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Tonight - just gutted,

Tasmania counts the cost of

devastating fires. It does

actually put a shiver down your

spine when you see what damage

is done. Lightning does strike

twice and western Sydney feels

the heat. Peter Falconio's

killer appeals against his

conviction. And on a roll,

Kevin Rudd bowls them over in

the polls. Good evening,

Juanita Phillips with ABC News.

The fire storms threatening

life and property in

Australia's south-east are tonight closing in on several

communities. In Victoria, combined fire fronts now

stretch more than 200

kilometres while in Tasmania's

north-east, coastal towns are

being warned to evacuate in the

face of an uncontrolled blaze.

The small communities of St

Mary's and Falmouth are tonight

directly in the path of the

same fire that's gone through

the town of Scamander,

destroying at least 18 houses.

From there, the ABC's Fiona

Reynolds begins our coverage.

Daybreak brought disbelief and

for some despair. Scamander

residents who fled the fire

storm's fury returned to count their losses. Yesterday this

was an art gallery. Today,

it's ash. It was beautiful.

Not there now, is it? And

3-bedroom house here next door,

timber house - all gone. Where

one house was razed, next door

another was spared. It is

difficult for the community.

They've stuck together well and

I think the morale under the

situation is pretty

good. Firefighters say the

blaze was ferocious travelling

so fast there was nothing they

could do. Within minutes the

fire storm had engulfed homes. Glenn Bailey hadn't seen

anything like it in his 26

years as a volunteer. It does

put a shiver down your spine

when you see what damage is

done. I've been unlucky enough

to be around all the structured

fires so I know what's burnt .

It doesn't look good. It is

sad. What can you do? The fire

service says some homes could

have been saved if people could

have protected them. Stay and

defend wherever practical. But

for some Scamander residents

the wall of flame and searing

heat was too frightening and

they fled. Many made to an

evacuation and relief centre

just north of Scamander. It

wasn't long we opened the doors

here that people came in and

offered food, offered assistance, some offered rooms

in their own homes. Country

people are good like that. With

most phones and power cut some

could only assume their homes

had been lost. Road closures meant others couldn't return,

even when they wanted to. By

this afternoon the wind

switched direction pushing the

fire back on itself. Thick

bush that escaped and first

blaze ignited as the flames headed south. St Mary's

residents were called to a

public meeting and warned to

prepare their homes or evacuate. If you are concerned

about your house and you decide

that you are not going to stay,

leave early. More than 20

families decided the danger was

too great and left. We've done

all we can. We've got to let

Mother Nature do what it's

going to do. We're praying for

a wind change. For those who

stayed thick smoke and dense

terrain is making the extent of

the fire and its path

uncertain. People in

Victoria's fire zone are also

on high alert tonight, with

several towns there still under

threat. Most at risk are Dargo

and Bright after the main fires

in Gippsland and the north-east

merged overnight. They're now

advancing on a combined front

of more than 200 kilometres.

The bushfires have destroyed a

popular ski lodge at Mount

Buffalo, the Crystal Palace

burnt to the ground this

morning after -- Cresta Valley

Lodge burnt to the ground.

Relief was fleeting. Dargo

residents were again onlator.

Overnight the fire broke

through containment lines

coming within 10 kilometres of

the township. Everyone's a bit

wary and uptight and yeah, a

bit anxious about the whole

thing. Are you going to make

it through? Yeah, I mean, we're

because you've got to be pretty sure that we will

positive about these

things. But further afield it

was even more ominous. The

Gippsland and north-east fires

merged overnight forming a

massive firefront. The

south-west wind is holding it

at bay but that's likely to

change by the end of the week.

Firefighters say residents have

less than 48 hours to prepare

before strong northerly winds

could potentially push the 250 hectare blaze towards several townships. It certainly is

heading this way and hence

we're putting in place

strategies and resources to

deal with that issue as best we

can. Strike teams have been

brought in. Other firefighters

are on standby. We're expecting

the worst-case scenario to

impact on Dargo at some

particular stage. The wait has

been excruciating for Darren

Szabo. It's not a matter of if

but when. His deer farm is

surrounded by fire and he's

given up home of saving his

animals. I want to save the

house so I can bring the family

back. All the residents can do

is wait and prepare for the

battle ahead. The west, too, is

having bushfire trouble . In

the Perth Hills suburb of

Kalamunda one house has been

destroyed and two others

damaged. Firefighters couldn't

save the 2-storey home but

could only watch as the blaze

raced through the darling Range

National Park A woman from the

house and two firefighters are being treated for smoke

inhalation. The fire is

threatening other properties

and emergency service personnel

are trying to stop it crossing

a major road. The situation in

NSW was helped by cooler

weather conditions, but a blaze

near Tumut west of Canberra is

still a concern. It's doubled

in size in the past 24 hours

and burnt more than 10,000

hectares of pine forest. And

in western Sydney, fierce

electrical storms last night

proved a real test for the

authorities, with lightning

strikes triggering spot

fires. Watch the power lines! 300 firefighters worked

through the night to bring the

fires under control. Hundreds

of hectares of bushland were

burnt out but crews stopped any

homes from being

destroyed. Just went through

the backyard, right through the

gate. The weather also did

damage in central Sydney, where

strong early morning winds sent

part of the wall of an

apartment block crashing into

the street. One sick

policeman, one crook day for

the Government. A police

station in Sydney's north-west

was forced to close its doors

on Sunday night because one

officer was taken ill.

Embarrassing questions soon

followed for the Government,

not only about police numbers

but other essential services,

as well. It was never going to

be a good day for the State

Government. It began with this

headline about a hand-written

note taped to the window of a

police station in Sydney's

north-west on Sunday night.

The Police Association says the

shutdown was not an isolated

case. Again in the metro area

there are some 24-hour stations

closed on a regular basis.

This is not helping the

community, the community

deserve better. One police

officer from Castle Hill called

in sick on Sunday afternoon and

a replacement couldn't be found. What happened over the

weekend is not an issue of

numbers, more of management of

those numbers. The minister

says three patrol cars were in

the area all night and safety

wasn't jeopardised. The

minister can spin it any way he

likes. They couldn't keep the

doors open on Sunday night. The Prison Officers' Union raised

the alarm about staff numbers.

A prison officer was yesterday

savagely attacked by an inmate

at Silverwater Jail. His

condition has been upgraded

overnight to critical by staff

at the Westmead Hospital. He's

had a slight improvement this

morning. The State's Auditor-General added to the

Government's woes, releasing a

report detailing nursing

shortages across the State.

The report says hospital bed

numbers are being reduced and

agency nurses are filling in

the gaps. The report says

recruitment has improved and

the resignation rate of nurses

in NSW has fallen. There's

been an intriguing twist at the

Rachelle Childs inquest. Her

boss faced questioning today

and denied he had a number of

reasons to be upset with her.

Rachelle Childs' burned body

was found on the South Coast

five years ago. His wife had

left him for a man she met on

the Internet. His marriage

ended and so did his car

dealership business.

Little did he know some years

later his talented employee

Rachelle Childs would also find

love online. Counsel assisting

suggested Mr Correll was angry

that Ms Childs' sales figures had declined.

Mr Correll also denied stealing cash from his

customers. His lawyer quickly

objected to a suggestion his

client was worried Ms Childs

would find out. The

23-year-old was last seen at

the Bargo hotel in June 2001.

The following day her body was

found in bushland near ge rowa

on the State's South Coast.

Counsel assisting the coroner

suggested Mr Correll had

promised her the use of a dream

car for the weekend. The inquest resumes on

Friday.for the first time in

three years, a Labor leader is

running neck and neck with John

Howard as preferred Prime

Minister. But Kevin Rudd is

playing down Labor's big jump

in the opinion polls, warning

that the party can't become

complacent. Bowl up, bowl up,

it's the third day of Kevin

Rudd's national campaign swing. What worries me about

students is when you're working

three jobs just to stay alive? I'm working two at the moment. Now the new Opposition

Leader is vowing to spend more

to help the less well off get

to university. We need to make

university education more

affordable for kids from

working families. It's just a

week and a day since he seized

the Labor leadership. The first opinion poll shows:

The Opposition Leader is

understandably cautious. A

protest vote against Mr Howard,

I think Mr Howard's getting

increasingly out of touch but I

don't see in them any entrenched vote for Labor and

myself. When you have a new

leader, the new leader has a

honeymoon. I would expect

Labor to be comfortably ahead

for several months. John Howard insists he's taking Kevin Rudd

as seriously as all the other

Labor leaders he's faced. He

denied taking the gloss off his

new rival's honeymoon was

behind the timing of his announcement giving the go-ahead for a citizenship

test. It was listed on the

agenda long before Mr Rudd came

on the scene. The Prime

Minister internal sceptics are

going. It's a blunt instrument

to stop whackos and it's not

going to do it. A placebo says

Barnaby Joyce. Nevertheless,

because his voters think it's a

good idea he won't vote against

the new test. It was a case

which made headlines around the

world, a year ago this week Bradley John Murdoch was found

guilty of murdering British

backpacker Peter Falconio and

of assaulting Joanne Lees.

Today the convicted killer

began an appeal against the

severity of his 28-year

sentence. Bradley John Murdoch

wasn't in court today as the

appeal against his murder

conviction and sentence began. Instead his defence lawyers

were left to argue his case,

led by the man who helped to

jail Lynndie chamber lane for

murder in the 1980s Ian Bacher

QC argued:

And that jailing Murdoch for

at least 28 years was

excessive. Murdoch was found

guilty of murdering Peter

Falconio near Barrow Creek in

July 2001 and of assaulting

Joanne Lees and depriving her

of her liberty. Murdoch won't

be eligible for parole until

2031. Ms Lees flew from England last year to give evidence in the trial. It's

that evidence that's now being

called into question. The

defence says Ms Lees'

identification of Murdoch was unreliable because she saw a

picture of him on the Internet

linking him to the crime before

she identified him to police.

Ian Bacher QC told the court: rker QC told the court:

Mr Barker also said evidence

identifying Bradley John

Murdoch at an Alice Springs

truck stop in the hours after

the murder was flawed and that

the trial judge erred when

directing the jury. Neither

the Falconio family nor Joanne

Lees are here in Darwin for

this appeal and with Peter

Falconio's body still missing

more than five years after his

murder, it's unlikely that

whatever the outcome that they

can be truly satisfied. A

Sydney woman has pleaded not

guilty to alleged child pornography offences involving

her own children. Detectives

arrested the 39-year-old

yesterday during a search of a

house in the city's west.

Three children in the home were

placed into care. The woman

was refused bail in court

today. It's been a mystery for

two years. Who was driving a

truck that hit a car on the

Hume Highway killing a

6-year-old boy? Rian Strathdee's parents are hoping

that an inquest into his death

will trigger memories and help

find their son's killer. On 26

November, 2004 the lives of

Jasmine Payget and Laurie

Strathdee were shattered.

Their 6-year-old son Rian died

in a horror crash in the

southern highland. Hitting us

was an accident, whatever happened it was an accident,

but running away was an active

choice and it's wrong. It's

wrong, wrong, wrong. The family

had just left Sutton Forest and

were merging into traffic on

the Hume Highway when a truck

hit their white Suburu

stationwagon. The impact cat

palted the car more than 50 metres. The light of the truck

filled our car. There was a

horn and then we were off the

road. Today tin quest into

Rian Strathdee 's death heard

that the truck was never identified. One witness

described it as a semitrailer

with aye flat tray and a

tarpaulin. The acting coroner

said it's clear the driver must

have been aware of the

accident. He said the truck

would have sustained notable

damage after hitting the car at

high speed. The inquest was

adjourned until next year when

it's hoped police will have

more leads. Someone called to

ask for Rian's condition and

then hung up when they were

told that he died. Potentially

that was someone who knew

something and I'd like them to

come forward with a bit more

information. Since their son's

death Rian Strathdee's parents

have campaigned for all truck

drivers to take better care on

the road. Tonight's top stour

- no end in sight to the

bushfire emergency in

Australia's south-east. Still

to come - Shane Warne eyes up a

third Test milestone. Kofi

Annan has used his final speech

as UN Secretary-General to

deliver a sharp rebuke to the

Bush Administration. By

diplomatic standards it was a

stenging critique of US policy.

He Sengled out the war in Iraq

for special criticism, just as George W. Bush is considering

major changes to his policy. The President who once called

himself the decider is now keen

to consult. He started three

days of intensive talks on

Iraq. Today George W. Bush

received briefings from the

State Department, academics and

retired generals. I appreciate

at the advice I got from those

folks in the field and that

advice is an important part and

an important component of

putting together a new way

forward in Iraq. The United Nations' Secretary-General

wants a new way forward on

American foreign policy. Kofi

Annan used his final speech to

blast George W. Bush and the

tactics on the so-called war on

terror. When it appears to

abandon its own ideals and

objectives its friends abroad

are naturally troubled and

confused. Although the Secretary-General said he

wasn't trying to criticise the

Bush Administration his speech

was full of diplomatic back

handers, especially veiled

references to the invasion of

Iraq. When power, especially

military forces is used, the

world will consider it

legitimate only when convinced

that it is used and is being

used for the right purpose. The

State Department is playing

down the comments saying the UN

and US can't be expected to

agree on everything. Some

Republican Congressmen are much

less diplomatic. They've

accused Kofi Annan of failed

leadership and the United

Nations of rampant moral and

financial mismanagement. He's

defended the United States'

international performance. Everyone in the

world wants America to fix up

all the problems of the world and everyone in the world wants to criticise America for them

not being fixed. Kofi Annan

will step down at the end of

the month after ten years in

the top job. There's been a

surprise result in the Aceh elections. A former

independence fighter looks like

becoming the first governor of

the Indonesian province. A

veteran of the armed struggle

inside Aceh he's polling twice

the votes of other leading

candidates who've lived in

exile for decades. Aceh's man

of the moment. One night,

Irwandi Yusuf has leapt from

being a loyal ex-rebel

lieutenant to holding court as

Aceh's Gam governor-elect. It's

a milestone for the future of

Aceh. Good. When promptd at

least, Irwandi's victory was

acknowledged on Banda Aceh's

streets today but most seemed

unaware they had just turned Aceh's history on its

head. We've had a

transformation of Aceh in the

last 24 hours and I think what

it means is that we're going to

see change in a way that hasn't

been possible in Aceh for three

decades. Overwhelming support

for Aceh's grassroots rebels

has sidelined Gam's senior

leadership in Sweden, and sent

a sharp message to Jakarta. It

will also mean, for example,

that Jakarta might get nervous

about allowing independent

candidates or local political

parties where else if there

were pressures, for example, to

do that in Papua or in south

Sulawesi or other areas. 85%

voter turnout yesterday showed

just how high expectations are.

Former fighter voted for are

you wandy. Now he is back in

the shop he set up only with

international assistance. His

unemployed mates haven't been

so lucky. TRANSLATION: There

are more former fighters

unemployed than those with

jobs. The width and the depth

of Gam's grassroots support has

surprised many Aceh observers.

Now the pressure is not just on

Irwandi Yusuf to demand more

from Indonesia, but also on

Jakarta to deliver it. The

local sharemarket edged higher

today mostly due to another big

rise in the price of Telstra.

Alan Kohler has the details.

Not only is Telstra's momentum

not slowing down, it's

accelerating. Today the shares

went up 6 cents to more than $4

for the first time since

mid-February. And the T3

instalment receipts rose even

more. 7 crepts which is twice

the percentage gain of the

shares. The yield on them is

now down to 10.7%, fully

franked. Where will it end? At

the rest of the market barely

moved today. Qantas's share

price drifted as investors got

bored waiting for the muted

takeover offer. There was

nothing boring about one of the

bidders, Macquarie Bank which

jumped more than 12%. There

were also rumours today that

Macquarie is involved in a

takeover offer for Toll Holdings as a result of which

Toll's share price went up 20

cents today. Although the

rumours were denied. In the

past month the shares have gone

up 20%. Among the resource

stocks, BHP fell 1% and Zinifex

jumped 4%. Wall Street edged

higher last night as investors

waited to see what the Federal

Reserve does with interest

rates in America, or rather

what it says when it does

nothing. On commodity markets,

oil fell, gold went up slightly

and the zinc price rose nearly

2%. It's basically gone

nowhere for a month. Today's

economic news is lending data

from the ABS down 1.3% in

October. Loans are nearly 25%

higher than a year ago.

Today's graph is the rental

vacancy rate since 1977 and

it's currently down to an

18-year low. Usually when the

vacancy rate is this low it

means a property boom is just

around the corner because

rental yields start rising

rapidly. Just thought I'd pass

that on. Finally the

Australian dollar is a little

higher against the US dollar

and the Trade Weighted Index.

That's finance. The switch has

been thrown on knee's biggest industrial recycling plant.

The facility at the Orica

chemicals site in the city's

south taps into recycled water

in the Botany aquifer. It is

suitable for industrial use and

will be sold to nearby

customers. The treatment plant

will save around 1% of Sydney's

tap water. Saving up to 5

billion litres of drinkable

water and the project here is

the biggest industrial recycling project in

Sydney. The Premier says more

recycling projects are in the

pipeline and the State should

exceed its target of saving 70

billion litres of water by

2015. Not only is one of the

old men of the Australian

cricket team taking wickets,

he's said to be inspiring

team-mates with his energy.

The third Test in Perth this

week could see Shane Warne

achieve cricket's impossible

dream - 700 Test dismissals.

Here's Peter Wilkins. Summing

up the Shane Warne enigma has a

familiar theme. He changed the

game, he's added so much and

just added so much

character. And for the man behind the Australian stumps

his career high spot is

grabbing Warne's gems. That is

the absolutely hardest part of

my job and the most challenging

but the most rewarding. He's

the greatest bowler that's ever

lived. In his current mood

Warne would be a healthy chance

to equal his modest career-best

figures at the WACA of six

dismissals and reach a major

milestone - 700 Test wickets.

COMMENTATOR: Warne is on fire.

He's vocal within the group,

he's vibrant and energising the

group. Even this morning in

training when we rolled in

everyone was asking what's

happened? What is he on?

Actually, I probably shouldn't

say that. An intense England

and a fighting captain have

been given the thumbs up. He

bowled pretty well today. He

was batting with me after. He

said his net went pretty we.

It's all good. It's a case of

going in on Thursday keeping

the same intensity and momentum

and forgetting about two bad

hours in Adelaide. As a

teenager Leisel Jones was

considered awkward and

uncertain of herself. But last

night there was further

confirmation the wheel has

turned full circle for the

21-year-old breaststroke world

champion. Jones dominated and

sport's annual awards being

named swimmer of the year and

best short course swimmer.

After being criticised for the

past for her demeanor she was

elated to receive the people's

choice award. Once I've been

growing and I found out more

about myself and became more of

myself I've really become a bit

more approachable and friendly

so probably the people's choice

award means more to me than

anything. Last year's Sydney to

Hobart yacht race winner and record holder 'Wild Oats

Eleven' has shown it's on track

to defend its title by winning

the big boat challenge on

Sydney Harbour. In calmer than

expected conditions 'Wild Oats

Eleven' claimed line honours

over fellow maxi Skandia by

more than a minute and a half.

Australia's world number two

Mick Fanning pulled off the

ride of a perfect pipeline day

with a perfect ten to be one of

several Australians to progress

through the early rounds at the

year's final events. Fellow

Australians Taj Burrow and

Nathan Hedge also shone out as

did Kelly Slater, the recently

crowned 8-time world champion. A World War I Victoria Cross

that went under the hammer last

month has ended up in a place

many consider to be its

rightful home. The mystery

buyer has donated to the

Australian War Memorial in

Canberra. The VC was awarded

to Lance Corporal Gordon for an

act of bravery in France in

1918. He went and captured a

machine gun in a group of men

and realised that the German positions proceeded further

beyond that. He went into the

woods and captured a further

six machine guns and 60 Germans

single handed. The war memorial

has one of the machine guns captured by Lance Corporal

Gordon and it has 61 Victoria Crosses in its collection.

Time to check the weather now

with Mike Bailey. Thanks

Juanita. Afternoon

thunderstorms have been a

feature today about the central

and northern ranges and slopes.

Coastal areas had a break from

the heat.

The rainfall pattern

expected to drift a little

further south, too, with

drizzle patches overnight and

morning about the coast and

nearby ranges. Shower or two

possible for Sydney to start

the day. Likewise Brisbane and

thunderstorms in Darwin, but the other capital cities should

be dry.

Now before we go, the latest

on the fire situation in

south-eastern Australia.

Hundreds of residents are

defending their homes in two

towns on Tasmania's East Coast

as a fire front closes in.

It's the same blaze that's

already destroyed at least 18

homes where else. And in

Victoria, a line of flames

stretching more than 200

kilometres is threatening homes

in the Gippsland and the

north-east region. And that's

ABC News for this Tuesday. I'm

Juanita Phillips. I'll be back

with an update in an hour and

also the late news at 10:10.

Goodnight.

Closed Captions by CSI.

CC Don't know how scary it

is until you're there and

you're putting out flames with

a tea towel because that's all

you've got because the hose

won't reach or the water

pressure's dropped. Tonight -

up in smoke. The Tasmanian

beach town which felt the full

force of a fire ball. This was

the house and that was the

infusion restaurant. It was

beautiful. But not there now,

is it. The desperate battle to

contain bushfires in four

States. No two faces are alike,

no two skulls are alike. And

CSI Australian style, the

chance discovery that solve add

70-year-old murder mystery. I

was only 3 years old when he

disappeared.