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Live.

Tonight - wade and see,

thousands still stranded on the

Mid North Coast. This is a one

in 100 event in Coffs Harbour. The Prime Minister

waxes spiritual ahead of the

G20 summit. Unfetterred free

markets became worshipped as a

god, and we that that god was

false. For Barak Obama, a first

test on the world stage. And,

the Socceroos shoot for a World

Cup spot.

Good evening, Juanita Phillips

with ABC News. The flooded Mid

North Coast has been declared a

natural disaster area.

Residents there have been hit

with the second major deluge in

less than two months, and this

one's being described as a once

in a century flood. Thousands

of people are still stranded

and those forced to flee their

homes have shared dramatic

tales of survival. From Coffs

Harbour, Simon Palan reports.

Large parts of the Mid North

Coast are once again

underwater. It was scary, it

was just like a mini cyclone,

like just come through the

whole town. 70 people were

rescued by the State Emergency

Services, more than 2,000

residents around the towns of Bellingen and Coffs Harbour are

cut off, as the State

Government declares a natural

disaster area. We're being told

that this is a 1 in 100 event in Coffs Harbour. Hundreds

spent the night in evacuation

centre. We've never seen Coffs

this bad, so... yeah, it's been

a bit hectic. Karen and Troy

Nicholson are among those

stranded in Coffs Harbour after

their car was nearly swept away

by the rising waters. I had

visions of us floating down the

creek and we were never going

to get out. The flood water is

receding and mopping up has

begun. Larry Birt lost his

30,000 antique collection when

3 metre high floodwaters swept

through his garage. 43 years of

collecting stuff, it's in the

creek. Schools are closed,

carparks flooded and footpaths

ripped up. This bloke is

overseas at the moment, and um,

unbeknowns to him, his car has

been taken out by the flood

underneath this garage and all

his value possessions are gone

with it, too. The same area was

hit by floods just six weeks

ago. People were only just

recovering from the earlier

event, and homes have been

inundated again. Coffs Harbour

had more than its monthly

rainfall in just a few hours

last night, and with more rain

forecast, there are fears this

could get worse than the 1996

flooding that devastated this

area. It's not going to be

surprising to exceed the damage

level of the 1996 flood. People

in affected areas are urged to

stay in their homes, but be

ready to evacuate at any time.

Kevin Rudd says it's a wake-up

call. The OECD has released

its gloomiest forecast yet,

just as leader of the G20

industrialised nations gather

in London to tack it will

global recession. The

Australian Prime Minister and

his British counterpart even

went to church in a final pitch

for a new morality in the

financial system. The ABC's

Chris Uhlmann was there.

Kevin Rudd's travels have taken

him from the temple of the

money lenders, to the temple of

God. But he chose the church

as his venue for upeneding the

tables. Unfetterred free moneylender's

markets became worshipped as a

god and we know that god was

false. The Bishop of London can

see some soul in Kevin Rudd. It

wouldn't be too strong to say

that the election of Kevin Rudd

constituted something of an

Obama moment for that

country. The two leaders

believe that values have to be

returned to the marketplace. To

these values of security,

liberty and prosperity must

also be grafted the values of

equity, of sustainability and

community. Markets need

morals. They also need some

good news, and there's very

little to be had. The Prime Minister delivered the latest

dire forecast to a gathering of

London-based Australian businesses. The OECD's interim

economic outlook released today

says the world economy is in

the midst of the deepest and most synchronised recession in

our lifetimes. It predicts

output will fall across all 30

of its member economies by 4.3%

this year. These numbers are a

wake-up call for all G20

leaders meeting here in

London. The day ended at

another church, Westminster

Abbey, and a memorial to the

victims of the Victorian

bushfires. Kevin Rudd offered

thanks for the worldwide

outpouring of support. We in

Prince of Wales and the Prime Australia, were not alone. The

Minister laid wattle wreaths on

the tombs of the innocent victims and the crowd streamed

back into the chilly

evening. Just thankful to be

trying to do something to help

the people. Pain and grief

travel quickly in this small

world, but so do goodwill and

hope.

Well, there's certainly plenty

Well, there's certainly plenty

of goodwill and hope swirling

around Barak Obama. The G20

summit is his first big test on

the international stage. He'll

join 18 other national leaders

and the President of the

European Union to try to thrash

out a rescue package for the

world economy. But there are

growing doubts the leaders will

be able to come up with the

goods. Europe correspondent

Emma Alberici reports.

Under normal circumstances, the

first visit to Europe by a

wildly popular new American

president would provide an

opportunity to reaffirm old

alliances, strained during the

Bush years. But the global

financial crisis has eclipsed

even Barak Obama's stellar

presence. The President wants coordinated international

action to stimulate the world

economy, and accelerate the

recovery from the global

downturn. While Britain is on

board, the other big players

are not as compliant. The

French President threatened to

leave the G20 summit if his

idea for tougher banking

regulation doesn't get the

nod. Yes, we will. President

Sarkozy was very clear on that

front. He said if the

deliverables are not there, I

won't sign the communique. The

Germans say they're not opposed

to spending as long as it's on

the right thing, like climate

change. Environmental groups

aim to cause some disruption in

London over the next two days.

There'll be other

demonstrations, too. The

massive logistical job of

keeping the President safe

complicated by the G20 meeting

being a magnet for troublemakers. Clearly on some

of the other events we may have

a demonstration on one day.

What we've got is a significant

amount of events

happening. Later tonight,

President Obama will join the

rest of the G20 at a reception

hosted by the Queen. The

Prince of Wales has convened

his own meeting with the

leaders in a last-minute

attempt to have stopping

deforestation included in any

international agreement to

tackle climate change.

Israel has turned to the past

in an attempt to safeguard its

future. Benjamin Netanyahu has

been sworn in as Prime Minister

10 years after being voted out

of office. He's pledged to

pursue peace with the

Palestinians, but they're not buying it.

After six torturous weeks of negotiations, finally Benjamin Netanyahu was being sworn in

before the Israeli Parliament.

His enormous ministry

reflecting the backroom deals

done to form this unlikely

Coalition of left and right.

But even before the ceremony,

more evidence, though none were

needed, of the challenges

ahead. Israeli dwefss killed

two men in Gaza and injured

others. They were accused of

attempting to plant a bomb.

More rockets were fired from

Gaza into southern Israel.

Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri

said this government is the

most extremist and terrorist so

far. The new Prime Minister is still talking peace... Palestinians should

understand that they have in

our government a partner for

peace, for security, and for

rapid economic development of

the Palestinian economy. Benjamin Netanyahu

also inherits failed talks to

free captured Israeli soldier

Gilad Shalit. Held in Gaza for

nearly three years. But the

new government has made it

clear the biggest threat comes

from a nuclear-armed

Iran. TRANSLATION: They will

never get nuclear weapons. Despite US President

Barak Obama's diplomatic

overchures to Tehran, the

Israeli Government is clearly

keeping the military option

open. If there was to be a

pre-emptive strike, it's likely

aircraft like this would be

involved. The Prime Minister

has said he's determined Iran

will not end up nuclear armed.

There are challenging times

ahead for both Israel and its

neighbours.

While Israel is still on its

guard, the United States is

shifting towards diplomatic

engagement with Iran. The two

bitter enemies have had some

rare contact at a conference on

the future of Afghanistan. The

ABC's Scott Bevan reports from

The Hague.

The genteel surrounds of the

Hague may be a long way from

Afghanistan, but it was the

future of the conflict-ravaged

country that brought

representatives from more than

80 nations and organisations

together. There were

unexpected consequences when delegates from the United

States and Iran met briefly on

the sidelines of the conference. In the course of

the conference today, our

special representative for

Afghanistan and Pakistan

Richard Holbrooke had a brief

and cordial exchange with the

head of the Iranian dels. It

might not sound like much, but

after decades of bitter emnity

a brief and cordial exchange

between Iran and the US counts

as a breakthrough. Among those

attending the conference was

Australia's Foreign Minister,

Stephen Smith. Australia

remains committed to

Afghanistan. We are the

largest non-NATO military

contributor. The Australian

Government has said it won't be

surprised to receive from the

Obamaa administration a formal

request for a greater

contribution to Afghanistan,

including more troops. But

even with a strong American presence here at the

conference, Australia's Foreign

Minister Stephen Smith says

that request hasn't come

yet. No, I spoke briefly to

Secretary of State Clinton.

There's no request formal or informal from the United States

for additional troop contribution. Stephen Smith

also announced that Australia

would provide $21 million to

help Afghanistan develop

programs in areas such as

education and health.

Six years after the invasion of

Iraq, British forces have begun

withdrawing. The formal

pullout began with the lowering

of the colours of the top

British commander in Iraq. The

vast majority of the 4,000

servicemen and women are due to

head home by June. They leave

behind a much-improved security

situation, thanks largely to

the defeat of militias last

year by British mentored Iraqi forces. The British approach

has been the right one. That's

been borne out by events. But

it's only been possible because

of the fantastic

professionalism and the courage

of all those men and women who

have served here over the

years. About 400 British troops

will stay on, largely in

training roles. More than 200

people are feared dead after a

float overcrowded with African

migrants sank in the

Medditerranean Sea. The boat

was one of four travelling from

Libya to Italy. One limped

back to port after running into

bad weather. Two other

overcrowded boats are still missing. It's quite possible that the boat simply turned

over and those boats have no

life jackets, no liferafts, so

those who found themselves in

the sea had very little chances

of survival. More than 20

bodies have been recovered.

The victims came from several

countries in northern Africa

and the Middle East.

Australian consumers are on

their biggest go-slow in almost

a decade. In February,

retailers took their hardest

monthly hit in nine years. The

official figures have generated

renewed debate on whether the

Government's stimulus payments

are working and whether the

Reserve Bank will cut rates

again next week.

Markdowns first and close-down

follows, the signs of a

shoppers' strike are

everywhere. Retail trade

figures crashed to fall 2% in February - far more than

economists had expected, and

the biggest monthly slump in

nine years. Which is, of

course, quite concerning and

must be a factor in the RBA's consideration next week of

another interest rate

cut. Department stores bore the

brunt of the spending freeze which came after the

Government's first stimulus

package and right at the time

that the second was announced. They're worried

about their jobs, they're

putting most of that stimulus

package away in their back

pocket for a rainy day. Kevin

Rudd created a flash flood for

the Australian economy, but we

are still in drought. Yet the

sluice gates opened by the

Reserve Bank's successive cuts

in interest rates do appear to

be flushing confidence into

housing - building approvals

surged by 7% in February, their

biggest gain in 10 months. A

withering retail sector and

resilient housing has some

economists less convinced that

the RBA needs to move again

next week. Monetary policy

isn't necessarily the policy

tool of choice. We need more fiscal stimulus rather than

interest rate cuts. The

harshest indicator of economic

health is unemployment.

Treasury's most recent forecast

was to hit 7%, but now the

Government's preparing the

ground for an even worse number

to come in the Budget. I would

say since those official

Treasury forecasts were

published, we've seen additional problems in the

global economy. $4 billion in

contracts to train and get the

unemployed back into work are

being revamped. 60 of 280

providers will get the axe. And

we know that means that some

people will be affected

adversely. At least they'll be

looking for work in a growth

industry.

Tonight's top story - residents

on the State's Mid North Coast

remain on alert, with more rain

forecast after extensive

flooding. Still to come -

Canberra's wines go against the

flow. Two new board members have

been appointed to the ABC. The

former Opera House boss,

Michael Lynch, will take up one

of the vacancies. And former

ABC executive and author

Julianne Schultz will fill the

other position. Dr Schultz

says her focus will be on

mandating quality programming,

as the ABC goes through a

digital revolution. What I want

to see is that the ABC has a

secure footing in that domain

and has the capacity to really

engage with the very exciting content opportunities that will

become available in this new

environment. They bring a

wealth of experience of both

journalism, media experience,

arts administration

experience. The minister says

the appointments were made

under a new merit-based system to remove any political

interference with the board.

Senator Conroy plans to

introduce legislation later

this year to bring back a

staff-elected board member in

line with a Labor Party promise

at the last election.

The cane toad may have met its

match. Scientists from the

University of Sydney say that

meat ants have the power to

kill the toxic pest. It's now

hoped that the ants may take a

bite out of the persistent problem.

These poisonous canetoads have

bred their way across much of

North Australia, killing native

species along the way.? now,

scientists say their biggest

aggressive Australian meat threat is the humble yet

ant. The ants are moving

through these open areas

savaging for dead insects. If they encounter a baby cane

toad, it obviously seems an

appropriate lunch and they jump

on it and take it to

pieces. Rick Shine has found

meat ants are the ideal weapon,

because they're not affected by

the poison of canetoads. He

says the toads aren't as smart

as native frogs in dodging

aggressive ants. The native

frog s that we've tested do

everything right - they're

active in times and places that

the ants are not active and

keep an eye open. When the ant

comes near, the frog hops away,

but canetoads don't do

that. But Frogwatch campaigner

and Darwin Lord Mayor Graeme

Sawyer says the research isn't

anything new. We saw many years

ago now when we first started

researching toads that the meat

ants were eating baby toads.

We haven't seen any evidence

that it's actually making a big

impact on numbers. Graeme

Sawyer says up to 1,000 canetoads are caught around

Darwin every week. We've written to Peter Garrett asking

him to fund some of the genetic

research that looks at

potentially putting a gene into

a goanna that allows goannas to

eat canetoads and not

die. Until that happens eager

Top End volunteers will have to

rely on toad busts to keep

numbers down.

Fires, extreme heat and water

shortages have made for tough

times in Australian vineyards.

Nationally the grape crop is

predicted to drop sharply.

Demand and prices are on the

way down, but not all

wine-growing regions are

feeling the pinch.

In the 150 vineyards dotted

around the Canberra region,

it's harvest time. Here,

spirits are high. Canberra has

been blessed this year. In the

wine-growing regions of

Victoria and South Australia,

bushfires, heat waves and water

shortages have played havoc

with this year's vintage.

Economic forecaster ABARE is

Perecing a 14% fall in the

national grape harvest. Early

summer rain may well have saved

these vineyards from a similar

fate. It certainly got hot, but

we didn't see any stress in the

vineyard after that point.

Without that rainfall, it might

have been different. Yields are

only slightly down and there

are no complaints about the

quality. Small berried,

beautiful bunches with marvellously intense flavours,

so it's exciting. According to

ABARE, the smaller harvest this

year won't be enough to soak up an existing wine glut in

Australia. The economic

downturn and fierce competition

in exporter markets means

production is still likely to

outstrip sales and that means

lower prices. While that could

point to tough times in the

years ahead, so far in the

Canberra region, it's business

as usual. People are more

unwilling to use credit cards

and use the available cash they

have so they don't want to go

into debt. But in essence we

haven't seen any negative

impact on sales figures at all. A luxury that's apparently

worth hanging onto.

Onto finance now, and today's

mixed economic news led the

local sharemarket lower,

despite a strong performance on

Wall Street. Here's Alan

Kohler.

Retail sales slumped 2% in February, as you've heard,

because the pre-Christmas bonus

had all been spent. The cash

registers were quitest in

department stores down nearly

10%, but there were also falls

in spending on food, restaurant

and clothing. Against that,

there was a big increase in

housing approvals because of a

massive jump in new apartments.

We shouldn't get too excited -

this is a volatile statistic

and anyway, apartment approvals

are half what they were a year

ago. Housing approvals down

25% on last year. And the

sharemarket wasn't getting

excited about economic

recovery.

The Japanese Government

announced a big new stimulus

package, while the Chinese and

Korean markets also rose.

Commodity prices bounced pretty

strongly.

Tonight's graph comes from

today's OECD economic outlook

report, and it shows one reason

why this is now called the

Great Recession. In the sense

of Great Britain, meaning wide.

Never before since the Great

depression have so many

countries been in recession at

once and that 90% figure

doesn't include Australia yet,

but we know it will. And

that's finance.

A welder who helped build a

yacht that sank off the North

Coast of NSW has been acquitted of manslaughter. Adrian

Presland was visibly relieved

as the jury acquitted him of

four charges of manslaughter.

Four people died when the keel

snapped off the racing yacht

'Excalibur' in rough seas in

2002. The jury is still

considering its verdict in the

case of a second man, Alexander

Cittadini, whose company built

the boat.

An elderly woman was killed and

six people injured when a car

crashed into a retirement

village on Queensland's Darling

Downs. The driver was also an

elderly woman. Police say she

was trying to park at the

village retirement home in

Toowoomba when she lost control

of her car and it ran into a

wall. Several residents who

were playing cards inside were

trapped and a woman who was

pinned against the wall,

died. You only had to see the

scene there with the number of

elderly people that had poured

out onto the footpath and this

will take some time for these

people to recover from. One man

is still in hospital with

serious injuries. Police are still investigating the

incident and they haven't ruled

out laying charges.

The Socceroos' captain says

Australia will be shooting for

an early goal in tonight's

World Cup qualifier against

Uzbekistan in Sydney. Lucas

Neil believes the visitors will

have to change their game plan

if they concede a goal in the

opening stages of the game.

If the last World Cup

qualification was like a gift

from above, this one could be

more low-key. Should the

Socceroos beat Uzbekistan, and

Bahrain draw with Qatar later

tonight, then Australia will be

through to next year's

tournament in South Africa.

There's a little bit of

anxiety in the camp, but I

suppose it's about the

excitement of wanting to get

out there tonight. Harry Kewell

didn't look too anxious. If

results don't go Australia's

way, the Socceroos still have

three more games to secure

their place at the cup. The

prospect of rain hasn't

dampened spirits. The

Australians believe a wet

surface will play to their

strengths. The grass is going

to be slippery and the ball's going to move across the surface quicker and that's

going to suit us. We want to

play a quick passing game

tonight and get a little bit of

tempo going and hopefully get

them chasing the game. Neil

expects Uzbekistan to adopt a

different approach to its

free-flowing win over Qatar

last weekend. They're going to come here looking to keep

things tight, to keep the game at nil-nil for as long as

possible. I think if we open

them up early and hopefully get

a whole, they'll change their

game plan. Samantha Stosur's giant-killing run at the WTA

Event in Miami has come to an abrupt halt in the

quarterfinals. After upsetting

second seed Dinara Safina and

former world No.1 Amelie Mauresmo, the Australian

couldn't reproduce that form

against 19-year-old Victoria

Azarenka. The world No.10 from

Belarus took less than an hour

to win the match, 6-1, 6-0.

Magic, make-belief and romance

- they're the ingredient s that

Graeme Murphy wanted to inject.

He found a star ballerina and a

top designer to create a

colourful Garden of Eden. And

now, 100 years after its Paris

debut, 'Firebird' will open the

ballet's Sydney season.

'Firebird' is a fairytale in

every way, a prince fighting

for the love of a princess

against fearsome obstacles. A

beautiful bird coming to his

assistance. The Russian ballet

is part of a triple bill that

owes its origins to the

remarkable Ballets Russes

company that mesmerised

European audiences in the early

1900s. Choreographer Graeme

Murphy aimed to breathe new

life into the classic. If I had

an ambition it was to make

people believe they were in the

opening night of Paris of the

original, so all the magic and

excitement was there. He needed

a star mover and Murphy found

one in Canberra dancer, Lana

Jones. The two had worked

together on his acclaimed Swan

Lake, where she had a small

role. 'Firebird' has pushed

her centre stage. I was very

excited, because it's not often

in your career you get a ballet

created on you. Lana Jones

turned for inspiration to

videos of the British Prima

ballerina Margot Fonteyn, who

had stamped her mark on Russian

ballets. She also learnt by

watching real birds. Kind of

bird watching in the garden.

I've got two dogs, so when I

walk them, I would check out

these birds and how they move

their heads. I always get the

fast-moving roles, so it was a

challenge to make it graceful

and majestic and try to be

beautiful at the same

time. 'Firebird' owes much of

its popularity to the score,

written a century ago by Igor

Stravinsky. The music is still

fresh, sweeping the dance along

to its happy ever after ending.

Let's check the weather now. A

wild day on Sydney's beaches.

They were all closed except for

Bondi today, and the reason for

it is since last Friday there's

been a vigorous easterly wind

flow that stretched from New

Zealand through to the NSW

Coast. That's been driving an

increase in swell size. It

reached a maximum late

yesterday and overnight, with

peak wave heights of 11 metres

off Sydney. That dropped back

to 8 metres this afternoon, and

a 3 metre swell should continue

at this stage through until

Friday.

The main concern is with

thunderstorms on the mid north

and North Coast overnight.

Tomorrow, the upper level

disturbance that's helped drive

the torrential falls will

weaken, reducing the rain

potential. The next trough and

front will approach the State

Friday and they'll see

widespread rainfall return over

the weekend. Heaviest falls

closest to 20 millimetres and

mostly confined north of

Grafton. Much of the slopes

ranges and Coast could see

15-20 millimetres over the

weekend.

That is ABC News for this

Wednesday. The '7.30 Report'

is next. Goodnight.

Closed Captions by CSI

Tonight on the 7.30 Report -

the clampdown on home births. I

think you're brave having a

home birth - a lot of people have said that. Now it could be against the law. There's no point going through a beautiful birth experience at home if you deliver a baby that's dead. People fling themselves all over the planet. People end up in Australia. Why would

anybody want to go there? And

Dylan Morgan Down Under. I

can't ever remember laughing at

anybody's stories when they

come back from holiday and tell

me what a great time they've

had. You want to hear about the

ceil falling in and the toilet

exploding. An interview with

the comic from 'Black Books'.

Welcome to the program. The

leaders of the world's 19