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Today Tonight -

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(generated from captions) to Today Tonight, Hello and welcome I'm Naomi Robson.

I'm actually going to discontinue my

professional swimming career.. With those words Ian Thorpe

competitive swimming today, announced his retirement from spanning almost a decade. bringing an end to a glorious career what now for the superstar athlete? Tonight,

multimillion-dollar business empire We go inside his to kick on out of the pool. and reveal his plans Then, cast your votes Olympic swimmer of all time. for you think is our greatest to land on New Zealand's icebergs. Also, the first reporter the floating tourist attraction We visit which has everyone talking. Plus, the super coaching classes as young as four, filled with children ten hours a day how they're working

in the best schools. to secure the best places And, the deal of the century, selling brand new homes the property tycoon for half price. you can snap up the bargains. We'll tell you how But first, had the nation glued Ian Thorpe's press conference today to the nearest television set. And as we now know, at only 24, around the world after dominating pools for almost a decade, walk away from the sport altogether. the Olympic champion has decided to

looks at Ian's remarkable career, And in this report, Paul Makin what made him quit, what his business empire is worth, for this true sporting legend and what lies ahead including a possible Hollywood deal. CAMERAS CLICK It was a very important thing to make. and it was a very difficult decision on the swimming game of late The 24-year-old's mind hasn't been

Thorpey to announce and today, we were expecting selection trials. he was pulling out of the upcoming But he went much further than that. to deliver this bombshell. He came down off the starting block my professional swimming career. I'm actually going to discontinue It was a tough decision

that I have made but one that I am very pleased this decision for quite some time. and I have been working towards at the enemy in the pool. So no more Thorpedo to be aimed No more competition representing Australia for the lad that started at the age of 14 into millionaire status, and parlayed his success and earning millions of dollars mixing with the rich and famous in endorsements. pressure of the media With the fame came the content and public adulation. emotionally Many believe he never matured handling the limelight. and has had constant difficulty You get thrown into the deep end. Sports Psychiatrist John Cramption at the 2000 Olympics. worked with our team on a pedestal. He says Thorpey has been put from general public There's a lot of expection on him people aren't really fully aware and perhaps in that instance on a daily basis of exactly what's happening for him up there but we like to hold our heroes one of those guys. and Ian is certainly good to Ian Thorpe - Swimming has been a year from endorsements he earns around $5 million

to close to $40 million and his net worth is rumoured until today. with no end to earning capacity

Before today's announcement

most powerful sporting celebrity Ian Thorpe was named Australia's Harry Kewell. ahead of football player

will we still be interested in Ian? We are still wild about Harry but has lucrative contracts The $4.5 million-a-year man Foxtel, Omega, Qantas and Audi. with the likes of Adidas, cashed-up companies Is it likely these high-profile on their books. will want a washed-up swimmer will now have the chance People who are his sponsors already and do stuff. to actually get hold of him all his time training. In the past he was spending

says Entertainment agent Max Markson to Thorpie for a long time to come. the cash cow will be delivering it has freed up his whole life. He's got so much free time -

Are you concerned about the

sponsorship deals at all No, I'm not

driven by finances, it's not my

thing. You know, I'm lucky, I am

pretty financially secure. I'm not

completely secure. I still have to

work otherwise I'm going to run out.

Which is a great motivating factor

In fact his next job could be in

Hollywood He is going to become a

movie star, Ian Thorpe Thorpe, the

Thorpe peed owe is coming soon to a

movie cinema near you Do you feel

that maybe a pressure has been taken

off you Today, this is joyous for

me. It has been difficult to speak,

it's not easy but it's I'm glad, I'm

really pleased that I've been

really pleased that I've been able

to come to this decision you know,

if kids ask their parents, why isn't

Thorpie swimming. I want them

because he has done everything he Thorpie swimming. I want them to say

wanted do in the sport. Swimming

won'ting the same without Thorpie.

He has dominated the 400 free style

winning the event at every champion.

The five Olympic gold medals, 10

world titles and 13 world records is

testimony testment to his great

necessary in the pool He is our

greatest ever Olympian. There's no

questions about that Laurie Lawrence

recollection ons Thorpie recollection ons Thorpie was a one recollection ons Thorpie was a

in a moil yon athlete Leading into

Sydney Olympics, two years leading

into Sydney never miss add training

session, leading four years, going

through to Athens, never

training section I would want through to Athens, never missed a

racing, I enjoyed being on the relay training section I would want him

Australian swim teams on him, it weakens a

Australian swim team without someone

like Ian Thorpe Thorpe Grant Hackett

said he was in ore of Ian Thorpe

Thorpe. Says his retirement is going

Thorpe. Says his retirement is going

to make it tougher for Australia

Beijing This announcement coming to make it tougher for Australia at

today, but I understand his

decision, he obviously has got other today, but I understand his

goals and other things he wants to

achieve in life. He has felt that

the time has come, he didn't want to

prolong that any longer There are prolong that any longer There are

going to be a lot of people out

there who want me to still swim. I

half as much really wanted that I wanted to swim

half as much as other people wanted

me to, it would be dishonest to

everybody if I was to continue on

that basis because it wouldn't be

for me, it would be doing it for

someone else. It would be fulfilling

the dreams that other people have

for me Swimming great, John Konrads

Ian is

Ian is obviously fed up with

in the public eye,

Ian is obviously fed up with being in the public eye,. Former star Swim

Shane gold By moving forward you are

going somewhere. What he said in

going somewhere. What he said in the press conference that he is not sure

where that is, there's movement

towards it so I think that's a

liberation in itself I would like

liberation in itself I would like to thank everybody in this country. I would like to thank

would like to thank everyone for the

support that they have given me.

It's been unwaivering, it has

It's been unwaivering, it has been

incredible. I don't know - I

incredible. I don't know - I don't know where it's come from but it's

just a wonderful thing to know

just a wonderful thing to know that you have so many people care for you

and love seeing and doing - love to

see me do what I do. I know that I

inspire people but I've been

inspired by those same people who inspired by those same people who get that inspiration from me.. Paul Makin with that report. So where does Ian Thorpe rank among Australia's all-time best Olympic swimmers? Well, we did a ring around of Australia's leading sports historians and swimming coaches today asking them to select their top three, and they came up with - Dawn Fraser who won 8 medals in 3 Olympics,

And we're giving you the chance to tell us what you think in our national phone poll and the question we're asking is, in your opinion, who is Australia's greatest Olympic swimmer of all time? And you can also leave your vote on our website: And we'll have the results for you tomorrow night. Now, cities across Australia sweltered today. In Brisbane the mercury reached 26 degrees,

while in Sydney it was 35, and Melbourne, 36 degrees. Bush fires are burning near the Victorian towns of Ballarat, Nhill, Horsham and Sale. While the New South Wales towns

of Blackheath, Goulburn and Windsor are also under threat from fires. But in contrast, only a short distance across the Tasman, it's a very different story. Icebergs have become New Zealand's biggest tourist attraction as a fleet of them creep along the South Island. And here's Bryan Seymour, and our New Zealand crew who were the first to touch down on these incredible, icy attractions. With summer temperatures already soaring, this was too good a chance to pass up. I've gotta say, I was pretty dubious onto this great lump of ice, about getting off

but it's very stable, the ice is very hard and it's quite secure out here as far as I can tell. Although, up behind me, we have seen one piece of ice slip off as it thaws, obviously. Probably not a sensible thing to do being here, but it's one hell of a place to be. Our New Zealand reporter Mark Price was the first to set foot on this freezing iceberg. Despite the danger, he and his crew managed to keep their cool. I feel very uncomfortable.

I hear that creaking and groaning in the background - I'm just waiting for the whole thing to disappear into the sea, just break open. These are the latest pictures of the icebergs. Look at the colour! Oh, isn't it just.... First spotted at the start of the month, the largest over 1km and 100m high, part of a fleet of 100 drifting north about 90km off the coast of New Zealand's south island. Oh, look, it's just so cool, isn't it? I mean, it's fantastic. Although we do have to hope we don't see them too often. Sea ice physicist Pat Langhorne says these behemoths are tiny tearaways from the Ronne Ice Shelf, the second-largest in Antarctica after the Ross Ice Shelf. They broke free in 2000 and have since drifted 13,000km around the ice continent and towards our Kiwi cousins. All my life, I've wanted to go to the Antarctic and now the Antarctic has come to me. Aussie immigration staff can relax for a while as Kiwis instead flock to their new neighbour in their hundreds. Look at that! Jeez, that would bloody rip your nightie, wouldn't it? Locals and tourists pay over $400 each

for a sightseeing flight over the ice. It's unbelievable. You don't imagine it like that! It's been 75 years

since Kiwis last caught a glimpse of icebergs off their coast - round about the time they lost Phar Lap to Australia. But there's no chance of us stealing these. Oh, yeah, look - there's giant cracks in that. It's bloody full of cracks, isn't it? Oh yeah - she's gonna go with a big splash! Another two giant bergs are now closing in on the Kiwis with plenty more on the way. Good thing, too - with Auckland's uncertain electricity supply, they've finally got an alternative to ice cubes. Bryan Seymour with that report. Now when Peter and Sue Fraser were approached by film makers to shoot the movie 'Charlotte's Web' on their Victorian property

they jumped at the chance. And when filming finished

they hoped they'd be allowed to keep a prop or two. In fact, they want to keep the barns which were built for the production. But their neighbours and the local council don't share their enthusiasm as Rodney Lohse explains. This weekend the children's classic 'Charlotte's Web' the movie will open in a Australia

What makes it such a special movie is the fact it was almost completely filmed here. And while the movie is primarily about Wilbur the pig and his friend Charlotte the spider, and a little girl named Fern, who try to save him from ending up as ham Wilbur now has another fight on his trotters. We've made our decision and that is to regretfully remove them, as per the permit. That's right - Wilbur's barn is under a demolition order. Wilbur and Charlotte live here in a valley on Peter and Sue Fraser's place in the small farming community of Greendale about an hour west of Melbourne. Sue Fraser says her farm was chosen from a list of about 50 locations in Australia and New Zealand. And it's not hard to see why. they had four main buildings going in two 2-storey houses and two barns.

And so for the Fraser family for 1.5 years they literally lived a story book existence. It's the most amazing thing we can remember happening on this farm apart from the mundane work of a farm it is very special. Can you blame the Frasers then for wanting to keep a couple of souvenirs of the film - primarily the sets. They were built under Australian standards, you could walk around in them and all that sort of thing. The two houses, as per the council permit, were removed at the end of filming but being farmers the Frasers thought the Zuckerman and Arable family barns would come in handy for storage. They came to council with a request to keep the barns for supposed farm use or other matters. The problem then was council had a very difficult position. Peter Russell is the local mayor and says his council is just upholding the regulations and looking out for concerned neighbours. I think the neighbours are trying to be as well-mannered as possible because they're are objectors in it and we have to listen to that.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. This is the neighbours' place that has the main gripe about the barns. now they won't talk to us. But we understand they're concerned the barns will be turned into a tourist attraction which will ruin the serenity that attracted them

and, I guess, the movie-makers here in the first place. I'm afraid it's not a play kinda place. Now if you do want to see where Charlotte the Spider and Wilbur the pig live you're going to need one of these because the producer's were very particular about the spot they chose. It's very secluded and if you want to see the barns where they live, apart from trespassing, you can only see them from the air. Can we go and have a look at what is left of the set? No. Why not? Because it's locked and you can't. Now the Frasers are taking their local council to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal trying have the council's permit overturned

and save the barns but they're staying mum about the court case. If they're successful Wilbur gets to keep his home. That report from Rodney Lohse. Now, to the families that are paying thousands of dollars every year to make sure their children get ahead in the classroom and in their lives. As you're about to see, coaching colleges are becoming all the rage with children as young as 4 working 10 hours a day - all to get an educational advantage. And as a result, it's feared they're taking the top places at our best schools and Liz Kefford has more. Always pressured, like, my mum is always telling me something is going to happen, "If you don't get in here something is going to happen." It's just endless pressure. It's good for him for future. We feel cheated and we feel victimised. It's a billion-dollar industry that's taking Australia by storm. Coaching colleges are mushrooming around the country, as desperate parents pay thousands of dollars a year to have children as young as four and five spend hours each week in extra lessons. Now these youngsters are being accused of taking the top spots

at our best schools.

Jolanda Challita's daughter Amanda, is 10-years-old,

and with an IQ of between 145 and 150 is among the country's smartest school kids. She sat an entrance exam for a place at a selective school but missed out after failing the test. Her mother says she simply couldn't compete against students who have been coached for years. Whereas, if you've actually been trained on how to tackle the question, then you know what process to apply. See, this is the advantage of a coaching clinic - If you're not familiar with sitting tests, if you're not familiar with a Year 8 maths, for example, you don't have a chance, really, against children who have practised and practised and practised for years.

Maralyn Parker is the education commentator for 'The Daily Telegraph' newspaper. She says coaching colleges teach students how to practise exam techniques,

so those who have attended extra classes for three or four years have a distinct advantage against their peers when it comes to selective school entry tests.

An estimated one in four schoolchildren are being coached in out-of-hours colleges, and it can cost up to $6,000 a year per student if they're studying a number of subjects, and most classes are made up of migrants. It seems as though there is a high number of people from non-English-speaking backgrounds making avail of coaching colleges in order to gain a selective school place. Mohan Dhall from the Australian Tutoring Association agrees that entrance exams to selective classes and schools should be reworked so that every student has an equal chance. It's certainly highly biased and in favour of those kids who are coached. What are some of the problems in the way that these coaching colleges teach their students?

The difficulty that we see in high schools of students who are coached in a very narrow form to answer particular questions in a certain way. Some people think that it's not fair.

Jane Xu has been sending her son John to coaching school

for the past four years. Every week he spends six hours in extra lessons. Although she's worried about being identified for fear of backlash from the Chinese community she says striving for educational excellence is part of her culture. We believe you study and everything be better. Study is important. What would happen if you didn't get into a selective school? Would you have been in trouble? Yes. I probably would have been in gigantic trouble, endless trouble. According to the 12-year-old, the pressure to perform was overwhelming

but in the end it paid off as he was accepted into a local selective school. Yeah, you think back and thank your Mum for coaching you and helping you with study. The parents that are being sucked in most, are the new immigrant parents - the parents who respond to the ads in non-English newspapers which are promising the world, they promise things like the best results. Maralyn Parker says the coaching colleges can help students learn English and maths but she also believes they're depriving children the chance to be children. People have likened it to child abuse, and I just hate the idea that this is what is happening with our selective school entrance, we shouldn't allow it to happen - it has to stop. Liz Kefford with that report. Coming up - the deal of the century - the property tycoon selling brand new homes for half price. We'll tell you how you can snap up the bargains. Get into your local Goodyear Auto Service Centre for their Christmas Cashback. Buy four Goodyear branded tyres and get $75 cash back. The Goodyear $75 Christmas Cashback now on. Do you have NRMA Comprehensive Car Insurance? Well, if you don't, I'm sorry, I've got some bad news for you. You see, you could be missing out on rewards that many of our customers enjoy, like a discount of up to 20% the longer you stay with us, and a discount on

your comprehensive car insurance by combining it with

an NRMA Insurance CTP Greenslip. Call now: And make sure you're getting the rewards you deserve. SONG: # By my side... # CROWD: Hey! SONG: # We know we'll grow up winners # Because we eat our Bix # Weet-Bix... # Just going out the back to play cricket, Mum. # We'll smash the Poms for six # We're Aussie kids... # Look out, Poms.

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Get into Sanitarium wholegrains. CROWD: Yeah! Due to exceptionally dry conditions and record low inflows into our dams,

Canberra is now in Stage 2 Water Restrictions. Measures include no sprinklers, only dripper systems and hand-watering at specific times. However,

ACTEW's general exemption allows limited use on weekends only of sprinklers and other irrigation systems to relieve your garden. Simply save water. For full details, contact ACTEW's Water Conservation Office. Now how does the offer of a brand new home at half the price sound to you? Well, thanks to one property tycoon, it's a reality. Keith Johnson says he wants to make housing affordable for struggling families and Helen Wellings spoke to him about his grand plan. Especially in this area it's really hard to get into the market for us, looking and not having bought anything before.

This could well be a boon for first-home buyers. It is a great opportunity for people to actually put money, rather than paying rent, into their own building. This house would normally sell for $536,000, but you buy in at $268,000. This one - $307,000. You buy in at $153,500.

It's the latest scheme to get people into their own home - half-price houses. But is it too good to be true?

People need a hand, not a handout.

Real estate tycoon Keith Johnson says he wants to give something back to the people. He heads Johnson Property Group which owns $3.5 billion worth of housing estates and more in the pipeline. His mission -

to finance people into homes from the money he makes from land sales. If we could end up with something like this, that would be beautiful.

He says he wants to help struggling first-home buyers, stuck in the rent trap

especially young couples who don't qualify for full bank finance.

Johnson First Home Loan works by the buyers buying 50% of their home

with the bank giving them that mortgage. We hold the other 50%

and any time over the next 10 years, with the equity they have already built up, they buy it back off us interest free. The idea is - pay off as much as you can of your half loan back to the bank over the first five years and you've got up to 10 years to pay the other half back to Johnson, interest free. So in 10 to 15 years, hopefully, you have 100% equity. You own your own home! Johnson First Home Loan will be choosy about who qualifies. Newly-trained teachers Christie and John Venegas have been trying to get into the property market for years. Now, with a baby on the way, their dream may come true. Well, I guess it's something that's kind of going to be helping us out rather than just a first home owner's grant - it's something that's more ongoing.

I'd love there to be a Santa Claus developer there, a real one,

because there's never been one before - they've all been big, bad ogres. but, he cautions - read that contract carefully, so you know exactly what the rules are. So as well as getting an independent lawyer, get an independent valuer and if those two things stack up, you're on a winner with this one. I challenge other developers to join and make it happen in their subdivisions as well and we're asking all, everybody involved in our subdivisions - the home builders, the road builders, all to join with us to make this scheme happen.

And you can get that information again or tell us about a story you'd like us to investigate on our website: Now, last night we asked you to vote for your favourite soapie star of all time after our panel of industry experts had chosen Abigail. Well, the results are in, with 'Home And Away's Kate Ritchie taking out top spot

and Kylie Minogue coming in second. And, coming up - women today versus women of 30 years ago -

are we really better off now?

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Now to tomorrow night and today's women versus the women of 30 years ago - a lot has changed in three decades but are women really better off these days?

Women today are more

Women today are more confident I think women are much worse off They

are educated They have more

opportunities Pressures to be everything to everybody opportunities Pressures to women to be everything to everybody They

don't hesitate as much as they would

30 years ago. And that's one of the stories we'll have for you tomorrow night and don't forget you can still vote in our phone poll. And the question we're asking again -

"Who do you think is Australia's greatest Olympic swimmer of all time?" To vote for Dawn Fraser, And we'll have the results for you tomorrow night. So I hope you can join us for that and until then, have a great evening. Please take care and goodnight. Supertext captions by the Australian Caption Centre.