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Fire inquest reveals litany of blunders

Fire inquest reveals litany of blunders

Broadcast: 18/12/2007

Reporter: Mike Sexton

The coronial inquest into the Eyre Peninsula bushfires of 2005 has delivered its findings in Port
Lincoln. The fires claimed nine lives, 47,000 head of livestock, blackened around 77,000 hectares
of land, and destroyed 93 homes.


ALI MOORE: Welcome to the program, I'm Ali Moore.

The South Australian Deputy Coroner today handed down his long anticipated report into the Black
Tuesday bushfires that killed nine people including four children in January 2005.

The report details a series of miscalculations and miscommunications among firefighters on the
ground and their senior officers in Adelaide that resulted in resources being denied until the fire
was out of control.

As authorities digest the hefty report, there are those critical of the coronial process, arguing
it does little to prevent a future bushfire.

Mike Sexton reports.

NATALIE BORLASE: I was at work and Karen, the lady I work with, she said, "is that raining outside,
it's so dark". We looked outside and the whole of Port Lincoln was covered in this thick, black,
red smoke, it just put us all in darkness basically.

MIKE SEXTON: On the 11th January 2005, what has become known on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula as
Black Tuesday, Natalie Borlase lost her two-year-old son Jack and three-year-old daughter Star to
one of the most ferocious bushfires in recorded history.

Her parents had been minding the children on a farm at Wanilla and tried to drive them to safety
but instead were caught up in the flames.

Her father was the only survivor.

NATALIE BORLASE: And when I got there I couldn't even believe that he was still alive, everything
was just charred and he was still alive and I said to him "where's mum and the kids?" And he said,
"they're in there." And he pointed to the Land Rover and I had a look and Mum and

Star and Jack and our dog were all in the car.

MIKE SEXTON: The Eyre Peninsula is South Australia's wheat belt, where most of the land is either
cropped or grazed. The fire that began with the spark from a defective car exhaust in a paddock on
Monday afternoon was controlled that evening by the Country Fire Service, only to be whipped up by
the fierce winds the next morning and race through tinder dry wheat stubble at a deadly speed.

By the time it had exhausted itself 24 hours later, the blaze had claimed nine lives, injured more
than 100 people, destroyed 90 homes and 46,000 head of livestock.

ANTHONY SCHAPEL, SA DEPUTY CORONER: The approach of the fire was very rapid. Many of the phased
warnings were mistimed and not particularly appropriate for the locations to which they were
directed. There was no evidence that any of the persons who lost their lives were relying on the
existence of, or accuracy or otherwise of, CFS phase warnings.

MIKE SEXTON: This morning South Australia's Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel used the Point Lincoln
race course as a temporary courtroom to deliver his findings into the nine deaths. The hefty report
details a series of miscalculations by the CFS on Black Tuesday that resulted in no aerial bombing
being available nor earth breaks created.

According to the Deputy Coroner, miscommunications between senior CFS officers left them unaware
how seriously the fire was growing. As a result critical decisions were delayed.

EUAN FERGUSON, CFS CHIEF OFFICER: I quite frankly see no advantage in me stepping down. What's
really important is to sit back and objectively analyse what occurred. The state of the
organisation, what lessons can be learned and then move the organisation through a period of
positive change.

MIKE SEXTON: The 34 recommendations heavily emphasised fire fighting procedures and warnings and
suggests the South Australian Government consider buying a firefighting helicopter rather than
relying on the current practice of leasing one from interstate when needed.

KEVIN FOLEY, ACTING SA PREMIER: We will give serious consideration over the course of the next few
weeks as to whether or not from next season we'll have permanently placed in this State our own air

MIKE SEXTON: In preparing the report the coroner's court heard from 140 witnesses during eight
months of hearings but there are some who question whether such an exhaustive process helps.

NAOMI BROWN, AUSTRALIASIAN FIRE AUTHORITY COUNCIL: After any of the coronial processes, we lose a
number of both staff and volunteers, people who are totally burnt out by the process.

MIKE SEXTON: The Australasian Fire Authorities Council represents volunteer firefighters in all
States and believes inquiries such as this tend toward finding blame instead of solutions. It's
concerned that recent inquiries into fires in Canberra, Victoria and South Australia have drained
firefighting agencies of resources.

NAOMI BROWN: We think it costs somewhere in the region of about $14 million. This one in South
Australia would have cost many millions as did in Victoria some years ago. There was a Linton
inquiry and just one of the agencies, CFA, cost them $9 million. So there's a massive financial
cost to this which is drawing resources away from, I guess, more productive things that you can
actually do.

MIKE SEXTON: Gary Morgan is CEO of the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre. A body financed by
industry, universities, governments and fire brigades. His organisation's research shows most lives
are lost when there are wind changes and is urging a greater emphasis on understanding weather

GARY MORGAN, BUSHFIRE CO-OP RESEARCH CENTRE: If we had better knowledge about when wind shifts were
going to occur and also in the planning and advice in the community about where the gridded winds
are, particularly in the local conditions and the impacts on valleys, particularly as you go into
the mountainous terrains in Australia. That would certainly help firefighters and the community.

MIKE SEXTON: As the people of Eyre Peninsula digest the report it's with the knowledge this will
not be the last judicial dealing with the fire as civil action is likely to be launched immediately
against the CFS and the owner of the vehicle which started the fire by 70 litigants, mostly

Port Lincoln mayor Peter Davis believes if nothing else the report confirms that serious mistakes
were made but the community must now pull together.

PETER DAVIS, PORT LINCOLN MAYOR: It's disappointing to have confirmed our fears but on the other
hand we must learn from those mistakes, not blame.

ALI MOORE: That report from Mike Sexton.

The fallout from the Centro collapse

The fallout from the Centro collapse

Broadcast: 18/12/2007

Reporter: Ali Moore

The Australian sharemarket has been sent into a further tailspin, as investors continue to react to
news that the subprime fallout has spread to another local company. Mirvac Managing Director Greg
Paramor speaks to Ali Moore about the fallout from the Centro share collapse.


ALI MOORE: Australia's second biggest shopping centre owner, the Centro Group, has become the
latest and biggest Australian victim of America's subprime mortgage disaster and the resulting
global credit crisis.

Centro's woes helped knock $50 billion off the value of the stock market yesterday and while
investors regained some of their nerve by the close of business today, Centro Properties Group
shares ended at just 80 cents. On Monday they were worth more than $5.

With tight credit, Centro is having trouble refinancing up to $4 billion in loans and the question
now being asked is, if a business as big as Centro is facing collapse, what does it mean for other
businesses and not just those in the property game?

Just today the latest minutes from the last Reserve Bank board meeting showed the bank thought
there was a strong case for another interest rate rise two weeks ago, but held off because of the
turmoil in credit markets.

The entire property sector is now in the spotlight including the real estate group Mirvac. Mirvac's
boss is Greg Paramor. He has 30 years experience in the industry and he joined me in the studio

Greg Paramor, the country's second biggest retail property owner is teetering on the brink of
collapse, what's happened?

GREG PARAMOR, MANAGING DIRECTOR, MIRVAC: It's really a combination of the debt markets overseas and
their business strategy from what we can work out. You have a situation where there's very little
debt available globally, that has caused people that are borrowing short to be under pressure.

As I understand it, Centro had several billion dollars of money due to roll over last Friday and
their banks wouldn't extend for one reason or another. That puts them under enormous pressure and
that's caused the ruckus that's in the market at the present time.

ALI MOORE: Have they expanded too far and too fast?

GREG PARAMOR: I guess when they pick over the business and have a look, that may come up but I
think it's just a question of business strategy. I think they really got a mismatch between the
debt profile and their capital raising profile.

Centro's been very good at raising money into syndicates, they've been doing it for some years,
it's been very successful. They assumed, I guess, that they could keep on doing that at this time
in the cycle and from what I gather against the profile of raising money to replace debt, there was
a mismatch there and that caused this issue last week.

ALI MOORE: Can they survive?

GREG PARAMOR: I don't know the answer to that and it's not up for me to say so.

ALI MOORE: But when you look at they've got some $4 billion, they've got eight weeks to come up
with a plan, you know this game very


GREG PARAMOR: Well it's going to be very difficult and the one thing I would say to the people
watching this program is you've got to look behind the scenes and see the properties are
fundamentally very, very good, particularly in Australia. The Australian assets are absolutely

first class. Their business has been strong, they've had strong retail sales. So from that point of
view that's fine. It will depend on what the

banks, the lenders want to do with the business really as to whether it can survive or not.

ALI MOORE: But if they need to raise capital, if it comes to selling assets, it will be a fire
sale, won't it, because they don't have the luxury of time?

GREG PARAMOR: That's where the banks, their bankers have to come to the party in something like
this and make sure that they give them time to get out of it. If you go back to any other time in a
cycle, if you panic and you force people into a situation where they have to sell

things, then yes, it will be a fire sale.

If people go sensibly on restructuring the business they will get through. People will get their
money back, as I said, there is nothing wrong with the assets that I can see, from where I'm
sitting, and as a consequence that's all good for the people with the assets.

The problem has been the loss of confidence in the management, I guess, and the loss of confidence
by the banks for whatever reason, which caused them not to roll the money last Friday.

ALI MOORE: You say the assets are good, have you, Mirvac, your company, looked at a rescue?

GREG PARAMOR: We haven't formally looked at a rescue, no. But I mean I guess everybody in the
market has a look, we all know one another's assets. We know Centro's assets in Australia very
well, we don't know the assets in the US.

But in terms of looking at that. it's something that one does in the normal course of business in
terms of what would be in it for us at some point.

Once again you've got to go back to the business, the directors and management of Centro and see
what they're doing at this stage.

ALI MOORE: Are you ruling out Mirvac as a white knight?

GREG PARAMOR: I never rule out anything

ALI MOORE: But it's highly unlikely at this point?

GREG PARAMOR: It's highly unlikely, yes

ALI MOORE: Any other players you could see coming in?

GREG PARAMOR: I wouldn't be in a position to comment on that. I think it would be inappropriate for
me to do so.

ALI MOORE: So what does this mean for the entire property sector? Is it a black eye?

GREG PARAMOR: Yeah, it's certainly a bruised eye. Someone's had a swipe but it's been self
inflicted. These things are brought about by the own group so it gets back to prudent management
that comes into this and most groups have set their debt on long term rollovers and that's

what you tend to do just to be prudent about that.

You don't punt on the opportunity being able to roll money at short term, you match it with the
assets and the asset sales you have. So, I think this is, if you like, in Australia could be an
isolated situation because once again I do stress the assets are very good.

It's a mismatch of the debt and equity profile of the group and that has caused this problem. That
is a management issue.

ALI MOORE: If it's one off, why have you all been tarred with the same brush on the market over the
last couple of days, you've been whacked?

GREG PARAMOR: Yeah, we have been whacked. The markets behave like that. There's a level of panic
that you've got to remember that 30 plus per cent now of Australian property securities are traded
by global groups. There's hedge funds, there's property securities group, etc.

Those people reset their book regularly and also you get private investors not knowing what the
situation is and when you do that people will sell.

I think the market came back a little. When I say came back, moved up a little bit today. There was
generally a bit more support in the market. A lot of turnover but generally more support. That will
oscillate around, a bit like throwing a pebble in a pond. The waves go out and eventually settles
down. We're going through that process at the moment. It's going to be volatile for some weeks to

ALI MOORE: Should management of Centro have known what was coming?

GREG PARAMOR: Once again you'd have to ask management of Centro that. We've been in a debt crisis
for some time and I know in my own company and my own board, we're very conscious of it and
something they grill me on regularly and we're very conscious of what's happening in the rest of
the world. The rest of the world is struggling at the moment in the debt area.

ALI MOORE: Greg Paramor, many thanks for talks to us.

GREG PARAMOR: Thank you, Ali.

Grog ban produces positive results

Grog ban produces positive results

Broadcast: 18/12/2007

Reporter: Hamish Fitzsimmons

Three 3 months ago The 7.30 Report revealed that the number of Aboriginal deaths in the Kimberley's
Fitzroy Crossing area was around 170 people in five years. At that time the community had
successfully sought a 6 month ban on all takeaway alcohol in the town stronger that 2.7 per cent.


ALI MOORE: The prominent child health specialist Professor Fiona Stanley has told an inquest into
alcohol related deaths in Western Australia's Kimberley region that excessive drinking is creating
another stolen generation.

Three months ago the 7:30 report revealed the number of Aboriginal deaths caused by alcohol in the
Fitzroy Crossing area was close to 170 people in the past five years.

The 7:30 Report has revisited the tiny community which has sought to stem the flow of alcohol by
banning full and midstrength takeaway sales for six months from its only pub. And tonight we can
also reveal a report commissioned by the Federal Government has made scathing claims about the
running of the Indigenous owned company which runs that pub.

Hamish Fitzsimmons reports.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: In most country towns the sight of children playing in the streets might not
seem out of the ordinary. But here in Fitzroy Crossing it's remarkable.

It was just three months ago that this tiny community was being torn apart by grog.

JOE ROSS, COMMUNITY LEADER: We just had over 170 deaths in the last five years, just about all of

them were alcohol related.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Sick and tired of the drinking and violence, the local women's centre came up
with a solution, a six month suspension on full strength takeaway sales.

JUNE OSCAR, MARNINWARNTIKURA WOMEN'S RESOURCE CENTRE: We needed to get respite, we needed to
address the volume of alcohol that was available in this community.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: As a result of that ban, if someone wants to drink anything stronger than light
beer, they can go to the pub's main bar or the nearest bottle shop, a 600 km round trip. The

Resource Centre has noticed a big difference in people's behaviour in just three months.

JUNE OSCAR: Alcohol certainly exacerbated the level of violence and frequency of violence and
therefore women and children needing to seek refuge at the women's shelter. We've seen a steady
decline in the numbers.

MAUREEN CARTER, NINKILINGARRI HEALTH SERVICE: Before the ban we'd have children congregating around
the tourist bureau till quite late at night but since the ban there's, you know, you don't see kids
hanging around out there anymore. I guess they must feel safe to go home.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The ban has been so successful other communities are using Fitzroy Crossing as
a role model.

GRANT AKESSON, WA DRUG AND ALCOHOL OFFICE: We're starting to see more communities start to go down
the line that Fitzroy's gone and making noise about well these are our problems, these are things
we want to do to address it.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Despite the apparent success on the restriction on the sale of alcohol here at
Fitzroy Crossing, there are vocal opponents of it. Unsurprisingly the licencee of this hotel is one
of them.

He says the bans have actually failed because they don't address the real problems in the town.

PATRICK GREEN, HOTEL LICENSEE: I think it's easier to slap a ban on them than to deal with the real

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Before the ban the Crossing Inn sold the bulk of takeaway alcohol in the town.

It's actually owned by Fitzroy Crossing's Indigenous community under the name Leedal. Its licensee,
Patrick Green says unemployment is more of a problem than grog.

PATRICK GREEN: Alcohol is one factor. If they've got things to do, maybe it's not a problem but at
this stage while they have free time on their hands, yes, alcohol is a problem.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: He also disputes claims there's less violence in the town since the ban.

PATRICK GREEN: The drop in violence is maybe because when we are reporting violence it doesn't go
any further other than other people are reporting the violence.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Late today the 7:30 Report obtained a copy of a damning review of Leedal which
owns the inn. It looks at the partnership between Leedal and the Federal Government owned
Indigenous Business Australia which is aimed at providing business and employment opportunities to
Aboriginal communities.

measured in terms of community involvement in and ownership of the outcomes of development
projects, or improvements to the communities well-being then the Fitzroy project must be judged as
having failed the community it set out to benefit.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: It also asks where the profits went.

years of the Trust's existence, Leedal as Trustee has failed to distribute any of its profits to
the beneficiaries of the Trust. They have achieved nothing in the way of control over policies
relating to alcohol and employment.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Tommy May is one of the Kimberley's senior traditional lawman and a respected
artist whose paintings hang in collections around the world. Three of his nine children have died
in drinking related incidents. Since the ban he's been painting more and not being pestered or
humbugged as it's called here, by drunks.

TOMMY MAY, COMMUNITY ELDER: Better life and better sleep, be strong and healthy. No humbug in every

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: One of the other affects of the ban has been a surge in interest in traditional
law. Elders like Harry Yungabun say there's been a reawakening of Aboriginal culture.

HARRY YUNGABUN, COMMUNITY ELDER: It's like strengthening our traditional law. Like in a way they
look at themselves before what they're doing. They weren't really much interested in our cultural
side because they didn't really have nothing much to do here in Fitzroy. It's mostly drinking.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: For many of Fitzroy Crossing's older people, the alcohol restrictions are a
return to time when people drank less and social ties were strong.

TOMMY MAY: We live better now, better life now. For a couple of months or three months now you can
see everybody sober.

HARRY YUNGABUN: Since this thing stopped and people started to realise what in fact the grog has
done to them and then you see good result coming back from the people.

ALI MOORE: Hamish Fitzsimmons reporting.

The US in 2007

The US in 2007

Broadcast: 18/12/2007

Reporter: Tracy Bowden

Washington Correspondent Tracy Bowden looks back at 2007 in the United States, where the year began
with a decision to send extra troops to Iraq and ended with troops beginning to come home.


ALI MOORE: Time now to turn our attention overseas for the first of our series of reports looking
back at 2007 through the eyes of the ABC's foreign correspondents.

Tonight the United States where the year began with a decision to send extra troops to Iraq and
ended with troops beginning to come home. Along the way another battle began for the US presidency.

American correspondent Tracy Bowden reports from Washington.

TRACY BOWDEN: The first snowfall of the season in the nation's capital and members of Congress
gather for the official lighting of their Christmas tree.

Over at the White House, the President is doing the same thing.

SONG: Jingle bells, jingle bells

TRACY BOWDEN: But such accord between law makers and the Bush Administration was sadly lacking in


FEMALE SPEAKER: The House will come to order.

TRACY BOWDEN: With Democrats now in control of Congress, bipartisanship was in the air. The
President even conceded all was not going to plan in Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people and it
is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely, they have done everything we have
asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

TRACY BOWDEN: Amid protests from Democrats and from an increasing number of Republicans, George W.
Bush announced his new way forward for Iraq, sending more than 20,000 extra troops to the region.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, FOREIGN POLICY, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: He knew that he was on the ropes, he was on
the ropes politically, his rock mission was on the ropes, there was the very real possibility that
Congress might pull the plug on funding even though they said they probably wouldn't but also the
mission would keep going south, keep failing.

TV REPORTER: After years of delays and false starts the Hicks case is back in motion. The 31 year
old is about to make a reappearance in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom.

TRACY BOWDEN: After more than five years in the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Australian
David Hicks finally got his date with the US military justice system.

SPOKESMAN: This is the first step towards David returning to Australia.

TRACY BOWDEN: In a stunning turn of events, he struck a deal, pleading guilty to supporting
terrorism. He returned to Australia to serve out the remaining months of his sentence.


TRACY BOWDEN: In one of the most deadly acts of violence ever in America's education system,
student Cho Seung Wee killed 32 people before shooting himself on the campus of Virginia Tech

MASSACRE WITNESS: All of a sudden I just hear these shots and fires going off and like all these
gun shots and like everyone just started screaming run and everyone ran across the outfield.

TRACY BOWDEN: He left behind a chilling video.

CHO SEUNG HUI: You've had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today but you decided
to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option.

TRACY BOWDEN: The racial issues simmering in American society rose to the surface in the little
town of Jena Louisiana after what was seen as unequal punishment for black and white students,
demonstrations were stages across the US.

PROTESTOR: There's a lot of injustice, not only here. There's a lot of Jena Louisiana across this
country when it comes to our community.

TRACY BOWDEN: The ravages of mother nature took their toll. This time bushfires in southern
California fanned by the scorching Santa Anna winds.

Up to nine people died, thousands of homes were destroyed, 500,000 people evacuated.

FIRE VICTIM: We did what we could. This was a living hell coming over the hill. This is what I come
home to today.

TRACY BOWDEN: Former vice president turned environmentalist and film maker Al Gore scored the

A Nobel Prize, an Oscar and an Emmy for his work on climate change.

AL GORE, FORMER US VICE-PRESIDENT: As the truth of this climate crisis begins to be more widely
known, are going to demand that political leaders take action.

TRACY BOWDEN: In sport athlete Marion Jones confirmed what had long been suspected.

MARION JONES, ATHLETE: And so it is with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell
you that I have betrayed your trust.

TRACY BOWDEN: She's a drug cheat and was taking steroids before her five medal performance in the
Sydney Olympics.

Baseball's record breaking hit maker Barry Bonds is also facing jail time accused of lying about
his steroid use.

For the business world it was a volatile year for the US economy..

HOMEOWNER: I've got as many as five of these in one day saying the same exact thing.

TRACY BOWDEN: Is this threatening to foreclose?

HOMEOWNER: Threatening to foreclose, yes.

TRACY BOWDEN: The subprime mortgage crisis sent shock-waves through the financial system. The US
housing market slumped, raising fears of the world's largest economy heading for recession.

By later in the year, some positive news out of Iraq. The first in a long time.

The surge seemed to be working.

MICHAEL O'HANLON: I think 2007 will go down as the latest come from behind in American military
history. If you look at the trend lines, they are dramatic. The violence in Iraq has been reduced,
depending on the data source you most want to believe, by anywhere from 50 per cent to 70 per cent
in monthly terms. In terms of civilian fatalities in Iraq and the trend lines have been
accelerating recently.

E.J. DIONNE, 'WASHINGTON POST' COLUMNIST: Iraq is a little better than I think most people expected
it to be but it's not good enough yet to change anyone's mind fundamentally about the war.

TRACY BOWDEN: On the nuclear threat President Bush convinced North Korea to disable its reactor. As
for Iran.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I've told people if you're interested in avoiding World War Three, it seems like
you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear

TRACY BOWDEN: Then in December a US intelligence report revealed that Iran stopped its nuclear
weapons program four years ago. The President defended his position saying the country is still a

GEORGE W. BUSH: Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the
knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

TRACY BOWDEN: The Bush Administration also tried to reignite the Middle East peace process with
talks at Annapolis outside Washington.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We meet to lay the foundation for the establishment of a new nation, a democratic
Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in peace and security.

E.J. DIONNE: I think it's very interesting that after resisting doing so, President Bush decided to
jump in to the Israeli/Palestinian issue and ended the year and may end his term with an effort not
all that unlike the one Bill Clinton engaged in at the end of his term which President Bush

TRACY BOWDEN: Thanks to the improvement in Iraq in the eyes of some pundits, the President's legacy
is looking slightly healthier than it was a year ago.

MICHAEL O'HANLON: I think Mr Bush has a decent chance of rescuing himself from the bin of failed

TRACY BOWDEN: But the focus has already shifted to the race to find the next leader of the free

Candidates are in a frenzy of activity in the lead up to the primaries and caucuses early in 2008.
On both the Republican and Democratic sides, the nomination is still up for grabs.

E.J. DIONNE: You had at the beginning of the year a kind of inevitability in the air about Hillary
Clinton's victory. As the year went on, and particularly in the last couple of months of year, that
inevitability seemed to come into question and you began to have a real contest. So I think this is
going to be a

donnybrook kind of election on both sides.

TRACY BOWDEN: But whoever is chosen next year to replace George W Bush, will inherit the most
significant and troublesome issue of his presidency - the war in Iraq.

ALI MOORE: Tracy Bowden with that report.