 30% drop in net

income for farmers this year.

Alan Kohler has the

details. Overall, the

Australian bureau of

agricultural and research

economics is forecasting a 14%

increase in commodity exports

this financial year. That's

about mining and energy though,

which is expected to rise 18%.

Farm exports are expected to

grow by a poultry 2.5%. The

result is while farm costs will

fall slightly, total income is

set to fall by nearly 10%,

producing a 30% drop in cash

profits. Now this here is a

graph of net farm production in

Australia, which is the growth

value of all production from

farms in the country, minus

total farm costs. As you can

see, this year it's forecast to

hit a 12-year low. At $4

billion, that figure is less

than a third of what it was

five years ago. Now to the

events of the day and there's a

lot of takeover action around

the stock market at the minute,

but it's just the froth on top

of a mill pond. The market

edged just 4.5 points higher.

Recento led the mining sector

lower, while Coles Myer shares

eased again in the absence of

the predicted takeover offer

for the company. Telstra shares

went up 2 cents, despite the

outbreak of renewed hostilities

between the Government and the

company and Qantas shares

continued to rise as well.

Hardman Resources saw its

shares jump 56% after a $1.5

billion takeover offer was

announced. The DCA Group

received a $2.7 billion bid.

Its shares went up 7%. The oil

price is down in Asia. Finally,

the Australian dollar has

dropped sharply against the New

Zealand dollar and has eased

against the US dollar. That's

finance. Sydney Swans have

conceded it will be even

tougher this year to beat the

West Coast Eagles in the AFL

grand final. The Swans have

begun their build-up to

Saturday's grand final replay

with a recovery session at the

SCG. There's no mystery to

grand final week for the

Premiers, the Swans are fit,

relaxed and experienced and in

form. That won't guarantee

victory on Saturday. The whole

teem is better. They are hungry

as us. Disappointing from last

year, but they'll be coming out

red hot. So little has

separated the two teams as late, the result could come

down to goal-kicking accuracy.

It's an area of the game

Michael O'Loughlin is reminded

of after his troubles in last

year's decider. One game and

everyone talks about it. It's

the grand final. There is

no-one to blame but myself.

It's amazing - I think we won

the grand final. There's

expected to be another battle

between the two teams tonight

with the Swans Adam Goodes and

the Eagles Chris Judd among the

favourites for the Brownlow

medal. Petero Civoniceva has

escaped suspension for this

high tackle on Friday night and

will play in Sunday night's NRL

grand final against

Melbourne. It was a nervous

wait all day yesterday and last

night. So it was great to get

good news and now I can

concentrate on having a good

preparation and enjoying the

week. Broncos kicked off their

preparations with a light

training run in front of

several hundred fans in

Brisbane. The Storm had the St

Kilda beach front to

themselves. Michael Crocker

missed the session after being

ruled out of the grand final

with a knee injury. The Storm

had won every match that

Crocker had appeared in this

season. The Australian

cricketers have won their first

trophy of the new season,

easily beating the West Indies

in the final of the Tri-series

in Malaysia. They won by 127

rubs with Brett Lee taking four

wickets to cap off a great

series. It was another trophy

for the Australians and two for

Brett Lee winning man of the

match and man of the series and

supporting Australia's policy

of spreading the

workload. Rotational basis has

helped me. I said for a while I

think he's the best one-day

bowler in the world. He started

with his first ball dismissal

of Gale, but he had plenty of

support at the other end.

Brian Lara looked unlucky.

Gone! But the same couldn't be

said for his team-mates as the

cause became impossible. Only a

brief assault from Sarwim and

Smith interrupted the flow. Before Ricky Ponting

restored the balance with a

characteristic throw.

COMMENTATOR: This will be

close if he hits the

stumped! The West Indies were

dismissed for a poultry 113,

127 runs adrift. Even with the

practice of experimentation,

Australia still delivered in

the clutch situations. I think

it's a self-belief. We've been

there plenty of times before so

know how to get out of

it. Australia's carry Webb has

another trophy for the cabinet.

The 34th of her career, after a

one-shot win in California. She

started the day five in front,

but an early double bogey and a

fighting 7 under 65 from the

world number one exerted

pressure. Webb finished with a

2 under 70 for her 4th

tournament win for the year. I

would have taken one win for

the year. I'm thrilled. The

emotion overflowed as the

European team humbled the

United States for their third

consecutive Ryder Cup success.

Many of the tears were for

Darren Clark who not only teed

it up after the loss of his

wife to cancer recently, but to

one of the best

tournaments. Being here was

amazing. His play was

remarkable. Europe have now one

five of the last six Ryder Cups. They both have a passion

for the land, but when it comes

to conservation values, they

are supposed to be on opposite

sides of the fence. Jeff

O'Keefe sold his property to the National Parks and Wildlife

Service two years ago, but

decided it was too hard to walk

away from the. Drop over the

falls into the Oxley wild

rivers national park and are

you in some of the most

spectacular gorge country along

the eastern seaboard. It

doesn't look like grazing

country, but it was a little

further down at Green Gully. Then Jeff O'Keefe sold

it to national parks. That was

two years ago, but he's still

here as of the yep as not. I

come back for the joy of doing

it. I've been here a long time

in my life and you don't walk

away from it I suppose. In his

own time he's been riding his

old land, 13,000 hectares now

wrapped into the national park

with a field officer, Milo,

teaching him about land

management from the horse's mouth. Heaps. About getting

castle that have found their

way into the park, about feral

animal control and keeping

weeds down. I wouldn't say

conservationist to his face,

but he certainly looks after

his land. He has a respect for

the land. What makes the place

doubly special is it is home to

the greatest concentration of

rock tail wallabies. They are

at home among the rocks. There

are thousands of them living as

they did before the country was

colonised. They lived on the

rocks and this country is full

of them. When the land was his,

Jeff O'Keefe used fire as a

land management technique and

said it burnt off weeds and

grasses and it provided feed

for the animals. He hasn't

persuaded parks but he hasn't

given up yet either. Welcome

respite today from the

scorching bushfire conditions.

Here's Mike with the

details. Someone beat me to the

song, but what a difference a

day makes. Winds and

temperatures dropped

significantly to begin the

week.

Thanks, Mike. Now another

look at tonight's top stories -

arson is expected as the cause

for many of the bushfires which

broke out at the weekend. And

Telstra boss Sol Trugillo says

he won't support the

appointment of John Howard's

former adviser to the telco's

board. That is ABC News. I'll

be back with updates during the

evening and Lateline is along

at 10:35 followed by Lateline

Business. Goodnight. Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling

International.

A lot of their life has just

been burned to the ground.

Everything was photograph and books and historical documents

of our family have

gone. Tonight - a tranlic early

start to the bushfire season as

seven homes go up in flames.

Is the worst still to come? The

past is no longer a guide.

We're going to get more and

more surprises. The bad

seasons seem to be coming more

frequently. We're

well-equipped, well-trained so pretty much prepared for anything. Diggers in the danger

zone - a special report on the

Australian troops putting their

lives on the line ne

Afghanistan. Right now, it's