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Over 21 years I've been to most of our country and I can tell you that koalas are in trouble.

Tonight on the 7.30 Report - after the fire, saving the world's favourite marsupial.

We really need to address the issue. We need to use this as a launching pad to create a program to
save our koalas so that my grandchildren and my great grandchildren will actually be able to see
these animals in the wild.

And, they're back - John Clarke and Bryan Dawe.

Look, can we get somebody in here, he's looking green again.

Bryan, I'm perfectly well. CC

ASIC launches action against James Hardie

ASIC launches action against James Hardie

Reporter: Matt Peacock

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program, and the James Hardie saga continues, with 10 current and
former directors of the one time asbestos company facing civil proceedings brought by Australia's
corporate watchdog ASIC, alleging misleading and deceitful conduct. The charges relate to company
statements made to the Stock Exchange six years ago, when it established a fund for its asbestos
victims before moving offshore to the Netherlands. That foundation was soon to face liquidation,
when it became apparent Hardie had not provided it with enough money, despite assurances at the
time that it was fully funded. This latest twist in the James Hardie saga is likely to run for many
years, and ASIC has still not ruled out further court action or even criminal charges. Already one
of the former directors named today, Peter Wilcox, has stood down from his position as chairman of
CSIRO. Matt Peacock reports.

MEREDITH HELLICAR, JAMES HARDIE CHAIRMAN: It's a wonderful business. It is one that all Australians
should be proud of.

MATT PEACOCK: It's only days since James Hardie's chairman, Meredith Hellicar, was basking in the
glow of the company's multi billion dollar compensation deal for asbestos victims, finally approved
at a shareholders' meeting in Amsterdam.

MEREDITH HELLICAR: I just feel hugely proud of that accomplishment. I feel proud that our board
made the resolution that they did, that they would all stay together and make sure it happened.

MATT PEACOCK: The deal, though, didn't come easily. It took over two years of torrid negotiations
and a public campaign, the like of which, has never been seen in Australia before. But even as
Meredith Hellicar spoke, she and her fellow board members knew that the story was far from over.

JEFF LUCY, CHAIRMAN, ASIC: ASIC has lodged civil penalty proceedings in the Supreme Court of New
South Wales relating to disclosures by James Hardie companies and vice-directors and executives in
respect of the adequacy of funding of the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation.

MATT PEACOCK: Today, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission chairman, Jeff Lucy,
filed civil proceedings against 10 current and former executives and board members for alleged
breaches to the corporations law.

JEFF LUCY: Whilst the new compensation arrangements are very much welcomed, they do not diminish
the need for those responsible for the breaches we have identified to be held to account for their

IAN RAMSAY, LAW SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE: This is virtually unprecedented, given the
magnitude of the charges, the number of defendants and, in particular, the fact that this company
is such a high profile company.

GREG COMBET, ACTU: We are not surprised necessarily by the announcement by ASIC because, obviously,
when James Hardie restructured some years ago, we were very apprehensive and concerned that the
effect of the restructuring, of course, was to deny people their access to compensation.

MATT PEACOCK: ASIC's investigation built on ground already covered by a New South Wales Government
inquiry, where Commissioner Jackson found Hardie and its executives had engaged in misleading and
deceitful conduct by claiming the fund Hardie left behind for its victims was fully funded. It was
a claim the then CEO Peter MacDonald was to repeat.

PETER MACDONALD, JAMES HARDIE CHIEF EXECUTIVE, JULY 2004: I believe that James Hardie has done the
right thing, not only the legally correct thing but also the morally right thing, in attempting to
fully fund those obligations.

MATT PEACOCK: It's taken nearly 20 ASIC investigators two years and almost $10 million to reach
this point, and still more charges, even against some Hardie consultants, appear possible.

JEFF LUCY: It's not appropriate for me to speak about, be they third parties for anybody else for
that matter, our investigation is ongoing.

MATT PEACOCK: And while asbestos campaigner Bernie Banton has praised Hardie for last week's deal,
his advice for ASIC and its investigation is unambiguous.

BERNIE BANTON, ASBESTOS CAMPAIGNER: Let ASIC follow the letter of the law to the nth degree. That's
what I hope. But the assurance that they gave me this morning was very reassuring to me that it in
no way inhibits the final funding agreement.

MATT PEACOCK: That final funding agreement, despite its historic nature, doesn't cover some James
Hardie potential asbestos hazards still present in the community, such as the company's former dump
sites, its overseas victims, or the potentially huge cost of remediation for all those asbestos
cement sheets still in people's houses. Although other former asbestos manufacturers may still be
liable, Hardie, ironically, is now protected by New South Wales legislation. But for asbestos
victims like Bernie Banton, it was the best deal they could get. A sentiment echoed by Ian
Hutchinson, one of the former directors of the asbestos compensation fund that nearly went broke.

IAN HUTCHINSON, FORMER DIRECTOR, MRCF: It never needed to happen and shouldn't have happened. And
it's just been, from 2001 till now, six years, which has really what's it achieved? It should have
been made right in the first place.

MATT PEACOCK: Following its much criticised investigation into Steve Vizard, there will be much
riding on this high profile case for Australia's corporate regulator and, according to Melbourne
University's law Professor Ian Ramsay, it won't be coming cheap.

PROFESSOR IAN RAMSAY, MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY: We do know that some legal action ASIC brings against
some defendants can take three, four or more years. Here there are a significant number of
individuals. Of course, ASIC's bringing claims against two companies, two James Hardie companies,
also. I think it will be very expensive legal proceedings. It'll take some years and, of course,
there's the real prospect of legal appeals.

MATT PEACOCK: James Hardie had no comment on the proceedings today, although it did announce a
special committee would be considering the implications, including whether the company would be
paying the legal costs of those accused, as it has done in the past.

IAN RAMSAY: Under Australian law, where company directors have breached their duties, because those
duties are owed to the company itself, under Australian law those companies are not permitted to
indemnify those directors and officers for breaches of duty. There is an issue, of course, because
one of the companies concerned here is incorporated in the Netherlands, as to whether or not there
may be differences in the law in relation to indemnification of company officers.

MATT PEACOCK: But whether the Hardie directors are indemnified by the company or not, they could
still face serious sanctions if ASIC is successful.

IAN RAMSAY: The consequences will be profound. After all, it's not just the reputational harm that
the individuals will suffer. It's not just the fact that they might have to pay monetary penalties
but, significantly, a court can order that the individuals be banned from managing companies for a
substantial period of time. And for people who are prominent business people, that will be a very
significant adverse consequence, should the court make such an order.

BERNIE BANTON: Well, I think the message is to other companies, do the right thing, and hurry up
about it instead of taking so long to do the right thing.

MATT PEACOCK: For Bernie Banton and Ian Hutchinson, it's the beginning of the end of a very sorry

IAN HUTCHINSON: It was an extraordinary experience, absolutely extraordinary and, really, a
shameful part of Australia's corporate history which, thank goodness, is now over.

(c) 2007 ABC

Calls for koalas to be listed as threatened species

Calls for koalas to be listed as threatened species

Reporter: Grey Hoy

KERRY O'BRIEN: Volunteers in the south west Victorian town of Warnambool have been overwhelmed in
recent weeks trying to rescue and treat hundreds of koalas injured in the bushfires and destroying
many more that were beyond help. But bushfires are just one hazard taking a toll on koalas. In the
past 10 years, it's estimated some 25,000 have been killed by dogs and cars in south-east
Queensland alone, as the juggernaut of urban development eats into koala habitat. In the face of
mounting evidence from concerned scientists, the Federal Government last year decided not to list
the koala as a threatened species, despite the fact the American Government has done just that. But
koala lovers are hoping the issue might be reconsidered as the federal election draws closer. Greg
Hoy reports.

DEBORAH TABBART, AUSTRALIAN KOALA FOUNDATION: The plight of the koala nationally is incredibly
serious. Over 21 years I've been to most of our country and I can tell you that koalas are in
trouble. No one seems to take it seriously.

GREG HOY: Curious little creatures they adopt home trees amongst the manor gum and roam a wider
home range. You don't always notice them. But when it comes to cute, it's hard to go past a koala.

CARER: This is little Jazzy. She's a little baby found in the tree without her mum. She'd been up
there for a couple of days before we could get to her. She was very dehydrated.

CARER: This is Polo. He's male.

GREG HOY: Don't be deceived. If disturbed, they can be cantankerous. Even if you're just trying to
administer first aid. And who can blame them? Since white settlement, man and koala have been on a
collision course, through hunting, habitat lost to urban development, compounded by chlamydia
disease outbreaks. Then comes the fear of fire. The most recent bushfires in Victoria blazed for
more than 60 days, razed more than a million hectares of forest, pumped an estimated 10.3 million
tonnes more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, 30 per cent more than all other emissions in the
state combined. The scale of the fire overshadowed a cull for koalas. In a blaze believed to have
been deliberately lit at Framlingham Forest in the state's south west, volunteers are still trying
to reach injured and starving koalas.

MICHELLE THOMAS, WILDLIFE VICTORIA: There are still sections we have not searched. They've been
going at this for 19 days now, trying to get these koalas out, and we want to try and retrieve
every koala out if we can and at least [get them] looked at. Because if they're not burnt then
they're dehydrated, because there's just no leaf here for them to eat.

DEBORAH TABBART: The Framlingham fire to me is just a microcosm of what is happening to koalas all
over the country. They're in small isolated patches. It's almost impossible for them to get in and
out to breed. If a fire or disease comes through then, chances are, a localised extinction occurs.
So in my 21 years I have watched localised extinctions up and down the east coast of Australia, as
we continually fragment their habitats.

GREG HOY: When the fire swept through this area, much of the wildlife was able to run ahead of the
flames. But the koala's instinct which is to avoid danger by climbing higher and higher into the
treetops proved fatal, as it's in the treetops that the heat and flames are at their most intense.
They died by the hundreds and hundreds, and it's fallen to volunteers to try and cope with the

LORRAINE O'BRIEN, WARRNAMBOOL WILDLIFE SHELTER: We've got all these volunteers out there working
their bottoms off and working round the clock. I mean, most nights the koalas start coming in from
here on and they might keep coming till midnight. So night after night you're putting drips up and
setting up the koalas with all their treatments. It's just insane. We forget to eat, we forget to

GREG HOY: What else do you need?

LORRAINE O'BRIEN: Sleep. Um... it's going to be ongoing. This whole thing is going to go on for
weeks and months.

GREG HOY: Many have had to be euthanased, the volunteers exhausted and angry there is no one from
government here to lend a hand.

GREG HOY: Do you have anything to say to government?

LORRAINE O'BRIEN: Get a disaster plan happening, and I think we really need to look at these
koalas. We've got a huge problem, and we really need to address the issue. We need to use this as a
launching pad to create a program to save our koalas, so that my grandchildren and my
great-grandchildren will actually be able to see these animals in the wild, that they won't be bred
out of existence because of the inbreeding problems, that they won't have lost their habitat
because there's no links between habitat.

GREG HOY: For the authorities, the death toll is both a blessing and a curse. To boost numbers,
disease free koalas from Victoria's French Island were reintroduced to this and similar isolated
forests 30 years ago.

PATRICK O'CALLAGHAN, PARKS VICTORIA: We ended up with a couple of very small populations that were
literally saved by people by transferring them to places like French Island, and from there the
koala population grew and was then translocated back onto the mainland to the situation that we see
today, where we now have a flourishing series of koala populations across the state.

GREG HOY: But with a narrow gene pool and no naturally occurring ailments to control numbers, the
population exploded unnaturally. There are now extensive and expensive trials to surgically implant
hormonal contraception into anaesthetised koalas. But inbreeding has led to deformities, while the
Victorian experiment is used as proof by governments around Australia that the numbers of koalas
are healthy, and the future bright.

LORRAINE O'BRIEN: You've got this incredible inbreeding happening and what you find is the males
don't develop true testicle tissue. We have been getting them through, dozens of them. We could go
up there and I could show you several little babies that have only one testicle. So those animals
are going to go out into the wild when they're released and keep inbreeding.

GREG HOY: Citing loss of habitat, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the koala as a threatened
species six years ago. Last year, the Australian Government declined to list the koala, the then
minister stating: "The koala has declined in numbers in recent years... but has not undergone a...
reduction... equivalent to 30 per cent or more of the total population... across its national range...
over the past three generations. Thus, I can't include the koala in any category of threatened

DEBORAH TABBART: I'm just appalled by the Government's response and, if you read it, it is not a
scientific response, it's a bureaucratic response that says, "No, no, no, there's millions of
koalas in Australia, we don't have to worry." There is no science from the Government's point of
view to argue that the koala is safe and, from our point of view, we believe there is a mountain of
science that says that it is in trouble.

GREG HOY: The 7.30 Report contacted the office of both the newly appointed Federal Environment
Minister and the shadow minister to ask their position on the status of the koala and the call for
a new national strategy. We are still awaiting their views.

ROLF SCHLAGTOTCH, VICTORIAN KOALA FOUNDATION: It's politically quite sensitive and we're talking a
big scale undertaking. We need to protect and revegetate koala habitat over a large scale. We need
to build corridors and all this sort of takes vision, takes money and that's just not in existence
at the moment.

GREG HOY: Today, the koala is officially listed as rare in South Australia, vulnerable in south
eastern Queensland, vulnerable in New South Wales and unlisted in Victoria, where in some regions
it's struggling while, in others, it's overcrowded and increasingly inbred.

LORRAINE O'BRIEN: And I just think it's time that they stopped shoving the buck are you allowed to
say that? We have koala plans, the states and the Commonwealth have a koala plan. When you read
through the 75 pages or whatever it is, at the end of it they basically say it's their problem and
then you read through the other one and they go, "No, that's their problem." And you go, 'oh, come
on guys, just get this real'.

GREG HOY: Meantime, the grand old Victorian town of Ballarat, which recently adopted development
guidelines to protect koala habitat against insensitive development, may well signal the start of a
change of thinking.

DEBORAH TABBART: In 21 years I can tell you that most of the developers I have worked with, they do
not want to do what is necessary to incorporate the environment into their quarter acre blocks.

MICHELLE THOMAS: We will lose them and the wildlife carers seem to be the only ones that are
alarmed over it, and we just need the Australian Government to look at it with a long, hard, good
look at what's going on at them at a realistic level, and see the damage that's being done to the

(c) 2007 ABC

Australians descend on Abbey Road studios

Australians descend on Abbey Road studios

Reporter: Christopher Zinn

KERRY O'BRIEN: Abbey Road in London is famous as the music studios where the Beatles recorded most
of the songs that revolutionised pop music. But now Lennon and McCartney have been joined by two
little known Australian composers, Lindsay and McCallum. They've been whisked to Abbey Road to
record their compositions with one of the UK's leading orchestras. Not songs or symphonies, but
what's called a 30 second groove. As Christopher Zinn reports, it's all part of a cyber-age

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: This, perhaps the most overexposed zebra crossing on earth, could become a
stepping stone for Stephen Lindsay's musical dream.

STEPHEN LINDSAY: I've got no illusions that anything fantastic is going to spring from it, but if
something does, that's wonderful. The fact that it's out there for other musicians is enough for

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Inside the mecca for musos at Abbey Road Studios is 17-year-old Daniel McCallum,
hearing his composition hearing his life.

DANIEL MCCALLUM: It's got me very, very excited and confident about composing again and just
getting a whole sense of different recording studios and what works and, oh, it's going to be

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Both Sydney-siders crossed the world after winning a high tech competition which
would turn their digital ditties into something much more. In his day job, Stephen Lindsay is an
estate agent, where getting out there is everything. But, for 20 years, he has entered his home
studio and been transformed into a tunesmith in the pop music genre. More recently, via the wonders
of the Internet, he's collaborated with musicians from around the world.

STEPHEN LINDSAY: I can sit here in my bedroom studio and reach out and connect with other
musicians. Five years ago I couldn't do that, and so for a long time I sat in my bedroom studio
recording songs, but really no one was hearing them.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Daniel McCallum works in a more classical format. He's at school at the
Conservatorium of Music and he's already an accomplished composer.

DANIEL MCCALLUM: Fairly contemporary, with a lot of it I'm trying to push the boundaries and create
something which is easy to listen to, but which is new.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Independently, they both heard of the UK Philharmonia Orchestra's Groove Search
competition, sponsored by telco BT. The idea was to set up a cyberquest to track down new musical
talent, those who could compose a so-called groove of up to 30 seconds in any genre which could
then be repeated, or looped endlessly.

STEPHEN LINDSAY: I think the challenge of doing it well is making it a piece of music, is to be one
that you're going to enjoy listening to looped over and over and over again.

DANIEL MCCALLUM: I took new ideas and then put them together and I came up with my groove. It's
fairly classical. It's not very contemporary, either. So it's just something which flows easily.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Stephen Lindsay calls his unadorned entry 'Bell Bird' which, he says, has an
uplifting inspirational melody.

STEPHEN LINDSAY: I'd like people to listen to it and think, "Wow, that sounds really good," and
perhaps walk away humming it instead of saying, gee, wasn't he a virtuoso on the piano.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: They were among 20 winners chosen from around the world to have their songs
recorded by the Philharmonia at Abbey Road. There's no cash, just the cachet of being there.

RICHARD SLANEY, PHILHARMONIA ORCHESTRA: They're both brilliant pieces. The mix of pieces we've had
across all the 20 cues we're doing today has been a really wide variety of pieces, and those two
illustrate it quite well. Quite a strict classical composition, and a much more poppy feel to

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Daniel McCallum used his parent's frequent flyer points to get to London, while
Stephen Lindsay only just managed to get a flight in time.

STEPHEN LINDSAY: Of course, it's a place that you can't pay your way into. You can only come in
being invited in. But when I went into studio two and saw the old piano up the back that John
Lennon wrote and recorded on it's still there in the studio it really brought goosebumps to me.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Both grooves are available online for free and, in the near future, you'll be
able to do more than just listen to them.

RICHARD SLANEY: Other people will be able to go on there and remix these pieces, which is why we're
recording it all part by part. So we'll be able to then take that music and put it in a different
order or play around with it. So hopefully it will open up classic music to an even wider audience,
who can just drag and drop.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Daniel McCallum is looking forward to a career making music, perhaps even longer
than half a minute.

DANIEL MCCALLUM: I want to get more people to come to symphony orchestras than sit at home and
download music, when they can come and hear some amazing things.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Stephen Lindsay's feet are firmly back on the ground, but he's not quitting his
day job quite yet.

STEPHEN LINDSAY: If it came to the point where I thought I could make a reasonable living from the
music, I'd definitely go that way there, but for the time being I've got to keep focussing on
what's paying my bills as well. If another way of paying those bills through music came up, that
would just be a dream come true.

(c) 2007 ABC

Clarke and Dawe go green

Clarke and Dawe go green

Reporter: John Clarke and Bryan Dawe

KERRY O'BRIEN: Time now to welcome back John Clarke and Bryan Dawe, on matters green.

BRYAN DAWE: Mr Howard, thanks for your time.

JOHN CLARKE: Very good to be here Bryan, and good evening.

BRYAN DAWE: Good to see you again.

JOHN CLARKE: Ah, very nice to see you again. Have a good summer?

BRYAN DAWE: I did, thank you.

JOHN CLARKE: Get to the cricket?

BRYAN DAWE: I did, yeah.

JOHN CLARKE: Wasn't it fantastic, what do you reckon Channel 7 were paying the Poms, they blow the
Ashes series and then they win the one-dayers in straight sets. I reckon if it was a horse it would
get swabbed.

BRYAN DAWE: Mr Howard, are you OK?

JOHN CLARKE: Yep, perfectly fine, thank you, Bryan.

BRYAN DAWE: Are you sure?

JOHN CLARKE: Yes, never better.

BRYAN DAWE: Okay. Well, let's have a look at 2007.

JOHN CLARKE: Yes, indeed.

BRYAN DAWE: There's an election later in the year, isn't there?

JOHN CLARKE: Possibly later this year.

BRYAN DAWE: Mr Howard, sorry, are you OK?

JOHN CLARKE: Yes, Bryan , I'm perfectly well, within myself. Yes, Bryan, what was your question? We
won't be sidetracked by the election, mind you. That's not the big issue for us. We have some
serious issues in this country. Boy, do we have serious issues to deal with.

BRYAN DAWE: As a result of 10 years' splendid management on your part?

JOHN CLARKE: Precisely, Bryan. Precisely, well put.

BRYAN DAWE: Now, you've got a new team against you?

JOHN CLARKE: Yes, that'll be interesting. Fresh challenge there, Bryan.

BRYAN DAWE: Iraq will be one of the issues?

JOHN CLARKE: Yes, well, I've gone international now in my broad and sweeping --

BRYAN DAWE: Just hang on a second. Look, can we get somebody in here, he's looking green again.

JOHN CLARKE: Bryan, I'm perfectly well. I assure you, my health is absolutely splendid.

BRYAN DAWE: Are you sure?

JOHN CLARKE: I'm as fit as a buck ram.

BRYAN DAWE: All right, okay, well, let's turn to David Hicks then.

JOHN CLARKE: David Hicks, now, there's a-

BRYAN DAWE: Good grief.

JOHN CLARKE: What's that?

BRYAN DAWE: Good grief, you've turned very green, Mr Howard.

JOHN CLARKE: Bryan, I think we're all a bit green in this country now, to one degree or another.

BRYAN DAWE: Sometimes you're very green and then you're not green at all.

JOHN CLARKE: No, Bryan, I disagree. I think I'm pretty consistent. Let's go to those issues. Let's
discuss them.

BRYAN DAWE: Well, okay, let's discuss the environment, then. This is a big issue, isn't it?

JOHN CLARKE: It's a huge issue, Bryan, yes.

BRYAN DAWE: Since the tennis.

JOHN CLARKE: Since the tennis finished, yes.

BRYAN DAWE: And what are you going to do about it? I mean, has Australia missed the boat here?

JOHN CLARKE: No, no, Bryan, we're going well. Malcolm Turnbull has the matter in hand.

BRYAN DAWE: Malcolm is doing what?

JOHN CLARKE: Malcolm's opening an environment shop.

BRYAN DAWE: Environment shop - what can you buy in an environment shop?

JOHN CLARKE: Water, carbon credits.

BRYAN DAWE: Carbon credits?


BRYAN DAWE: What are carbon credits?

JOHN CLARKE: I don't know, Bryan, probably for the people who don't want the water. Something to do
with psephology, I was told.

BRYAN DAWE: Is there a connection here?

JOHN CLARKE: I don't see any connection at all, Bryan, between Malcolm Turnbull and Ricky Ponting
and the tennis and the cricket and global warming and the drought. I don't see any connections at
all of any kind, anywhere.

BRYAN DAWE: But, Mr Howard, what will the water end up costing, do you think?

JOHN CLARKE: I don't know precisely what the cost of water will be going forward, Bryan.

BRYAN DAWE: Could we assume that it's going to cost more than it does now?

JOHN CLARKE: The price of water will go up?


JOHN CLARKE: I'd be guessing, Bryan.

BRYAN DAWE: Would you like to have a go?

JOHN CLARKE: Very nice to see you, Bryan. I look forward to a wonderful year on these very
interesting issues.

BRYAN DAWE: Mr Howard, thank you.

JOHN CLARKE: Bryan is not very green, is he? Can we get somebody in here?

(c) 2007 ABC


Bryan has gone very green. Adopt adjust your sets. It is nice to have them back. That's the program
for the night and the weefnlgt don't forget Stateline at this time tomorrow. The NSW edition will
feature an hour-long a debate between Morris Iemma and Opposition Leader Peter Debnam. We'll be
back with the 7.30 Report on Monday, but for now, goodnight.

Closed Captions by CSI.

THEME MUSIC Tonight on Catalyst, evidence that droughts last far longer than we ever knew.

This is a rain gauge that measures drought cycles over thousands of years.

We meet marine biologist, Tracey Rogers. And we follow up the oyster-killers - a Catalyst story
from 2003.

Can scientists win the fight to save the Sydney rock oyster?

Hello, welcome to Catalyst. I'm Graham Phillips. That chopper behind me may look like your average
whirlybird, but there's a big difference. It's actually flying more like a bee than a helicopter.
The scientist responsible for it has been studying the flight patterns of bees, and the principles
he discovered as applied to robotic craft. He's got the US military and NASA very interested. We'll
meet him later on, but first Mark Horstman asks the question just when will this drought finish?
Australia is gripped by the worst drought in living memory. But is it the worst on record or the
worst ever? What if we could return to the ancient past, 100 times further than our oldest recorded
history, to find out? In this metre of mud is written 2,500 years of Australia's climate history.
It's the biggest rain gauge we've got. It tells us how long we've been in drought, and gives us
clues about when it might break.

Well, this is one of the sections of the Murray Canyon core.

Professor Patrick De Deckker has spent decades digging up core samples from right across the
country. From the mud, dust and strange animals inside, he's searching for cycles of drought. These
are cores from two crater lakes?

The Blue Lake is fresh water. This other lake's water is actually twice sea water salinity.

Every centimetre of this mud holds 25 years of rainfall data. And Patrick has analysed 400cm, or
10,000 years. Back in 1987, he was plumbing the depths of lakes in Western Victoria.

One of the aims of the work is to find out how the climate behaved in the past, how it affected the
lake here...

Back then, Australians were interested in drought history, but nowhere near as concerned as they
would be 20 years on.

We now face not a 1 in 100 year drought, but a 1 in 1,000 year drought. So we're into unchartered

JOHN HOWARD: All I know is that it's a very bad drought, it's the worst in our living memory.

MAN: Are we in the worst drought in 1,000 years?

Worst drought in 1,000 years? I don't think anybody really knows that.

In fact, scientists do. For the first time, Patrick can reconstruct our climate history, and over
far more than 1,000 years. In 2003, Catalyst caught up with Patrick on a French research vessel