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(generated from captions) This program is captioned live. Tonight - relief in Gaza - an Australian hostage. kidnappers free Text crimes - first charges under the new laws. for the big heat. High alert as firefighters prepare in the Southern Ocean. And whalers versus Greenpeace Juanita Phillips with ABC News. Good evening. in the Gaza Strip An Australian man taken hostage by his captors. has been released unharmed principal of an American school Brian Ambrosio is the deputy in Gaza. they were mistaken for Americans. His Dutch colleague believes in a string of abductions, The kidnapping is the latest foreign aid efforts jeopardising in the Palestinian Territory. Matt Brown reports. Middle East correspondent With a masked gunman at his back, in this hostage video. Brian Ambrosio was forced to appear for the release from prison The PLFP have been asking

men that are in prison with them. of Ahmed Sadat, Shubaki and the while they were travelling to work The two men were abducted in the north of the Gaza Strip. A car forced them off the road another location and held there and then they were taken to until they were released. by the kidnappers Both men were assured that they wouldn't be harmed, was always in jeopardy. but their safety

thought, there could be an attempt when they thought, the kidnappers There were a few tense moments

to release them. and sort of playing with weapons. So people getting nervous When he was eventually set free, a brave face. Brian Ambrosio was putting on How do you feel? I'm fine, no trouble at all. Yeah, no problem at all. But it was clearly a harrowing time.

from this violence and guns We need to somehow get away you know, for the future of Gaza. and things like that, at 9:00 this morning. We've spoken to Brian He's no longer in Gaza. and we're all very relieved. He's safe and well and journalists At least 10 foreign aid workers this year. have been abducted in Gaza This ordeal, however brief, problem with security in Gaza. has demonstrated the ongoing Mahmoud Abbas, The Palestinian President, has ordered his security forces working here, to look after the foreigners this spate of abductions. but clearly they're unable to stop

Matt Brown, ABC News, Gaza. racial clashes Police investigating Sydney's have laid their first charges of offensive text messages. over the circulation his Matraville home last night A 33-year-old man was arrested at in February. and was bailed to appear in court the Cronulla riots, In the days after text messages spread across Sydney. the king of the jungle. "Take action for we are this Sunday." "Show them we have awaken man circulated a text message Police allege the 33-year-old similar to this, at two beaches last Sunday. urging people to meet The man has been charged a phone to menace, with one count of using harass or cause offence the commission of a crime. and one of inciting act as a warning to troublemakers. The Premier says the arrest should They've got to get the message that passing on these text messages and commit retribution inciting others to organise

and indiscriminate acts of violence a very severe penalty. is going to carry It's emerged that police the text message on the phone. don't have to physically find can be compelled to retrace texts Telecommunication companies by users several days before. that have been deleted obliged to keep material available And the telephone companies are for limited periods of time to be properly undertaken. to enable law enforcement tasks today The Attorney-General also revealed organisations infiltrated the riots that allegations that racist by ASIO. are likely to be investigated to politically motivated violence They do deal with issues relating or other matters. whether it's based upon race threatening text messages More arrests for sending are expected over the next few days. is three years in jail. The maximum prison sentence

David Spicer, ABC News, Sydney. has been launched A $250,000 advertising campaign to Sydney's southern beaches. to try to woo people back particularly in Cronulla, Local businesses, "stay away" directive. have suffered from the Premier's to lure the tourists back The Government now wants the Christmas-New Year period. in time to spend up big over Things are improving in Cronulla business as usual. but it's not quite of resentment against their suburb. Locals say there's still a tide I've had cancellations. We have holiday accommodation. I'm not going to f-ing Cronulla I've had emails sent to me saying because it's racist. Sandra Nori, says The Minister for Tourism, to reclaim the city's reputation. it's up to the people of Sydney on our beaches. Have the normal Sydney summer fun we can have That is the best advertisement to come and visit our city. for people to have confidence any compensation. The Government will not hand out for Small Business, David Campbell, Instead, the Minister today lee by example... I'll take them. ..by buying up at this shop in the Cronulla mall.

The Government's rescue package

and radio ads includes $250,000 worth of newspaper which will run next week. The Opposition says the campaign isn't big enough to turn things around. created worldwide out of that The negative imagery that's been concentrated campaign. calls for a much more Businesses are hoping locals and tourists the ads will encourage to celebrate New Year's Eve southern beaches. at venues along Sydney's for us We see that as a big milestone

up and running again if we can get New Year's Eve

celebrating it. and everyone will be down here in the reconciliation campaign... Meanwhile there was another step Try to get the people back together and harmony really. to try and live in peace ..some of the big names of rugby league turning out for a game of touch football at Brighton Le Sands. Sarah Schofield, ABC News.

It's the combination firefighters dread - hot, dry and windy. And that's the forecast for NSW in the lead up to Christmas. With temperatures expected to soar into the high 30s, authorities have declared a total fire ban across the State. And firefighters have already been busy, bringing 20 blazes under control overnight. It may be a relatively late start to the bushfire season, but authorities are bracing for the worst.

A number of homes were threatened overnight at Allambie Heights, on Sydney's Northern Beaches. About 15 hectares of bushland were burnt before dozens of firefighters and volunteers brought the blaze under control. Elsewhere in the State, the biggest concerns are at Port Stephens and at Nambucca, on the North Coast. With hot, dry and windy conditions expected, fire authorities have issued a total fire ban until midnight on Christmas Eve. Friday, Saturday - extreme fire danger throughout most of NSW. A great deal of vigilance will be required on the part of the community. The fire ban rules out candlelight vigils, open-fire barbecues and fireworks, unless exceptions have been granted. And authorities are asking those going away for Christmas to clear all combustibles from their house. If you're staying home and there's fire, the advice is to stay indoors. Because they can do an enormous amount of good work in preparing their houses to give firefighters a better chance of avoiding property damage. And firefighters have been busy in Victoria, too. Five aircraft have been helping ground crews fight a blaze in the Grampians National Park, in the State's west.

Simon Palan, ABC News. A magistrate has determined there is enough evidence for a jury to convict a Sydney security guard of murder.

Karen Brown shot dead a man who robbed and bashed her outside the Moorebank Hotel, in Sydney's south-west, in July last year. Today her lawyer argued she acted in self-defence and that the charge should be reduced to manslaughter. But the magistrate found her actions were measured and deliberate. I think I'll go to trial, unfortunately, but that's the way the system works. Just gotta hang in there. A decision will be made tomorrow on whether the case should proceed to trial.

There have been dramatic confrontations between whalers and environmental activists off the Antarctic coast. But the Federal Environment Minister has warned that physical tactics may hamper the international fight against whaling. Now he's under pressure over the docking of a Japanese ship in Hobart. Six Japanese whaling ships are in the Antarctic on their annual expedition. It's now become a pitched battle with Greenpeace protesters. We're going to continue non-violent protest on the whaling grounds as long as we can. This film was taken by the organisation and shows activists trying to put themselves between the whales and their hunters.

Both sides accuse the other of deliberately ramming their boats. The Japanese Government insists the whales are caught for scientific purposes. To collect scientific information for much more appropriate management of whale resources in Antarctica. But environmental groups say

the whales are sold on the commercial market. Japan has doubled its quota this year and is moving onto endangered species such as the fin and next year plans to move on to kill humpbacks as well. The Federal Environment Minister is warning action like this might damage the anti-whaling movement. It's very, very important that Greenpeace's activities remain productive and positive that we we don't have any dangerous incidents at sea.

Environmental groups are accusing the minister of not doing all he can to campaign against whaling. They're calling on the Government to take legal action. One of the Japanese ships is due to arrive in Hobart later this week to drop off a sick crew member. The Greens say this gives the Government an opportunity. The Government should impound this ship,

should absolutely make sure it's not refuelled and absolutely make sure it doesn't go back to killing our whales in our Antarctic waters. The minister says a threat to impound the boat could stop it coming altogether

and endanger the crew member's life. Oscar McLaren, ABC News. The billionaire businessman Richard Pratt today denied any involvement in the cartel allegations against him. Mr Pratt faced the media today after regulators yesterday launched court proceedings against his company, Visy Industries. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges Visy was involved in a price fixing cartel with its main competitor, Amcor. If the allegations are proven, Mr Pratt faces fines totalling millions of dollars. 71-year-old Richard Pratt didn't go into any detail

about the allegations today, but his defiance was obvious.

I'm confident that the evidence will show that I had no part in any market-sharing agreement or understanding with my competitors. I can't say any more today. The Visy Industries chairman and his chief executive Harry Debney

have been named in a statement of claim filed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with the Federal Court in Melbourne. The ACCC alleges the pair, along with the company's former general manager Rod Carroll, entered into anti-competitive arrangements with rival Amcor between 2000 and 2004. I'm confident when all the evidence is heard

that it will be proved that I've had no part to play in any market-sharing agreement or understanding with my competitors. It's alleged Visy and Amcor agreed to maintain their share of the cardboard box market by collaborating to increase prices and not to poach certain customers. Amcor has been granted immunity by the ACCC about the alleged collusion because it provided information last year. How would you feel? No comment. including Coca Cola and Nestle, Companies, among the alleged targets. are named by the ACCC as being this case is proved would be great. The significant costs to them if commenting on the allegations today, The Prime Minister wasn't of Australia's third richest man. but was glowing in his praise an enormous contribution He's a person who's made and the Australian community. to the Australian nation

the Federal Court in February. The case will go before Mary McDonald, ABC News, Melbourne. has been accused The Immigration Department suicidal detainee at risk of putting the life of a potentially Baxter Detention Centre. by returning him to from hospital to Baxter The Turkish Kurd was transferred this afternoon, pending deportation, despite recent suicide attempts. from Glenside Psychiatric Hospital The 45-year-old man was removed this afternoon, and is on his way back to Baxter. For four months, and post-traumatic stress he's been treated for depression stay in the detention centre. which developed during a two-year

breach of the man's human rights I just think that that's a gross that...to try and remedy an illness to the original cause of it. and then return the person after overstaying his visa. The man is awaiting deportation he has twice tried to kill himself, His advocates say once in Baxter, was just weeks ago. while the most recent attempt and broke his shoulder bone, He jumped off the roof he took an overdose and when he was in Glenside in the Royal Adelaide Hospital. and finished up for the man's safety The State's public advocate fears on his return to detention.

he would kill himself. He said if he went back has issued a statement The Immigration Department from Glenside on clinical advice saying it only releases patients on this specific case. but won't comment

the timing of the move. John Harley has questioned wants to get something off her desk It looks to me as if the Minister before Christmas. The man's supporters have lodged a last-minute application to keep him in Australia. be held in community detention. In the meantime, they say he should Rebecca Morse, ABC News, Adelaide. Recapping our main story - is free in Gaza an Australian teacher who later released him. after being kidnapped by extremists, And, still to come - milestone for gay couples. Elton John celebrates a legal Alexander Downer, The Foreign Affairs Minister, has been criticised a memorial service for deciding not to attend of the tsunami in Thailand. for Australian victims in South Australia Mr Downer will be on holiday next Monday in Phuket. when the commemoration is held Peter Lloyd reports. South-East Asia correspondent was one of 23 Australians Ian Walsh's wife, Kim, who died in Thailand's tsunami. returning for a beachfront memorial He's among 60 relatives won't be attending. that Alexander Downer It's a snob-off. including himself. I mean, everybody knows that, reason for not being here. And, you know, there's no valid that he's on holidays. I mean, I've heard a rumour to visit at the time of the tsunami, As the most senior government member for the commemoration. Mr Downer was invited back He declined. by Ambassador Bill Patterson, So Australia will be represented a year ago. the man who was comforting relatives or so I copped a bit in my first day I have to say. and it wasn't pleasant, that it was fully understandable. But in the end you have to say People were... moment they've faced in their lives. It's probably the most difficult Ian Walsh hasn't spoken before was hit by the tsunami about the moment this resort while he and his wife were in their room. in the motel room just imploded The plate-glass windows all the furniture and the water just picked up the other end of the room and just rammed us down into the narrow exit passage, and to cut a long story short, Kim got pinned in the furniture and the rest is history. he fears the sound of the ocean. Even now people tell you, I think it doesn't matter how many or how much you know, while you're standing on the beach, that there is no threat just keeps on trying to panic you. the brain overrides it and it refused to comment The Foreign Affairs Department here in Thailand. on Mr Downer's no-show

When asked for his reaction, also refused to comment. Mr Downer's press secretary Peter Lloyd, ABC News, Phuket. has been found guilty A Brisbane journalist prisoner without permission. of interviewing a Queensland Anne Catherine Delaney Film-maker and former ABC journalist

Women's Correctional Facility was arrested at the at Wacol, west of Brisbane,

Louise Julie McPhee. She'd been visiting child killer in April.

getting information Ms Delaney says she was only

was worth pursuing. to see if a story Magistrate Errol Wessling found But, today, an interview the conversation did constitute good behaviour bond. and handed down a 12-month No conviction was recorded. I do think there's a major problem of the Corrective Services Act with this particular section in Queensland. concealing I do think that it goes to in Queensland jails what's really going on about the decision. and I'm obviously very disappointed the judgment Ms Delaney says she'll examine before considering an appeal.

To finance now - fell back today and the local share market on the banks. as profit takers moved in Alan Kohler has the details. was too busy talking about Perhaps everybody in the stockmarket cardboard box company, a certain unlisted someone flicked a switch but it was as if big rise to a new record, from the excitement of yesterday's to today's ennui of a 0.2% fall and thin trading. It was mostly to do with profit taking among the banks,

although Telstra went up 1 cent

as stockbroking analysts started putting out upgraded recommendations following this week's increased profit forecast from the company. There was a bit of colour, if you'll pardon the pun, when the investment company Allco Equity Partners launched a hostile takeover bid for the paint company Wattyl Ltd. The bid is $275 million, or $3.25 a share, and follows an attempt by Allco last week to get Wattyl to support an agreed bid. But Allco got the brush off. Today Wattyl's price went well above the bid, so there may be more to come there. Today's decline in Australia came despite some modest gains on Wall Street overnight. And the economic news today is merchandise imports for November - up an extremely surprising 13.5% to $15.2 billion. But actually the ABS said the figure may have resulted from the fact that they have got a new computer, which resulted in some temporary changes to the way imports are calculated. So, maybe imports jumped in November and maybe not. But, assuming the figures are correct, here's a graph of imports from China - up nearly 20% in November to be 15% of our total imports, cementing China's position

as Australia's largest source of imports. The gold price has fallen about 0.25%. Oil has gone up nearly 1% and the Australian dollar has continued to ease on global foreign exchange markets as the US dollar defies the pundits and keeps going up. And that's finance.

As Australian farmers get ready to celebrate Christmas it's a very different picture in South Africa's townships. The combination of poverty and AIDS has left millions of children orphaned. And aside from charity,

they'll be facing the festive season alone. Africa correspondent Zoe Daniel reports from Johannesburg. All of these children have lost their parents to AIDS. They're among the 2 million orphans in South Africa who will get their only Christmas gift this year from charity, if they're lucky. Refilwe and her young sister, Fortunate, have no presents. Their mother died of AIDS two years ago. Now they take care of themselves. I am the mother, I am everything in this house mmm, so it's not easy, it's not easy. HIV now affects one in eight South Africans

and about 80% of the families in the country's vast townships have been affected in some way. There's virtually no sign of the festive season here, because many families won't be celebrating this Christmas. For Refilwe and Fortunate it's just another reason to miss their Mum. We would like sit there, cook some jellies and custards and it would be like the best Christmas ever. Magdeline is another who has little to celebrate. She's lost a daughter to AIDS and four weeks ago she buried her 12-year-old grand-daughter who was born HIV positive. Oh, it's dark for me, Christmas is going to be a dark one.

How will you get through Christmas? I don't think I've got anything. I've got nothing left for me. She's sick herself and she can't look after her grandson because she can hardly get out of bed. Christmas will have to wait until next year. There's nothing that I can suggest at this moment. I think we will be having a next year merry Christmas. Charities are working overtime to give some festive cheer to those who need it, but it's a big job.

Zoe Daniel, ABC News, Johannesburg. The family of a British Air Force hero is celebrating the amazing recovery of a rare medal stolen in London 17 years ago. The George Cross was found on a beach on Queensland's Sunshine Coast in February. Today the police officer who spent months tracking down its rightful owner handed it over to the acting British Consul-General. I have a military background, so when I saw it, I've just gone "Oh, my god," and recognised it for what it was. The medal, for extreme bravery, was awarded to Flying Officer Anthony Tollemache in 1940. He nearly died while trying to save a passenger from the wreckage of his plane, which crashed during a training exercise in England. Only 400 people have been awarded the George Cross. We've done the research on the George Cross and it's certainly up there - it ranks alongside the Victoria Cross in terms of importance.

The medal will be sent back to Mr Tollmache's family in the United Kingdom early next year. Deputy Adam Gilchrist has come to the Australian cricket captain's defence after more criticism of Ricky Ponting's leadership. Even though the series against South Africa has moved to Melbourne, the timing of Ponting's declaration in the first Test in Perth is still being debated. Here's Rob Cross. Rather than let any criticism bounce off, the Australian keeper was quick to put the boot into Ponting's detractors. Very, very surprised by this rubbish around - this scrutiny of Ricky again. I really am. As several Australian players took time out for a 6-a-side game against the Essendon AFL club today, Gilchrist was surprised at some of the comments. I heard the term 'arrogance' used or read that somewhere.

I'm just really surprised by that. I think Ricky would have every reason to be a bit offended by that. Praise, though, for Shane Warne from Richie Benaud, who wants the champion leg-spinner to play in the 2009 Ashes series in England. If I am still enjoying my cricket, and bowling well enough and batting well enough and catching good, then I'll keep going.

Brad Hodge could be well entrenched by then, but the next step is the Boxing Day Test at his home ground. This is definitely the one. I've got no doubt, you know, I think everything is familiar to me. It's just a short trip from my house to the MCG. It's just going to be a marvellous experience just to walk out and feel the buzz. When 83-year-old John Walker first sailed in the Sydney to Hobart more than 20 years ago, his boat, 'Impeccable', could hold its own. Strangely enough, the boat didn't shrink but the other boats are getting bigger and bigger.

Then from being a mid-sized, middle-of-the-fleet boat, we are now the smallest one.

With the maxis again dominating this year's line honours talk,

contenders for the overall handicap trophy remain worried wealthy owners make it hard to keep a level playing field. The designers have outwitted the rule-makers, basically. But the oldest skipper in the fleet sees a positive spin-off from innovation. I'm in favour of the big boats. Let them spend all the money they can and bring up new developments and we can share with them later on. Only a successful appeal looks capable of rescuing the career of French Open finalist Mariano Puerta after he was suspended from the sport for a record eight years for doping.

The International Tennis Federation says the left-handed Argentinian returned a positive test for a banned stimulant in June after his loss to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.

It was the 27-year-old's second offence and the fifth time in five years an Argentinian professional has tested positive. Puerta's suspension is six years more than the previous longest ban for a tennis player. Sir Elton John and his long-time partner, David Furnish, Have tied the knot in Britain.

They joined hundreds of gay and lesbian couples taking advantage of a new law to formalise their relationship. Same-sex or 'pink weddings', as they've been dubbed, are now forecast to become the latest multimillion-dollar growth industry. Europe correspondent Jane Hutcheon reports. CROWD CHEERS The 58-year-old performer and his partner of 12 years followed in the footsteps of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, saying, "I do" at Windsor's Guildhall. Hundreds of well-wishers cheered them on. It's just wonderful. I think he's lovely, I love his music. I've been a fan all these years, so, why not? They're entitled to their life the same as anybody else is. I promise to be loving... Britain's new partnership law gives same-sex couples property, pension and inheritance rights equal to those of married couples. But not everyone supports the new law. We see them as something that's wrong. The Christian view has always been that sexual relationships belong properly in the marriage relationship - and that means a marriage of a man and a woman. (Sings) * It's a show full of substance and meaning

* you'll enjoy if you're dyke, straight or fag. * And civil partnerships aren't just another excuse for a party. 3.6 million people - 6% of Britons - are gay or lesbian, with a combined annual income of $140 million. The Government is certainly estimating that 22,000 are going to sign the civil partnership before 2010. So there's definitely grounds for a lot of business there and anyone who's in the industry is going to make, you know, a fair bit of money from it. Hundreds of businesses are now chasing

what's known as the 'pink pound'. Jane Hutcheon, ABC News, London. Let's check the weather now. And as we heard earlier, extreme fire danger in many parts of the State and a total fire ban in force right up to Christmas Day. In Sydney, the cloud cover kept temperatures relatively mild today - A top of 26 on the coast although it got up to 31 further west. That was after a warm night, a low of 21. Around the rest of the State, It was cloudy but dry With hazy conditions along the coast north of Sydney and temperatures about average in that area. Moving further south though, the maximum temperatures were well below average with some fresh winds along the coast. Further inland, temperatures in many places were well above average. The highest - 41 degrees at Walgett and Mungindi. As for rainfall, nothing at all to report. Not a drop recorded anywhere in the State in the 24 hours to 9:00am. And the same today up to 3:00pm. Completely dry. Looking at the national picture now - and a clear, dry and hot day across most of the continent. The satellite picture shows a band of cloud in the east

along a weak trough, producing some scattered showers and cloud increasing in WA, but otherwise fairly clear. That trough will send hot north-westerly winds across Queensland, NSW and Victoria, creating the sort of conditions the firefighters are worried about. Tomorrow's rainfall - nothing for NSW unfortunately that would ease those conditions. Most of the rain will be in the south-west of the continent. Around the major centres tomorrow, a very hot day expected with several capital cities expecting temperatures in the high 30s and some thunderstorm activity.

Perth, though, will be cool. Around NSW tomorrow, the dominant weather feature will be the dry hot conditions that have resulted in the total fire ban although there will be some isolated showers in the north-east tonight. It'll be warming up tomorrow with strengthening north-east to north-west winds ahead of a late south-west gusty change. In the west, there'll be some dust raised by that change and also the chance of a late shower in the south-west regions. But generally fine. In Sydney tomorrow, a fine and mostly sunny day. Temperatures ranging from 19 tonight, up to 30 tomorrow. The first high tide will be at 2:30am. And the sun will be up at 5:42. And the outlook for Sydney leading up to Christmas - an extremely hot Saturday, a top of 38 expected, but there'll be a cool change through in time for Christmas and Boxing Day. Fine and mostly sunny, with tops of 28. Now, before we go tonight, a quick look at tonight's top stories - an Australian teacher kidnapped then freed in the Middle East says he wants to stay in Gaza. And there's an extreme fire alert across NSW tonight. 20 blazes have been brought under control, but there's a total fire ban in place. And that's ABC News. I'm Juanita Phillips. There'll be updates during the evening and the 'Late News' is at 10:15pm. Have a good evening. Closed Captions produced by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd This program is captioned live. One of the giants of Australian business, Richard Pratt, emerged briefly today to fire the first shot in his defence against charges alleging that he and his company, Visy Industries, engineered a price-fixing cartel in the cardboard box market. In what is being touted as the biggest prosecution in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's history, the civil charges could result in fines of more than $400 million.