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(generated from captions) A last-minute shopping frenzy on gifts and seafood for Christmas. as we spend up big to take care Police plead with drivers during expected wet weather. and drive to the conditions. Slow down for the young meningitis victim The saddest of goodbyes from hospital. who died after being sent home the State's West. And the flood crisis gripping

This program is captioned live. have just closed their doors, Christmas Eve 2007 and major stores Good evening.

spending spree. after a massive nationwide

Today alone, we spent $800 million. in the shopping centres In Sydney, that meant big crowds at major food outlets. and traffic jams was a battle. Just getting to the fish markets Police called in to manage traffic for seafood. as Sydneysiders made the mad dash to keep up with demand. Staff struggling as $500,000 was withdrawn. The ATM was restocked twice

for fruit and vegetables. The frenzy was also on Have a cherry Christmas! Across the city the crowds were... Unbearable, unbearable. until the last minute. Obviously far too many leaving it

only two types of of people out - On Christmas Eve there's for Christmas Day lunch those who are buying fresh food that haven't done a thing yet. and those totally disorganised And just who is that? because they're so disorganised. It's the men, I tell myself I do it every year and every year but yeah just run out of time. that I won't do it again Not that retailers are complaining - on last Christmas. sales are up more than 7%

$36.5 billion. Nationally we're expected to spend that we've had for years. It's been the best year have a merry Christmas. Thanks for shopping with us, The big seller this year -

and, as always, the iPod. car navigation kits

Thomas the Tank Engine and Nintendo. For kids it was it would be so big. Nobody forecasted Australia-wide. Nintendo ran out of stock of those who visited Santa today. That's sure to disappoint some There's no extended trading today all your presents yet, it's too late. so if you haven't bought The shops closed at 6:00pm. we've been good so All we can do now is hope

Santa's coming! Allison Langdon, National Nine News. remains at two The State's holiday road toll to slow down as police urge Sydney drivers tonight and tomorrow. during expected wet weather The Commissioner also warned

over Christmas, that police are not letting up who drink and drive. targeting motorists holiday road blitz Three days into the official and another show of police force.

have you had any alcohol today? This is a Random Breath Test, challenged to do everything they can This year, drivers are being stays at a record low. to ensure the death toll The vast majority of drivers, showing the restraint they have. I'd just like to thank them for The big emphasis is on speeding under the influence of alcohol. and driving is hefty - The punishment for all offences

until 4 January. double demerit points

the good news is that NSW When it comes to the road toll, compared to last year. has had 50 fewer deaths this year that's no reason to be complacent, But police say we could be in for some wet weather. especially when considering and drive to the conditions. Slow down If it's wet, take 10 off. continued on the roads, And as the exodus out of Sydney

by air. people also made their escape

We're going to my aunty's. getting into the spirit. But it wasn't just the passengers Our cab driver decided he wasn't accepting any fares. between 10-11, to give something to the customer. This is the time It's called the Santa Clause

into every cabbie's contract. and it should be written Jessica Rich, National Nine News.

to take care, PM Rudd has pleaded with drivers of his first Christmas message making that a central theme since taking office. Mr Rudd returned home this morning our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. after his lightning visit to at the Lodge a short time later. He recorded his Christmas message travel long, long distances. This time of year, many of us for Christmas and the for New Year. driving to see our families

40 years ago in a car accident, As someone who lost his dad nearly please, please drive carefully. could I say to everyone, Take a break, have a rest. too tired. Make sure you're not driving with his daughter Prime Minister Rudd went out later shopping for wife Therese. for some last-minute Christmas has died from heat stress A 2-year-old girl in Perth. after being trapped in a car

the parents did not realise It's believed transferred to another vehicle. they'd left her in the car when they their mistake Apparently, they only realised two hours later when they returned home was already dead. but the little girl to parents. The tragedy has led to new reminders Certainly, at this busy time,

charges against the girl's parents. Police have decided not to lay held a funeral A Bankstown family today who died from meningitis, for their 8-year-old son, from two Sydney hospitals. after being sent home there are still questions Amid the grief, one crucial test. as to why doctors did not perform Congregation Church, At Moorebank's Christian to comfort and support their own. the wider Samoan family gathered are religious people, Elu's mother Fai and father Lila from their local congregation. and today they drew strength flowers and photos On their son's coffin,

they'd bought him for Christmas. and a flashing cowboy hat that's come around to farewell him. Look at the crowd everything about this community, That is enough to tell me the times that we need each other. that we stick together in

from meningitis 8-year-old Elu died six days ago there was nothing wrong with him after two hospitals said and sent him home. Doctors admit they never gave Elu a lumber puncture, the one test that could have saved his life. And his family have hired a lawyer to find out why. The family have instructed me to obtain, in the first instance, all the records governing the admissions, the treatment.

We're very angry at the moment, to be honest,

very upset, very angry.

But for Elu's parents today, anger about their boy's treatment was consumed by devastating grief. They know Christmas will forever be remembered as the time they lost their son. Poor parents, they do their best.

Sad, very sad. Brad Schmitt, National Nine News. The elderly mother of one of the State's most wanted men

has made a tearful plea for her son to give himself up.

Stanley Francis Maguire allegedly shot and killed a neighbour near Wollongong last month. He hasn't been seen since then. 82-year-old Sylvia Maguire says not knowing whether her fugitive son is dead or alive is tearing her apart. John, I'm saying this to you, this is your mother, it's Christmas time, ring me or get in touch with me or come and see me. Stanley Francis Maguire, known to his family as 'Johnny', allegedly shot to death father-of-four Stephen Holmes when the neighbour asked him to stop screaming profanities in their street.

The 60-year-old then fled with an unlicensed shotgun. He has told me in the past that he would rather die than go back to jail. Mrs Maguire says she goes to bed crying, she can't sleep or eat, worried about her son. Maguire's car was found abandoned by the side of the road

here at Mount White soon after the killing. Police searched nearby bushland with sniffer dogs

but there was no trace of the fugitive. It's just a mammoth area to cover, you would need hundreds of police,

you'd need probably a couple of dogs and you'd need a good week.

Maguire's mother says he had a tough upbringing, Then, in 1984, he was jailed for eight years for the shooting death of another man. But she says he has a good side too. I feel like a lot of what happened to him is my fault. I should have been there more for him. Police say Maguire may have hitchhiked interstate. He's now the subject of a national alert. Shaun Fewings, National Nine News. The Coonamble region in the State's north-west has been declared a natural disaster zone as floodwaters continue to rise. The Castlereagh River is expected to peak later tonight, with livestock and fences already destroyed and 20 properties cut off. A time for reunions and get-togethers, but for many in outback Coonamble, it's set to be a lonely Christmas - land which a week ago was bone dry now under water, isolating dozens of properties. James, how long many years have you lived in this area? 31 years. You seen it as wet as this before? No, not this time of year, that's for sure. Helicopters have been playing Santa, dropping off supplies, while the township of Coonamble has so far been spared.

Last-minute sandbagging has helped bolster the levee bank, with the Castlereagh River due to peak later this evening.

But we don't anticipate any problems. The flooding has led to some stock losses and damaged fences, but, overall, farmers are rejoicing - 300mm of rain in December the perfect Christmas gift. In the last seven years we have never had that sort of rain in the summertime, so it's fantastic.

And in the State's south-west, a deluge has left the township of Lake Cargellico with another lake. Out on the eastern side of our lake, we have another lake, which I believe there's something like 5,000-6,000 megalitres in it. And, as crazy as it sounds, the rain has led to tough new water restrictions after the storm knocked out the town's main water supply pump. Damian Ryan, National Nine News. In the news ahead - why Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef wants to work again in Australia. And the Christmas pilgrimage to the town of Bethlehem.

Water is a precious resource, so we need to be aware of how much we use every day.

Did you know that an 8-minute shower can use a massive 160 litres, but a 4-minute shower with a water-saving shower head uses as little as 30 litres? And your dishwasher can guzzle up to 50 litres, so you should only use it when it's full. To work out how much water you use, what you should be aiming for and how to use less, visit actew.com.au and:

Horses will compete at the Royal Easter Show, despite an earlier ruling that the 180-year-old tradition would be cancelled because of equine flu. The event, which is expected to attract more than 800 horses, will have strict biosecurity and quarantine controls.

Not to have horses would change the whole culture of agriculture and what we do in Australia.

The Easter Show will host Olympic show-jumping qualifying events, as well as polo and campdraft competitions. Former terror suspect Mohammed Haneef has confirmed

he does want to come back to Australia to work as a doctor. Speaking for the first time since the Federal Court ruled he can apply for a visa,

Dr Haneef said he would need assurances that he and his family will be safe. From unknown junior Gold Coast doctor to international terror suspect, Mohamed Haneef's roller-coaster has reached a new high. Free to return to Queensland, to the country that did its best to keep him out. I'm having a good time in my life. Still on his pilgrimage to Mecca, speaking for the first time since the Federal Court legally relaid the welcome mat,

Dr Haneef told of his relief and his joy, and of his hopes for a long-term future in Australia. One thing I'm missing is my job, definitely. My practice - definitely missing that. My hospital. There is still no final decision but Haneef wants to come back. But this time, not without his wife and daughter. I love my family. I live for my family. There's nothing without my family -? not my job, not my career. He will only come back if his family agrees. And they'll only agree if they're sure they are safe.

We need assurances from the authorities that there won't be any harm to us.

Strange as it may seem to some, he wants his wife and daughter to taste the life that turned so sour when he was arrested, charged, jailed and deported. Haneef is still angry at the way he was treated, but he is desperate to re-register, to take up the Gold Coast job Queensland Health says they'd be happy for him to have.

Lane Calcutt, National Nine News. Ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is set to return home with his former party heading for a convincing victory in a general election. The People's Power Party secured the most seats in the first democratic election since the military overthrew his government last year. But the billionaire, who's been living in Britain, may still face corruption charges when he arrives home. Special services are being held in Bethlehem, as Christian pilgrims flock to the holy town for what's so far been the most peaceful Christmas since the Palestinian uprising seven years ago. It's a bumper time for tourism at the birthplace of Jesus, with hotel operators reporting no vacancies - not the first time there's no room at the inn. And a new first in miniature, with the entire version of the Old Testament etched in Hebrew onto a surface the size of a pinhead. We took a piece of silicon

and coated it with a very thin layer of gold, and then we used these ions to spatter off the gold. It took just over an hour for the specialised machinery to write the one million Hebrew characters.

Cameron with sport is next and Melbourne's weather playing games with the cricketers. First the rain washed out India's practice match, now the Aussies' net sessions have been forced indoors. And the harness driver who couldn't let go.

The rain continues to fall in Melbourne, so the MCG pitch is set to become a pace bowler's dream for the Boxing Day Test against India. But a final decision on the make-up of the Australian bowling attack won't be known until the morning of the game.

There's been no let up for the MCG groundsmen, Melbourne's poor weather continuing to cause havoc

with an underprepared wicket. The way the weather's quite closed in today

we might have to write today off and that will only give us one day to try and dry things out. So it may be a little bit quicker than normal at the MCG on the first day. If they bowled well, but you know they'll get their opportunities, they'll get their wickets out there. I think conditions will probably suit India and I think the wicket is probably going to be a bit slower. Former Australian fast bowler and current selector Merv Hughes then added fuel to the selection dilemma, saying they don't have to play a spinner. From that perspective, as a selector, it's good to have options and quite often the toughest part of being a selector is trying to decide who to leave out. But that doesn't mean Brad Hogg is on the outer. Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson having a virtual bowl-off in the nets for Test selection.

Which ever way, it's gonna be hard. Thank God I wasn't facing either of them - they both bowled pretty quick today. I don't know, I think conditions will really determine that. India's unconcerned with the Australian line-up, saying they were the last to challenge Australia at home and have a better team this time around. Chris Jones, National Nine News.

Less than 43 hours and counting to the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, forecasters now say the supermaxis won't have it all their own way. A southerly change is expected on day two, reducing the chance of a race record and that brings the smaller boats back into the picture. All the predictions so far had been for a record run to Hobart, but the latest forecast has dashed hopes of that. It says that after a flying start, the wind will turn against the fleet on Thursday. Northerly winds dominating, I guess, the first and third days, but a weak southerly change slowing the fleet down on the second day of the race. The leading skippers are now expecting a cat-and-mouse game down the coast, rather than a flat-out sprint. It's going to be exciting - it'll keep us all on edge and we won't be getting much sleep. You could even park up for three to four hours, so that really hurts, so it's going to be pretty tricky. And the race for handicap honours has evened up. The super-maxis aren't expected to get as far ahead,

and some of the medium boats are right back in contention. With everyone parking up on the second day and then a strong northerly coming in,

it actually looks good for our size of boat. After a year's absence, former line honours winner 'Brindabella' is making a comeback, albeit under the name of a new sponsor. She's now flying a Toyota spinnaker, but beneath the fancy exterior, she's still the old favourite at heart. Even people who don't know a lot about sailing, they know the name 'Brindabella' and they know it well. Bence Hamerli, National Nine News. In the English Premier League, Socceroos Tim Cahill and Mark Viduka have maintained their red-hot form. Everton lost to Manchester United, but Cahill at least got his team on the board. COMMENTATOR: It's Tim Cahill and it's 1-1! Viduka scored both of Newcastle's goals, forcing a draw against lowly ranked Derby.

Maybe something here. Viduka - it's 2-2!

A mistake and Newcastle are level four minutes from time!

And how's this for a bad case of belly burn? In race four of the harness program at Cambridge in New Zealand today, a tangle at the start resulted in one driver getting the wrong view of the action. CALLER: Oh, Fastlane is down, Tony Grayling is down, another one's down as well and that's Frugal Knight! Incredibly, the driver was not seriously hurt, but he is hoping for a new shirt for Christmas. After the break, the CommSec finance report, Majella Wiemers with the weather,

then Santa Clause begins his long journey to Australia.

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Yes. We hear you.

In finance, Australians appear to have shrugged off

recent rises in interest rates and petrol prices to keep Christmas sales at record levels. Harvey Norman shares jumped more than 4% today, while other retailers were also strong.

Now time to check the weather for Christmas Day. Majella tell us it won't be too wet. Michael, you're in luck. I think you'll be happy with this. There will be a few showers, but they're going to be really light and will clear during the morning. Temperatures much like today when we had 22 in the city. 26, the best of the rest, in Penrith

and even now, on Christmas Eve, it's 21 degrees. So a southerly change is going to make it to Sydney late tonight. It's coming from this trough. It is pretty weak, though, so just a few showers overnight and early tomorrow morning. This high is going to come in, bringing dry weather with it. That's the other reason there won't be too many falls about tomorrow.

That high, as it gets closer and stronger, is eating away at the trough. The high is slow-moving and it's going to give us fine conditions for the rest of the week. If you're travelling tomorrow, dry in Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide. A shower or two in Brisbane. There could be some falls in Hobart. Afternoon showers or storms in Darwin. And a very hot Christmas Day in Perth. Sydney - showers early, then a bit cloudy for the rest of the day.

Winds will be cooler southerlies, but will ease in the afternoon. South-facing beaches the best bet for surfers and conditions on Boxing Day look better. The city will have another day of temperatures in the low 20s. And it will be much the same further west. Boxing Day will be dry and warm. A little bit of cloud about on Thursday and Friday

and warming up nicely by the weekend. Tomorrow, though, dodge those morning falls and have a wonderful day - and the same to you, Michael. Now finally, some very important news.

Santa Claus has taken off from the North Pole and is well on his way to Australia. This report from our special Christmas correspondent. 'JINGLE BELLS' PLAYS He's done it before and tonight he'll do it again. It's a long, long journey from Santa's North Pole home to us, but the reindeer know the way.

Earlier, we met Santa inside his house, doing just what he always does. OK, let's have a look at the book - who's been naughty and who's been nice. No problems there, but Santa is worried about the world's changing climate.

Even the North Pole's affected. We should have a lot more snow, and this is an issue - it concerns everybody. Santa mightn't have to worry much longer - they're talking about moving him and the elves and the workshop from the North Pole to somewhere called Kyrgyzstan. It's much closer to where most of the world's children live, apparently,

making deliveries even faster.

The only problem is that there's a real risk he'd never get any letters. Most post offices think Kyrgyzstan is a printing mistake or something dad said after drinking too much Christmas whisky. Which reminds me - don't forget the carrots for the reindeer tonight, and remember he won't come until you're asleep. Merry Christmas! Peter Harvey, National Nine News.

He's on his way... So on that note, from all of us here at National Nine News, hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow, a merry and safe Christmas. I'm Michael Usher. Thanks for your company. Goodnight. Supertext Captions by Red Bee Media Australia www.redbeemedia.com.au