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RBA Board debates rates

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The case for a cut in official interest rates as early as next month has been
strengthened after the signal sent by the Reserve Bank today.

According to a summary of the central bank's most recent meeting, concerns about rising inflation
appear to have prevented a rates cut a fortnight ago.

At the same time, the Board acknowledged that because of sinking economic conditions, a case could
be made for an early rates reduction.

Business editor Peter Ryan has been studying the minutes in a special lockup at the Reserve Bank in
Sydney, and he joins me now.

Well, first to inflation - how seriously, Peter, does the Reserve Bank judge the inflation threat
as a barrier to rate cuts?

PETER RYAN: Well Brendan, the Reserve Bank has made it very clear that inflation remains a big
economic threat, and if anything, the language is stronger. It's actually the first agenda item
fleshed out in today's minutes, whereas in July, it was in second place after the world economy.

The Board makes it clear that with inflation set to peak at five per cent in the December quarter,
it was the key argument for keeping rates at 7.25 per cent at the August meeting.

The Board also says there's an attendant risk to wages growth, although that's not evident just
now. But if wages did break out, they say "the cost of reducing inflation later would be greater".
In other words, as long as inflation is on the agenda, there is always a risk that rates might have
to be tightened, further down the track.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: But the Reserve Bank, does it acknowledge that the economy is slowing? How
delicate is this balance?

PETER RYAN: Well the Board certainly acknowledges that the economy is slowing and there's quite an
escalation in the language used, the Board acknowledges that financial conditions are "clearly
quite tight", and getting tighter because of rate rises independent of official movements by the

It also says there's been a "significant change in borrowing behaviour" and asset prices have
declined, and because of that - some key words here - "tighter financial conditions were not
warranted at the last meeting", and the board goes on to say "that less restrictive conditions
could be soon be called for", note the word 'soon'.

So based on these considerations, a case could be made for an early reduction in the cash rate and
by early, that looks like next month or slightly beyond.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Taking a bigger look at the whole world, do the minutes provide any insight on
the state of the world economy?

PETER RYAN: Yeah, the Board regards conditions in major economies around the world as generally
weak, especially in the United States.

The previous minutes that I updated on just before going into the meeting did show an element of
optimism that the credit crisis was easing, but today's minutes refer to the US mortgage giants
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now at the centre of the US housing slump, and that's a
critical point, given that they guarantee a collective $6-trillion of mortgages in the United

It makes a mention of a slowdown even in China, though that is not as pronounced, but the Board
makes mention of the deteriorating situation in the United Kingdom, Europe and Japan.

BRENDAN TREMB ATH: Many people would be worried about their mortgages, what's happening there. Now
we saw some very direct comments last week from the Reserve Bank about the need for banks to pass
on any rates cut. Is there any reference to that in the minutes?

PETER RYAN: Well, there's no direct tap on the shoulder, even though the Reserve Bank's language
has been getting much more direct in recent months, but the minutes make the point that the
independent rises by the banks are hurting and having an effect on tempering demand.

It does note that banks have increased their standard variable housing rate by 15 basis points in
the past month, and that's at a time when the 90 day bank bill rate is falling, and that was
pointed out last Wednesday by the assistant RBA governor, Philip Lowe, who said there was no
obvious reason for banks not to pass on the rates cut.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Business editor Peter Ryan, thanks very much.

Binge drinking summit

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Federal Health Minister has accused Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson of
taking a very dangerous path by deciding to vote against the Government's $3.1-billion tax hike on
pre-mixed drinks.

Dr Nelson is convening a four hour summit on binge drinking in Canberra today, with about 20 people
from various interest groups.

He declared in May the Coalition would oppose the tax increase on alcopops.

The Health Minister Nicola Roxon's dismissed the summit as a stunt, because Dr Nelson's already
decided his position on the alcopop tax, but she hopes he might change his mind after today's

From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Brendan Nelson's organised a binge drinking summit to inform him and relevant
frontbenchers, featuring health and drug and alcohol specialists, the Australian Hotels
Association, the Australian Medical Association, parent and community groups, gatecrasher security
and young people.

BRENDAN NELSON: What I'm interested in is to make sure that we have a discussion over the next
three or four hours about a range of measures which should be undertaken in our country, which
range from parent education, the education of young people, the enforcement of existing laws in
relation to underage drinking, licensing arrangements, and the way in which hotels, nightclubs and
other retail outlets conduct their activities, which may or may not be conducive to the abuse of

In advertising, marketing, labelling, is there a place for price increases in alcohol, which can
demonstrably have a positive impact on abuse, what can our country reasonably do and responsibly do
to address alcohol abuse?

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Dr Nelson decided soon after the May Budget, the Coalition would oppose the 70 per
cent excise hike on alcopops.

BRENDAN NELSON: We are concerned that it has the potential to compound the problem of alcohol abuse
in young and not so young Australians, and we're also concerned that it has the potential to lead
to displacement from alcohol to other forms of substance.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, says it proves one thing.

NICOLA ROXON: Well I think it's clear that this is a stunt from Dr Nelson, because he has already
made up his mind and wants to oppose the Government's alcopops excise. He has made clear that he is
going to side with the industry, and I think he's made it even more clear by excluding some of the
leading public health experts from his forum today.


NICOLA ROXON: Well, he's excluded the Public Health Association - the leading peak body, Michael
Moore I see is quoted in the papers, John Herron, of course a leading figure in this alcohol debate
and a former Liberal senator.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You don't think that if he listens to all these various members of the sector, that
after being informed, he might change his mind?

NICOLA ROXON: Well look, I hope that's right, I hope that Dr Nelson is prepared to listen to a
range of views, but he has already announced his position, he hasn't waited for the Senate
Committee, he hasn't waited until he's conducted his own forum, he's made very clear that he
listens most closely to the spirits industry. And if Dr Nelson wants to continue with this view of
opposition, he needs to explain what health impacts that will have on young people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Nicola Roxon says the alcopops tax is already a proven success, with a 23 per cent
cut in the amount of spirits consumed, accusing Dr Nelson of being in denial.

The Government hasn't introduced its alcopops legislation into Parliament yet.

(To Nicola Roxon) Are you hoping that the longer you delay your legislation, the more information
you might have to try and convince them to change their minds?

NICOLA ROXON: Well obviously we are confident that this is an important and sensible measure, and
we are confident that the closer attention that is given to it, the more likely that senators will
see that this is a measure they should support, I think that Dr Nelson is taking a very dangerous
path, really, when we're trying to tackle such an important social problem, and I hope that despite
his determination to stick very closely to the spirits industry, that he might actually rethink
that position and start looking at the long-term, not just the short-term headlines.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: When the Government eventually puts its alcopops legislation to the parliament, it
will have to negotiate with the Greens, Family First and Independent senator Nick Xenophon to get
it through the Senate.

That will also now apply to two other Budget measures, increasing the luxury car tax and lifting
the income threshold for the Medicare levy surcharge.

Coalition frontbencher Steve Ciobo says it's not a case of opposing for opposition's sake.

STEVE CIOBO: The key to opposition is making sure that the public knows where they stand, one, and
two, making sure the Government understands when the Opposition believes it is taking bad

A key example of a bad decision the Government's taking is the Medicare levy changes, which are put
up to a million people back in the public hospitals. From my perspective, I think it's very clear
that this is not opposition for the sake of opposition, but it's actually about the Coalition
indicating that we won't support changes that make a bad problem even worse.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Opposition frontbencher, Steve Ciobo.

High suicide rates among farmers

BRENDAN TREMBATH: New research has found farm workers are twice as likely, to take their own lives
than many other people.

The study by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention says the high rate could
be because farm workers tend to be loners.

The Farmers Federation says the drought has a lot to do with the high suicide rate, but others say
there is more to it.

Michael Edwards has this report.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: For years, many in the agricultural sector have spoken about the problem of
suicide in country areas.

Now, a study by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention has found the rate of
suicide among farm workers, including farm owners and employees aged between 15 and 65, is more
than double that of the rest of the population.

Jacinta Hawgood is the Deputy Director of the Institute.

JACINTA HAWGOOD: We found that the workers were significantly above the male suicide rate for
Queensland in the active population, and the male suicide rate in the active population is 17.74
per 100,000 compared to 36.58 for the agricultural male workers.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The study used data from the Queensland Suicide Register between 1990 and 2004.

Jacinta Hawgood says the study proves the problem of suicide in farming communities is real, and
needs to be addressed.

JACINTA HAWGOOD: One of the biggest things in the past has been the fear that probably media has
sensationalised some of the statistics that have been quoted, and using really the drought and
financial problems as quite important political issues.

But this the first time that we've actually looked really closely and reliably at a very fixed
working population, which hasn't been done before, and have identified that yes, they are at quite
significantly higher risk, so I guess it lays the foundations for really needing to investigate
more thoroughly, what are the very specific risk factors for agriculture workers.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: In recent years, farmers - particularly in the eastern states - have had to
contend with tough conditions including drought.

Denita Wawn from the National Farmers Federation says drought is a major factor in the high rate of

DENITA WAWN: It puts huge pressure on farm families, and provides both financial and emotional
impacts for a farming family, and hence does contribute towards suicide rates.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But there others in the agricultural sector who think the problem is far more

Lyn Fragar is the director of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety based at
Moree in New South Wales.

LYN FRAGAR: Farmers and farm workers live in a very isolated position, they are both physically and
socially isolated from others, so that if their thinking is getting shifted and they are under this
stress or they are suffering any mental health condition, it's not so readily picked up by others,
and then clearly they've got the location that makes it easier perhaps for them to go through and
commit suicide, without being noticed and under the scrutiny of other people.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Lyn Fragar says a major problem is that mental illness often goes unrecognised in
farming communities.

LYN FRAGAR: I think probably one of the most important things and actions that we need to take is
to bring farmers, farm families and the people who work with farmers up to speed in terms of
understanding what they can do, how they can recognise people who are in distress and not coping
well, so that we can give them a hand to get early to the sort of services that perhaps people in
metropolitan and urban centres can get help from.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention says governments need
to recognise regional areas suffer from a lack of services to help those with mental illness.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Michael Edwards with that report.

ADHD guidelines draw critical attention

BRENDAN TREMBATH: A prominent doctors group has been criticised for recommending teachers be given
a formal role in diagnosing children who find it hard to behave and pay attention.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder shows up in some children in their early school years.

The Australasian Royal College of Physicians says teachers should be taught to recognise the signs
of ADHD and then consulted in diagnosis.

But a group of health professionals has written to the Federal Government in protest, arguing there
would be a big increase in the number of students who are diagnosed and then medicated.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has delivered on a request from the
National Health and Medical Research Council for a review of Australia's guidelines for diagnosing
and treating ADHD.

The College's draft report recommends teachers be involved in evaluating children and be trained in
how to deal with students who have the disorder.

The chairman of the Working Group in charge of drawing up the guidelines, David Forbes, says
teachers can be on the lookout for signs of ADHD and that information can be passed onto
paediatricians or psychologists.

DAVID FORBES: The classic ones are hyperactivity, poor impulsivity, poor attention.

SIMON LAUDER: But the College's recommendation has upset 14 experts, who believe it will make an
existing problem worse.

Researchers from several universities have written to the Federal Government in protest.

One of them, Senior Research Associate in Child Studies at Sydney University, Dr Linda Graham, says
getting schools involved will lead to more students being diagnosed.

She says ADHD is a just a label for common childhood problems.

LINDA GRAHAM: Some children find it difficult to sit still for longer periods of time, as they are
now required to with academic learning in the early years or school. We don't know, for example,
that some children may have had a late night or maybe having a lot of late nights, or they're not
getting breakfast, or things that are going on in the home.

Or there are other things, like children might have expressive and receptive language difficulties,
what that can often result in is explosive behaviour, you know, explosive verbal responses to
things, and the impression that they are not paying attention.

So I think there is enormous danger for us to start looking at a whole range of childhood
behaviours, and basically deciding, "Oh, that's ADHD".

But in many cases, it's not. I think one thing that needs to be made really clear is that ADHD is a
label; it is a label that the medical or some in the medical fraternity have come up with to group
and describe a particular group of children. And I don't think it's the best one.

SIMON LAUDER: The Royal Australasian College of Physicians recommends that clinicians only consider
a teacher's opinion when a parent has also observed behaviour associated with ADHD.

But Dr Graham is concerned too many parents welcome a diagnosis of ADHD because it gives them more
options for treating their child's behaviour.

She also believes singling out ADHD for teacher's attention would lead to other learning
difficulties being ignored, and a false diagnosis being made for a lifelong psychiatric disorder.

David Forbes from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians agrees it would be a problem if the
teachers were not also trained to observe other conditions.

DAVID FORBES: Oh, absolutely, but we've been asked to address issues of ADHD, so we are looking at
the issues around ADHD. Yes, teachers should be supported in dealing with all sorts of disability
in the classroom.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you think it's true that training teachers to look for ADHD could cause teachers
to miss signs of other difficulties at home or with learning?

DAVID FORBES: If that's all they are taught about, yes, but I don't think anyone is suggesting that
other issues are neglected.

SIMON LAUDER: So if the recommendations were seen or implemented in isolation, that could cause
some concerns for you?

DAVID FORBES: Yes, it would be of concern if other classrooms difficulties and disabilities were
ignored, things like specific learning difficulties have been raised, and then there are the
issues, sensory deficits, vision and hearing, and things like that, that teachers can often draw
attention to.

SIMON LAUDER: Dr Linda Graham says that's impractical.

LINDA GRAHAM: Teachers are not doctors, and nor should they be. Teachers have already got enough on
their plates.

SIMON LAUDER: Dr Graham, along with the other 13 academics who have written to the Health Minister,
Nicola Roxon, says there's also a problem with the recommendation for more funding to be made
available to schools, to help them cope with students who have ADHD.

She says the experience in the US shows that would also lead to more cases being diagnosed.

LINDA GRAHAM: If you structure someone's behaviour through a policy like this, then this is what
you are going to end up with.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Dr Linda Graham from Sydney University, ending that report by Simon Lauder.

Medivac delays in NT

BRENDAN TREMBATH: There are renewed concerns about a medical evacuation service in the Northern

It's come to light that a critically ill man in a remote Aboriginal community died partly because
an emergency plane was late to reach him.

It's not the first time the service is under scrutiny.

A review is already underway after an elderly man died of exposure when he was abandoned at a
remote airstrip.

To add to the problems, a plague of wallabies at one airstrip has stopped the evacuation flights
there at night.

Zoie Jones reports.

ZOIE JONES: The Lajamanu community is roughly half-way between Darwin and Alice Springs in the
Central Desert, and it was here last week that a critically ill 48-year-old Aboriginal man died,
just half an hour before a plane reached him to evacuate him to Darwin for treatment.

Willy Thompson is from the Katherine West Health Board that runs clinics in several remote
communities near the Territory's border with Western Australia.

WILLY THOMPSON: The Air Med mob was a bit late on getting there to Lajamanu community, didn't work
out too good, we lost a fella, Jabilari bloke.

ZOIE JONES: The Health Service says chronic problems with the medivac service means it's was just a
matter of time until someone died in the region because of plane delays.

The Service's CEO is Sean Heffernan.

SEAN HEFFERNAN: What happened was that the Air Med plane was scheduled to arrive at 5:30pm and
because of re-prioritisation of other cases that Air Med had to pick up, it blew out to 7:30pm, and
it's around 7 or just after 7pm that the patient passed away.

And it's not the primary cause of death, but it basically means that he would have been able to get
into the hospital environment.

ZOIE JONES: Earlier this year, the Northern Territory Coroner found that an elderly man died from
exposure at another remote community's airstrip after he was dropped off alone by a medivac plane.

That death triggered the Territory Government to review the contract between the Government and the
airline that runs the flights, and the Health Minister, Chris Burns, says the review will now be
expanded to look at resourcing problems and plane delays.

CHRIS BURNS: Well, there was a delay in retrieval, I've received a brief on that, but I suppose the
bottom line is that the gentleman died, and that's very sad and my commiserations to his family and
to the community, but commendation to the health clinic who really tried to resuscitate him.

ZOIE JONES: The Territory branch of the Australian Medical Association has raised concerns in the
past about the speed and efficiency of medical evacuation flights.

The AMA's Dr Peter Burns says the latest death could have been avoided.

PETER BURNS: According to people close to it, that death may have been caused by, may have been
avoidable, if the system had have been better.

We live in a situation where we have many, many people in remote situations, where we cannot
provide service on the ground, and we need to have a very effective and timely evacuation service
so these people can live with the security that they can get access to health care as it is needed.

ZOIE JONES: Since the Lajamanu man's death last week, another nine cases of medivac delays have
been uncovered, none of which resulted in the death of a patient.

One of the reasons for the delays is that planes are being sent from Darwin, instead of the town of
Katherine, which is a regional hub for the remote communities.

The airstrip that's used near Katherine is closed at night because a plague of wallabies makes it
dangerous to take-off and land.

The Federal Government has promised to help pay for a wallaby-proof fence around the airstrip, and
the Territory's Health Minister Chris Burns this morning asked the Federal Government to hurry up.

CHRIS BURNS: There've been some quite serious incidents of aero med planes flying at night and
landing and taking off at night, and there was one crash landing because the plane did strike a

Now, the Commonwealth said they're going to build a wallaby-proof fence, if you like, by December,
I've been in touch with the Minister's office this morning and asked that that be accelerated,
because currently, night operations for aero med retrievals can't operate out of Katherine, and
they have to operate out of Darwin, and that's causing further delays.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Northern Territory Health Minister Chris Burns, ending that report from Zoie
Jones in Darwin.

Rudd, Clark issue Fiji warning

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his New Zealand counterpart Helen Clark have
issued a blunt warning to the interim Fijian Prime Minister as the Pacific Islands Forum is about
to start.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama is boycotting the forum, where last year he promised to hold democratic
elections by early 2009.

He's since broken that promise and is blaming a New Zealand visa ban for not showing up.

But speaking before they flew out for the forum in Niue, Kevin Rudd and Helen Clark have dismissed
that excuse.

Naomi Woodley reports.

NAOMI WOODLEY: At the Pacific Islands Forum last year, Fiji's military leader and self-appointed
interim prime minister promised that democratic elections would be held by March of 2009.

Since then, Commodore Frank Bainimarama has backed away from that deadline, and is now boycotting
this year's Pacific Island's forum altogether.

He's blaming his non attendance on New Zealand's refusal to give his delegation visas to attend the
post-forum meetings in Auckland. But after their own meeting in Auckland before heading to the
forum, Kevin Rudd and Helen Clark have made evident their displeasure at the Fijian leader excuses.

KEVIN RUDD: I think it is absolutely regrettable that the leader of Fiji has decided not to attend
this forum. It would have been far better for the leader of Fiji to sit down with the leaders of
the Pacific Islands countries, and answer for the commitments which have been previously given by
Fiji to fellow island states, that is now not going to occur.

The reasons for non attendance which have been provided are simply not persuasive.

NAOMI WOODLEY: The Forum will be presented with a report on the situation in Fiji by the
Ministerial Contact Group, which includes Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith.

It met with Commodore Bainimarama and the deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in July.

The report's recommendations haven't been made public, but Helen Clark says Commodore Bainimarama's
refusal to attend the forum in Niue, may force the hand of other pacific leaders to consider more
drastic action than they had initially contemplated.

HELEN CLARK: The issue will be whether in the light of Fiji interim government non attendance,
whether leaders will be of a mind to take matter further than the ministerial contact group
envisaged. That's something I'll be wanting to canvass with other leaders as I start bilateral
meetings in Niue this evening.

NAOMI WOODLEY: And she's issued a blunt warning to the Fijian leader, that he may not like the
outcome of the discussions he won't attend.

HELEN CLARK: I think there will be a strong message from the forum, the Ministerial Contact Group
Report and recommendations are strong, I think that Pacific leaders will be concerned at the
no-show, because it's about keeping face, isn't it?

If someone is not prepared to come and be accountable for breaking commitments given to leaders a
year ago, that in itself speaks volumes, so I expect that there will be a robust outcome from the

NAOMI WOODLEY: Kevin Rudd has accused Commodore Bainimarama of showing contempt for other Pacific
leaders, and says he should be in no doubt that all nations in the South Pacific take the issue of
democracy very seriously.

KEVIN RUDD: That is why we don't believe we can sit idly by while the principles of democracy are
shredded. Therefore, the resolve of Pacific Island countries is to act in concert on this question,
and we look forward very much to the discussion that will now occur minus Fiji in Niue, on how this
matter should be handled into the future.

It is regrettable that Fiji will not be represented in its own right, given that Fiji and the
traducement of democracy is the core subject for discussion.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, ending that report by Naomi Woodley.

Pakistan seeks new President

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Pakistan's ruling coalition is finding a replacement for the former army chief
Pervez Musharraf who announced his resignation last night.

Mounting political pressure, waning popularity and the threat of impeachment left him with no
choice but to step down.

While he's tried to defend his administration, opponents blame Musharraf for damaging Pakistan's
fragile democracy.

Emily Bourke reports.

EMILY BOURKE: When he stepped down, Pervez Musharraf was on the verge of being impeached by
Parliament for alleged misconduct and breaches of the constitution.

But in his final address to the nation as President, he protested his innocence.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Not a single charge can not be proved against me. I have this much faith in
myself. Because? Because I never thought about my own being. Whatever I did, that was Pakistan
first. That was my motto.

EMILY BOURKE: Putting Pakistan first is now the priority for the ruling coalition that will elect a
new President.

There is speculation that both Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif,
the leaders of the two main parties, are interested in the role.

As for Musharraf himself, it's unclear if he'll go into exile.

Mushahid Hussein, the Secretary-General of Pakistan Muslim League says he should be allowed to stay
in his homeland.

MUSHAHID HUSSEIN: I think he has gone with grace and dignity, it shows the resilience of Pakistan's
democratic political system. The army did not intervene, there was no destabilisation, there was no
intrigue. It was straightforward and he handled himself well in the last days of his government.

EMILY BOURKE: Others have not been so forgiving:

PAKISTAN RESIDENT: You will see that 99 per cent of people are happy.

PAKISTAN RESIDENT 2: This time, we must resolve to make sure that that the General does not make a
political comeback.

EMILY BOURKE: People have rallied to celebrate, dancing in the streets and handing out sweets.

The son of the assassinated Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was among
those to welcome his departure.

BILWAL BHUTTO ZARDARI: A few days after my mother's assassination, I said that democracy was the
best revenge. Indeed, democracy is the greatest revenge and we're all very proud of our country

EMILY BOURKE: Internationally, the response has been somewhat muted.

A spokesman for the White House, Gordon Johndroe, told reporters that the US President was keen to
continue working closely with Pakistan.

GORDON JOHNDROE: President Bush appreciates President Musharraf's efforts in the democratic
transition of Pakistan as well as his commitment to fighting al-Qaeda and extremist groups.

President Bush looks forward to working with the government of Pakistan on the economic, political
and security challenges that they face.

EMILY BOURKE: Australia has renewed its offer of assistance and advice to Pakistan to restore
political stability.

The Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told the AM program instability in Pakistan would have direct
consequences for Australia's troops in Afghanistan.

But he wouldn't be drawn on Musharraf's legacy.

STEPHEN SMITH: I am happy to leave that analysis for others, because I think that leaves one's
thinking in the past, I am much more concerned about the future and much more concerned about the
implications that developments in Pakistan have for the 1100 troops that we have in Afghanistan.

EMIYL BOURKE: But Pakistan faces an uncertain future, especially on the economic front. Inflation
is around 25 per cent and food prices are soaring.

Samina Yasmeen, an expert on Pakistani affairs, explains.

SAMINA YASMEEN: People are really suffering from increased prices, Ramadan is around the corner and
they are already complaining that the prices, which would normally increase during Ramadan, have
already seen increase, signs of being increased even now.

I think unless, until the present coalition government manages to erase that phenomena, nothing
would really change on ground, couple back-with the tendency of the politicians to put their
interest above the interests of the country, and I would say the scenario doesn't look very

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Associate Professor Samina Yasmeen, the Director of the Centre for Muslim States
and Societies at the University of Western Australia, ending Emily Bourke's report.

Russian retreat delayed

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Russian troops and tanks are still deployed in several parts of Georgia, despite
pressure from the west to withdraw quickly.

The Russian and Georgian Governments disagree on whether or not Russia is withdrawing.

In southern Russia, there's little sign of military traffic on the road.

The Russian commanders say the forces are pulling back, but not necessarily withdrawing.

Moscow correspondent Scott Bevan reports from the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz.

SCOTT BEVAN: Russia may have been quick in sending forces into Georgia, when the crisis in South
Ossetia flared, but it seems those troops are not applying the same pace to come back across the

President Dmitry Medvedev indicated the pulling out of his country's forces would begin at noon on
Monday, yet six hours after that appointed time, the road in southern Russia that had been the main
route to conflict 12 days ago was not exactly a traffic jam of khaki and green.

(Sound of military vehicles)

Well, we're on the main road out of Vladikavkaz, heading towards the border, and we've been driving
just over half an hour, and have come across our first military convoy, coming in the opposite
direction. It consisted of 18 trucks.

Now, those trucks looked pretty empty. There were no troops in the back, and there was no sign of
any sort of major hardware, but nevertheless, it was a convoy heading away from the border, away
from South Ossetia and upon Russian soil.

After driving for another hour, we came across no more convoys, just a couple of military camps by
the road. One was a maintenance depot, and the other consisted of trucks with long trailers for
carrying tanks.

A soldier there told me they were waiting for the tanks to return, but gave no time frame.

While the military hardware isn't exactly moving quickly, the Russian commanders' brains are, as
they use the subtleties of language to explain their forces' actions.

It's all to do with whether the troops are withdrawing from Georgia or simply pulling back.

The Deputy Chief of Russia's General Staff, Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, explained to journalists what term
was used in the conversation between the Russian and French Presidents, when Dmitry Medvedev
indicated what his troops would do.

(Anatoliy Nogovitsyn speaking)

"There are two principal terms, pulling out and pulling back", he told the media conference. "In
the statements made by the two presidents in the telephone conversation, the term used was pulling

For Dmitry Medvedev, there was no holding back today when it came to Georgia.

Earlier in the day, the Russian President was commemorating conflicts past, meeting veterans from
the Battle of Kursk in World War 2.

Yet, after the fighting in South Ossetia, he had a warning for any future foes.

(Dmitry Medvedev speaking)

"Those who try something similar will get a crushing response," Mr Medvedev said. "For that we have
all possibilities: economic, political and military."

Then, the President flew on to Vladikavkaz, to award medals to some of those involved in the fight
against Georgia.

(Dmitry Medvedev speaking)

"You have shown your best human qualities," he said, "Your professional qualities."

After the praise for those on his side of the border, the Russian President condemned those on the
other side, particularly Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashivili.

"The world has seen there are political monsters even today who kill for political expediency," he
said. Dmitry Medvedev went on to say that Russia will do its best to not allow this crime to go

The International Committee of the Red Cross is keen to see for itself whether crimes have been
committed during the South Ossetian conflict, with both sides accusing each other of atrocities.

The ICRC also wants to determine what's to be done to meet the huge demand for humanitarian aid.

But an ICRC delegation has been unable to get into the disputed region, as it waits for clearance
from Russian and South Ossetian officials.

The ICRC's spokesman, David Pierre Marquet.

DAVID PIERRE MARQUET: The Ossetians are disappointed by the fact that we have no access to the
South Ossetia, because we were invited by the authorities to visit and to evaluate their needs.

SCOTT BEVAN: Why do you believe you have not been able to get into South Ossetia so far?

DAVID PIERRE MARQUET: We still don't know.

SCOTT BEVAN: The delegation is meeting with senior Russian government members, including Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov, to try and clear the hurdles so that it can finally gain access to the
battle-scarred region.

This is Scott Bevan in Vladikavkaz, southern Russia, for The World Today.

Farmers step up anti-mining pressure on NSW Govt

BRENDAN TREMBATH: A group of farmers is warning the New South Wales Government they will do
everything they can to stop mining in their region.

The Chinese company, Shenhua Energy, has approval to explore for coal near Gunnedah on the
Liverpool Plains in the north-west of the New South Wales.

Local farmers want an independent water catchment study done, as they claim mining will contaminate
water aquifers that are used for stock and domestic use.

Two weeks ago, BHP Billiton agreed not to mine in the area after a two year battle with the

Tim Duddy's 3,000 hectare property is on the coal exploration site.

He's speaking here with Brigid Glanville

TIM DUDDY: The community is going to fight this until such time as the fully independent
catchment-wide water studies commission.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: BHP recently wanted to explore on the Liverpool Plains and they've now backed
down, and one of the recommendations that you put forward was an independent catchment study. Has
the State Government agreed to that study?

TIM DUDDY: No, they haven't, and BHP haven't backed down, BHP have just said that currently they
don't have the technology to mine under the aquifers, they don't say that they are never going to
do it, they just say currently they don't have the technology.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Why won't the State Government pursue an independent catchment study?

TIM DUDDY: Because I believe the State Government are concerned about the fact that it would
seriously curtail mining on the Liverpool Plains if they look at the catchment-wide water study.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: So where to from here? This company has paid the money for exploration, are they
allowed to go in now and explore and walk into people's properties?

TIM DUDDY: Well they are going to try, but the district is not going to consent into allowing any
access until such time as this water study has been commissioned.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: But how can you stop them?

TIM DUDDY: The district will blockade every property in the entire district, if that's what it
comes to. Until someone is prepared to listen to what we need to do, that is what we are going to
have to do.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: And how many properties will be affected by this exploration license?

TIM DUDDY: Probably about another 30 or 40.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: And what sort of farming properties are they? Can you just paint a picture of
that area?

TIM DUDDY: It's a mixed enterprise there, there's a lot of cattle grown on the ridges, and they
grow crops, there's wheat, sorghum, sunflower, barley, lucerne and oats grown in the area, and
underground, on all that country is the most extraordinarily huge water resource.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: What's the risk to that water resource, if these companies come in and explore
and then mine?

TIM DUDDY: Well there are two risks. One is cross contamination from one aquifer to another, and
the second is that with subsidence after mining, that the aquifers will completely disappear down
into the hole where the coal came from.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: What reaction have you had from Federal Government, or is there a roll for
Federal Government here?

TIM DUDDY: Well the Federal Government could certainly intervene, and offer to pay for some of the
water study. I think it's something that should be jointly funded by the State and Federal
Government, I think it is outrageous to think that with the attention on the Murray-Darling system,
as it is, that right at the head of the Murray-Darling system they are contemplating putting such a
huge mine.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: How big would this particular mine be that Shenhua wants to explore?

TIM DUDDY: Certainly, the PHP mine, they are talking about 550 million tonnes, and considering
Shenhua coal are paying six times what BHP are going to pay, I don't think the mine will be any
smaller than that.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Have you been speaking to the State Government? What's the next process? It
sounds like it hasn't moved on at all, since farmers fighting BHP, now you're just going to be
fighting a Chinese company?

TIM DUDDY: Absolutely, and I mean, when you consider that Minister Macdonald has been fully aware
of what's been going on in the Liverpool Plains, and they had still refused to commission that
water study, it is totally irresponsible.

I asked Mr Macdonald in front of the New South Wales farmers why they would refuse to commission
that study, and he said that the New South Wales state planning process was sufficient to protect
the environment.

You don't have to go very far to see what the New South Wales planning process does the to the
environment, take a look at the Hunter Valley.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Tim Duddy, a farmer from near Gunnedah in New South Wales, speaking with Brigid
Glanville. And the State Minister responsible, Ian Macdonald, was unavailable to comment.

Survivors of spanish flu may hold key to bird flu

BRENDAN TREMBATH: US researchers have gone back in time to find a way to treat a potential outbreak
of bird flu.

Scientists collected blood samples from elderly people who had lived through one of the world's
worst influenza outbreaks in 1918.

They found 94 per cent of the participants carried antibodies capable of destroying the 1918

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: In 1918, the Spanish flu swept around the world, spread in part by massive troop
movements during the First World War.

About 20 per cent of the global population was infected, and 50 million people died from what
experts say was the most devastating epidemic in history.

Yet until now, scientists had not been able to isolate antibodies against the virus in survivors of
the 1918 pandemic.

Eric Altschuler is a Doctor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Medicine
and Dentistry of New Jersey in the United States.

ERIC ALTSCHULER: So we collected blood from people who were born in 1915 or earlier, and many of
them actually had relatives or close friends die of the 1918 flu, so they were, we presumably
thought that they had been exposed, and I collected blood from these individuals and then sent them
to my colleague, and then he started looking for the antibodies, and then characterising them.

JENNIFER MACEY: Dr Altschuler says he was inspired by a television show called Medical

In one episode, a town is infected with a flu virus similar to the 1918 strain.

Doctors treat the townspeople with the blood of an old butler who had survived the original

ERIC ALTSHULER: Well after watching the show, I thought, "Well, let's just do this in real life,
it's such a good idea."

JENNIFER MACEY: The study was led by Dr James Crowe of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

He and his team developed a new technique to isolate the antibodies. He says 94 per cent of the
participants had white blood cells that were able to produce defences against the 1918 strain of
the flu.

JAMES CROWE: So we actually have cells that are like factories continuing to make these particular
antibodies, and we've been able to make hundreds of milligrams of these antibodies in the lab, so
it's almost like we have a drug that we've made, a biological drug.

JENNIFER MACEY: Would we need it, in case there's ever again an outbreak of the 1918 virus?

JAMES CROWE: Well, if there were a 1918, these would be a fantastic drug to have in your hand
because in the paper, we show they cure mice, even after they are infected. But it is highly
unlikely that virus will ever circulate again, because it's no longer in the human population.

What it does tell us is that human beings can make good antibodies, good immune responses to bird
flu because the 1918 was a bird flu, originally. Of course now there's bird flus that are
threatening to come into the human population, and these data show that one could make very potent
antibodies against bird flu, and that's very encouraging.

JENNIFER MACEY: The US scientists say they didn't expect flu antibodies to exist for so many years
in humans.

Ian Gust is a Professorial Fellow from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the
University of Melbourne.

Professor Gust says while it is interesting, it's not a major breakthrough. He says scientists are
already studying the immune response of survivors of the current H5-N1 bird flu virus.

IAN GUST: It's been hampered to some extent by lack of access to samples from those people, because
there's been some differences of opinion between the countries in which those strains are
circulating, and the countries that have the technology to be able to do this kind of work about
what's the best way of moving forward.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Professor Ian Gust from the University of Melbourne, ending that report by
Jennifer Macey.

AOC revises medal tally

BRENDAN TREMBATH: There's a regular sound at the Beijing Olympic Games, and that is the Chinese
national anthem.

The host nation has snatched more gold medals than many expected, putting the heat on the United

China's dominance is also causing the Australian Olympic team to re-evaluate its expectations.

The Australian Olympic Committee has held a news conference in Beijing, and Olympics reporter Karen
Barlow was there, and she joins us now.

Karen Barlow, just how is Australia performing at the moment?

KAREN BARLOW: Pretty well, the President of the AOC, John Coates, says yesterday was Australia's
best day on the medal tally. Australia briefly went up to third, due to those two gold medals at
the sailing and Emma Snowsill's gold at the triathlon.

Australia is now sitting fourth behind China, the USA and Great Britain. There were two
disappointments last night; the highly favoured Hockeyroos are out. The women's team drew two all
with China, that's outsing them. And the men's water polo team, they've been eliminated as well
after drawing with Montenegro.

So John Coates says they're heartbreaking results.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Well in the end a lot comes down to money and support. The host nation China has
been doing exceptionally well, surpassing expectation. What did John Coates have to say about

KAREN BARLOW: Well, yes, China has invested billions of dollars in these Games, not just on
prettying up the place, expectations are always high for the host nation. It was exactly the same
for Australia at the Sydney Games. Still, an extraordinary result for China, 39 gold medals so far,
and John Coates says it's impacting adversely on Australia.

JOHN COATES: We didn't know coming into these Games how much China, in particular, was going to
take from the top six or seven nations, and it's clear they've taken medals from us, without being
specific, they've certainly taken them from Germany, and when it comes to gold medals, they have
taken them from France, who was ahead of us in our benchmarking last year but hasn't been.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Australian Olympic Committee president, John Coates.

It has not all been China, Great Britain is reigning at the velodrome. Cycling has been one of
Australia's great strengths at previous Games, Karen, but what's happened?

KAREN BARLOW: Yeah, great results at Athens, 10 medals, six of them gold. But there's been nothing
but disappointment so far at the Beijing velodrome, lots of fourth placing so far. Anna Meares is
coming up tonight in the women's sprint, so great hopes there, and the BMX hasn't started yet.

Great Britain, interestingly, has copied Australia's training program and certainly taken it to a
new level, so John Coates is not happy but not surprised. This is what he said a short time ago:

JOHN COATES: We knew and identified and identified coming into these Games that they were not
performing as well, and generally the Australian cycling, you know, we had the 10 medals, six of
which were gold at the last Olympics. In our benchmarking on the way through, it has been clear and
we have identified that there wouldn't be a repeat.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Australian Olympic Committee president, John Coates.

And Karen Barlow, you and other reporters attend these regular briefings by organisers, but none
today. What's going on?

KAREN BARLOW: No, we've been denied yet again an opportunity to ask organisers and the IOC about
the Games. Officially, the reason is everything's fine and there's nothing to tell reporters about.
Reporters here do have questions, I have a few, we can't help but think that the organisers didn't
like getting them last week when it all got a little bit heated.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: It was a particularly tense situation, wasn't it, with that British reporter
putting the organisers on notice?

KAREN BARLOW: I think the British reporters in general have been going particularly hard on the
organisers, they just want some straight answers to some very straight questions about why China
got the Games and the broken promises about press freedom and human rights, and they haven't been
getting them, and so I'm sure that they still want to try with that, and really just find out about
what's happening at the Games there.

Certainly, there has been events happening and great results, we could even ask about those, but we
can't do that at the moment.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Karen Barlow on the line from Beijing.