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Critics call for more power to Haneef inquiry

ELEANOR HALL: Even before it's begun, the inquiry into the detention on terrorism-related charges
of the Indian doctor is mired in controversy.

Lawyers say the inquiry has little hope of getting to the truth of what happened to Dr Haneef and
why his visa was revoked despite the charges against him being dropped, because the Federal
Government hasn't given it enough power.

The Government though says the retired judge chairing the inquiry can ask for more powers if he
wants them.

In Canberra, Jane Cowan reports.

JANE COWAN: It wasn't the topic the Attorney-General Robert McClelland wanted to discuss when he
convened a press conference in Parliament House this morning.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: I think we'll leave the subject matter of the inquiry and...

REPORTER: What do you think of Kevin Andrews' commentary on the front page of The Australian?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Well I'll again, I'd better let Mr Clarke.

JANE COWAN: The inquiry will be run by the retired judge John Clarke QC.

But evidence won't be given under oath and it'll have no power to compel witnesses.

The Attorney-General Robert McClelland says that doesn't matter because all the relevant agencies
have promised to cooperate.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: You can be assured it's a full inquiry. Indeed the powers were discussed, I
discussed the powers with Mr Clarke.

He is satisfied with the powers.

JANE COWAN: If at any stage an uncooperative witness impedes the inquiry, the Attorney-General says
Mr Clarke is welcome to ask the Government for an extension of his powers.

But Robert McClelland says he thinks that's highly unlikely.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: I sincerely don't believe that will occur. I sincerely believe the inquiry will
proceed in a full, proper and comprehensive manner. And I have every confidence that outcome will
be achieved by Mr Clarke.

JANE COWAN: It's not the expertise of the retired judge that lawyers for Dr Haneef doubt.

But they say he's only as good as his powers.

Lawyer Rod Hodgson is representing Mohamed Haneef.

ROD HODGSON: Mr Rudd spoke at the National Press Club just before the last election and said we
will get to the bottom of it.

The lack of powers mean that Mr Keelty or Mr Andrews can come along to the inquiry, give a brief
and self-serving statement if they choose to. And then if Mr Clarke wants further detail from them
and they decline for what ever reason to do so, Mr Clarke cannot force them.

Now, if you're going to give effect to your promise, you vest the inquiry with powers. The oil for
food inquiry had powers and there's a long history of inquiries at this type having proper powers.

We have great faith in Mr Clarke's history and his acumen, but he has his hands tied behind his

JANE COWAN: Tied behind his back, for instance, when it comes to investigating claims the former
immigration minister Kevin Andrews made the decision to revoke Dr Haneef's visa without knowing
anything about evidence apparently held by the Australian Federal Police, that would have suggested
the doctor's innocence.

This is what Kevin Andrews is likely to tell the inquiry, according to a report in The Australian
newspaper today.

Kevin Andrews' office has failed to return The World Today's calls to either confirm or deny the

But if that's what Mr Andrews does tell the inquiry, its evidence that could leave the AFP having
to explain on its own why the case against Dr Mohamed Haneef proceeded.

The AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty refused to answer questions when he was confronted by journalists
this morning.

REPORTER: ...evidence to the inquiry. Shouldn't it be an open inquiry with full public access?

MICK KEELTY: I think you should let the inquiry take its course.

FEMALE REPORTER: Did you withhold information from Kevin Andrews?


JANE COWAN: The president of the Queensland Law Society Megan Mahon says this is exactly why the
inquiry needs full powers to investigate properly.

MEGAN MAHON: Possibility of result is that it won't hear all of the relevant information. I mean
the Attorney General, when the announced inquiry in March, spoke of the importance of making sure
that they look thoroughly at the communications between the security agencies and all the processes
that did lead to the circumstances of Dr Haneef's matter.

Now, unless they are able to be assured that they will have all of that information before them,
and everyone who appears does have protections against self-incrimination and defamation.

Then they may not get all the information they need.

JANE COWAN: The Federal Government says the retired judge running the inquiry is satisfied with the
powers he has, and that if that changes he can request greater powers. Isn't that good enough?

MEGAN MAHON: It's yet to be seen. I mean, right now the terms of reference are very broad and very
appropriate. But unless those statutory powers exist those doubts and concerns are always going to
be there.

And we're yet to see if they will be granted, even if it is requested, that's probably reassuring
that that is the case.

But I think for certainty for all and even public confidence to a certain extent, those powers
should be given up front.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Megan Mahon, the president of the Queensland Law Society ending that report by
Jane Cowan.

Gay marriage campaign to continue

ELEANOR HALL: If the Federal Government was hoping to settle questions of gay and lesbian equality
with the suite of legal reforms it's announced today, it might be mistaken.

Prominent members of the gay community have welcomed the move to bring equality to the rules
covering tax, superannuation and social security.

But they say they'll continue to campaign for the right to marry.

Ashley Hall has our report.

ASHLEY HALL: The proposed changes will mean for the first time same-sex couples will be treated the
same as heterosexual couples.

The 100 areas of legislation include tax, social security, aged care, and employment entitlements.

But the Federal Government won't be extending gay men and lesbians the right to marry.

KERRYN PHELPS: I strongly commend the Rudd Government for taking this step because we really have
just emerged from over a decade of a socially oppressive government.

And I think it's very important that at such an early stage in the Government's tenure that they
make a move which signals that they intend to address those major areas of discrimination against a
significant area of the community.

ASHLEY HALL: The former president of the Australian Medical Association, Professor Kerryn Phelps
married her female partner 10 years ago in a religious ceremony in New York. The relationship is
not recognised here.

KERRYN PHELPS: I don't think that there's any justification for excluding gay marriage, except for
just over cautious politics.

Gay marriage or civil union is recognised in many countries of the world including the UK, France,
Spain, Germany, South Africa, Canada, The Netherlands, and the sky certainly hasn't fallen in.

ASHLEY HALL: Professor Phelps says she'll continue her fight against discrimination until everyone
has the right to marry whomever they choose.

KERRY PHELPS: It's as much a spiritual recognition as it is a practical and legal one.

ASHLEY HALL: A spiritual recognition, what do you mean by that?

KERRYN PHELPS: I think if you talk to anybody who gets married, they say they feel differently
about their relationship afterwards, that it's viewed by other people in different way.

It's viewed by the family as a very strong commitment and it also establishes relationships like
mother-in-law, father-in-law, relationships for brothers and sisters and for the children of that

ASHLEY HALL: Today's reforms go further than the 58 key areas of discriminatory legislation that
the Human Rights Commission identified last year.

At the time, the then Attorney-General Philp Ruddock said it would cost too much to extend equal

The City of Sydney's liberal councillor Shayne Mallard says that was a difficult position to

SHAYNE MALLARD: There were big dollar price tags attached to some of the superannuation changes, I
understand. And I think if you read between the lines from today's media release from the Federal
Attorney-General, some of these reforms are being phased in between now and 2009, I think it is.

And there's certainly issues of budget impact. But I think that's secondary for myself and other
people that were well aware of the discrimination.

ASHLEY HALL: Mr Mallard was instrumental in setting up the City's register of same-sex

He says the changes announced today were long overdue, and will make a big difference to the daily
lives of gay men and lesbians.

SHAYNE MALLARD: My partner will have rights to, in terms of superannuation, if I'm a federal
employee, will have rights in terms of federal law in terms of, I understand, if I was to be
arrested and charged with something he would not be compelled to give evidence, which currently is
the case.

There's a whole range of laws, I understand about 100 laws that will be amended. Some involving
areas in defence, such as housing and so on that probably won't impact on me directly, but I've had
representations about in the past.

ASHLEY HALL: And Mr Mallard says it's a mistake not to give same-sex couples symbolic recognition,
as well as practical.

SHAYNE MALLARD: And my view is that the issue of civil unions is something that needs to be looked

ASHLEY HALL: But some people say that the symbolic recognition of relationships rather than the
practical recognition will amount to the destruction of the notion of marriage as we know it.

SHAYNE MALLARD: Well I think that the notion of marriage and the concept of marriage is much
stronger and much more entrenched in our society than the issue of same-sex couples.

ASHLEY HALL: The Federal Opposition leader Brendan Nelson says he will back the reforms, provided
gay men and lesbians are still denied the right to adopt children, access IVF treatment, and get

Professor Phelps says the Opposition is pandering to far right religious views that ignore the
welfare of children.

KERRYN PHELPS: They are left in a bit of a limbo land until there is gay marriage recognised. And I
think to show caring and respect for that increasing number of children in families of same-sex

They really need to have their parents relationship recognised under the law in a very real way.

ASHLEY HALL: It's unclear how much the proposed law changes will cost. The Federal Government says
it won't reveal any details before the budget is delivered

ELEANOR HALL: Ashley Hall reporting.

Archbishop discusses same-sex law changes

ELEANOR HALL: The Archbishop of the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church, Dr Peter Jensen, is one
of the country's most vocal opponents of gay marriage.

A short time ago I asked him for his reaction to the Federal Government's plans.

PETER JENSEN: Well first of all we welcome the Government's clear and firm determination to make
sure that what ever happens this is not about marriage. And I think that's been made very clear and
it won't extend to marriage.

Marriage is between a man and a women and I think that's an excellent that the Government has made

In regard to the other changes, personally I remain concerned about the impact of the gay lifestyle
on our community. And I don't believe any of us should be forced to accept it.

But on the other hand I think too that there were various injustices that did need to be attended

We haven't seen the details, we don't know how far this extends.

But there are relationships in which there is some discrimination in our laws, and that needs to be
attended to. Mind you I think it's not just gay relationships.

So I'd see, I hope this is not just pro-gay, so to speak but pro-people.

ELEANOR HALL: Are you comfortable that a homosexual relationship will now be treated in the same
way as a de facto heterosexual relationship?

PETER JENSEN: Well I don't think that the recognition is the same. I think there will be points at
which such a relationship will benefit from the changes.

But I don't, as I understand it, we're not dealing here with something that mimics marriage. And
that's the key point.

What I'd like to see it is extended to people in other sorts of relationships, which are
non-sexual, in order to make sure there's justice for all Australians.

ELEANOR HALL: What sort of relationships are you talking about?

PETER JENSEN: Well there could be two friends living together, on a long standing basis over many
years. It's not a sexual relationship, but it is a relationship. And they support and strengthen
each other, there'd be many Christian people living like that.

And I think that sort of thing could also be recognised.

ELEANOR HALL: Many members of Australia's gay community welcome the move but they still want gay
marriage to be legalised. Why are you so opposed to that?

PETER JENSEN: Well I think it's impossible. That is to say, I think marriage, this is not a matter
of government (inaudible). We can't simply say, oh by the way marriage is different now.

Marriage is between a man and a women and the Government is determined to recognise that basic

Let there be relationships between people and even of a sexual nature is not a thing again, but I
think it will damage our community if we don't recognise the basic facts of our human existence.

ELEANOR HALL: In what way would it damage the community?

PETER JENSEN: Well marriage has been given to us for our good. And family life has been given to us
for our good.

The good effects of marriage and family are clearly apparent, and in a strange world in which we
live, it's astonishing to me, but we do need to protect marriage and family.

And I have in my mind here a much broader issues than simply the gay issue. So for example, I think
it's clear that simply living together for example, is not good for the persons involved, and not
good for the society in which we live.

The nurturing of children needs to be done by a man and women in a stable relationship and that's
good for children.

ELEANOR HALL: What if that stable relationship though, is between two couples of the same sex and
children can be nurtured there. Is that really a problem?

PETER JENSEN: You know, the way in which God has set up the world, He's set us up to be brought up
by a man and a women. And we learn from the partner of the opposite sex certain extraordinarily
important things that can't be learnt simply by being raised by two people of the same sex.

ELEANOR HALL: The definition of a marriage though is also, I understand, that it's a union between
a man and a women for life. So why then does your church condone divorce?

PETER JENSEN: Well we don't condone divorce and never have. The Lord Jesus made it perfectly clear
that divorce was something that arises from the, what he called, the evil of our hearts.

But as with all human relationships things sometimes go wrong and we must regulate things when they
do go wrong.

Now that happens, that's human relationships, and that's just recognition of reality.

ELEANOR HALL: Archbishop Jensen, thanks very much for joining us.

PETER JENSEN: Very good to speak to you. Thanks, Eleanor.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Dr Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church.

US recession expected overnight

ELEANOR HALL: It's been the big talking point in global economic circles for weeks - whether or not
the United States is in recession.

Well official figures out tonight are expected to confirm that the world's biggest economy has
contracted in the first three months of this year.

And if that's the case, the US would be just one set of negative numbers away from being officially
in recession.

Business editor Peter Ryan reports.

PETER RYAN: Throughout the year, George W. Bush has been trying to convince Americans that a
recession in the United States can be avoided.

But today his latest attempt at re-assurance took on a less certain tone.

GEORGE W BUSH: You know if there's a magic wand to wave, I'd be waving it of course.

PETER RYAN: The US President was fending off increasingly tense questions about the health of the
world's biggest economy, as he braced himself for confirmation of what many economists agree is

Not surprisingly, George Bush was guarded, going nowhere near the "R" word.

GEORGE W BUSH: The words on how to define the economy don't reflect the anxiety the American feel.

You know the average person doesn't really care what we call it, the average person wants to know
whether or not we know that they're paying higher gasoline prices and that they're worried about
staying in their homes.

And I do understand that.

PETER RYAN: The President will have an acute understanding late tonight Australian time when the
first quarter national accounts are released.

They're expected to show the US economy contracted in the first three months of this year, or at
best flatlined.

But a second successive quarter of negative growth would constitute a technical recession, not that
many Americans would be surprised.

LYNN FRANCO: I think consumers are sort of getting hit from all angles.

PETER RYAN: Lynn Franco is director of consumer research at the Conference Board, which today
released its latest gauge of American consumer confidence, now at its lowest level since 2003.

LYNN FRANCO: Right now consumers are extremely pessimistic, extremely cautious. We saw our
inflation expectations soar to a level we've not seen since following Hurricane Katrina, in a
combination of both prices at the pump and prices at the grocery store.

PETER RYAN: That's on top of the genesis of the current mess in the United States - the meltdown of
the subprime mortgage sector which has pushed housing foreclosures to record levels.

RICK SHARGA: 46 of the 50 States and 90 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas have seen increases
in the past quarter.

Arizona, Connecticut and Massachusett have shown a fair amount of recent growth.

PETER RYAN: Rick Sharga of the housing research group RealtyTrac says housing prices have fallen by
13 per cent in America's top 20 market, and there's still no sign that the worst is over.

RICK SHARGA: Almost 650,000 households received some sort of foreclosure notice in the first
quarter, which works out to being about one in every 194 US households receiving a foreclosure
filing during that period.

PETER RYAN: And many Americans who are struggling to buy life's basics, let alone pay a mortgage,
are lining up for financial advice.

SCOTT SCREDON: The golden rule is to live beneath your means, obviously spend less money than you

PETER RYAN: Scott Scredon is a consumer credit counsellor in Atlanta, Georgia. He has some hard
advice for families battening down budgets, now that the boom days of easy credit are coming to an

SCOTT SCREDON: Do you need cable television and if so, do you need 250 channels?

If you have children, especially if they're 12-years-old or older do you need three, four, five
cell phones in the household?

PETER RYAN: While US consumers are looking for direction, economists are expecting more action from
the US Federal Reserve overnight. It has already cut official interest rates by a total of three
percentage points since September.

The betting is that the Fed chairman Ben Bernanke will cut once again.

ROGER BOOTLE: I think they'll probably cut by a quarter, but I don't think that's going to be the
end of it. The market seemed to think that there'll be some sort of pause afterwards and that may
well be right.

PETER RYAN: Roger Bootle, like most economists, expects the benchmark rate to fall to two per cent.

He thinks they could fall even further, but that the US central bank will now start debating the
balance between dealing with a recession, and fighting off inflation.

ROGER BOOTLE: There are two camps really on the Fed board. Two intellectual camps in general - all
those that are worried more about inflationary risks and those that are more worried about the
downside risks of the real economy.

And a pause because we will have quite a few rate cuts. And as it were, this could then sort of
hold the balance between these two opposing views.

And I guess the hope would be that further news would emerge over the next couple of months to make
it clear which way things were going.

And my own view is that the economy is going to be proved to be pretty soft. I'm hopeful that
inflationary pressures will subside as the year moves on.

But I still think myself that US rates are coming a lot further down.

PETER RYAN: The uncertainty in the United States continues to be reflected in Europe, where
Germany's Deutsche Bank has posted its first quarterly loss in five years.

The outlook is so foggy, that the bank won't give a forecast for its full year profit result
because of the unprecedented financial circumstances, the bank says it simply can't see that far

ELEANOR HALL: Business editor Peter Ryan.

Investing in housing sink to record low

ELEANOR HALL: To the Australian economy now, and as rents surge, you might think that people would
be pouring into the investment property market to take advantage of the returns.

But that is not happening.

Amid all the talk of a rental crisis, the growth in credit for investor housing has sunk to a
record low.

Joining us with more details is economics correspondent Stephen Long.

So Stephen, where do these figures on investors come from?

STEPHEN LONG: A very credible source, Eleanor - the Reserve Bank of Australia.

It regularly releases credit aggregates and the latest figures show that investor housing was up
only half a per cent in the month of March - 9.5 per cent over the 12 months and that is the lowest
growth in the history of the series.

Very, very low. And when you look back at 2002, end of 2002, early 2003 at the height of the
housing boom on the eastern states, investor housing was growing 25 per cent a year.

So this is an incredible collapse over that period of time.

ELEANOR HALL: So with the returns so good, why aren't more people investing in residential
property? Is it the interest rate hikes putting them off?

STEPHEN LONG: Pretty much.

I think there's a couple of things. One is the uncertainty about the economic future.

But the key thing is that this boom in investor housing and indeed housing overall was driven by
cheap credit, low interest rates. We've seen interest rates rise from a level where you had the
cash rate at 4.25 per cent and people able to borrow at 5.5 to six per cent.

And now you've got the cash rate at 7.25 per cent and people are paying nine, 9.5 per cent to
finance mortgages.

So pretty much you have a situation where people can't afford to borrow the money.

Now economists love to look through the prism of supply and demand and say that because there's a
shortage of investor housing you would expect people to be pouring into the market.

But always demand is fuelled by credit. And we have a situation where the credit is just drying up.

ELEANOR HALL: The latest report from Australian Property Monitors says the housing market is flat,
the boom is over. Do these figures from the Reserve Bank tally with that assessment?

STEPHEN LONG: I think they do. If you look overall at housing it's up 11.2 per cent in the year to
March. Now that's the lowest credit growth in housing in nearly 10 years, since October 1998.

So we're already at this stage, and we wouldn't have seen the full impact of the rates rises we've
had, seeing a major hit into the housing market.

That pales compared to overseas, where you have falls of about 14, 15 per cent overall in the
States, and in some cities 25 per cent falls over the previous year.

There's talk of a property price crash in Britain. London in particular, because so many people in
the finance sector are losing their jobs and the easy credit is drying up.

Spain, property prices soared even more than in America during the lead up to the whole subprime

So you've got a lot of concerns there.

In Australia, one of the other things apart from housing is personal credit growth which has really
collapsed - it's in the negatives.

ELEANOR HALL: So is there a real danger here of a property market crash?

STEPHEN LONG: I think that it's a wait and see. But certainly it would make sense to expect that we
are going to see a downturn in the property market which could be severe.

I think that there is a real danger of a property price crash overseas. We may not be quite that

But still, when you have an unprecedented boom in asset prices driven by cheap money and the cheap
money reverses, you've got to expect that you may well see things go the other way.

ELEANOR HALL: Economics correspondent Stephen Long, thank you.

'Ace of Spades' in court on genocide charges

ELEANOR HALL: The public face of Saddam Hussein's regime, Tariq Aziz, has gone on trial in Iraq on
genocide charges.

Iraq's former Deputy Prime Minister is accused of approving the execution of scores of business
people while the country was under economic sanctions.

The 72-year-old has been in US custody for the last five years and if he is found guilty, he could
face death by hanging.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: He was known as the 'Ace of Spades' in the United States' deck of playing cards of
Iraq's most wanted.

But he was better known as the regime's moderate public face who fronted the cameras in the days
before the US invasion with his trademark black rimmed glasses and Cuban cigars.

TARIQ AZIZ: We still hope that it will not happen because it's bad for us of course, it's bad for
the region and it's bad for the world.

JENNIFER MACEY: Now Tariq Aziz is on trial. The 72-year-old entered the courtroom with a walking
stick, looking frail and weak.

He and seven others are on trial for executing 42 Baghdad merchants in 1992.

The merchants were accused of raising food prices, at a time when Iraq was facing stiff UN economic

Khaled Qasim Arab's (phonetic) father was one of those killed.

KHALED QASIM ARAB (translated): They took my father away around midday, he says. I asked them
"where are you taking him?" They said "don't worry, we'll bring him back soon".

I never saw him alive again.

Abdul Amir Jabbar Nadir also lost close relatives.

ADUL AMIR JABBAR NADIR (translated): My brother and my father were executed, and I escaped
execution by chance. Sons of the merchants who were executed still do not know why they were

The merchants who were executed had a principal role in lowering prices of commodities, and the
minister of trade, who is now in custody, knows this fact well.

JENNIFER MACEY: News of the trial has been welcomed by the victims' families and by many others in

But some on the streets of Baghdad say he was the Foreign Minister at the time of the incident, and
wasn't directly involved.

IRAQI MAN (translated): He is an artist, a journalist, he has got nothing to do with those
executions. Nothing, this is all a set up. That's my opinion.

JENNIFER MACEY: But the prosecutors of the Iraqi High Tribunal believe there's enough of a case
against Tariq Aziz.

The tribunal was set up to try former members of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Judge Rahim Hassan al-U'kaili (phonetic) says Aziz, and his seven co-defendants, will be charged
with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

RAHIM HASSAN AL-U'KAILI (translated): Tariq Aziz didn't have any role in the issue of the execution
of merchants.

However, his participation in the issuance of two resolutions which stipulated the following - each
one who monopolises foodstuffs for commercial purposes should be executed and his portable and
non-portable properties should be confiscated.

JENNIFER MACEY: The Iraqi High Tribunal also sentenced Saddam Hussein to death by hanging in 2006.

But the court has been criticised by human rights groups who say past trials have suffered from
administrative, procedural and legal defects.

The general coordinator for human rights and democracy organisation in Iraq, Hassan Shaaban says
he's surprised to hear about Tariq Aziz's trial.

HASSAN SHAABAN (translated): On the issue of Tariq Aziz, I think his duties and missions were
pertaining to political and foreign affairs. I am really astonished to see Aziz's name in this

JENNIFER MACEY: The trial has been adjourned until the 22nd of May. If found guilty Tariq Aziz
could be sentenced to death.

ELEANOR HALL: Jennifer Macey reporting.

World food prices spark debate

ELEANOR HALL: The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has set up a special
taskforce to tackle the world food crisis, warning that there may be more violence as desperate
people fight to stave off malnutrition.

Already riots have broken out in Haiti, Cameroon, Egypt and Indonesia in recent days over soaring
food costs.

But back home experts are divided on whether the long term solution involves doing more than just
increasing Australia's foreign aid contributions.

As Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: This year alone, more than three-billion dollars in Government money, has been
earmarked as Australia's commitment in official development assistance.

Some of that is food and it's destined for the most needy no matter where they are in the world.

Typically the distribution is left to non-government organisations such as World Vision who also
raise money, on top of that through donations from the public and from businesses.

PAUL RONALDS: We've been concerned for some time now that what we're seeing is, if you like, the
perfect storm. That a range of factors are all coming together in the same direction to create this
food crisis.

SIMON SANTOW: Paul Ronalds is World Vision Australia's director of policy and programs.

He says the impact of soaring food prices is forcing some very tough humanitarian decisions.

PAUL RONALDS: In some places, we're reducing the number of beneficiaries that we're feeding. So
we're trying to maintain the same level of calories, but actually have less beneficiaries.

In some places we just trying to maintain feeding the same number of people, but giving them less
calories or food that equates to less calories.

In some places we just stopping food programs all together. So and some of the things that, for
example, school feeding programs that have terrific educational outcomes as well as good
nutritional outcomes have been some that we've been forced to cut.

And they're good programs, you don't want to have to do it. But at the moment we've got to make
tough decisions.

SIMON SANTOW: Some analysts say it's time the world faced up to some tough issues.

Starting with the rush to embrace biofuels.

Helen Hughes is a senior fellow at the centre for independent studies in Sydney.

HELEN HUGHES: There's been a growing demand for food because of the growing prosperity in India and
China and other east Asian countries.

But the cause of the shortage, and you only need a small shortage to translate into a large price
increase, is the subsidies for ethanol which have diverted land from food to petrol substitutes.

Now these subsidies are the result of policies that haven't been thought through about global

You know, you may agree or disagree that global warming is taking place, you may agree or disagree
that human activity is an important component of it. But regardless of that, the policies you take
to fix it should not be policies that harm people in developing countries.

SIMON SANTOW: But World Vision's Paul Ronalds doesn't agree with Helen Hughes on the scale of the
impact of biofuel production.

PAUL RONALDS: It's more than just that. There's certainly been a loss of arable land and part of
that is due to climate change and part of that is just due to bad agricultural practices. We're
seeing increased demands for food from a growing middle class, particularly in China and India.

I mean China alone has about 300-million new people in the middle class. And they're all demanding
more grain and more wheat, a more diverse diet. And that's creating really significant pressure on
food prices as well.

SIMON SANTOW: There's a school of thought too that aid should only be given to countries which have
the potential to better themselves.

Helen Hughes.

HELEN HUGHES: By making food aid available, they've made the bad governments think, well we don't
have to do anything about growing our own food because they always come in.

I mean, look at Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe is being fed by the charities. If the charities weren't
supplying to food aid, Mugabe would be out tomorrow.

And we're keeping really shocking governments in power by giving them food aid, and it's a very
difficult situation. Because you know, what do you do?

There are people who are starving, places like Ethiopia, the typical shocking governments, terrible
agricultural policies, a food basket has been turned into a desert bowl. And it's continuing
because we give them more and more food aid.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Helen Hughes, senior fellow at the centre for independent studies, ending that
report from Simon Santow.

Celebration marks 100 days to go

ELEANOR HALL: The Olympic torch relay may have been less than a PR success for China.

But today Beijing is marking 100 days until the start of the Olympic Games with a massive
celebration next to the stadium dubbed "the Bird's Nest".

The celebration involves 10,000 runners and many more thousands of dancers and performers.

Our China correspondent Stephen McDonell has been there and joins us now.

So Stephen just how big have these celebrations been?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well as you know, as always, everything in China seems pretty big and today's fun
run, as you mentioned features about 10,000 participants. As we speak some of the runners are
actually approaching the finish line.

But we've seen thousands of dancers in traditional dress, bright colours, fan dancing doing Chi
Kung, this sort of thing. And all of this right under the Bird's Nest stadium.

So it's quite an amazing scene.

ELEANOR HALL: Just describe that stadium for us, Stephen.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well as I'm standing here and looking up at it, it is an incredible structure.

By the way, the first runner has just run past me, so you might even hear a cheer as we come along
in a second.

But this incredible sort of twist of metal and there's sort of steel's quite an incredible
structure. It sort of looks like a giant basket, or a bird's nest as indeed it's being called.

And yet the whole thing just holds together incredibly. It's quite a remarkable sight.

ELEANOR HALL: Now Stephen, there's been a lot of criticism of the torch relay recently. What's the
mood of the crowd there today?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well the Chinese people, especially those that have been really looking forward
to the Olympic Games, the last couple of months have been pretty bleak. I mean, we've seen the
events in Tibet, and then the disruption of the torch relay, so it's been pretty bad for them.

And I think for many people it really has soured the Games quite a bit.

Today the mood is at least a bit happy for them. You know, finally they're thinking like they're
getting back towards a bit of what, I suppose, they though the Games was going to be like in the
first place.

So it's mass participation, it's people dancing, it's everybody happy and smiling. So I think
they're really just enjoying the day here.

And finally, I suppose having some good news about the Olympics to make them feel good about
Beijing hosting the Olympics again in August.

ELEANOR HALL: And are the Chinese Games organisers on track in their preparations, just 100 days
from the start of the Games?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well in terms of the stadiums and this sort of thing, they're all looking pretty
good, I have to say.

I mean look, you can possibly hear in the back, well every now and then you'll hear a bit of a
bang, bang, bang, you know the people still with a few jackhammers and things in the background

There's bits and pieces of scaffolding on various sort of sculptures.

So there's all that sort of work to do, but that's really going to be easily done in time.

The only thing they will be battling to finish, and I suppose they'll probably make it though, is
the subway line. It's only due to be open here about one month before the Games begin.

And that's not very long to be testing a subway. So the last of the subway lines to be finished
before the Games, that will be pretty tight.

But everything else, I think is going to be, they'll easily make it.

ELEANOR HALL: Stephen McDonell in Beijing, thank you.

That's Stephen McDonell, our China correspondent.

Aussie Olympic preparations on track

ELEANOR HALL: The AOC held it's own press conference this morning to give a snapshot of
preparations by the Australian team, 100 days out from the Games.

And despite concerns over heat, humidity and air quality in Beijing, the AOC president John Coates
summarised the situation by saying "we're in pretty good shape."

The World Anti-Doping Agency followed with a press briefing to outline it's procedures to stamp out
drug cheating at the August Games.

Our reporter Lisa Millar was there and she joins us now.

So Lisa, what is the message from the anti-doping authority?

LISA MILLAR: Well if there's any bad news, Eleanor, we're not going to hear about it.

It's good news all round. Both from the AOC and from the Anti-Doping Agency, and of course it's new
president John Fahey, who brings with him his involvement of course, in the Sydney Olympics.

He can talk about his experiences there. He spent several days in Beijing just a fortnight ago.

He says Beijing is in an advanced state of readiness, that the facilities, the anti-doping centre
that's been built specifically for the Olympics is a world class facility, that the laboratories
are world class. And that there'll be more than a thousand people doing the testing.

Now the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), doesn't actually do the testing. It oversees it and makes
sure that it's been done correctly. He's super confident that it's all going to be done well in

He says he senses from Beijing that there's an enormous commitment to making this as clean a Games
as possible.

No one can ever say it will be completely clean but there will be 4,500 tests done during the

ELEANOR HALL: I think that's the claim of every Olympic Games in the last couple of decades, isn't

But isn't the big worry still the human growth hormone, that one that helped Marion Jones at the
Sydney Olympics?

LISA MILLAR: Well of course this is the drug that is considered the drug of choice for elite
athletes, if you want to put it this way. Because they can take it in the lead up to an event, they
can get the benefits from it, they can stop taking it and still have the benefits but come up clean
in the testing.

Now, John Fahey says that there will be new kits in place in time for Beijing. There'll be blood
tests, there'll be several hundred done.

And the message that he wants to get out is that if athletes think that they can still get away
with it, they're going to be making a big mistake. That it's not going to happen this time around.

As he put it this morning, the men in white coats working for the good guys are very quickly
catching up with the men in white coats working for the bad guys.

ELEANOR HALL: And what's the AOC saying about the shape of the Australian team?

LISA MILLAR: Good news again, Eleanor. Surprise, surprise.

Everyone's putting a positive spin on it all, even the pollution they're saying they're not overly
concerned about at the moment.

That all they can do is hope for the most ideal conditions.

The team is pretty much taking shape. There'll be 440 athletes overall, which is actually slightly
smaller than Athens. That's because even though we won a silver medal in the men's baseball in
Athens we didn't qualify.

The Australian team didn't qualify this time around, so there's no baseball team competing.

The concern over whether athletes can take in their own food, he addressed that situation - that's
okay. They'll be able to do that.

In fact they didn't want to get too far ahead of themselves, but they were already suggesting plans
were in place for the welcome home parade (laughs). Which might indicate just how confident they
are, perhaps.

And in fact John Coates, the AOC president, they're always asked how many medals they'll win. They
always won't say. But he did say this morning that it is realistic to set a target for Australia to
finish in the top five of the medal tally.

JOHN COATES: That's only benchmarking, it's not predictive. But it's been pretty close to the mark
in the past. We had for example, in 1999, in world championships an equivalent 60 medals, and that
equated to 58 come Sydney. And in 2003 we had 50 and we got 49.

No one that I know of, who I know of, I think could anticipate how many medals will be required to
come fourth, fifth or sixth. If anything there's been more medals going to USA, Russia and China in
recent years.

But anyway, we think that we're going to have a very strong team. And we think we're going to get
off to a great start again, courtesy of the swimmers, based on what we saw at the recent selection

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the AOC president John Coates. And Lisa Millar reporting on that AOC press
conference, 100 days from the start of the Olympics in August.

And Lisa Millar will be one of the ABC's reporters at the Games, so we'll be hearing a lot more
from her during August.

Cabbies stop the traffic

ELEANOR HALL: Melbourne taxi drivers have brought the city centre to a standstill this morning,
demonstrating and calling for better protection after a driver was stabbed yesterday.

They're demanding the installation of safety screens in cabs and for the complaints of migrant
drivers to be taken more seriously.

Victorian transport minister Lynne Kosky has condemned the drivers' blockade but has agreed to meet
a delegation of drivers.

In Melbourne, Samantha Donovan reports.

(Sound of taxi drivers protesting and chanting)

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Chanting human rights and justice, about 1,000 Melbourne taxi drivers have been
protesting in the centre of the city since last night.

Most of the protesters are Indian immigrants who dominate the ranks of late night drivers.

One of them, a 23-year-old student was stabbed several times in the early hours of yesterday
morning and is now in a critical condition in hospital.

A 45-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder.

The drivers' colleagues say they've had enough and blockaded the intersection of Flinders and
Swanston streets last night.

They held an overnight vigil and are still there now, voicing their concerns.

TAXI DRIVER: There's no safety. No safety. We are just driving the cab on a risk of our life, of
our life.

TAXI DRIVER 2: Why? Tell me. For eight dollars or 10 dollars, that's it, they are giving eight
dollars and 10 dollars. And others, the people they are working at McDonalds or somewhere or what
ever, yeah? They are getting $13.

And we are getting eight dollars to 10 dollars and we're also paying GST. What for?

TAXI DRIVER 3: Risking our lives just for eight dollars? We got cheap life? Our parents back there
in India, you know, do you imagine how they feel?

The guy who has been stabbed seven times in his heart. His parents, they don't even know what
condition he's going through at the moment.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The drivers are demanding the installation of safety screens in cabs, compulsory
pre-payment of fares, and that complaints by migrants are taken seriously by police.

As tempers flared this morning and drivers stripped off their shirts to point to the colour of
their skin, Wally Hunt, the vice president of the Victorian Taxi Drivers Association spoke to ABC
local radio.

WALLY HUNT: We supported it last night, but not now. We want them to go back to work so
negotiations with the minister can occur.

We don't want the public to continue to be inconvenienced in the lead up to the negotiations.
Because the negotiations are starting to happen now.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Victorian transport minister Lynne Kosky is also demanding that the drivers end
their blockade.

LYNNE KOSKY: They've got a legitimate concern at the safety of one of their own, and I understand
that. And I think all Victorians are appalled by the stabbing the other night.

But their behaviour today, that's gone on through the night really needs to stop.

I've offered to meet with them. I offered last night. I've made that offer again this morning.

But they do have to cease the blockade so we can have discussions.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Minister Kosky says the Victorian Government has bought 10 security screens to be
tested by drivers.

Just a short time ago a delegation started to meet with Ms Kosky.

But a 1,000 or so taxis continue to block central Melbourne.

ELEANOR HALL: Samantha Donovan in Melbourne with that report.

Tas target urchins with lobsters

ELEANOR HALL: In Tasmania, huge lobsters are being used to control an outbreak of sea urchins on
the island's east coast.

750 lobsters have been donated by fisherman who could have sold the crayfish for at least $100

But it's not only an act of environmental charity the fisherman want the urchins eradicated because
they are destroying the lobster fishery by eating all the seaweed off the sea floor.

As Felicity Ogilvie reports

FELICITY OGILVIE: Fishermen are notorious for telling stories about the big one that got away.

But in Tasmania cray fishermen are giving away giant lobsters to hunt sea urchins.

Rodney Treloggan is the chief executive of the Tasmanian rock lobster fisherman's association.

RODNEY TRELOGGAN: They are worth a lot of money, I think at the moment they're around $35 a kilo.
So each of these crayfish that we're putting in there at a beach price, most of those are over
three. So they're over $100 each.

FELICITY OGILVIE: What's the motivation to give up $750 worth of crays?

RODNEY TRELOGGAN: Well there's no motivation greater than the fact that if we don't do something
with these urchin bones we won't have any crays. And I think that's as big a motivation as you'll

FELICITY OGILVIE: The long spined urchins are usually found on the New South Wales coast but
warming waters have allowed the pest to move south.

The urchins are being monitored by a zoology Professor from the University of Tasmania called Craig

CRAIG JOHNSON: The first one was found in fact just where we are now in 1978 and it reflects a
change in the east Australian current. So the east Australian current is pushing down much more
strongly into southern waters.

And it transports larvae from these urchins from New South Wales. So that's how they got here in
the first place.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Once they arrive the urchins eat all the seaweed off the ocean floor.

CRAIG JOHNSON: We call them urchin barren grounds because other than urchins, the place is
literally barren. There's not a stick of seaweed to be found, very few animals.

So it's a major concern both from a conservation point of view and the point of view of the
fisheries that these reefs support.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The Tasmanian rock lobster fishery is worth $60-million a year.

Rodney Treloggan says the urchins have already destroyed the fishery at St Helens.

RODNEY TRELOGGAN: We had divers down last week as part of the project. Two four man teams for eight
hours a day, so they did 16 hours of diving over this whole area that used to be abundant kelp area
with a lot of rock lobster and other fish species.

They didn't see one lobster.

There weren't any lobsters left there. They've gone.

FELICITY OGILVIE: But the urchins are about to become the hunted.

Divers are releasing 750 lobsters by hand at St Helens.

Scott Ling has co-ordinated the release.

SCOTT LING: The lobsters are able to grab hold of the urchins. And urchins are very well spined and
so a lobster has to actually be able to grapple the urchin and roll it over and attack it from the
underside, where the mouth part of the urchin is.

Around that area, there aren't as many spines and so that's where a lobster is able to gain access,
providing it's big and strong enough to roll the urchin in the first place.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The lobsters have been tagged and microchipped so that the researchers can track
how many urchins the crays eat.

The tags are also there to let fisherman know they can't take lobsters that have been set aside to
eat urchins.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie reporting from Tasmania.