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(generated from captions) This program is captioned live. water crisis. Digging deep to solve Sydney's on the abortion pill row. John Howard's stance for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. A promise of relief where the wild things are. And the magical kingdom, Good evening. Juanita Phillips with ABC News. to Sydney's water crisis, It was touted as the answer desalination plant but tonight the controversial

has been dumped. its mind, The State Government has changed partly because of public pressure, underground water reserves partly because of large catchment area. discovered beneath the for Morris Iemma, It's an embarrassing turnaround as Premier who's devoted much of his time

of desalination. to selling the benefits from Kurnell Warragamba Dam is a long way desalination plant. and the much touted Premier to distance himself It was the perfect spot for the from a solution he'd embraced. wanted the focus on recycling We got the message that people to look for alternatives and for the Government to continue to desalination. "a rearrangement of its plans," In what the Government terms only if water levels drop to 30% desalination will come on-stream from their current 45%. made certain commitments Bob Carr and then Morris Iemma and dam levels falling to 33%. based on rainfall not occurring We've now had a 12% turnaround. The Government's has realised problem with the desal plant, they've got a major electoral until after the election. and they've decided to hide it Adding to that theory, of other water options. is the Government's embrace about recycling It's vowing to get serious from ditching desalination. with the billions of dollars saved In the short term, a plentiful supply of water the Government's revealed near Penrith, in aquifers at Leonay, at Kangaloon, near Bowral. and in the Southern Highlands the soil and bedrock, Aquifers store water deep beneath evaporate or flow away, trapping water that would either underground reservoirs. to create huge the water can be harvested, In times of drought a relatively cheap way giving the Government of boosting Sydney's supply. And there's this guarantee

on the environment and buildings. about their effect from very deep levels These aquifers yield their water in the Sydney sandstone. This is not a form of pumping householders at all. that will effect ordinary

Householders will also welcome news that level 3 water restrictions may be reviewed as early as August if supply continues to rise. Simon Santow, ABC News, Sydney. News of these vast underground lakes to many people, has come as a surprise known about them for years. but critics say the Government's

water sounds like the ideal excuse And while 30 billion extra litres of for turning on the hose again, a good enough reason on its own environmental groups say it's not of water restrictions. for getting rid of water on the surface in Leonay, It's no secret there's plenty in Sydney's west. to the Government's revelation Today, locals were reacting that underneath all this help protect Sydney against drought. lies an underground lake that can Yes, they've said there's water in Leonay today, tomorrow? but what are they gonna say desalination is out, Environmental groups are thrilled fill some of Sydney's water gap. but they say ground water can only The battle is still on to make sure more water is reused

and consumption is reduced. as an excuse We don't wanna see this to hosing their driveways. for people to go back The Government must ensure that permanent low-level water restrictions are in place. around the world. Reliance on ground water is common

would run dry without aquifers. And, in this country, Perth the last few years, During drought over we've drawn up to two-thirds of our water supplies that has come from ground water. in New South Wales say Some critics of water policy for Sydney much earlier, aquifers could have been an option wasn't interested. but the State Government

this ground water. Well, they really didn't discover for 10 years. We've known about that ground water when we raised it with them, Back in 2003, on the desal plant. they were very keen anything other than the desal plant. And, therefore, they didn't want Back in Leonay, wasn't a surprise to many. news of the aquifer There's wells all around. "Ah, we already knew that." And, yeah, some of them are saying, proves it. And the greenery around this suburb

Norman Hermant, ABC News, Sydney. the strongest hint yet The Prime Minister has given in the heated debate of where he stands over the abortion pill RU486. that he believes John Howard has indicated with the Health Minister. control over the drug should stay about abortion, It isn't supposed to be but you wouldn't know it. I think they are desperate. A confronting full-page ad 'Australians Against RU486' from a group calling itself pushing for change. outraged senators Scandalous, absolutely scandalous.

debate over the drug - With a free vote allowed,

of Europe for inducing abortions - already used in the US and much has crossed party lines, and pro-life divide. opening a sharp pro-choice continuing With last-minute lobbying and letters flooding in from the country's church groups, emotions are running high. RU486 is going to kill mothers. The first one that dies in the chamber who voted for it. is the responsibility of the people keep your rosaries off my ovaries. Mr Abbott, has the power to approve RU486 Health Minister Tony Abbott under current arrangements, and wants to keep it. because I happen to be a Catholic Why is it that I am suddenly regarded an objective decision on this? as being incapable of making

inflammatory terminology He's been out there using like the 'pop and forget' pill. Well, when you're out there in the public domain being as inflammatory as that, you shouldn't look startled when you get a bit back the other way. Tony Abbott argues the fate of the drug should be left to politicians and not handed over to the drug watchdog, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and he has a powerful backer.

Important decisions affecting the community should be made by people who are accountable directly to the community. It's the clearest hint yet from the PM of how he would vote if it gets to the lower house. Self-evidently, this is not an ordinary drug. The issue was too hot for a Senate committee, which despite receiving 2,500 submissions delivered a report without a recommendation. Debate's now under way in the Senate ahead of a conscience vote tomorrow... ALL CHANT: Not the church, not the state. ..and those on both sides say the numbers are tightening. Craig McMurtrie, ABC News, Canberra. The Opposition's accused the Federal Government of deliberately ducking questions about the AWB kickback scandal. The Prime Minister says the fact that he set up the Cole Commission of Inquiry shows his Government has nothing to hide. Attack and indignation, John Howard has decided, are the best defence. How are you covering up if you invite them into the bowels of DFAT and you give them all the documents, Mr Speaker? The PM was referring to the powers of the Cole commission of inquiry. The measure of transparency displayed by the Australian Government is greater than any government in the world.

Nonetheless, his Trade Minister, Mark Vaile, still ducked every question posed by the Opposition. For instance, who certified the wheat contracts - the Government, or the UN? UN had to agree to the terms of the contracts. But Labor points out the documents are certified by the Government.

Then there's the question of meetings in 1999 between AWB and Foreign Affairs about planned changes to wheat contracts with Iraq. When did the meeting happen, who was there and what was discussed?

We've established the Cole commission of inquiry to investigate all these matters. But Labor says the answer's important because Government vigilance in 1999 would have stopped AWB illegally siphoning $300 million to Saddam Hussein.

It could have been nipped in the bud right back then.

While there's stonewalling in Canberra, there's been action in Washington designed to ease anger in Congress that it was duped out of investigating the AWB back in 2001. Australian ambassador Denis Richardson assured Senator Norm Coleman that his predecessor, Michael Thawley, had been acting in good faith when he denied to Congress that kickbacks had been paid. I will await the inquiry, the Cole inquiry, to see exactly who knew what when. Two days in to the parliamentary struggle, Mr Howard's tactics have got under Labor's skin. Oh, Prime Minister, you think this is just a joke, do you? You just think it's a joke. The Opposition's frustration is obvious. Jim Middleton, ABC News, Canberra. At the enquiry today, a senior executive of wheat exporter AWB has been accused of making up evidence at the Oil-for-Food Inquiry. Charles Stott told the commission again today that a DFAT officer told him the department had looked into the Alia trucking company and given it the all clear. The bulk of $300 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime were funnelled through that company. Counsel Assisting described the claim as an invention because there are no other records of the conversation. Mr Stott said he forgot about the conversation until a few months ago. Outside the inquiry, Mr Stott was confronted by a comedian from the ABC's 'Chaser' program. The joke fell flat, with Mr Stott's barrister claiming his client was been assaulted. He asked for contempt proceedings to be considered. The States' case

against the new national industrial relations system will be heard in the High Court in May. New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia want the court to rule the new laws unconstitutional. For the second time in a week, teenagers have appeared in a Sydney court charged with murder. In today's case, two 17-year-olds are accused of fatally bashing a Sudanese man in Auburn, in Sydney's west. After four days in intensive care, the 28-year-old father of four, Kuol Agang, died from head injuries. Police say the teenagers had been driving around Auburn throwing eggs at people in the street. In retaliation, Kuol Agang threw a can of soft drink at their car.

The boy, who can only be known as 'KT', allegedly got out of the car and punched him. The prosecutor told the court: It's claimed the boys heard a loud noise

as Mr Agang's head hit the pavement and, instead of calling the police, they drove home. The defence argued the boys acted in self defence after other people had to restrain Mr Agang from approaching the boys' car. The defence lawyer told the magistrate: Both boys' parents left court without their sons. The boy, 'KT', was denied bail. The magistrate granted bail for the driver of the car, stating he didn't throw the punch that lead to the man's death, but the teenager will remain in custody while the prosecution appeals against the decision in the Supreme Court. Police are still searching for a third teenager in relation to the attack. Jayne Margetts, ABC News, Sydney. Police are still searching for a man who was accidentally released from a Sydney prison last week. 19-year-old Abdul Baghdadi was refused bail on armed robbery charges, but then released from Silverwater prison after a clerical bungle. Police launched a search for him in Beverly Hills yesterday, after receiving information from the public. Officers chased him through backyards, but he managed to get away. Police are calling for public help,

but say Baghdadi should not be approached. For the thousands of Australians who suffer the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, there's a glimmer of hope. Scientists have managed to cure the disease in mice using a new drug. The results have been so encouraging, they want to test the drug on humans as soon as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused when immune cells become active and flood into the tissues, causing pain and inflammation. Scientists at Sydney's Garvan Institute today announced they've found a drug which can stop that occurring, at least in animals. It not only completely prevents disease, but in animals that already have disease it completely reverses the disease process. Mice were injected with the compound once a week.

Their arthritis went from this... ..to this. The drug works, you know, within hours, completely returning a diseased tissue back to a normal tissue. Currently, patients with rheumatoid arthritis are given a cocktail of drugs to control the disease. All the new population of people with emerging rheumatoid arthritis face a remarkably different future compared with the old days. The only possible side effect of the new drug is an increased risk of infection, but so far that hasn't happened. While the results show the drug works on mice, it still needs to be tested in humans. Researchers say those trials will be fast-tracked and begin next year. Sarah Hue-Williams has had joints in both her wrists replaced because of rheumatoid arthritis. To have a drug that can stop that sort of damage in its tracks is, as I say, it's a miracle, really. Researchers hope the drug could be used for other inflammatory diseases, including multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and asthma. Sophie Scott, ABC News. Recapping tonight's top story. Desalination is off the agenda. Instead, Sydney will go underground to top up its water needs. And still to come - tickets for the ashes. Will it mean less of the Barmy Army? A lost world, a garden of Eden, an undisturbed paradise -

these are some of the descriptions scientists are using about a remote part of the world not far from Australia, that's just been discovered. It lies in the Foja Mountains in Indonesia's Papua province. The first full scientific expedition there has discovered new species of birds and animals

as well as some that were thought to have died out long ago. It's perhaps not surprising that there are some wonderful aberrations of nature down there, but getting near them is another matter. Truly a lost world, truly an experience of a lifetime. The first bird that I saw turned out to be a new species, the first new species of bird found in New Guinea for 60 years. That was a clue right away that we were onto something big. It's the orange-faced honey eater. But take the long-beaked echidna - two or three times the size of its Australian cousin. In other parts of the island, they're hunted. And the golden-mantled tree kangaroo, just a food source where human habitation has all but wiped it out. It's considered maybe the most endangered species in all of New Guinea, as mammals go, and here we found it in a mountain range where no-one knew it was, where it wasn't threatened - just a marvellous discovery. Take frogs - 20 new species, leaping into recognition with many mammals. Incredible! We found 42 different species and many of them very rare, many of them localised, just found in this mountain range. The Australian-led scientists took years to persuade government and tribal officials

to let them in, and catch a month-long glimpse of an ancient area suspended in time. There is no other area on the planet with this sort of biodiversity that is so unknown. So we're really seeing something that's quite momentous here. It's probably the last great exploration expedition into Melanesia. No amount of scientific caution can shroud the exuberance. Besides, Kris Helgen is one of Tim Flannery's Phd students, and planning to go back to the Foja Mountains before the end of the year. Geoff Sims, ABC News. Prosecutors trying to convict Australians of having terrorist links have had a win in the courts. 23-year-old Sydney man Izhar ul-Haque had gone to the New South Wales Supreme Court, trying to get charges against him dropped. Prosecutors claim he trained with the terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan for a month in 2003, preparing to fight Indian armed forces in Kashmir. Ul-Haque argued that the Australian Government didn't have authority to create laws covering foreign offences. But this morning Justice Virginia Bell rejected that argument. She said it did not have to be proven ul-Haque had been training for a specific terrorist act. We disagree with the decision and there will be an appeal. The next step in that process will be the Court of Criminal Appeal in New South Wales. One of Britain's most radical Muslim clerics

has been found guilty of inciting racial hatred and has been sentenced to seven years in jail. Abu Hamza has been linked to the September 11 attacks, the 'Shoe Bomber' and a number of terrorist attacks in Europe. Abu Hamza is not a man you forget. You must must help, you must have a stand. Dubbed 'The Hook' by the British press, the Egyptian-born cleric who lost both hands and an eye in Afghanistan, delivered sermons of hate at this north London mosque. Abu Hamza called on his followers to kill non-Muslims with a kitchen knife or with mice poison. He was arrested in 2004. When police raided his home they found 3,000 audio tapes and 600 videos of his sermons intended for circulation, and what was described in court as a terrorist manual which identified Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty as potential targets. The prosecution argued that Abu Hamza was a recruiting sergeant for terrorism and murder. The Muslim cleric has always claimed he was misunderstood and the case against him politically motivated. When we analysed his sermons and the tapes and the other materials seized by the police it was quite clear to us that he was deliberately, quite deliberately, stirring up racial hatred against Jewish people and other people he described as "non-believers". In court, police revealed

they found tear gas, stun guns, false credit cards and fake passports inside the mosque where Abu Hamza preached. Many are now questioning why it took authorities so long to arrest him. These kind of people have one foot in the mosque and one foot in the mafia. The cleric claims he was told by British security officers he could do what he liked as long as there was no blood on the streets. Abu Hamza is appealing his conviction.

He also faces charges in the United States where he's accused of trying to set up a terrorist training camp. Kerri Ritchie, ABC News, London. Four more people have been killed in Afghanistan during protests over cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed. Afghan police opened fire on a crowd trying to storm a NATO base housing Norwegian troops. Newspapers in Norway were among the first to reprint the cartoons. (Crowd protests rowdily) There have been protests throughout the Muslim world, but the Afghan riots have been the most violent. To finance now, and commodity prices tumbled on global markets today, sparking a big sell-off on the local share market. Alan Kohler has the details.

Well, it turned into a rout for the commodity speculators. The gold price was slashed 4%, the oil price in New York 3%, followed by a 2.5% fall in Singapore this afternoon, and metals all dropped by between 2% and 5%. When the local share market opened this morning the All Ordinaries Index promptly fell 60 points and kept sliding all day to close 73 points or 1.5% lower. The big falls, of course, were the resource stocks - BHP Billiton down 5%, Rio Tinto 3% and Bluescope Steel 12% after coming out with a profit warning as well. So is it the beginning of the end for the resources boom? Well, it's impossible to know right now, but here's where we've been. This is the CRB Index - sort of the All Ordinaries Index of commodities, and it's been going up in virtually a straight line since late 2001. So in that context, today's correction looks pretty normal. In New York overnight stocks fell, but not because of commodities. The biggest home builder came out with a gloomy profit forecast. It wasn't all bad news on the local share market today either. AWB shareholders got a rare glimpse of sunlight with a 1.5% increase in their share price. Telstra shares went up 1 cent ahead of tomorrow's half-year results and the sleep disorder company, Resmed, jumped 11%

after reporting a big increase in profit. And the other good news today was that consumer sentiment improved 1.8% in February. But the Australian dollar was trampled in the commodity stampede, falling below US$0.74 for the first time since 2 January. Oh and by the way, the Reserve Bank did not increase interest rates this morning,

but you knew that was going to happen, didn't you? And that's finance. She devoted her life to the cause of civil rights - and at Coretta Scott King's funeral, mourners continued the tradition. 10,000 people, including four US presidents, paid tribute to Martin Luther King's widow. Her fellow campaigners took the opportunity to criticise the policies of the current president. We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there...

(Crowd applauds and cheers) ..but Coretta knew and we know, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.

Mrs King died last month of complications from ovarian cancer. She will be buried alongside her husband in Atlanta. Cricket Australia has acted to make sure there's strong home support for the end-of-year Ashes series. Australian fans will get the first chance to buy tickets to the matches, which are expected to attract unprecedented support. Here's Peter Wilkins.

Australian fans are getting a leg-up to dominate what's expected to be sell-out crowds at this year's Ashes series. We want to make sure that Australian cricket fans are there and take up the majority of the crowd. Australian supporters will be able to register for tickets before their boisterous Barmy Army counterparts, who'll need an Australian address to join the early queue. For Australian cricket fans we have created a window of priority access, where once you've registered in that window of nearly three weeks, you'll be able to buy tickets before they go on sale to the general public and the rest of the world. South African spinner Johan Botha has been banned from international cricket for bowling with an illegal action during the Sydney Test. Botha's action was tested in Perth last week, and he played in the one-day series. Hopefully, he can do some remedial work because I think he's a very good cricketer and he's got a lot to offer the South African team. The ban will remain in place until the 23-year-old is cleared by independent analysis. Youth, it seems, holds power over experience, if you're an Australian womens diver. 4-time Olympian and defending Commonwealth Games champion, Irina Lashko, could be absent from Melbourne after being upstaged in the 1-metre final by 17-year-old Sharleen Stratton. AUDIENCE CHEERS Stratton's win over the 33-year-old Lashko came off the back of fellow Brisbane teenager Melissa Wu's win in the 10m platform. He's coached Alicia Molik to a career high world ranking of eight, and now David Taylor has an equally challenging assignment. Taylor has been named as full-time captain of Australia's Fed Cup team, with the added capacity of developing future talent to what, he hopes, will be top 10 rankings. In Jelena and Alicia,

they're all products of the system and I feel, you know, if we can produce two top 10 players in five or six years, why can't we keep doing that? Australian baseball is on the march with a silver medal at the Athens Olympics and around 100 players in American professional leagues. The next step is a solid performance in the inaugural 16-team World Baseball Classic next month. The biggest thing I want out of this is credibility for our country and I think we'll be able to do that. Australia has been drawn in a tough pool, with the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Italy. Here's a job you might not want to apply for - a group of researchers in the Top End have the challenging task of catching big saltwater crocodiles at night, attaching transmitters and then letting them go. It's the first time that satellites have been used to track the crocodiles' whereabouts. NT wildlife rangers head out on the South Alligator River in Kakadu at dusk. They're searching for a large, coastal croc, big enough to fit a $3,000 transmitter. This ariel here beams a signal. The information from this signal, when it is attached to a crocodile, is downloaded in Darwin. They spend all night searching, and just before dawn, they find him. He doesn't settle without a fight.

MAN: He just took a chunk out of the side of the boat! The 4m male is taped, tied and sedated, then taken to a beach several kilometres away. Wire is used to attach the transmitter onto the back of the croc's neck. 21 reptiles will be monitored this way and their progress recorded every four days. Researchers are hoping to find out how far the crocodiles move, how fast and why. They're also keen to know how often these large saltwater crocodiles are visiting the popular tourist spots. The croc is soon free to go, but for the next 18 months his every move will now be recorded. Katrina Bolton, ABC News, Kakadu. Perfect one day, much too hot the next. I think that's the story on the weather, isn't it Mike? Thanks, Juanita. Good evening. And you may have guessed it warming up tomorrow ahead of another change, with some briefly unsettled weather. Temperatures began their climb as skies cleared over Sydney early today, going from 17 to 25 degrees - just 1 below average. The satellite picture shows somw cloud still about the western parts of the continent. This will bring scattered showers and thunderstorms. More rain on the way for the western part of the coninent as well. Total fire ban for much of southern and western NSW. Thanks, Mike. And before we go, tonight's top stories. In an embarrassing back flip, the State Government has dumped its desalination plans because of public pressure and the discovery of underground water reserves. On the eve of a conscience vote on the abortion drug RU-486, the Prime Minister has signalled he's in favour of the Health Minister retaining his power of veto on the use of the drug. And in West Papua, scientists have discovered a lost world of rare species, unchanged for the last 50,000 years. And that's ABC News for this Wednesday. I'm Juanita Phillips. I'll be back with updates during the evening and 'Lateline' is along at 10:25pm. Goodnight. Closed Captions produced by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd