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US Fed Reserve offers to stave off AIG bankruptcy

ELEANOR HALL: But first to the latest drama on Wall Street.

With global financial markets on the brink of a meltdown, the US central bank has now intervened to
try to stave off a second major bankruptcy in the US financial sector.

Details are emerging of a last ditch rescue package for the US insurance giant, American
International Group.

The Federal Reserve is offering an $85-billion loan to keep the insurer afloat in return for an 80
per cent stake in the company.

Business editor Peter Ryan has the story.

PETER RYAN: With time running out for AIG, the US Federal Reserve made its concerns about a
potential financial catastrophe abundantly clear as part of today's decision to keep interest rates
on hold.

EXCERPT FROM US FEDERAL RESERVE STATEMENT: The board determined that in current circumstances, a
disorderly failure of AIG could add to already significant levels of financial market fragility and
lead to substantially higher borrowing costs, reduced household wealth and materially weaker
economic performance.

PETER RYAN: But hours after the statement's release, there was still no clear sign of a rescue
deal, and the possibility remained that AIG would be allowed to fail.

That was until a special meeting of the Fed board.

Under emergency powers, agreed to by chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, AIG
will be extended an $85-billion loan in return for an 80 per cent controlling stake.

BRUCE FOERSTER: Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke are at the end of day, widely acknowledged to be very
bright public servants, they're both capitalists, they wouldn't be doing this lightly.

PETER RYAN: Investment banker, and former Lehman Brothers executive, Bruce Foerster, says the
emergency decision underlines the depth of the crisis; not just for the United States, but the
global financial system.

BRUCE FOERSTER: I can't believe that they would just do this at a whim, an 80 per cent ownership in
a company that touches so many parts of America, something has to happen, and our markets just
aren't functioning.

PETER RYAN: The two-year lifeline means AIG will be able to meet its day-to-day obligations and
remain afloat.

Importantly, it will also stem other potential collapses, after this week's decision by Lehman
Brothers to file for bankruptcy protection.

Still, critics like economist Adam Posen*(see editor's note) believe another bailout sends another
bad message from the global headquarters of free enterprise.

ADAM POSEN: It's not clear why you couldn't just let AIG go, and if it caused problems to the
financial system, that's what you have to discount when knowing the liquidity and everything else
for. So this is really bad news.

PETER RYAN: The rescue plan will soothe concerns about AIG's global operations, including
Australia, where the insurer manages 1.3 million life insurance policies.

But even before today's announcement, AIG's local spokesman Ken Morgan said there was no cause for

KEN MORGAN: The Australian life operation is a separate legal entity, we operate in what is one of
the most stringent regulatory environments in the world, and we are fully confident that our
capital adequacy and solvency not only meets the upper requirements but exceeds those.

So we're in a total position of confidence with regards to meeting any policy holder obligations,
so for us it is very much business as usual.

PETER RYAN: Until recently, AIG was little known in Australia, but its global presence is
unavoidable, according to Stuart Alexander, of Deloitte's insurance practice.

STUART ALEXANDER: It dominates, there was something I heard today where AIG touched every single
bank in the globe, one way or the other through its business.

PETER RYAN: And is that through products or re-insurance?

STUART ALEXANDER: An insurance company is certainly carrying the risk from Joe public, but it's
also, it's the investment exposures too, so an insurance company is not only about taking risk,
it's also about managing investments.

So like all insurance companies, there is a part that is the risk, the management of that exposure,
but there's also managing the money that they have to make sure that they are making a return on
that at investment.

PETER RYAN: The decision to rescue AIG does come with conditions.

Interest will accrue at the three month rate of 8.5 per cent, and the loan needs to be paid back in
24 months, and significant asset sales are part of the deal.

ELEANOR HALL: Peter Ryan reporting.

TWT correspondent discusses AIG rescue package

ELEANOR HALL: And there's been another major move on Wall Street.

The UK based bank, Barclays, announced this morning that it will buy up Lehman Brother's, which
earlier this week collapsed in the biggest bankruptcy in history.

Correspondent Michael Rowland is in New York where he's been monitoring events on the markets and
he joins us now.

Michael first to AIG, how are the markets likely to react to this rescue package?

MICHAEL ROWLAND: I think we're likely to see something of a rally tomorrow based, to consolidate on
that 100 plus point gain the Dow Jones industrial average experienced in today's session.

There are huge sighs of relief, almost audible sighs of relief here in America's financial capital,
that this rescue package has come about because the consequences of AIG going under simply weren't
worth contemplating.

There were fears that it could trigger more corporate collapses and create even more mayhem on an
already strained US financial system.

So expect to see the market go up tomorrow, expect to see renewed interest in the battered
financial services sector, and expect to see the fears of a global financial catastrophe eased
somewhat, at least for the time being. Because nobody's willing to be just how much deeper this
financial hole has to be dug.

ELEANOR HALL: Now what more can you tell us about the announcement by Barclays, that it will buy

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Barclays has agreed to pay $US2-billion to buy Lehman's core US broker dealer
business, now that includes its equity, its fixed income and various other assets. As part of the
deal we're told that Barclays will also take on up to 9000 Lehman Brothers employees who are left
effectively jobless by the investment bank's filing for bankruptcy earlier this week.

Significantly the deal doesn't include any of Lehman's real estate, or those toxic real estate
backed derivatives that were the trigger for Lehman Brothers' collapse and of course so many other
problems for so many other investment banks both in the United States and around the world.

ELEANOR HALL: Does this mean Lehmans will survive as a brand?

MICHAEL ROWLAND: It certainly is looking better than it was a few hours ago, before this deal was
announced, it is still in chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it certainly makes the process of digging
itself out of that financial black hole much easier.

It's obviously going to lose what is in many respects its key jewel in the crown, namely that
broker dealer business which is now going to Barclays.

But it does extend something of a financial lifeline, an after the bell financial lifeline if you
like, but certainly something that would be looked on as quite an optimistic and a promising sign
by those involved to try to resuscitate Lehmans.

ELEANOR HALL: Michael Rowland thank you.

That's Michael Rowland our correspondent in New York.

US Fed keeps interest rates on hold

ELEANOR HALL: And staying in the US, the US central bank today won plaudits from market economists
for resisting calls to cut interest rates in response to the turmoil on Wall Street.

Instead Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve board kept its focus on Main Street and voted no to a rate

But while it didn't change its interest rates policy, the Fed did continue to pump liquidity into
markets, and as we've just heard it has now offered a lifeline to the failing insurance giant, AIG.

In Washington, John Shovelan reports.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The decision was unanimous, the first unanimity on interest rates in a year. And it
was helped by the fact the price of oil fell by 38 per cent from its July peak easing the inflation
fighting pressures on the Fed.

While rates were left unchanged for the second day running the New York Fed injected $85 billion of
reserves into the money supply, the most since the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks.

Al Goldman of Wachovia Securities says the Fed got it right.

AL GOLDMAN: I didn't want the Fed to cut again, I don't think they need to. I don't know why they
had to say that inflation is still a serious problem when commodity prices have collapsed.

I think what the Fed needs to do is what they have been doing, and that is continue to inject more
funds into the money supply and also give banks a little bit of a kick in the rear and get them to
be a little bit more friendly and aggressive in their loaning policies.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The Fed's decision wasn't popular with investors who were hoping for a cut to boost
market sentiment.

But Doug Cliggot of Dover Management says the Fed under Ben Bernanke is using interest rates in a
more conventional way than it did under Alan Greenspan.

DOUG CLIGGOT: I think what they're trying to do is make a clean break from the Greenspan Fed. I
think the Bernanke Fed wants to use the Fed funds rate for inflation, for growth and probably the
dollar, standard, macro-economic things that the Fed wrestles with.

JOHN SHOVELAN: In its statement the Fed acknowledged the crisis noting the strains in financial
markets, but it reminded investors that through its ongoing measures to foster liquidity, it was
taking action.

Amid the market turmoil the chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila Bair, tried
to reassure deposit holders that the vast majority of US banks and financial institutions were
stable and secure and there was no need for people to withdraw their money.

SHEILA BAIR: Yes some banks have some challenges but overwhelmingly banks are safe and sound, well
capitalised. The deposit insurance fund is strong, it's ultimately backed by the full faith in
credit of the United States Government.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Markets all around the world have been reeling this week after Lehman Brothers filed
for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch was sold to the Bank of America.

The concern among many investors is that the huge changes on Wall Street are merely a sign that the
crisis triggered by the collapse of the subprime home loan market 13 months ago is far from over.

Yet Michael Vogelzang of Boston Advisers is more optimistic. He thinks the panic in the market of
late may be a sign that the bottom is near.

MICHAEL VOGELZANG: We've sort of described the last three months of bear market activity as really,
sort of a slow motion train wreck, nobody really getting panicked.

And we're starting to see that a little bit, and actually we think that's, in a perverse sort of
way, good news.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Underlining just how difficult the times are confronting US finance, a web site
'Christianity Today' posted an email from an evangelical leader asking Christians to pray for Wall

The email read: we may find it hard to pray for these bankers because they are insanely wealthy,
true, a few of them can be terribly arrogant, and some can have little heart for the less wealthy.

It went on: yet Jesus prayed for the rotten because he loved the rotten. In this situation prayer
could accompany a revival of the heart on Wall Street.

John Shovelan, Washington.

Turnbull in Labor's sights

ELEANOR HALL: Lets go now to Canberra where the Federal Government is making it clear it's going
after the new leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull.

The Government is trying to paint Mr Turnbull as out of touch with the problems of ordinary
Australians because of his wealth.

But it's a tactic which may backfire. Mr Turnbull has been at pains to highlight his own humble
beginnings and he is also pointing to the personal wealth of the man he hopes to depose, Kevin

Beyond personality politics, Malcolm Turnbull has pledged to press ahead with the former Liberal
leader's bill for an immediate increase in the aged pension.

In Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Team Turnbull or the Turnbull experiment, it's the question some Opposition MPs are
posing behind the scenes.

And while they ponder it, the Government's lost no time going on the attack. The Treasurer Wayne
Swan started the jibes yesterday.

WAYNE SWAN: Now of course, the Member for Wentworth, you know, he hasn't got a great affiliation
with those sort of everyday goods.

He thinks alcopops is the noise it's making when he uncorks the Moet.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The Treasurer, resume his seat.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Backbencher David Bradbury's continued the tone today.

DAVID BRADBURY: Malcolm Turnbull may understand the needs of the board room tables of Point Piper,
but the challenge for him is whether or not he understands the challenges facing people sitting
around the kitchen table in Penrith.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Government Minister Craig Emerson is taking a different approach.

CRAIG EMERSON: Look I think he'll do a good job, I think our democracy will be strengthened
somewhat by Malcolm being the leader. I think, or maybe more I hope that class envy belongs to the
20th century and not the 21st century.

The idea that we don't like or resent success, Kevin Rudd is very successful, he and Therese have
been successful, Malcolm Turnbull is, they've, all of them have worked hard, Lucy Turnbull.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Opposition frontbencher George Brandis praises the Minister for his decency.

GEORGE BRANDIS: I wish that were an attitude shared by all of your colleagues, I mean, why does it
matter that they're wealthy? I mean, it's a good thing, I think that people have succeeded in their
lives and they've made their money fair and square.

But that's not the important thing, the important thing is that these people have gone into
Parliament, have gone into public life to contribute to the nation, they haven't devoted their
lives to making money.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Malcolm Turnbull's confronted the criticism head on, pointing out the parallels
between himself and Kevin Rudd.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I think we have certainly probably the richest Prime Minister we've ever had in
Kevin Rudd and I say good luck to the Rudds. Therese Rein, his wife has built a very big,
successful and very valuable business, Kevin I know has been a great supporter to her in that.

Lucy and I similarly have started out without very much and we've done well too in business, and I
think that is one of the great things about Australia

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And while the Opposition's derided the Government for what it says is a smear
campaign, the Greens aren't buying into it, saying they're looking forward to working with the new
Opposition leader.

CHRISTINE MILNE: I just don't think this is an appropriate time for personal comments of that kind,
Malcolm Turnbull will be a much more effective leader of the Opposition than Brendan Nelson was,
and the Government knows it.

REPORTER: Are you looking forward to working with Mr Turnbull?

BOB BROWN: I am. Malcolm's got a lot of pizazz, an interesting character. I think he'll liven up
politics a great deal.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So far Malcolm Turnbull's sticking with Brendan Nelson's suite of policies,
including the push for a $30-a-week increase in the single aged pension.

The original plan was to introduce a private member's bill into the House of Representatives next
week. But the Prime Minister will be in the United States.

So the Opposition's decided to put the proposal to the Senate first, where the Government doesn't
have a majority, putting Labor under greater and more immediate pressure.

Liberal frontbencher Tony Abbott says the plan is to put it into the Senate this week.

TONY ABBOTT: Probably will get debated in the Senate until next week, and come to the Lower House
next week, and the tragedy is that not only is the Government likely to oppose the bill, but the
Prime Minister won't even be in the country when it's dealt with in the House of Representatives.

I fear that this is symbolic of a Prime Minister who has a plan for the United Nations and the
world, but he doesn't seem to have a plan for pensioners and for Australia.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Malcolm Turnbull's made it clear his main focus against the Government will be the
economy and climate change.

But the heat is also being applied on a group of Labor measures, the Government's plan to scrap the
Medicare dental scheme, lifting the income threshold for the Medicare levy surcharge, and boosting
the alcopops tax and the luxury car tax.

On luxury cars, the Government's planning to put that tax bill back into the Senate this afternoon
amid suggestions the Treasurer is close to striking a deal with Family First Senator Steve Fielding
who scuttled the legislation the week before last.

Lawyers call for review of terrorism laws

ELEANOR HALL: Back home now, and several lawyers who acted for the defence in Australia's biggest
terrorism trial are calling for a review of the laws, saying that while the 12 accused men were
meant to be presumed innocent, they were treated like convicted criminals in a high security

Defence lawyer Remy Van de Wiel described the nation's counter-terrorism laws as an attack on human
rights, religion and free speech.

Another lawyer said the suspects were held in Guantanamo Bay-like conditions at the prison south
west of Melbourne.

Alison Caldwell has been covering the trial and she filed this report.

ALISON CALDWELL: In the early stages of the trial of 12 men accused of terrorism offences, defence
lawyers argued for the trial to be suspended on the basis that their clients were being denied
natural justice.

They were being held in a maximum security prison, 90 minutes south west of Melbourne despite being
presumed innocent.

Supreme Court Justice Bernard Bongiorno shared their concerns and ordered the men be moved to an
inner city prison.

Defence lawyer Rob Stary represented many of accused, including four who were ultimately found

Describing them as repressive, he says the anti-terror laws need to be reviewed.

ROB STARY: They spent three years, almost three years in Guantanamo Bay-like conditions in the
state's maximum security prison, as unconvicted prisoners.

We've invested enormous powers to the policing agencies and the intelligence community, there's no
review of this process, got to remember that these men were convicted not of committing, or not
planning to commit a specific terrorist act, but talking generally in jihadist ideological terms.

ALISON CALDWELL: From the moment they were arrested the men were classified as high security

Bail was refused in every case and they were denied the rights of most remand prisoners.

Rob Stary again.

ROB STARY: They're denied physical contact with their family, they are shackled when they're out of
their cells, they are denied access to any other prison entitlements; ixing in mainstream,
exercise, education programs, access to proper health care.

What happens to a person when they are remanded and they are unconvicted of any offence, should
they be denied every basic right that every other unconvicted prisoner enjoys?

ALISON CALDWELL: From the time he was arrested to now, the convicted leader of the terrorist
organisation 48-ear-ld Abdul Nacer Benbrika appears decades older, his beard is completely grey,
his eyes sunken and his olive skin now a yellowy grey.

At one stage prison authorities removed his religious books from his prison cell claiming they
posed a fire hazard. In protest, Benbrika went on a hunger strike.

His defence barrister Remy Van de Wiel has condemned Australia's anti-terror laws, describing them
as an attack on human rights.

REMY VAN DE WIEL: The position with this terrorist legislation is that it is so wide-sweeping that
it is a complete destruction of free speech, it is an insult in this community that a parliament
that we've elected to govern us could behave in such a lick spittle manner as to pass this

They could only do so if they were lap dogs of George Bush, because just about anything you say
which is aggressive and contradictory to what the established line of thinking is could put you in
a situation where you are charged with this legislation.

ALISON CALDWELL: During the men's committal hearing two years ago, the security inside the court
was overwhelming. The men were held in separate compartments, behind glass and surrounded by dozens
of security officials.

Responding to defence barristers' concerns about prejudicing a jury, by the time their trial
started in February, the glass was gone, as were the walls separating the accused and the security
presence cut in half.

Defence lawyer Rob Stary says when it comes to terror laws, the presumption of innocence no longer

ROB STARY: It's truly a repressive regime, and to his credit the trial judge after a period in
excess of two and a half years said it is intolerable to run a trial whilst the men are still
detained in those sorts of conditions.

ALISON CALDWELL: As the trial came to an end yesterday, lawyers for the accused took aim at the top
law officer in the land Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

The day before he'd made extensive comments welcoming the earlier guilty verdicts but at the time
the jury was still deliberating over two accused.

A defence lawyer applied for the jury to be discharged and said the comments risked contempt of

Rob Stary again:

ROB STARY: When the first law officer of the country endorses the convictions, well then that puts
us behind the eight ball, there's no question about that.

ALISON CALDWELL: Justice Bernard Bongiorno appeared to agree, noting the Attorney-General's
comments were unnecessary and had the potential to cause difficulties in the trial.

The police investigation and subsequent trial cost the taxpayer close to $20-billion.

ELEANOR HALL: Alison Caldwell in Melbourne with that report.

Scientists fear ice-free Arctic summer within decades

ELEANOR HALL: There are new warnings today that the Arctic will be free of ice in summer in the
space of a generation.

With summer drawing to a close in the Northern Hemisphere, it's clear that the melt this year
hasn't been quite as dramatic as it was in 2007.

But scientists say it would be a big mistake to assume that global warming is on the wane.

Instead, they argue, the cooler summertime temperatures should have halted the thaw by a much
greater degree.

Our reporter Simon Santow has been speaking to Walt Meier, he's a research scientist at the
National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado in the United States.

WALT MEIER: It's the second lowest on record and far lower than any other previous year except for

SIMON SANTOW: So I was going to ask you, that there's no comfort for climate change sceptics who
would, who might argue look, there's less of an ice melt going on this year than last year so we
shouldn't be panicking.

WALT MEIER: Right, I mean, it's a little bit higher than last year but I would resist any
temptation to call it a recovery. We did have a little bit of a cooler summer this year, and
conditions weren't quite as favourable to melt, which makes it actually in some ways remarkable
that we went as low as we did given that we would expect more of a rebound from last year.

But the ice was so much thinner, that we still lost a lot of ice to summer, but the long term trend
is still downward and actually has been accelerating over the past few years and this year really
is simply reinforcing that.

And so we're still on a long-term track towards an ice-free summer in the Arctic Ocean at some
point in the future.

SIMON SANTOW: Would you speculate on when that might happen?

WALT MEIER: Well it's really hard to give any kind of definitive answer on that because a lot does
depend on whether you have a cool summer or two or whether you have a really warm summer, it could
accelerate things.

The consensus seems to be among sea ice scientists in the order of 2030, so in the next 20, 25
years, seems to be a reasonable estimate.

There have been some that have suggested earlier, as early as within 5 years, that's a little bit
extreme I would say, I would disagree with that. But it's not impossible, it's not a crazy idea by
any stretch.

Regardless of exactly when it happens, it's looking clearer and clearer and this year again only
reinforces it that at some point in the not too distant future we're going to have conditions where
the ice, the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean melts completely during the summer, and we'll have a blue
Arctic Ocean so to speak.

SIMON SANTOW: And what are the implications as far as that's concerned for the climate there?

WALT MEIER: Well when you are removing the ice cap, you're really changing your energy balance,
you're going to warm up the Arctic a lot more than it normally would because the sea ice reflects a
lot of the solar energy and doesn't absorb it. Whereas the ocean absorbs almost all of the incoming
solar radiation during the summer, in solar energy.

And so that's going to be adding a lot more energy to the Arctic region and going to heat things up
even more than what you would normally get. So it's kind of amplifying the greenhouse gas effect,
in the Arctic.

But the effects are going to felt much more widely than that, because the climate is a completely
inter-connected system. The Arctic and the connection between the Arctic and the lower latitudes
and the cold Arctic and the warmer lower latitudes help set up ocean and wind circulations and
essentially the weather pattern, things like the jet stream and so forth and storm system tracks
that you see, those are going to be changing.

At the very least, over the Northern Hemisphere, throughout North American and Europe and Asia and
that's going to have a pretty big impact on people's lives down the road as people have to adjust
to changing weather patterns. And there may be changes in for example, what you may be able to
plant and when you may be able to plant certain crops and so forth.

SIMON SANTOW: And if I can ask you about Southern Hemisphere, of course Australia will be going
into a summer over the next couple of months, do you expect there to be quite an ice melt in the

WALT MEIER: Well the Antarctic is quite a bit different than the Arctic in terms of its general
environment. The Antarctic always has an extreme ice melt, it loses most of the ice cover, the sea
ice cover during the summer time, the summer melt.

And so we have seen some increasing trends in the Antarctic, in contrast to the Arctic, but these
trends are a fare bit smaller than the Arctic and are not as significant in terms of any climate
change signal because essentially the climate change signal is being delayed in the Antarctic
because the Antarctic is such an isolated place.

It's a continent on the bottom of the world surrounded by ocean and you get very strong ocean
currents and very strong winds that circle the Antarctic, that kind of act as a wall to prevent any
kind of interaction, or most of the interaction between the Antarctic and the lower latitudes
towards the equator.

And so you don't have that interplay between the lower latitudes and the poles that you do in the
Arctic, and so we expect that the response would be slower and that you might actually see some
increasing trends for a time.

Eventually that will turn around as the warming temperatures eventually kind of penetrate that
wall, but it hasn't happened yet, but it probably will before too long.

We have seen some areas of the Antarctic that have shown some considerable warming, most notably
the Antarctic Peninsula where we've seen a lot of warming in terms of the temperatures and we've
also seen some pretty dramatic decreases in sea ice, decreasing trends in sea ice in the western
side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Though it's a more complicated, more mixed picture in the Antarctic but it doesn't offset what
we're seeing in the Arctic. The Arctic signal, is a very strong powerful signal with very big
climate impacts and whereas the Antarctic is a smaller signal with at least for the time being,
smaller impacts.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's Walt Meier, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre
in Colorado, speaking to Simon Santow.

HIV cluster causes concerns

ELEANOR HALL: Health authorities in far North Queensland are concerned about what they're calling
an HIV cluster among middle-aged, heterosexual men.

Six men in Cairns have recently been diagnosed with the virus and authorities say it could be the
beginning of a large outbreak.

Donna Field reports that the men contracted HIV while working in Papua New Guinea.

DONNA FIELD: In the past 10 months, six Cairns men have been diagnosed with HIV.

Doctor Darren Russell from the Cairns Sexual Health Unit has had to break the bad news.

DARREN RUSSELL: None of them has been entirely shocked but they've all been quite surprised it's a
difficult thing for anyone to learn.

DONNA FIELD: The men are all middle-aged and half have wives and girlfriends in Australia.

Dr Russell says they contracted HIV after having unprotected sex in Papua New Guinea.

DARREN RUSSELL: You'd have to suspect that given the number of people from Australia, particularly
North Queensland who frequent Papua New Guinea regularly for business or for leisure that there are
more cases that we don't know about yet

DONNA FIELD: The cluster has prompted Queensland Health to commission an education campaign
targeting businessmen working on a fly in fly out basis to Papua New Guinea.

Rowena Harper, an educator with Family Planning Queensland, hopes to have the campaign finished by
the end of the year, but says it's been difficult to get the companies with a travelling workforce

ROWENA HARPER: It did take a while because obviously that's not their highest priority but we have
had some support that's been really useful from a lot of those sort of major employers that are
based, you know between Cairns and PNG.

DONNA FIELD: Gary Dowsett, from the Australia Research Centre in Sex Health and Society at Latrobe
University, says the case highlights the need for constant education.

GARY DOWSETT: There is still an epidemic out there, it's still growing in various parts of the
world and from time to time we probably continue to need to say to Australians who are travelling,
think, be careful where ever you travel HIV is there nowadays.

DONNA FIELD: Dr Russell will speak about the Cairns cluster at the Australasian Society for HIV
Medicine's annual conference in Perth later this week.

Today researchers from the University of New South Wales will release the results of an annual
HIV/AIDS surveillance report at the conference.

It shows HIV rates in Australia have increased by almost 50 per cent in the past eight years.

ELEANOR HALL: Donna Field reporting.

Education the key, says AIDS group

ELEANOR HALL: The peak body representing Australia's HIV community is warning that there are also
alarming spikes in infection rates in remote mining communities.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations says annual surveillance data released today show
HIV infection rates in Australia have nearly doubled in the last eight years.

The Executive Director Don Baxter has been telling Tanya Nolan that more government money needs to
be spent on education campaigns.

TANYA NOLAN: There's been a five per cent increase in HIV infection rates between 2006 and 2007,
what do you attribute that to?

DON BAXTER: Most of those infections are still among gay men, but a small but significant number
appear to be among, well are among heterosexual men, who are from the richest resource states, who
are obviously, or clearly taking holidays in Asia and having unprotected sex with female partners
who turn out to be positive and they become infected.

So the Queenslanders have been going to Papua New Guinea, we think the West Australian people have
been going to Thailand and Cambodia and other South-East Asian countries.

TANYA NOLAN: So what sort of jump in infection rates are you seeing in these communities?

DON BAXTER: Well among males, sorry, among heterosexual males in Western Australia there has been a
68 per cent increase over the last three years, that's about the same number of heterosexual men as
gay men in Western Australia who've become infected in 2007.

TANYA NOLAN: That would appear to be a figure of alarming proportions, what have the authorities in
WA doing about that?

DON BAXTER: Well the WA Health Department has, and the WA AIDS Council have been working pretty
vigorously on it, and trying to engage the mining industry, mining companies in assisting with HIV
prevention programs.

But we need to do a bit more research to clarify exactly how these, exactly what these men are

But also how you run a prevention program for these men is not absolutely clear unless you spend a
lot of money.

TANYA NOLAN: But you are confident that those HIV infection rates are confined to that fly in fly
out workforce, to those mining communities?

DON BAXTER: Well not entirely, a lot of people in WA are doing pretty well out of the resources
boom and similarly in parts of Queensland, and so many, quite a number of people who may well not
be miners are able to travel more frequently than they used to.

TANYA NOLAN: We've just heard of a HIV cluster involving six men from Cairns who picked up the
virus while engaging in unprotected sex while working in Papua New Guinea, Queensland authorities
warn it could be a portent of a larger outbreak, is there evidence that that outbreak could spread
beyond Queensland?

DON BAXTER: It has the potential to do that, as long as heterosexual men go and have unprotected
sex with women who may be positive.

It is hard for us to assess whether this is a fairly isolated cluster at this stage, or whether
there are in fact more infections but just haven't been detected because the men involved haven't
had a HIV test.

TANYA NOLAN: You're calling for increased investment in HIV/AIDS prevention programs, has the
funding been diminishing?

DON BAXTER: In New South Wales retained its funding levels all through the decade, all the other
states and the Commonwealth reduced their investments.

New South Wales has had barely any increase in HIV infection rates over the decade, Victoria which
took out the most money, has had 131 per cent increase, Queensland 55 per cent increase so we've
now got a pretty clear... we've got pretty clear evidence that investment in the program at least
stabilises the rate of HIV infections, but it's quite likely that if New South Wales was able to
put in some more, we would actually finally be able to start reversing the rate of HIV infections.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's Don Baxter, the Executive Director of the Australian Federation of AIDS
Organisations, speaking to Tanya Nolan.

US appoints new military commander in Iraq

ELEANOR HALL: The United States has installed a new military commander in Iraq, and he's begun his
duties by warning about just how difficult the situation still is.

Ray Odierno described the security gains made under the previous commander David Petraeus as
fragile and reversible.

Meanwhile in Canberra, the French Defence Minister has told his Australian counterpart that France
will not pull any troops out of Afghanistan despite the death of ten French soldiers there last

Lisa Millar has our report.

LISA MILLAR: At a ceremony in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, the new commander in Iraq,
Ray Odierno officially took charge of the 146,000 strong force.

On his first day in office, he warned that the United States can't afford to rest on its laurels
and assume that the improvement in security in Iraq is permanent.

RAY ODIERNO: First we've got to protect the population, we want the Iraqi security force there to
take over the ability to protect the population.

We want to make sure Al-Qaeda is not able to, although they're still very dangerous, they're not
able to regenerate. We want to make sure militias, the Iraqis have done tremendous work in reducing
the influence of militias. We want to make sure that does not return. So those things do not

LISA MILLAR: It's Ray Odierno's third tour of duty to Iraq, and he was part of the team led by
General David Petraeus which pushed for a surge of troops in the country, an approach that's been
regarded as successful.

Lydia Khalil is a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute and was a policy advisor for the Coalition
Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

LYDIA KHALIL: Well I think General Odierno is certainly a very competent general, he has an
excellent reputation outside and inside the military, and he was also a key component in
formulating Petraeus' counter-terrorism strategy and counter-insurgency strategy. So there is a
sense of continuity about him which makes this changeover not as abrupt.

However with any changeover, especially at this very fragile time in Iraq, where security gains can
be lost, insurgents and terrorists can take advantage of this. So there's a bit of apprehension at
least in the short-term with this change over.

LISA MILLAR: She's less optimistic about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan which she's
described as desperate.

Today the French Defence Minister Herve Morin was in Canberra visiting his Australian counterpart.

The French suffered one of their worst death tolls for the military last month when ten soldiers
were killed and 21 wounded near Kabul.

But like the Australian Government, the French Minister says there is no wavering on their
commitment to Afghanistan.

HERVE MORIN (translated): The idea of abandoning that mission has no basis whatsoever in France, no
support in France.

And it's very clear that decisions by countries to withdraw their troops would be a bad signal.

LISA MILLAR: Lydia Khalil again from the Lowy Institute.

LYDIA KHALIL: Well I think that's good news for Afghanistan and also for the international effort
there that the French are so committed. Because as we've been seeing Afghanistan really is in dire

You've had commitment from other European and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) allies who
have been faltering, we've seen problems in terms of co-ordination of command, because of the many
actors involved.

So this is a good sign I think, that the French are coming out very strongly and supporting other
positions of Australia, the United States and the UK, who also voiced a very strong commitment to
keeping our forces in there and also co-ordinating better in that theatre.

ELEANOR HALL: Lydia Khalil is a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute, she was speaking with Lisa

Crop report suggest food prices could fall

ELEANOR HALL: The latest crop report by Australia's top rural research body raises the prospect
that food prices could be on the way down.

ABARE (The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics) Economics is estimating that
this season's grains harvest will increase by almost 10-million tonnes.

Agricultural experts say it could be a sign that drought conditions are easing and that it should
reduce the pressure on the price of grain and of groceries.

Michael Edwards has our story.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Farmers say the rain which has fallen on grain producing areas this season has
been patchy.

But the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics says the timing of the rain that
has come has been good and crops are in a strong position.

And ABARE is predicting a better grain yield this season than the last.

The head of ABARE's agriculture and trade section is John Hogan.

JOHN HOGAN: We are forecasting that the winter grains crop will be around 35-million tonnes in
2008/9 which is close to 13-million tonnes more than last years crop.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But ABARE emphasises that these predictions are based on good rainfall throughout
spring. Of the crops, barley and canola production is expected to rise, as is wheat.

John Hogan says this is the most critical of the crops.

JOHN HOGAN: Wheat production, we're currently forecasting it to be around 22.5-million tonnes,
which is 5 per cent below our June forecast of 23.7-million tonnes but well above the 13-million
tonnes we produced last year.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And John Hogan says an increase in yields, particularly wheat, could push prices
down, easing pressure on the cost of food.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Last year the price of wheat broke through the $US10 per bushel mark.

Mick Keogh from the Australian Farm Institute says as Australia is a significant grain exporter,
this season's harvest will be closely monitored.

MICK KEOGH: Certainly the world is watching the Australian harvest with a great deal of interest
because of course we're quite significant exporter and certainly it will depend a bit on how the
Australia harvest pans out, what the expectations are for wheat prices in the next few months.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But while Mick Keogh agrees a drop in grain prices could eventually lead to lower
grocery costs, he says any shift would be over an extended period of time.

MICK KEOGH: It takes a while to flow through because grain prices slow through to inventories that
are held by millers and processors and so therefore they've always got the higher price stocks on
their hands and it takes a while to work those through the system.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Mick Keogh from the Australian Farm Institute.

QLD Police Minister under fire for encouraging Broncos support

ELEANOR HALL: A Queensland government minister is under fire for encouraging football fans to
support the Brisbane Broncos.

Three Broncos players are being investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman.

But the Minister for Sport, Judy Spence, has urged Broncos supporters not to lose faith in the team
ahead of this weekend's semi-final.

Now sexual health workers are questioning her leadership and judgment.

In Brisbane, Annie Guest reports.

ANNIE GUEST: A young woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by three men in the toilet of a
Brisbane nightclub on Saturday.

The trio accused of the crime play for the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team.

They've reportedly declared their innocence.

Judy Spence is both the Police and Sports Minister in Queensland.

JUDY SPENCE: I hope the Brisbane people do come out and support the Broncos this weekend.

They shouldn't lose faith in this team, it's a great team and I certainly am not judging the action
of those three footballers until the police investigation is concluded. And I would encourage
everyone not to pre-judge them at this stage.

ANNIE GUEST: The players have not been stood aside from a semi-final scheduled this weekend.

Judy Spence says the police investigation could take a couple of weeks.

JUDY SPENCE: Whether these three were up to no good or not I don't know, we'll wait until the
police investigation is finished. But the rest of the team is worth supporting so people should
come out.

ANNIE GUEST: There's been some harsh criticism of the Minister online, in responses to newspaper
reports, with some calling for her to be sacked, and the players to be dropped.

And the Ministers comments have also worried sexual assault workers, including Karen Willis.

KAREN WILLIS: I'm disappointed that a police minister isn't coming out more strongly saying that
violence against women is not okay and the police will pull out all stops to investigate any

I would expect that that would be the leadership that a police minister should be making, or a
premier or a prime minister and we certainly have seen that in many other states.

ANNIE GUEST: Karen Willis is the chairwoman of the National Association of Services Against Sexual
Violence. She says sexual assault workers are questioning the Minister's judgement.

KAREN WILLIS: I'm not exactly sure what her thinking was behind that.

ANNIE GUEST: These three players are going to be playing football in the lead up to the finals,
they've all declared their innocence. Do you think that they should be allowed to play?

KAREN WILLIS: I think the Broncos should be standing them down until the matter's resolved.

ANNIE GUEST: But what about the legal principle of being innocent until proven guilty? Is it
appropriate to punish them by making them miss important, games that are important to them, when
they haven't been found guilty.

KAREN WILLIS: I think what we're talking about, we need to separate out the issue of the criminal
justice process and the issue of being leaders in our community and behaving ethically.

And their code of conduct and those sorts of things which the League has been quite clear that
they're required to follow.

ANNIE GUEST: The Brisbane Broncos are doing their own investigation into the players' behaviour,
and whether they've breached the club and the National Rugby League's codes of conduct.

The NRL has attempted to stamp out problem behaviour in recent years and one of its advisors is the
feminist and academic Professor Catherine Lumby from the University of Sydney.

She's stopped short of criticising the Minister's call to support the team in the finals.

CATHERINE LUMBY: She's right in the sense that we do need to let the legal process take its course,
but at the same time I would say I'm very concerned that we recognise the seriousness of these
allegations. They are allegations, but they are of the most serious kind.

And I'm very clear that the NRL, David Gallop and the clubs have sent a message to players and to
the community that sexual violence against women will not be tolerated, and I would expect to see
that message sent if these allegations are indeed proven.

ELEANOR HALL: Professor Catherine Lumby from Sydney University ending that report by Annie Guest.