Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
7.30 Report -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

It's really a question of asking yourself are you playing Russian roulette with your child's life?

Tonight on the 7:30 report, deadly food algaer jis ton rise. Have we become too clean for our own
good?

The entire allergy community is asking that question.

Telstra jibbing on Australian consumers: ACCC

Telstra jibbing on Australian consumers: ACCC

Broadcast: 15/05/2007

Reporter: Greg Hoy

A simmering row over the future of the Australian broadband network erupted today as Telstra
accused the ACCC of obstructing its plans to build a high-speed broadband network.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: The simmering row over the future of Australia's broadband network erupted today as
Telstra launched a stinging attack on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, after
recently describing the Federal Government's attitude to broadband as "complacent".

Accusing the ACCC of obstructing its plans to build a high-speed broadband network, Telstra
threatened to take the $4 billion set aside for the project, and invest it overseas.

But the response from ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel was equally vigorous, accusing Telstra of
"jibbing on Australian consumers".

The verbal stoush also flushed out the Government and the Labor Opposition, both conscious of
broadband's status as an election issue.

Greg Hoy reports.

SOL TRUJILLO, TELSTRA CHIEF EXECUTIVE: We're at, what I would call, a watershed moment here for
Australia. Countries around the world have already enacted policies to move to this
broadband-enabled world.

GREG HOY: Australia dreaming. While other advanced nations are busy building expensive optical
fiber information superhighways, Australia is still languishes in a bare-knuckle brawl over who
should build ours and what price they should be allowed to charge. Telstra upped its anti-ACCC
campaign in all of today's major metropolitan newspapers, triggering a media melee.

GRAEME SAMUEL, ACCC CHAIRMAN: I would simply ask one question of Telstra: what price? And it's the
question we've been asking all the time. Telstra, tell us, tell 20 million Australians what price
it is that you're proposing to charge for broadband and then let us, as the watchdog of the
Australian consumer, let us assess whether that price provides a fair return to Telstra, a fair
return to Telstra's competitors, and above all, a fair price for Australian consumers.

PHIL BURGESS, TELSTRA GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR: We have given the prices to the Government, and
that's who we're negotiating with. If the ACCC wants to know the prices, they will know them as
soon as the Government agrees to the plan. If the Government doesn't agree to the plan, if they
decide the plan is not good for Australia, we understand that, they have the ... number one, they
have the power to make that decision, they have the right to make that decision.

GREG HOY: Curiously, the Government for its part seemed mildly critical of Telstra's starts.

HELEN COONAN, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Telstra is entitled to run whatever campaigns they
see fit, and it has been very clear that they do intend to run campaigns on all different levels.
But let me say that it won't have any material difference to the outcome that the Government
considers as appropriate here, which is to encourage the build of a new fiber to the node network.

GREG HOY: Telstra meantime, was heaping praise on the Labor Party broadband platform, which calls
for open tenders and a Government contribution of half of a $9 billion construction, to deliver a
new fiber optic network.

STEPHEN CONROY, OPPOSITION COMMUNICATIONS SPOKESMAN: Labor's proposal is about 98 per cent of
Australians getting access to this super fast broadband, not just the Government's current
negotiations, which are about five capital cities. I mean, let's be clear. What the Government are
negotiating with Telstra is not a national fiber network, it's about delivering to five capital
cities. That's all.

PHIL BURGESS: The important thing about the Labor proposal is this: when Labor talks about
broadband, they talk about jobs, growth, economic development, urban-rural parity, exports,
productivity growth, all the things that are important. When the regulator talks about broadband,
they talk about regulations.

GREG HOY: Australia's largest telco is hedging its bets, and some smell a deal. Both the Labor
Party and the ACCC suspect the real Telstra agenda. Maybe to try to pressure the Government into
pre-empting the Labor broadband plan by attempting to strike a deal that circumvents the ACCC. So,
broadband construction begins before the election, before the project is put out to tender. For the
Government, this would deprive Labor of another of its plum platforms.

PHIL BURGESS: Well, we've had very positive discussions with the Government. The problem has been,
once again, when the Government goes to the ACCC, they find the same kinds of intransigencies that
we do. And so ... so, they need to work that out. That's not a problem for us, it's a problem for
them.

GRAEME SAMUE: I think it's in your face, it's a very clear process that they are endeavouring the
sideline the ACCC in to do some sort of a deal in secret behind closed doors.

GREG HOY: But if today's comments are any guide, the big telco's strategy may well just pay off.

HELEN COONAN: The arrangements or the ultimate framework for it will probably be sorted out well
before the election.

STEPHEN CONROY: It's not Helen Coonan's job to decide the prices that are going to be set in the
telecommunications industry. That's why we have a regulator, that's why we have an independent
ACCC.

HELEN COONAN: Well, I don't think I'd call it "circumventing" the ACCC, I think it would more
characterise it as accommodating the kind of adjustments that might be needed to enable a new very
risky bill that's going to cost in the order of $4 billion. And if the current regulatory regime
can't yield that outcome, well then I would look at what might be required.

PHIL BURGESS: As soon as we have agreement with the Government on all aspects, and we have
agreement on most of them right now. But as soon as they can work their way through their
relationship with the ACCC, as soon as they can decide whether they're going to rein in the ACCC
and have the ACCC follow the policies of the Government, as soon as that happens, we'll put all of
our prices on the table.

GREG HOY: The conspiracy theory may just explain why all the formidable missiles unleashed by
Telstra today were targeted mostly at the regulator, rather than the Government.

PHIL BURGESS: So, what we're asking the Government to do is to rein in a rogue regulator or put it
another way, we're asking elected leaders to take back the control over public policy and not let
the telecommunications future of this country be determined by the unelected bureaucrats at the
ACCC.

GRAEME SAMUEL: I'll leave aside sort of any discussion about expressions of "rogue regulator", I
think have also been described by Dr Burgess as a "car bomber". Those sorts of descriptions have no
impact at all. In terms of accountability there is no organisation that is more accountable to the
Australian public than the ACCC.

GREG HOY: Telstra's aim is to clearly convince the public that it's the regulator who is at fault.
The Opposition believes the Government needs to strongly come to Graeme Samuel's defence, which the
Government says it is, while hinting it may need to bend to Telstra's demands on pricing for faster
broadband. And a public campaign by Telstra, might just convince the electorate of the need for an
imminent compromise.

HELEN COONAN: But I think there are some reasonable requirements and I think arrangements can be
made to accommodate reasonable requirements.

STEPHEN CONROY: The Government has got its own political interests in trying to find a plan, it has
no plan. It's desperate to do any deal it can get, and what we need to see is an open and
transparent process, not a quick fix designed to give John Howard and Helen Coonan the sort of
pretence of a plan in the lead up to an election.

GREG HOY: And there was a clear warning for the Australian public today that Telstra will take its
money elsewhere if it can't get a desirable deal.

PHIL BURGESS: There are lots of places to invest where your shareholders savings can be ... can earn
a commercial return.

GRAEME SAMUEL: All I'll do is indicate that whatever proposal comes before the ACCC has to satisfy
a fundamental criteria of being reasonable - reasonable in the interests of Telstra's shareholder,
reasonable in the interests of Telstra's competitors and fundamentally reasonable in the interests
of 20 million Australians.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Greg Hoy with that report.

Government continues downward slide in polls

Government continues downward slide in polls

Broadcast: 15/05/2007

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Despite an almost universally positive response to the budget last week, the Government once again
slid against the Opposition in a news opinion poll this morning. Prime Minister John Howard talks
to the ABC.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: Broadband is not the only headache the Government has got in this election year,
despite an almost universally positive response to last week's crucial election Budget. The Prime
Minister woke up this morning to another bad news opinion poll. Not only did the Government get no
bounce up in The Australian's Newspoll, but the reverse happened, Labor actually increased its lead
with a staggering 50 per cent of the primary vote. It covered a two week period that included not
only that good news Budget for Mr Howard but a rash of negative headlines for Kevin Rudd on
industrial relations out of Labor's national conference.

So, with time ticking away, what rabbits does Mr Howard have left to pull out of his hat? And he
joins me now in Sydney.

(to John Howard) Prime Minister, let's get the Newspoll question out of the road first. The thing I
found interesting about today's poll was not so much that you got no big boost out of your Budget,
but that you actually lost ground after a pretty ordinary two weeks for Labor. Can you understand
why?

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't pretend to understand all the movements in polls. I didn't
expect a bounce, you don't normally get a bounce out of a Budget and these things move around, but
Kerry...

KERRY O'BRIEN: You wouldn't have expected the drop though.

JOHN HOWARD: Well look I'm, you know, we're going through a bad period with the polls. What is my
response, my response is to go on governing well, not to do stupid things, not to splurge money. We
produced a Budget that was universally seen as economically responsible, but also good for the
present generation of Australians. And by laying aside things for the future, are good for the
future. So, we just have to persevere with good humour. It's a great democratic process. I mean in
the end, the Australian public gets to decide. What I do intend to do is to point out the
consequences more strongly of a Labor victory because there are economic consequences. I think the
Labor Party to date has got away with this proposition that the economy will sail on unmolested if
a Labor Government is elected now...

KERRY O'BRIEN: I think what they're saying is they won't molest it.

JOHN HOWARD: No, no, no, no, well I think they will with their industrial relations policy. I mean,
what will gradually sink through to the public is that a Labor industrial relations policy you saw
it today with the master builders. They want ... a Rudd risk premium is now being built into certain
building contracts because the abolition of the Building and Construction Industry Authority which
came out of the Cole Royal Commission will bring back the days of lawlessness in the major cities
and in relation...

KERRY O'BRIEN: I noticed that Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group said that that claim
wasn't true of her members, which include some big constructors and also there was a story...

JOHN HOWARD: The master builders actually, the master builders you know, as their name suggests,
master builders, and they do know a little bit about building. And we all know that there has been
an astonishing fall in the number of industrial disputes in the building and construction industry.
Now, that is a combination of the special authority and the industrial relations reforms. In every
(coughs) excuse me, major builder I've spoken to all over the country in the last six months, has
told me that the improvement has been amazing, and they dread the thought of going back to the old
days. Now these are the...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Ok.

JOHN HOWARD: I've spoken to them. I mean, I'm not making this up. I've spoken to a dozen of them in
Sydney, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and they've all given me the same story.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well you say that the message will filter through, but you told your party room
earlier this year that one of the big dangers for a Government facing re-election is when voters
stop listening to you. Obviously if the message is going to filter through, people have got to
listen to you. Do you think that that's what has happened? That people have stopped listening?

JOHN HOWARD: No, I don't because the way in which they responded to the Budget indicates that they
were listening.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But they seem to be saying if you look at that poll today, they're saying they like
the Budget, they don't like the Government.

JOHN HOWARD: Well Kerry, that has sometimes been the case in the past but we could go on all night
analysing the poll. I mean, look the poll is bad for us, I know that, you know that, everybody
watching this program knows that. They also know that people these days make up their minds much
later in the cycle. There are far fewer dyed in the wool voters, politics is less tribalised,
there's a lot more movement, there's a lot more volatility now than used to be the case 34 years
ago, so we've got six, seven months to go...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But going back to 1996 Mr Howard, you would well know, you'd still have good
memories of '96. In '96 people had stopped listening to the Keating Government and the implication,
if that's happening this time, the implications of course if they've stopped listening, is that it
almost doesn't matter how scary you try to make the prospects of a Labor Government sound, or how
much you believe it might be, if the people aren't listening it becomes very hard to round them up
and bring them back to the safety of your bosom, if I can put it like that. Is that the danger you
referred to in your party room?

JOHN HOWARD: Well Kerry, you talk about 1996, I mean the people had a reason to stop listening in
1996. Unemployment was 8.5 per cent. We barely emerged from a deep recession. Interest rates were
much higher than they are now, and to quote the famous words of Wayne Goss, people were on their
verandas with baseball bats waiting for Mr Keating to come around the corner. Now that is...

KERRY O'BRIEN: There obviously aren't baseball bats this time but the bottom line...

JOHN HOWARD: No, no, no, no, no. Well, I think that's quite an important thing if you want me to
play electoral commentator for one more nanosecond.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I thought you didn't do that.

JOHN HOWARD: I think there is a belief that this Government has done a very good job with the
economy, so much so we've been paid the ultimate compliment, Mr Rudd is trying to tell the public
he's no different.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But that still ...

JOHN HOWARD: He runs an advertisement saying...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But that still raises the question: why are you doing so badly in the polls if the
people believe you're a good Government?

JOHN HOWARD: Well ultimately, we'll all find out whether it's not all been a you know, an
interesting exercise by the Australian public's with its innate sense of humour, and we'll find
that out on election day won't we?

KERRY O'BRIEN: We're now five months into this election year with little more than another five
months to go. So far not only have you consistently lagged in the polls, but you've been forced to
play catch up on a number of big policy issues, headline policy issues. How are you going to break
out of that syndrome, that sense of being seen to follow Rudd rather than to lead him?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I don't think we've followed anybody on economic management, which is still the
centre...

KERRY O'BRIEN: What about on education, global warming?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, education we've been talking about literacy and numeracy for almost 10 years.
These things are not new. We've been talking about greater authority for principals in schools for
a long period of time. As Mr Rudd himself reminded me yesterday, we were talking about bullying
some years ago, now...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you're still talking about it almost as if it's a new reform. In your speech
yesterday, you painted that speech and it was certainly marketed as it was leaked to one of the
papers the morning of your speech as being a big new set of reforms. But in fact much of what was
in that speech was, dare I draw the analogy, mutton dressed up as lamb in policy terms.

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I wouldn't put an explanation of the Government's education agenda which most
levels of education in this country have said of the Budget have been ground-breaking. The
commitment to universities, which took the Labor Party and everybody else completely by surprise,
is quite ground-breaking and will provide a steady stream of revenue to universities years into the
future.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You mentioned WorkChoices, Mr Howard. You were saying until very recently that you
wouldn't budge on WorkChoices other than fine-tuning. Suddenly you do a backflip on individual
contracts for people earning less than $75,000 a year, acknowledging that they may have been
exploited in some instances. Surely that was to take back some of the ground that you'd lost to Mr
Rudd on industrial relations and on WorkChoices?

JOHN HOWARD: Well Kerry, I don't mind acknowledging that we have changed an aspect of WorkChoices,
a frame...

KERRY O'BRIEN: A significant change.

JOHN HOWARD: The framework is still there and what we have done is to provide effectively a
guarantee that if any employee trades away things like penalty rates or overtime loadings, they
must receive fair compensation in return.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you've been a long time coming to that.

JOHN HOWARD: I've listened to the public on that. Well Kerry, I don't mind you saying that. I don't
mind anybody...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But it's true, isn't it?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, it is true that we have listened to the public, and I'm always prepared...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But it's true until the very recent past.

JOHN HOWARD: I'm always willing to plead guilty to listening to the Australian public, because
after all the public is my master.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you must have only just heard them in the last few weeks because on April 16 on
Brisbane radio you said, "as far as WorkChoices is concerned, our position hasn't changed one
iota". A month later you find a compelling reason to make a substantial change, so you must have
only just picked that up in the last month.

JOHN HOWARD: Well Kerry, it's not a change that alters the framework. I mean...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Butt it is a significant change.

JOHN HOWARD: Well, but it's a change for the better. I mean what matters is the...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But it's still a change.

JOHN HOWARD: Yeah, yeah but I mean ... yeah ok well, but I mean the viewing public out there is
saying now is this change good for us or bad for us? They're not quite so interested in the nuance
of our exchange. They want to know is it good that the Prime Minister is now going to introduce
legislation that guarantees if people trade away penalty rates for overtime loadings they must get
fair compensation. I think they would all nod their heads and say that's a very good thing, and
thank you for that change.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you still haven't explained how you've suddenly come to that view where a month
ago you were saying there was no need to change anything one iota. So, you suddenly heard this
message in the last month?

JOHN HOWARD: Look Kerry, the important thing is whether you've heard a message or not.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But did you hear it through your own party polling, your own private polling plus
the public polling or...?

JOHN HOWARD: Kerry, I have multiple ways of trying to understand what the public wants. All parties
do polling, but all sensible politicians listen to what people say. They talk to groups of
employees, they talk to their local ... their own members. So, this idea that it's something that's
just been distilled as your question implies, party polling is quite wrong. The important thing is
the quality and the merit of the change, and you give me an opportunity to say again, I think it is
good that we have strengthened the protection in the WorkChoices legislation because it was never
our intention that it should become the norm for things like penalty rates and overtime loadings to
be traded away without proper compensation. It was always our intention that there be flexibility
in this area, but not that people be left worse off than they might otherwise be and I think it's a
very good reform.

KERRY O'BRIEN: To come back to the broad point about the fact that you've been seen to be chasing
Labor on some of the big hit policy items - another one global warming, you've been seen to drag
your feet on carbon trading and other aspects of global warming. It's true isn't it, the Treasury
was raising and urging you to consider carbon trading three, four years ago?

JOHN HOWARD: The broad point is the quality of the policy, not the inter-party exchange. But let me
come to carbon trading. We're approaching this in a methodical way. Unlike Mr Rudd who's committed
himself to a target and then scrambled around to get a group of people to tell him what that target
means and what it implies, what we are doing - and we've been doing now for almost five months - is
having a task group composed of the most senior bureaucrats in the Federal Government and people
from energy and resource companies to come together and they'll give me a paper at the end of this
month.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mr Howard, some of those people have been asking you to consider this years ago.

JOHN HOWARD: No, no, no, no, could I please...

KERRY O'BRIEN: It's true, isn't it, that you've resisted...

JOHN HOWARD: No, but I think it's also true that your question was fairly long, so I'll just
finish. It is an important point. I mean, we are doing this thing methodically and we're actually
working out what is the most appropriate emissions trading system for this country before we commit
ourselves to a target. I mean, we will not put the cart before the horse, we will not commit to
targets when we don't know what they imply. And that is the different approach that we have from
that of the Labor Party.

KERRY O'BRIEN: There's something of the sense of the old bull and the young bull in this contest,
is there not between you and Kevin Rudd, except that you've got the additional problem of having to
convince the public that you're going to stick around as Prime Minister for a full three years if
you're elected to another term. Can you make that promise with a straight face this time around?

JOHN HOWARD: I can look you straight in the face and say as I've said before, I'll remain leader of
the Liberal Party for as long as my party wants me to. And it's in the party's best interest.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So, you won't undertake to the public ... you won't undertake to the public to serve
the full term?

JOHN HOWARD: I will say what to the public what I've just said to the public because you know, a
lot of people are watching this interview, and that is my position. And can I tell you Kerry, that
is a perfectly sensible position. It's the truth and it's a position that I think more Australians
understand and accept, and some people think.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And it leaves you to get out of being able to walk away after 12 months into the
next term if that's what your plan is.

JOHN HOWARD: Well, you talk about a get out. I mean, I think the last thing...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well to retire, to retire.

JOHN HOWARD: Hang on, the last thing even my fiercest critics can accuse me of is walking away from
a fight or walking away from anything.

KERRY O'BRIEN: No, I'm talking about...

JOHN HOWARD: No, well I mean you know, that is a rather pejorative expression...

KERRY O'BRIEN: I'm talking about walking away from the Parliament after a 33 or 34 - by then it
would be - year career.

JOHN HOWARD: Yeah, well I mean yeah I think the fact that I've spent all of that time in public
life and I've had my ups and downs as not somebody who seeks a get out, but somebody who tries to
look after the interests of his party and his Government.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Everything comes to an end though, doesn't it?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, if you're saying as Lord Keynes once famously said, "in the long run, we're all
dead", yes.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Prime Minister thanks for talking with us. No one is going to argue that point.
Thank you.

Allergy explosion allarms specialists

Allergy explosion allarms specialists

Broadcast: 15/05/2007

Reporter: Natasha Johnson

It is estimated that eight per cent of children have food allergies, thousands of them at risk of a
life threatening reaction. Alarmed allergy specialists are trying to figure out why, and are even
considering the theory an overly clean lifestyle is at least partly to blame.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: No argument there. The recent deaths of two boys in Victoria who suffered from
severe peanut allergies have highlighted sky rocketing rates of food allergies in children. It's
now estimated that eight per cent of children have food allergies, thousands of them at risk of a
life-threatening reaction. Alarmed allergy specialists are trying to figure out why, and they're
even considering one controversial theory being explored: whether an overly clean lifestyle is at
least partly to blame. Natasha Johnson reports.

NATASHA JOHNSON: It's hard to believe a mere peanut could be so deadly.

ERICA LANE, MOTHER: To live with her is like living on a knife edge. Parts of her face will blow
up, her lips might blow up very big, she'll get a lot of hives around her face. She's seriously in
distress.

CLEMENTINE EDWARDS, ALLERGY SUFFERER: You start to feel the constriction in your throat, and kind
of it cuts off and it's obviously quite terrifying.

NATASHA JOHNSON: It's known as anaphylaxis, an extreme allergic reaction which often involves
swelling, itching and choking. The severity varies according to the individual and while deaths are
rare, it can quickly become life threatening.

PROFESSOR ROBYN O'HEHIR, ALFRED HOSPITAL, MELBOURNE: It's a sudden rapid onset, so it usually
occurs within minutes but certainly within 30 minutes patients will tend to have a reaction if
they're going to have one.

CLEMENTINE EDWARDS: That was rye grass, then we've got house dust mite.

NATASHA JOHNSON: 23 year old Clementine Edwards is allergic to all the common allergens plus
shellfish, nuts and peanut. For her, a kiss from a friend who's eaten nuts or even breathing in the
protein in a confined space can trigger a reaction.

CLEMENTINE EDWARDS: I was sitting down on a tram on the way home from uni and a lady came in, and
she had either peanuts or cashews and she came and sat down next to me and started eating. And just
the smell, because we were sitting right next to each other, the smell does give me that slight
sort of feeling in my throat.

ERICA LANE: Are you happy to eat it like this?

BELLE BARNETT, ALLERGY SUFFERER: Yep.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Erica Lane's seven-year-old daughter Belle is also extremely allergic to peanuts,
as well as egg and sesame. It means she must prepare all her daughter's food and keep her
quarantined from her brothers when they're eating something which might have a trace of those foods
in case a crumb ends up in her mouth.

ERICA LANE: I've sort of suddenly feel like I've become the most anal obsessive compulsive cleaner.
You know, little bits of food that get caught in pots if Andrew and I cook something that might
have come out of a jar, a sauce, we have our own set of pots to put those in because we never know
if they've used sesame seed oil or some of those things which she's anaphylactic to.

NATASHA JOHNSON: While children grow out of many food allergies, peanut allergy generally lasts a
lifetime. So what is it about the peanut that makes it so allergenic?

ROBYN O'HEHIR: There are a lot of allergy sites on the surface of the peanut that causes allergy.
And what's important is that these are not actually destroyed by cooking. So, some vegetables and
fruits also have potential to cause allergy but often these are destroyed by the cooking process.

NATASHA JOHNSON: In fact, roasting peanuts, the most common cooking method in Australia actually
increases their potency. Fifteen years ago food allergies were relatively uncommon, but now
specialist clinics like this one at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital are witnessing an
explosion in cases. It's estimated eight per cent of children have food allergies and increasingly
serious ones. With this hospital alone recording a trebling in anaphylaxis admissions in the past
four years.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR MIMI TANG, ROYAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, MELBOURNE: We're now right in the middle
of an escalating rise in foods allergy and anaphylaxis.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Exactly why rates are soaring is a bit of a mystery. But allergy specialist
Professor Robyn O'Hehir from Melbourne's Alfred Hospital says in the case of peanuts, one reason is
increased consumption.

ROBYN O'HEHIR: Peanut used to be a food for festive occasions such as Christmas, birthdays,
celebrations, but now it's used in a lot for foods. For example, the sort of foods that might have
peanuts: curries, meatballs, gravies, some moisturisers, creams, biscuits, spring rolls.

NATASHA JOHNSON: If either parent has an allergic disease, a child has a much greater chance of
developing a food allergy and poorly controlled asthma is the single biggest risk factor for
anaphylaxis. Allergy rates in Western nations have trebled over the last 30 years, and that's given
rise to the hygiene hypothesis which asks if perhaps we're too clean for our own good.

ROBYN O'HEHIR: If children are exposed to more infectious things in early life, there appears to be
a protection against developing allergic disease. So, rates of allergic disease are lower in
children, for example, who are growing up in a farm environment where we know they're exposed to
more good bacteria or you know, innocuous bacteria.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Associate Professor Mimi Tang from Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital is
testing that theory in world first research giving a specific type of probiotic or good bacteria to
women late in pregnancy in the hope of boosting the baby's immune system.

MIMI TANG: If we aren't getting that exposure early on to help train the immune system to not be so
reactive, it allows it to then react to things that we shouldn't react to like foods.

NATASHA JOHNSON: But the hygiene hypothesis is yet to be proven, and Mimi Tang warns against dosing
up on commercial probiotics before the evidence is in.

DOCTOR: Just basically take the grey cap off.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Currently the only antidote to an anaphylactic reaction is a shot of adrenaline
from an injecting device known as an EpiPen, which sufferers carry with them. But Alfred Hospital
researchers are leading the world in developing a peanut vaccine they hope could be available
within five to 10 years.

ROBYN O'HEHIR: Thousands of people have benefited from allergy shots to bee or wasp venom allergy,
and we hope that we'll be able to offer similar immunotherapy and similar prevention to patients
with peanut allergy.

NATASHA JOHNSON: It's a delicious prospect for Belle Barnett and Clementine Edwards who live full
and normal lives despite their allergies, but look forward to the day they can eat a meal without
having to check for danger in a morsel of food.

CLEMENTINE EDWARDS: It would completely change my life, that's for sure. I could go and eat any
chocolate in the chocolate box.

ERICA LANE: I just hope before she turns 13 or whenever she kisses her first boy, that she's not
going to have to worry about what he's eaten before she kisses him.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Natasha Johnson with that report.

And to pick up extra detail on the allergy story or revisit other items just go to our website.
Just before we go, I mentioned in a question to the Prime Minister that Heather Ridout of the
Australian Industry Group had said that none of her members had floated the possibility of a
so-called risk clause in construction in the event that Labor came to Government. An Australian
Industry Group spokesman has said that what Ms Ridout did say was that she didn't know - she wasn't
aware of any companies expressing that sentiment. We'll kn back at the same time tomorrow. But for
now goodnight.