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Medicare architect dismisses levy change concerns

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government and the doctors union continue to spar over a report into
private health insurance which questions the Government's Budget numbers.

The Health Minister Nicola Roxon, says the Access Economics report which was commissioned by the
Australian Medical Association is incomplete and confused in its analysis of the impact of the
Government's decision to lift the threshold on the Medicare surcharge.

Now one of the architects of the Medicare system has joined the debate and has dismissed the
private health industry's concerns that the change to the surcharge will prompt thousands to dump
their health cover.

In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: Access Economics is a respected independent economics forecaster; both major political
parties have used it in the past to cost their policies.

The Australian Medical Association commissioned Access to assess the Budget's impacts on health and
private insurance, and overall, the findings were unflattering.

AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua:

ROSANNA CAPOLINGUA: The Access Economics analysis really seems to confirm our concerns and made it
clear even what the impact will be on private health insurance, premiums which will cause a
continuing cascade of people dropping out.

SABRA LANE: The report says the Government won't achieve the kind of savings it was hoping for in
the first year, because it's overestimated the number of people who will drop their cover
immediately.

But Access Economics says over time, a huge number of people will ditch their private health cover,
placing an additional strain on public hospitals, which it says the Government hasn't factored in.

The Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon rejects the findings.

NICOLA ROXON: We obviously will look at any information that Access Economics or others want to
provide with us but we believe that their report is incomplete, failing to take account of a number
of issues and also not explaining some of its assumptions.

SABRA LANE: But by the same measure, many of the Government's own assumptions regarding the health
budget last week are also unknown.

The AMA fears as a result of the budgetary changes, the percentage of Australians holding private
health cover will drop below 40 per cent - that's the figure regarded by the industry as essential
to ensuring a viable health sector.

The Health Minister wouldn't directly respond that concern today.

(To Nicola Roxon) You're not worried that the number of people holding private insurance will drop
below 40 per cent?

NICOLA ROXON: I think it is clear from this letter that the most immediate impact it will have is
it will mean that many hundreds of thousands of Australians who don't have private health insurance
in any case but pay a tax that was introduced by Mr Howard will no longer have to pay that tax and
that is an important measure that we will proceed with.

SABRA LANE: Again Minister, you are not worried that the number of Australians holding private
health insurance will drop below that magic 40 per cent figure?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, we are very confident that the extensive support that we provide to Australians
who choose to take out private health insurance will mean that it remains attractive for many
millions of Australians.

SABRA LANE: In answering questions about private health insurance this morning, the Prime Minister
said lifting the threshold wouldn't place additional pressure on the public health system.

He quoted a health fund chief executive's recent comments about some of the health insurance
policies offered to those affected by the threshold increase.

KEVIN RUDD: They are a tax dodge product. These products do not take any pressure off the public
hospital system. I would simply draw your attention to his comments referring to the particular
services being offered by, I presume, various private health insurance funds to those who are
seeking to avoid paying that particular surcharge.

SABRA LANE: Emeritus fellow at the Australian National University and one of the architects of
Medicare, John Deeble, dismisses the private health industry's concerns that membership will drop
below the 40 per cent threshold.

JOHN DEEBLE: Yeah, well they would say that, wouldn't they? But I don't think there is any level of
viability as such. Look, I was a director of Medibank Private for 17 years so I know something
about this.

Private health insurance is not particularly price sensitive. People who buy it, buy it because
they want that extra cover or they believe in that particular method of getting their health
services. Price doesn't matter a great deal. The switch that people are talking about cannot be
predicted.

SABRA LANE: Mr Deeble backs the Government's decision to double the Medicare levy surcharge
thresholds for singles and couples. He says it's fair.

JOHN DEEBLE: Well, I think it is very fairly obvious and equitable move. I mean those targets were
introduced in 1996 and they were designed to frighten people by the threat of tax to take up
private health insurance.

They didn't work then actually and it took a number of years before they were backed up by other
things, but clearly they are now catching a large number of people who are not in the income range
that was first contemplated.

SABRA LANE: But Mr Deeble has rubbished the Prime Minister's threat of a federal takeover of
health. Mr Rudd promised last year the Commonwealth could take control, if the states failed to
improve public health.

Mr Deeble says a Commonwealth takeover wouldn't work.

JOHN DEEBLE: Not because I think it would be impossible for it to do so. It obviously could, but I
think that the control by the states or the activities of the states brings it closer to the actual
communities, but the Commonwealth has no experience in running this at all.

That running hospitals is a quite totally different business than just paying benefits for doctors,
and it would have no capacity to do it any better than the states, and I believe that the states
probably will do it better than the Commonwealth.

ELEANOR HALL: That's John Deeble ending that report from Sabra Lane in Canberra.

Surgeon allegedly rorted patient billing system

ELEANOR HALL: The senior surgeon accused of operating unnecessarily on patients at Melbourne's
Alfred Hospital has been dealt another blow with the release of a final report into his conduct.

The former director of trauma surgery, Professor Thomas Kossman, resigned last month amid
accusations he'd not only conducted himself improperly in the operating room but also rorted the
billing system for victims of road trauma.

The Alfred Hospital has just held a press conference and our reporter Jane Cowan was there.

So, Jane, what did the hospital have to say about this Kossman affair?

JANE COWAN: Well Eleanor, there are six recommendations and you would have to say that they are
pretty damning. First of all they are saying that Professor Kossman should not supervise junior
doctors because of deficiencies in his training and expertise.

They are saying that he shouldn't be accredited for spinal and pelvic surgery which is his area of
speciality and that he should actually only, even undertake it close supervision now.

There is also a recommendation for the hospital saying that it needs a more robust peer review
audit system to pick up things like this in the future, and a final recommendation is that
Professor Kossman's entire billing practices should now be audited.

In making those recommendations, the hospital has also said or actually it's the panel that has
been investigating Professor Kossman, an independent panel. They have also said that he submitted a
CV when going for the job at the Alfred that misrepresented his surgical experience.

They say that his surgical practices were inappropriate, unnecessary and outside the expected norm.
And they say that these practices were actually beyond any level of acceptable behaviour and
standard of care, and that they were flawed in their conception and harmful in their effect.

Now in saying that, they do want to point out that no patient has actually succumbed to these
risks, but there were cases where lives were put in danger including one case of catastrophic
bleeding.

Now that have also said that Professor Kossman has billed the Transport Accident Commission and
Medicare for surgeries that simply were not done. They say that he failed to perceive a problem
with this billing, almost to the level where he seemed to have no concept of what constituted, they
say, a moral approach to patient billing.

ELEANOR HALL: Now Professor Kossman came out earlier this year stridently defending his innocence.
He even suggested that there was some sort of a conspiracy to victimise him. What has he had to say
today?

JANE COWAN: That line is continuing Eleanor. He is not available to speak to the media because of
family illness, but he has released a statement that you would have to say is fairly embittered.

He is calling the press conference that has just been held by the Alfred a "public relations
gimmick" and an "orchestrated stunt" and he describes it as a low act even by what he calls the
Alfred's extremely low standards.

He is basically questioning why the need for a press conference to hash over details that have
already been made public through leaks to newspapers earlier this year. He has always called the
hospital's investigation into him a witch-hunt and he is saying that that witch-hunt wouldn't have
been complete without a show trial and that is what we are seeing today.

So it is very strong language and Professor Kossman maintains that he is innocent of all these
allegations.

ELEANOR HALL: And is there any sort of real trial in the wings? What happens now for Professor
Kossman?

JANE COWAN: Well, at the moment he is not working anywhere. The PR company that he has engaged says
he is still fully accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons and that he is free to practice.

There are a number of other investigations underway by the Ombudsman, WorkCover, the Medical
Practitioners Board and the Transport Accident Commission for the bill rorting allegations.

When he resigned last month, he said that he wanted to stay in Melbourne and keep working here and
he said that he had a long list of patients waiting to follow him to any new position.

I did ask Mr Bob Dickens who is the doctor who chaired the panel investigating Professor Kossman
what about his future now, and he would say that this is a sad episode for all involved and he used
the word "disastrous" in describing what this means for Professor Kossman now.

ELEANOR HALL: Jane Cowan, thank you. That is Jane Cowan in Melbourne at the Alfred Hospital press
conference.

Clinton wins Kentucky, Obama wins Oregon

ELEANOR HALL: To the United States now and Barack Obama says he's closer to becoming the first
African American Presidential nominee.

With two more Democrat primaries held today in Oregan and Kentucky, Senator Obama is now claiming
to have a majority of the pledged delegates in the Democrat race.

But while he is winning in Oregon, Hillary Clinton has won the primary in the state of Kentucky,
and Barack Obama is not yet declaring this marathon nomination race over.

Our correspondent, Kim Landers, joins us now in Washington.

So Kim, how certain is it now that Barack Obama will be the Democrat's Presidential nominee?

KIM LANDERS: Eleanor, he is tantalising close to claiming that Democratic presidential nomination
even though he has been thumped by Hillary Clinton in the Kentucky primary, he has won the state of
Oregon and he has gained enough pledged delegates to give him a symbolic victory. That is, he is
making it virtually mathematically impossible for Hillary Clinton to snatch this prize away for
him.

Adding to the symbolism, Barack Obama has tonight chosen to appear at a campaign rally, not in
Kentucky, not in Oregon, but in Iowa. That is the state that put him on the path to that nomination
with a surprise win in the very first nominating contest of the season back on a freezing cold
January night.

Here is how Barack Obama broke the news to the jubilant crowd in Iowa, a short time ago.

BARACK OBAMA: We have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people
and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of
America.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Barack Obama in Iowa there. Hillary Clinton though, as you said won by a
large margin in the Kentucky primary today, did Barack Obama have any comment on that?

KIM LANDERS: Hillary Clinton's margin in Kentucky was huge, 65 to 30 points but really it's a
victory with scant political value, because as we have discussed, Barack Obama has got that
majority of pledged delegates.

Nevertheless, he has been very careful to praise her win in Kentucky, and because Hillary Clinton
is persisting, Barack Obama is being careful not to claim victory, not to gloat too much.

Instead, he has been heaping praise on his rival who was after all, the front-runner in this race,
but really this nominating contest is drawing to a close. Barack Obama has been reaching out to
Hillary Clinton supporters trying to coax them into falling in behind him and he has been doing
that today by heaping praise on the former First Lady.

Here is a little of what he had to say about Hillary Clinton:

BARACK OBAMA: We've had our disagreements during this campaign, but we all admire her courage and
her commitment and her perseverance and no matter how this primary ends, Senator Clinton has
shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your
daughters will come of age and for that we are grateful to her.

ELEANOR HALL: There is Barack Obama there. There has been less sniping between the two, Kim but are
there are any signs that Hillary Clinton will now bow out of the race?

KIM LANDERS: Well, while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are being far more conciliatory in their
tone, as you mentioned, towards each other. Very simply, Hillary Clinton is not giving up. She says
she is going to fight on until the last contest in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota, battles
which will end in early June.

She says her win in the bourbon and bluegrass state of Kentucky today is not just music to her
ears, but she says it is an overwhelming vote of confidence in the face of some very tough odds.

The Clinton campaign thinks that Barack Obama has a flaw. That is that he struggles to win in the
states which are crucial to the chances of winning the general election in November. States like
Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania where she has wrapped up big wins and so according to
the Clinton camp, that makes Barack Obama's ability to defeat the Republican nominee, John McCain,
a bit dodgy.

However, it would appear that Hillary Clinton's only hope of depriving Barack Obama of this
nomination, now rests with the Democratic Party's superdelegates who, if they mounted some sort of
wholesale defection, could swing the race back her way.

But earlier tonight Hillary Clinton was asked by a reporter if she was going to bow out of the race
and she replied "not a chance" and here is what she told her supporters in Kentucky a short time
ago.

HILLARY CLINTON: It's not just Kentucky bluegrass that's music to my ears. It's the sound of your
overwhelming vote of confidence, even in the face of some pretty tough odds. Some have said your
votes didn't matter, that this campaign was over. That allowing everyone to vote and every vote to
count would somehow be a mistake but that didn't stop you.

You've never given up on me, because you know that I will never give up on you.

ELEANOR HALL: Here's Hillary Clinton making it pretty clear that she is not going yet. But Kim,
given the numbers she is fighting a losing battle, isn't she?

KIM LANDERS: Well, she certainly seems to be, but her strategy seems to be as she said now for some
weeks that she will take this all the way to those last contests and then let the superdelegates
decide but what we have started to see is some sort of overtures from her campaign unofficially
towards Barack Obama's campaign about how to possibly bring these two sides together.

There has been a lot of talk about a possible joint ticket. Whether or not Barack Obama can help
retire some of the massive debts that she has been racking up during this campaign, how to sort of
unite the Democratic Party.

And one point that Hillary Clinton has made today is that even though Barack Obama and herself are
still going toe to toe, they do see eye to eye on the need to eventually bring the Democratic Party
together to defeat the Republicans in November.

ELEANOR HALL: Kim Landers in Washington, thank you.

UN, ASEAN officials to meet Burmese junta

ELEANOR HALL: Burma's response to Cyclone Nargis is increasingly a political one.

The junta's senior leaders will soon hold talks with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and
ASEAN's chief, Surin Pitsuwan.

Outside his New York headquarters, Mr Ban described the situation in Burma as critical and said the
UN has so far been able to reach only about one quarter of the estimated 2.5-million people in
need.

The junta is planning to take representatives from more than 29 countries to the hardest hit areas.
But aid agencies are warning that the generals are more preoccupied with public relations than with
the mounting health crisis.

South-East Asia correspondent, Karen Percy, reports.

KAREN PERCY: Even before this disaster, Burma's health services were stretched to the limit. The
generals devote about three to four per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) to health spending.
Defence expenditure is more than 10 times that.

Since Cyclone Nargis hit, the health needs of the people have increased dramatically. There are
reports that dysentery and diarrhoea are taking hold in many of the makeshift camps that have been
set up since the cyclone.

There's also the threat from water that's been contaminated by human and animal bodies. The task
has been made all the harder because of the continuing logistical obstacles.

Jean-Sebastien Matte is with Medecins Sans Frontieres:

JEAN-SEBASTIEN MATTE: We are ready to go with some experts. We have been training some national
staff in the past week, but we are far, far, far from doing what we should be doing at the moment
for the people that are in great, great need, still waiting for relief.

KAREN PERCY: Approximately 300 medical staff recruited from members of the Association of
South-East Asian Nations are said to be on their way.

But Jean-Sebastien Matte says the needs are much greater than that.

JEAN-SEBASTIEN MATTE: The thing is that it is not only medical staff that we need but logisticians,
water and sanitation specialists that can upgrade the operation at this stage. So it is welcome but
still not enough.

KAREN PERCY: While there are some positive signs that the junta is softening its hard line there
have been strong reactions to the way generals have handled Cyclone Nargis.

Some people claim they should be charged with crimes against humanity. Others want to see a forced
intervention. But from where the aid agencies stand, this kind of discussion isn't helpful. They
want to keep politics right out of it.

Jean-Sebastien Matte from Medecins Sans Frontieres:

JEAN-SEBASTIEN MATTE: There is a bit of distraction from different countries that are putting it
on, let's say, a negative way. Personally not helping our effort so it can be seen as an
unfortunately and to give us a bit of space.

We are not there to do any politics but to get relief for the people that have lost everything, and
many of them have left half of their families.

They are in pretty bad shape today and many of them are shocked. Many of them are complaining not
being able to sleep. No roof, no shelter, no food. I mean, there is nothing.

KAREN PERCY: Today, the people of Burma will mark a second day of mourning.

The military junta called the three day mourning period after seeing what was happening in China.
Aid groups on the ground are hoping the generals might take another lead from China in accepting
the help of outsiders.

This is Karen Percy in Bangkok reporting for The World Today.

$50m executive exit package under fire

ELEANOR HALL: The $50-million dollar exit package that will be paid to one of Australia's top
executives is fuelling anger about the fairness of Australia's wage system.

Unions say that top tier salaries are skyrocketing at the same time that low-paid workers are being
urged to exercise restraint in wage demands, in order to keep interest rates steady.

And while the Prime Minister has urged top executives to set an example to curb inflation, one
expert on innovation says that companies which pay excessive salaries to their top executives are
not getting value for money.

Ashley Hall has our report.

ASHLEY HALL: Even the outgoing boss of the Macquarie Group, Allan Moss, was expecting his
$50-million exit pay-out would cause a stir, when it was announced yesterday.

He argues the bank operates in a globalised industry, and if Macquarie doesn't pay high salaries,
it'll lose its top executives to overseas banks.

It's a sentiment that rings true to Peter Tulau of the recruiting firm, Chandler MacLeod, who has
been hiring executives for 28 years.

PETER TULAU: We recruit for foreign multinationals operating in Australia and they have some quite
aggressive remuneration profiles that are at variance with Australian remuneration profiles and
that enables them to attract the best to their organisations.

Australian organisations are probably behind global best practice in the way that ... the quantum and
structure of remuneration.

ASHLEY HALL: Peter Tulau says it's difficult to chart the rise of executive salaries because they
differ across sectors.

But in the industrial services, resources and energy sectors, few executives would switch jobs for
less than a 20 per cent increase in their salary.

PETER TULAU: The aggregated data would indicate that remuneration does move around those levels.
Five, six, seven per cent, but I think what you see at the front line is a lot of variability, and
that may just be a bit of a median position, and there may be some sectors which are a bit more
benign and then there are others that are moving along at 10 per cent plus per annum.

ASHLEY HALL: But he says company boards make sure their executives work hard for their money.

The massive Macquarie Bank pay-out even prompted the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to talk about
putting limits on executive salaries.

But the deputy director of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research,
Professor Mark Wooden says that would be pointless.

MARK WOODEN: And even if they could impose it in a very sort, you know, central planning Stalinist
sort of way, which I guess they could, I daresay there would be some very creative accountants out
there who could find some way to get around those sorts of laws and impositions.

So I think what they're really ... all they can do is really exhort companies, shareholders, boards
of directors to, you know, restrain themselves.

But they are always going to continue to look for, you know, the best people to run their business.
And unfortunately, there seems to be this incredible premium that you've got to pay to be
competitive with the world salaries if you like competing in world markets as I guess the finance
companies and banks are.

ASHLEY HALL: The ACTU president, Sharan Burrow, says the size of the payout is obscene when the
Federal Government is talking about the need for wage restraint to curtail inflation.

So, if wage increases cause inflation, I asked Mark Wooden what effect executive salary increases
might have?

MARK WOODEN: They don't have much impact at all, unlike for example if you were to pay wage
increases to all award workers who are the vast majority of Australian employees, but indirectly it
is possible they could.

Obviously, if they themselves were triggers for wage claims, I would expect for example that within
Macquarie Bank, if they know the CEO is getting large sums of outrageously large sums of money,
then they might expect, well their due return on this very profitable business as well.

ASHLEY HALL: John Legge teaches finance at a couple of universities, and is an expert in
innovation. He says offering the biggest salary is not always the best way to get the best people.

JOHN LEGGE: If you underpay somebody they'll certainly underperform, but once people believe they
have received a fair wage, a fair salary, increasing it has almost no effect. You can't ... you do
the best you can.

ASHLEY HALL: You can't do better than your best.

JOHN LEGGE: You can't do better than your best, and once you have got a salary that brings out the
best, paying more starts having adverse consequences.

ASHLEY HALL: And he argues that a company may well stymie its growth and development by paying
mega-salaries.

JOHN LEGGE: And studies of innovation have shown by far the most potent source is what you might
call the coal-face. It's people dealing with customs, people dealing with equipment. If the boss is
out of sight, they're just not going to put up their ideas.

ASHLEY HALL: So if the boss is paid an enormous amount of money, he becomes a godlike figure and
the workers won't approach him.

JOHN LEGGE: Even if he is caught listening to a worker, he actually now becomes a sort of suspect.
Why is he being paid a million dollars a week when he has got to get his ideas from somebody who is
being paid $2,000 a week.

ELEANOR HALL: That is John Legge is an expert in innovation who teaches finance at Swinburne
University of Technology. Ashley Hall with our report.

Calls for more caution over nanotechnology

ELEANOR HALL: There's more evidence today that nanotechnology, which is already on the market,
could be deadly. Concerns about the use of the technology in food have been around for some time.

Now there's evidence that nanotechnology fibres could lead to mesothelioma. And the head of the
Australian Cancer Council has told The World Today that there should be standards for the marketing
of nanotechnology products.

Simon Lauder has our report.

SIMON LAUDER: It's a science where the potential for innovation and profit is inversely
proportional to the size of the product, where measurements are in billionths of metres.

Cylinders made of sheets of carbon atoms are already being used to make tennis racquets, golf clubs
and bicycle handlebars lighter and stronger. But Dr Andrew Maynard from the Woodrow Wilson
International Centre for Scholars has found "nanotubes", as they're known, trigger the same
reaction in the lungs of mice as asbestos does, if the tiny fibres are the right length.

ANDREW MAYNARD: If you make these things short and curly, certainly in terms of producing
mesothelioma, they seem to be harmless.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you know whether the products that are on the market already, incorporating
nanotubes have long or short fibres?

ANDREW MAYNARD: Well, that is the fly in the ointment. At the moment it is virtually impossible to
find out exactly what type of carbon nanotube is used in products so it is very hard to say how
safe those products are.

SIMON LAUDER: It's an area of innovation the CSIRO is wading into, with a new nanotechnology
program just getting off the ground, under the watch of Dr Maxine McCall.

MAXINE MCCALL: There are a lot of gaps in knowledge. There is a lot of conflicting information
regarding carbon nanotubes and so we are treating them as if they are like asbestos fibres.

SIMON LAUDER: For industry, nanotechnology opens up new possibilities because the characteristics
of a material are so affected by their size. But that's exactly what worries the nanotechnology
campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Dr Rye Senjen.

She says nanoparticles are being used in more than 100 foods worldwide, but there are no
declaration requirements for manufacturers.

RYE SENJEN: For instance we found a case in Germany where the manufacturer in fact claimed they
weren't using nanoparticles and they called it "patented technology" and so they didn't even have
to disclose to the sausage makers that they were using, what they were using was in fact
nanoparticles, and so it is not just the consumers we are worried about.

We are actually also worried about small business and manufacturers that they inadvertently might
be harming their customers.

SIMON LAUDER: Dr Senjen says the nanotechnology revolution is happening the wrong way around:
commercialisation before regulation.

RYE SENJEN: In Europe they call it "no data, no market" but of course we follow the American model
which says "no data, no problem".

SIMON LAUDER: One unanswered question is whether the particles in sunscreen can enter skin cells.
Dr Maxine McCall says the Nanosafety team at the CSIRO is planning an experiment involving
lifeguards at a Sydney beach.

MAXINE MCCALL: Applying the sun screen to the skin of these people and determining whether the
zinc, the special traceable zinc that is in the sunscreen appears in their blood and urine over the
course of the week and this in follow up periods.

SIMON LAUDER: If it did, would that be a potential public health concern?

MAXINE MCCALL: If would depend on how much got in and what it might cause.

SIMON LAUDER: Dr McCall says its unknown how many sunscreen products for sale in Australia contain
nanoparticles, but if they have both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as ingredients and the cream
is clear when it goes onto your skin, it probably has them.

The CEO of the Australian Cancer Council, Professor Ian Olver, says it would have been better if
the tests had been done before the products were released.

IAN OLVER: I think there is a concern that nanoparticles could be affecting the interior structure
of cells because they can penetrate. And so before cosmetics and certain medications that are now
coming out in nanotechnology with small particles release, these sort of tests of safety should be
done.

SIMON LAUDER: In the case of sunscreen, there are only tests being done just now on humans to work
out whether or not the nanoparticles make it into the skin cells. Is that too late? These products
are already on the market.

IAN OLVER: I think sometimes the information that there could be a danger comes out after a product
has been released and clearly the ideal would be to do this sort of testing before the release.

SIMON LAUDER: Professor Olver says it's time for the regulations to catch up.

IAN OLVER: Well, I think we should set some standards and we should demand that some research
findings are available before products are released.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the CEO of the Cancer Council, Professor Ian Olver, speaking to Simon Lauder.

Top-earning athletes should repay govt assistance: economist

ELEANOR HALL: The man who devised the HECS scheme for university students wants elite athletes to
give back to the community some of the money that helped them make their fortunes.

Professor Bruce Chapman says that athletes who have received Government funding should pay some of
that money back when they earn more than a $100,000 year.

But as David Mark reports, the head of the Australian Sports Commission says the idea isn't new and
that it doesn't add up.

DAVID MARK: Australia's Institute of Sport was born out of failure. The country's miserable return
at the 1976 Olympics of one silver and four bronze medals was the catalyst for setting up an elite
sports academy.

The performance of Australian athletes across a huge range of sports since the early '80s is proof
that the Institute has been a great success.

RICHARD DENNISS: People who have gone through the AIS include Lleyton Hewitt.

DAVID MARK: Dr Richard Denniss is an associate professor at the ANU's Crawford School of Economics
and Government.

RICHARD DENNISS: Mark Viduka, a soccer player who earns millions of dollars a year. A number of
soccer players in fact. Craig Moore, Marco Bresciano, Robbie Robbie McEwen the cyclist, Cathy
Freeman, Shane Warne. All sorts of cricketers, rugby league players, rugby union players.

If you go through the wealthiest sports people in Australia, a significant proportion of them have
been through the AIS and we should be proud of that. We should think that the AIS is clearly doing
what we've set it up to do.

DAVID MARK: The Australian Sports Commission runs the Institute of Sport. Its motto is "Enriching
the lives of all Australians through sport".

But the man who devised the HECS scheme for university students in the late 1980s and a colleague
of Dr Denniss' at the ANU, Professor Bruce Chapman, thinks some Australians are more enriched by
our sporting success than others.

Professor Chapman wants to see a HECS-style scheme introduced for elite athletes.

BRUCE CHAPMAN: I don't think all athletes should, but I think those who are subsidised by
Australian taxpayers, who end up doing extremely well at their craft and earning a lot of money,
it's probably a reasonable and fair thing that they do pay some of that back.

And you can help make the Australian Institute more self-financing than it currently is. Keep in
mind these issues are essentially about equity. It's average taxpayers who pay the bill, and
average taxpayers are not multi-millionaires.

DAVID MARK: The Institute awards scholarships to about 700 athletes each year at a cost of around
$50,000 each. But Dr Denniss argues the actual cost per athlete can reach several hundred thousand
dollars a year.

RICHARD DENNISS: The AIS is a very expensive training facility and Australia should be proud of its
world-class facilities, but the cost per athlete are very high because we provide them with such
intensive assistance and with such intensive training.

DAVID MARK: Professor Chapman says the repayments could kick in when a sports person earns $100,000
a year.

And he doesn't believe the fact that many of Australia's top sports men and women live and pay tax
overseas, is a problem.

BRUCE CHAPMAN: You could do this with the HECS system as well and I really think that the
Australian Government should do this.

Make it part of the contract, you would ask for example, for the HECS people who are living
overseas that they repay the minimum amount and you would do the same with elite sportspeople who
are overseas. Just suggest that as part of a contractual arrangement they pay a minimum amount per
year.

MARK PETERS: Well, it is not a new idea. It is probably suggested every second year particularly as
we go into the Olympics.

DAVID MARK: But the argument just doesn't add up according to the CEO of the Australian Sports
Commission, Mark Peters.

MARK PETERS: Well, the fact is that the professional footballers and the tennis players aren't on
full-time scholarships. You know, we're supporting Olympic sport athletes and the few that do make
living, the administrative costs of trying to run a HECS scheme to deliver that sort of outcome is
just so expensive.

DAVID MARK: Dr Denniss takes a different view.

RICHARD DENNISS: The Institute of Sport is evolving and it is moving into a range of professional
sports - rugby league, rugby union, AFL. All have formal involvements with the Institute of Sport
and people going to the AIS in those programs would have high expectations that they would wind up
in one of those quite lucrative jobs.

DAVID MARK: Mark Peters.

MARK PETERS: Well, as I said, if someone can provide the facts that actually look at what the
economic benefit of an athlete putting their earning career on hold for 10 or 15 years, then we
would certainly be prepared to look at it, but once people delve into the economic realities of
what the athletes forego in terms of earning capacity, it really makes the argument insignificant.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Mark Peters, the CEO of the Australian Sports Commission. He was speaking to
David Mark.

Iceland world's most peaceful country

ELEANOR HALL: Iceland is the world's most peaceful country, according to The Economist magazine.

And while Australia lags behind the European democracies in this year's index, it fares much better
than the United States, as Sara Everingham reports.

SARA EVERINGHAM: How peaceful is Australia?

It might seem to be a subjective question but The Economist magazine has tackled it and come up
with an index which it says answers that question and ranks 140 countries from the most peaceful to
the least.

The man who founded the index, Australian entrepreneur, Steve Killelea, explains how it was done.

STEVE KILLELEA: What we do is we take the absence of violence as the definition for peace and then
we measure it internally and externally, and we look at things like the number of people in jail,
the level of violent crime, the number of homicides, state sponsored terror.

Externally we'd look at the number of conflicts nations involved in battlefield, deaths, size of
its military compared to its percentage of GDP (gross domestic product).

SARA EVERINGHAM: The Global Peace Index is compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit which is a
branch of The Economist magazine. It's been running for two years and this year Iceland tops the
list.

Steve Killelea puts that down to Iceland's low crime rate, low spending on the military and good
relationships with its neighbours.

The United States though is much further down the list at 97. That is above Iran but below Libya.

Steve Killelea again:

STEVE KILLELEA: But the thing that really drags it down is its internal situation. So it has got
more people in jail than any other nation in the world, and it is followed by Russia then North
Korea.

It has got a high level of homicides, a high level of violent crime, let's say, compared to other
OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) nations, a strong likelihood of
terrorist attacks and high availability of guns.

SARA EVERINGHAM: As for Australia it is ranked as the 27th most peaceful country.

STEVE KILLELEA: The things which pull it down compared to, let's say New Zealand which comes in at
number four, would be the involvement in Afghanistan, the potential for terrorist attacks, which is
higher than New Zealand, and also that we spend more money on the military.

SARA EVERINGHAM: You came up with the idea for this index, what do you hope it will achieve?

STEVE KILLELEA: What we're looking at doing is really focusing the world on being able to study
peace. If we look at the 21st century, the major issues facing humanity are really things like ...
really sustainability.

So if you look at climate change, ever decreasing biodiversity, full use of the fresh water,
underpinning all them overpopulation, they're global issues. Those global issues will never get
solved unless we've got a world which is basically peaceful.

Therefore in my view, peace is a prerequisite for society to keep existing as we know it.

SARA EVERINGHAM: While the index has been running for two years the Sydney Peace Prize has been
recognising contributions to peace since 1998.

The Indigenous leader, Pat Dodson, has just been named this year's winner of the prize and he's
only the second Australian to win the award.

The previous winners include Archbishop Desmund Tutu and Dr Hans Blix.

Pat Dodson has been recognised for his commitment to reconciliation between Indigenous and
non-Indigenous Australians and he says there is still much to achieve.

PAT DODSON: Australia has tried various philosophies and various approaches and strategies to
Aboriginal affairs. We haven't yet found the successful mix.

We still have high incarceration rates. We obviously have a gap on most of the social indicators
and in one sense there has been an on-going undeclared war, I think, between Indigenous peoples and
the mainstream society.

Obviously wanting now to see whether we can take a new dialogue forward, a new discussion and try
and develop a new philosophical framework because the previous one was set primarily on
assimilation and trying to turn Aboriginal people into white folks and that hasn't worked.

ELEANOR HALL: Pat Dodson, the winner of this year's Sydney Peace Prize, ending that report from
Sara Everingham.

The Sun isn't anything special: astronomer

ELEANOR HALL: It might be vital for sustaining life on earth, but astronomers have found that the
sun is not particularly special when compared to other stars.

Researchers from the Australian National University in Canberra had thought that there must be
something unique about the Sun that led to the evolution of life on our planet. But now they say
their discovery strengthens the theory of life elsewhere in the universe.

Jennifer Macey has been speaking to PhD researcher, Jose Robles, from the ANU's Planetary Science
Institute.

JOSE ROBLES: We were very interested in seeing if life needs something special from the host star
to evolve or if life doesn't seem to need anything special host star and life could evolve around
any star.

JENNIFER MACEY: So what did you find?

JOSE ROBLES: Well, we compared the sun to other stars to see if life requires a special property.
We find that the sun doesn't seem to be special compared to other stars and the key result is that
this supports the idea that life does not need anything special from its host star. Life may be
common in the universe.

JENNIFER MACEY: So what are these common properties of the sun that makes it so insignificant, I
guess?

JOSE ROBLES: Well, it is not insignificant, but it seems to be a normal star. A random star out of
all the (inaudible) containing all of the stars, so we compared the sun's mass to the mass of other
stars and the sun's age to the age of other stars and so forth.

We did that for 11 properties and we selected properties that could have something to do with the
evolution of life. For example, well we need about five billion years for a planet like the Earth
to form and to have life, so very young stars would not be able to support life because of that.
They wouldn't have enough time.

So we performed this comparison to a number of properties, exactly 11 properties, and once we had
this comparisons for each property, we perform a statistical analysis to see if, taking all of the
properties together, the sun is very special or very normal and that is what we find.

We see that the sun happens to be a random star, not a special star so it doesn't seem we need a
very special star to evolve.

JENNIFER MACEY: Does it strengthen the case that other planets may also support life if they have a
similar random star like our sun?

JOSE ROBLES: Exactly. That strengthens the idea that life may be common throughout the universe
because we didn't find that the sun is a very, very special, unique star.

If that was the case then we would be worried about life needing such a rare star to be around, but
we didn't find that, so therefore life might be able to evolve around a normal, average joe star.

JENNIFER MACEY: Is there anything different or anything special about the sun?

JOSE ROBLES: Yes, there is. We find out of all the properties, the sun happens to more massive than
95 per cent of the stars.

So initially, you can say well the sun is quite massive. You need to pick 95 stars out of 100 to
find a star that is as massive as the sun so some people in the past have said well, the sun maybe
a little bit special because it is quite massive compared to other stars and yes it is a bit
massive, but comparing all of the properties, the sun happens to be normal.

JENNIFER MACEY: So why haven't we been able to find a planet close to us that does support life?

JOSE ROBLES: The reason right now is we don't have the technological capability of finding them.
Even if they are common, then we cannt see them because they are really little. They are not big
enough or bright enough for our methods to be able to detect them yet.

So, that is why speculation has been whether they are common or not. So, in research the idea we
took is, well we compared the sun and all the stars because we do have the technology to make very
precise measurements of all the stars. Of course, because they are big and bright compared to
planets.

So, because we can not find planet like the earth right now because of our limitations, we did this
comparison of the sun to other stars that could possibly have a planet with life.

We will know because in 15 years, or 20 years we have telescopes that ... we will be able to directly
find Earth and see if they are common or not.

ELEANOR HALL: Jose Robles from the ANU's Planetary Science Institute speaking to Jennifer Macey.

Couple power car on fish and chip oil

ELEANOR HALL: It's hardly a conventional honeymoon, but two English newlyweds have decided to
celebrate their marriage by travelling around Australia in a car powered by fish and chip oil.

The 30,000 kilometre expedition relies on fish and chip shops donating used oil along the journey
to fuel a four-wheel-drive that's been dubbed the "Battered Fish".

The couple is determined to show fellow tourists that you can see Australia without leaving a big
carbon footprint.

Donna Field has our story.

DONNA FIELD: After being married for a year, finally Gerard and Rachel Mimmo are on their
honeymoon.

RACHEL MIMMO: It was definitely my idea to travel around Australia and then the eco-friendly part
definitely came from Gerard, especially the not having a shower and everything, that was his idea
definitely.

DONNA FIELD: The couple has decided to emigrate to Australia and combine a honeymoon with a good
look around the country. But they didn't want to leave a carbon footprint on their epic journey.

GERARD MIMMO: We were looking for an adventure. We were moving out to Australia, so we decided that
we will combine the two. I just finished a sustainability degree over in the UK, and I thought it
would be a bit rude if I came out and added to the emissions of Australia without trying to do
something about it.

DONNA FIELD: Rachel Mimmo is a corporate lawyer; her husband, a civil engineer. But for the next
six months home will be a car called the Battered Fish and a camper trailer.

GERARD MIMMO: We did a lot of research to find out if anyone has attempted to go around Australia
running on veg oil or carbon neutrality and we couldn't find anyone, so we think we could be the
first people who at least attempt it.

DONNA FIELD: The car is called the Battered Fish because it's been converted to run on used
vegetable oil and its exhaust emits an aroma that smells distinctly like fish and chips. That's the
source of the used vegetable oil, although there's also been a Thai flavour to the exhaust after a
donation from a restaurant in northern New South Wales.

While it's only early days on the journey, there have been many mechanical problems and
difficulties sourcing fuel, with many fish and chip shops already in contracts to sell their used
oil for conversion into biodiesel. When they do get waste oil it's filtered by hand and then put
into the fuel tank.

Gerard Mimmo says the fuel is carbon neutral.

GERARD MIMMO: Well the oil burns carbon but that carbon is then used by the plants, the next
generation of plants that will produce the vegetable oil.

And also we are taking the oil from the fish and chip ships or the other restaurants that have
already used it, so it is recycling the oil plus it's a carbon neutral fuel.

RACHEL MIMMO: We'll be staying in bush camps as much as possible rather than powered camp sites or
hotels. We also have a solar panel on top of our car to fuel the battery for the car which
generates power for our fridge.

We've got a solar shower instead of trying to get into campsites with facilities and we're also
trying as much as possible to use and cook over a campfire rather than using gas-based stoves.

As far as we now, this is the first time that anyone has attempted to do the whole way around
Australia this way, and we hope that in the future we can prove to people that it can be done this
way and there are alternative ways of travelling around Australia.

DONNA FIELD: The Battered Fish is in Brisbane for a couple of days before heading north along
Queensland's coastline.

ELEANOR HALL: Donna Field with that report.