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Govt open to formal human rights protection

Govt open to formal human rights protection

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:10:00

ELEANOR HALL: But first the Attorney-General Robert McClelland, this morning launched a public
debate about whether Australia should have a bill of rights.

The Federal Government announced that the Jesuit priest, lawyer and human rights advocate, Father
Frank Brennan, will head a panel that will hold public consultations on whether more needs to be
done to protect fundamental freedoms in Australia.

The panel will report its findings by July next year. And the Attorney-General says the Government
wants all Australians to ask themselves which human rights and responsibilities are important to
them and how they want these things protected.

Robert McClelland spoke to Alexandra Kirk.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Today marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
I think it's very appropriate that we look forward as to how we want to best recognise and protect
human rights in Australia and into the future.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do you regard the protection of human rights wanting in Australia?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: There's a number of areas we could do better, I think the media is highlighted
and appropriately the extent of domestic violence in the community, violence against women and
children in particular. Obviously the rights of Indigenous Australians have a long way to go; the
rights of disable people have a long way to go.

Indeed I think there's a number of indicators that show that the rights of women, generally in
Australia, haven't progressed as much as I think fair-minded people would like.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Attorney, you say it's not just about whether Australia should or shouldn't have a
charter of rights, but just on that what is your view?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yes, look, I'm being very careful not to express my view in many ways it's
irrelevant; I think it's probably unhelpful at this stage to air my views. The specific function of
the committee is to canvas the views of Australians and report that to government.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And what about a charter versus a bill of rights?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: However described I suppose is something the committee will have a look at.
That's one option I might say, I mean other issues that they may well look at is issues of enhanced
scrutiny of bills, whether there should be some provision that requires courts to have regard to
fundamental human rights instruments when construing legislation or regulations.

These are matters whether we could do more to reform our anti-discrimination acts, these are other
areas that they may well explore.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You appointed Father Frank Brennan to head your human rights consultations, he has
said in the past that he's a bill of rights sceptic; he favours a charter that is legislating to
protect human rights.

Is that basically how it will go you think?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: No, he's, he's indicated that he's a fence sitter on these views, and that was
aside from him as a man, and his experience in the area of human rights...

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Except that he's against an American-style constitutional bill of rights?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yes and I must say that out the outset the Government has ruled that out, we've
specifically ruled out any consideration of an entrenched bill of rights. So that's one exclusion I
suppose.

But aside from that we think it's appropriate that he's a fence sitter on the issues of the
mechanics of protecting human rights and that's why we think he's ideally placed to chair the
committee.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Cynics might say that this is just another of more than a hundred reviews and
committees commissioned by Kevin Rudd in the past year. Do you expect much will come of it?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yeah I do, I do think the fact that the community is being engaged is itself one
thing, but I think the fact that engagement is occurring will itself have an educative effect. Just
what are the fundamental values, what are the fundamental rights and freedoms that we respect and
value as a community and how should they be protected.

I think the dialogue in itself in other words will be a good thing, but obviously we're also
looking at recommendations as to possible outcomes.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: There have been plenty of people with plenty to say on the issue of human rights in
Australia, is it now up to whether ordinary Australians themselves have a strong view as to whether
anything comes of this?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yep, it is, very much so. The first part is what rights and freedoms do you
think are fundamentally important to us. Secondly, are they protected, and if not how can we do it
better.

There is absolutely no doubt that the quality of the deliberations and recommendations will depend
in large part on the enthusiasm of reasonable Australians in providing their views.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, speaking to Alexandra Kirk.

Law Professor urges national human rights law

Law Professor urges national human rights law

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:14:00

ELEANOR HALL: Law Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales, says the case
for an Australian bill of rights is compelling.

He says Australia is the only democratic country in the world without formal protection of human
rights.

But he told Alexandra Kirk that there will need to be a public groundswell of support to push the
Government into action.

GEORGE WILLIAMS: I actually don't think this debate will be about a bill of rights at all, and by
bill of rights I'm talking about a United States-style constitutional amendment, which would set
human rights in stone and give courts the final say on contested issues of social policy.

That really isn't part of the debate; it's not the right model for Australia. What it will be about
is whether we should have an ordinary act of Parliament in this country at the national level, that
protects the most important human rights, that can be changed, updated over time.

And a law that actually doesn't give courts the final say, but really focuses on getting
Parliaments passing laws right in the first place. Really a preventative model that's worked very
well in the United Kingdom and after their 10 years of experience, and also the experience now of
the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) and Victoria, I think with confidence we could say would
operate well federally here.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And what material difference do you think it's made in the ACT or Victoria, if
indeed there has been a material change?

GEORGE WILLIAMS: Well, it certainly hasn't made a big difference in terms of courts, there's
actually been very few cases, you can count them on one hand, in Victoria. But what it has done is
really put Parliament and bureaucracies to the test; it's changed the ways they deliver services.

It's affected, for example, policing where there's training and all sorts of things going on to
help police better serve the community, but also to make sure the community's aware of their
obligations to obey the law.

What you find in those areas is often in developing policy or in parliamentary debate, human rights
are far more central to what's going on than occurred previously and it makes it much more
difficult to do things, like override freedom of speech or simply to neglect human rights - because
Parliaments are sometimes too busy to take seriously those types of concerns.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So do you think human rights are in a better shape if you live in the ACT or
Victoria?

GEORGE WILLIAMS: I think the protections are in better shape, yes. I think that's undoubted and you
only have to look at the overseas experience as well, to see what kind of difference it makes.

But I certainly wouldn't say it's perfect, a bill of rights doesn't fix all of these problems, it's
another tool, it's a part of our system of government that helps direct governments in good
directions and stops them from overriding human rights.

But, a bill of rights only works well when the politics also goes along that path, when you've got
strong leadership, and I think it's had a positive impact in both of those places. But you always
say the fight goes on, and whether or not you've got a bill or rights, an active community is even
more important to having good protection for human rights.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Considering what you know about the issue, what chance do you think there is of
some form of bill of rights or a charter of rights being instigated nationally?

GEORGE WILLIAMS: I think this debate is a fascinating one for law and politics, because a
government has come to it without a preconceived notion of what they want, there have been voices
in and outside of the Government, and also within the Opposition party, speaking for and against
this issue.

I think a lot will depend on this community consultation. It's not one where we're heading
irrevocably to any particular outcome, the chair of the process, Father Frank Brennan, is actually
a fence sitter on this and has gone both ways, and I think the outcome will really be determined by
how much people get involved.

If we have overwhelming community support, through submissions and public debate, then I think
there's a good chance it will happen. If that is not there then I think the Government will drop
it. And really it comes down to the fact; do people want better protection for human rights or do
they think the system works fine as it is.

ELEANOR HALL: That's law Professor George Williams speaking to Alexandra Kirk.

Carr steadfast in opposition to human rights bill

Carr steadfast in opposition to human rights bill

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: The former premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, is an equally passionate opponent of
the notion of a bill of rights for Australia.

He spoke to me a short time ago from Hong Kong.

Mr Carr you've warned that a bill of rights for Australia is a trap that won't protect human
rights, why do you say that?

BOB CARR: Well, the United Stated has had a bill of rights since 1789 and it had that bill or
rights for 150 years before American blacks in the south could get a vote. The most eloquent bill
of rights in the world was of course in Stalin's 1936 constitution.

Freedom arises from the instinctive feel of a people, from freedom of the press, freedom of
association, not from a document. America's had a bill of rights lodged in its constitution and has
still had all the abuses of Guantanamo Bay.

ELEANOR HALL: But it may not work perfectly in every circumstance, but surely a bill of rights puts
some protection against fundamental injustices?

BOB CARR: Well, there's no evidence of that, and what is absolutely fascinating now is that on the
same day Australia's launched an inquiry into this subject, you've got a consensus emerging in the
United Kingdom that their bill of rights needs to be either repealed completely or comprehensively
re-written.

Why is that? It's because a statutory bill of rights in the United Kingdom has discredited the
whole concept of human rights.

A friend of mine who's a member of the Labour Party from Birmingham says that when his working
class constituency, youngsters causing havoc in the street, committing acts of vandalism for
example or intimidating older people, one of the passersby will say something like - "oh the police
won't do anything about it because it'll be an interference with their human rights".

I think it's extraordinary that on the very day we've had this consultation announced in Australia,
you've had a consensus in the United Kingdom that something has to be done about a charter, bill of
rights that has discredited the whole concept of human rights.

ELEANOR HALL: But do you agree with that? Do you agree that putting in place a bill of rights here
in Australia would discredit the concept of human rights?

BOB CARR: Well, it's happened in the United Kingdom, because of the way it's given extraordinary
powers, taken powers in extraordinary fashion from elected Parliaments, and put them in the hands
of non-elected judges - and that is the nub of the argument.

There's no version of a charter of rights or of a constitutional bill of rights that hasn't had the
effect of shifting power making from Parliaments to non-elected judges.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you speak of course as a former head of government, but proponents argue that
it's not about judges taking over political power, but about putting a human rights check on
governments. Is that such a bad thing?

BOB CARR: Well that's ridiculous, of course it's about judges having extra powers, you can't bring
down a statement with commitments to all sorts of vague concepts; freedom of the press, freedom of
speech, freedom of association, once it has such vague expressions set out in the form of a
charter, then of course it is going to be a matter of how that is going to be interpreted by
judges.

And in one step, you're transferring decision-making from an elected Parliament, to non-elected
judges. If we're going to be serious about it, and if we're going to ask Australians to revise the
way their government works, then make it a matter for a referendum.

ELEANOR HALL: But Australia is the only country in the democratic world that doesn't have a bill of
rights?

BOB CARR: I think that's a ridiculous argument. When in Canada a court can overrule a provincial
government because the provincial government creates incentives for doctors to serve in rural
areas, the court overrules that because it's an interference with freedom of travel.

Where in the United Kingdom a court says the police can't interfere with a group of gypsies or
travellers who pulled down the wall, the fence to private property and occupy the land because it's
an interference with freedom of movement, Australia's entitled to say with pride we don't have
these absurd distortions, we don't have these unintended consequences.

We're one of the freest countries in the world, our freedom stands comparison with any other nation
state in the world and it rests on common law principles, it rests on parliamentary democracy and
it rests on robust freedom of speech.

ELEANOR HALL: Bob Carr it's the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
today, would you have used similar arguments to oppose the adoption of the UN's Human Rights
Declaration back then?

BOB CARR: There's no analogy whatsoever, because it's not enforceable in domestic law. It
represents a standard or a benchmark that countries should try to reach, and Australia, based on
the common law, based on all those principles and conventions I've just referred to, easily exceeds
the benchmark.

In fact, if you compare our status and our standing, with that of the United States, which has got
a full constitutional bill of rights, Australia has got better outcomes. In the end, it's the
political character and culture of a country that determines how free it is, not a bill of rights
that is there to wrench decision-making away from elected people to non-elected judges.

ELEANOR HALL: Bob Carr thanks very much for joining us.

BOB CARR: Pleasure.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the former premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr; an opponent of a bill of
rights for Australia.

China's economic growth understated: Stevens

China's economic growth understated: Stevens

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:22:00

ELEANOR HALL: Economists have backed the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, in his warning that
China's official growth figures are overly optimistic.

The most recent official figures from China show its economy is growing at around 8 per cent.

But a leading economist says the real growth figure is likely to be closer to 5 per cent.

And that's a worrying number for Australian exporters.

As Brigid Glanville reports.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Overall energy and mining exports to China in the 3 months to September increased
by 22 per cent, a figure that's welcomed by economists.

What's not welcomed is the news that also in those 3 months export earnings from some minerals such
as nickel fell by more than 60 per cent. A sign that China's economy is slowing.

Economist, Shane Oliver, from AMP Capital.

SHANE OLIVER: Well, it's quite conceivable that when the data's finally in the growth rate in China
in the December quarter could be around five or six per cent, on an annual basis, but in the
quarter itself it looks quite likely that the economy is virtually stalled.

And that's based on a whole range of indicators including a survey of manufacturers that was
released last week and showed the lowest level ever recorded in that survey, and also a lot of
anecdotal evidence which suggests that factories have been closing and production has been slashed,
particularly along the export (inaudible) eastern seaboard in China.

So all of the evidence would suggests that the Chinese economy right now is growing well below the
eight per cent level.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: While demand has been slowing, up until now exports from Australia to China have
still been increasing. But economist are now warning those export volumes will start to fall early
next year.

That means Australia may no longer be able to rely on China to keep it out of a recession.

Shane Oliver again:

SHANE OLIVER: Now with the Chinese economy also succumbing to the slump in global demand and the
global economy, that's going to mean less demand for our exports going forward.

We've already seen a big slump in national income, that I think will become more evident in the
months ahead. But we haven't yet seen clear evidence of a slump in export volumes.

But over the next few months, going into next year I think we will see quite clear evidence in the
official statistics that Australian export volumes are starting to slow.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: But not all economists agree.

Tim Harcourt the chief economist with Austrade is much more upbeat about China's growth. He
predicts growth will be between seven and nine per cent next year.

TIM HARCOURT: We've had a very, very good run, particularly in terms of prices, volume growth has
actually held up reasonably well in the last couple of years. But I do expect demand from China to
fall, and I also expect that when all the contracts get renegotiated next year there will be a fall
in prices.

But there's still a fair bit in the pipeline to maintain volumes at a reasonable rate, but not,
obviously not as fast as they've been the last couple of years.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Sixty-five per cent of all Australia's exports go to Asia. China takes 13 per
cent.

Most economists now agree that in the short term, demand from China will be flat, but in the medium
to longer term, they're hopeful of a turn around.

Shane Oliver from AMP Capital:

SHANE OLIVER: In the very short term I think there's probably more bad news to come out of China,
it's great to see that the recent stimulus package in China, the move to lower interest rates, move
to stimulate the Chinese property sector. But it will take a while before those sorts of policies
take effect.

So, my feeling is that over the next few months, going to the early part of 2009, growth in China
will remain very weak, possibly even flat on a quarterly basis.

But as we go through 2009, we will see a quick snap back in growth.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Australia's latest export forecasts will be released next week.

ELEANOR HALL: Brigid Glanville reporting.

More grief for Greece

More grief for Greece

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:26:00

ELEANOR HALL: And for a fourth night there have been violent clashes between protesters and police
across Greece, with no sign that the tensions are easing.

The opposition socialist party says the Government has lost control of the situation and is calling
for the Government to resign immediately.

And now a 24-hour general strike over welfare reform is about to stop services and ground all
flights in and out of the country.

Europe correspondent, Emma Alberici, reports.

(Sound of banging and alarms)

EMMA ALBERICI: Greece hasn't seen anything like this since the uprising at the Athens Polytechnic
in 1973, those riots led to the collapse of seven years of military rule.

In much the same way these latest clashes are between those in power and those civilians feeling
powerless. The catalyst this time was the police shooting of 15-year-old, Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

It ignited a general discontent within the community over the Government's handling of the economic
crisis and long-held suspicions that its ranks are plagued by corruption. Scandals involving sex,
money and the church have circled the conservatives for some time.

The latest flashpoint in the conflict overnight came moments after the teenager whose death sparked
the riots was buried; 6,000 mostly young mourners attended the funeral.

YOUNG GREEK MALE (translated): If we do nothing, someone else will be killed. We need to do
something, there needs to be change. We have to unite.

YOUNG GREEK MALE 2 (translated): It wasn't his fault, he was celebrating St. Nicholas Day with his
friends, he had nothing to do with any trouble. Even if he had, it should have never gone that far.

EMMA ALBERICI: And it's young people who are most deeply enraged by Greek politics. They study
abroad but find that even with prestigious university degrees they still have no prospects in their
home country.

Vagia Zeppatou lives in the southern port city of Patras, where thousands of protesters have
attacked police headquarters. She describes the scenes around her home.

VAGIA ZEPPATOU: The banks and supermarkets, the shops, the cars have broken, people with wooden
sticks, stones and petrol bombs are trying to destroy everything in capitalism.

EMMA ALBERICI: In emergency talks overnight, the Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, whose
government holds a one seat majority in the Parliament, failed to reach a consensus with his
opposition about the best way to handle the precarious situation that's left the capital looking
like a war zone.

He emerged from the meetings keen to assert his authority over allegations that the crisis was out
of control.

KOSTAS KARAMANLIS (translated): I assure the president that no leniency will be tolerated in
holding people accountable. No one has the right to use this tragic incident as an alibi for
actions of raw violence.

EMMA ALBERICI: There is no sign that tensions across the country are easing and rather fears that
it's about to escalate as students, trade unionists and other special interest groups prepare to
take to the streets in their thousands during the 24-hour strike which had been planned ahead of
this week's violence.

All flights in and out of Greece have been cancelled due to the mayhem gripping the country from
Thessaloniki in the north to Patras in the south.

This is Emma Alberici for The World Today.

Indian police name Mumbai terrorists

Indian police name Mumbai terrorists

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:30:00

ELEANOR HALL: Indian authorities have released the names and photographs of the people they allege
were involved in last month's attacks in Mumbai and they say they are all Pakistani.

Police have blamed the attacks which killed 170 people on global terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba
and the Government has called on the United Nations to impose sanctions on a linked group which
still operates in Pakistan.

But one analyst says this could backfire and incite more anti-Indian sentiment.

Tanya Nolan has our report.

TANYA NOLAN: The photographs are blurry but they do show the faces of eight of the men Indian
police allege were responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attacks last month. An image of a ninth
alleged gunman was withheld because police say his body was too badly burned.

Mumbai's chief investigator says all men were aged in their 20s, some had just one name and others
used aliases. He says all were from Pakistan.

Police released the information upon announcing they had gathered evidence from the sole surviving
militant, Azam Amir Qasab, who they allege was trained by the proscribed terrorist group
Lashkar-e-Toiba.

India's junior Foreign Minister, Anand Sharma, called on Pakistan to stamp out the group's training
camps once and for all.

ANAND SHARMA: It is in the interest of this region and in the interest of Pakistan's own progress
and stability that they take firm action against the terror outfits which are against their
training camps. And to ensure that the commitment that they have made that their territory will not
be used against India or to carry out terror attacks is fulfilled.

TANYA NOLAN: Lashkar-e-Toiba or LET as it's also known, was outlawed by the Pakistani government
six years ago but its training camps remain in operation.

Pakistan expert Samina Yasmeen, says that's because of its links to a well established Pakistani
charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which has gained strong popularity within Pakistan for its social welfare
work.

The Times of India newspaper is reporting that that the Indian Government is calling on the UN
Security Council to proscribe Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organisation and impose sanctions on it.

But associate Professor Yasmeen, director of the Centre for Muslim States at the University of
Western Australia, says that could further inflame the tinderbox relations between India and
Pakistan

SAMINA YASMEEN: It's got its own core of devoted members who really believe that their (inaudible)
way of thinking does have a solution for Pakistan's domestic system.

Basically it would tantamount to telling these people that the idea of being Muslim is wrong.

TANYA NOLAN: Pakistan's Foreign Minister is warning India to back off. Shah Mehmood Qureshi says
Pakistan will not hand over any militants it's rounded up during raids on LET training camps

SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI (translated): If war is imposed on us we are totally prepared to defend
Pakistan, we want to give a clear message that the defence of Pakistan's boundaries, Pakistan's
geography, Pakistan's ideology, are our responsibility.

We will not tolerate any violation of that, this is a very clear message we want to convey, but our
desire for peace should not be construed as Pakistan's weakness.

TANYA NOLAN: India and Pakistan are operating at cross purposes.

Pakistan has arrested some high value suspects in recent days, including the LET commander in
Kashmir, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi.

He was accused of masterminding the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and is also blamed for the largest
number of terrorist attacks in India in more than a decade.

International terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, says the cold war between India and Pakistan over
disputed Kashmir is undermining the Mumbai terrorist investigations.

ROHAN GUNARATNA: As a result a number of terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba,
Jaish-e-Mohammed, emush(phonetic) in Pakistan. I don't think that Pakistan will be able to crack
down on these groups in the short term, certainly there has to be very significant international
assistance and international cooperation in order for Pakistan to be able to dismantle these
structures that have grown in the last few years in Pakistan.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Rohan Gunaratna, the head of the international centre for political violence
and terrorist research in a university in Singapore, Tanya Nolan with that report.

Obama not involved in US Senate scam: prosecutors

Obama not involved in US Senate scam: prosecutors

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:34:00

ELEANOR HALL: The US political community has been rocked by the arrest of a Democrat Governor who
allegedly tried to sell the US Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Prosecutors say the Illinois Governor was offering the seat to the highest bidder, but they say
there is no suggestion that the President-elect knew anything about it.

In Washington, correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: Just before dawn, the phone in Rod Blagojevich's Chicago home began to ring.

The man on the other end was Robert Grant, the FBI's special agent in charge in Chicago.

He told the Illinois Governor two agents were outside his front door with a warrant for his arrest.

Rod Blagojevich didn't believe him.

ROBERT GRANT: Well, I woke him up, so the first thing was "was this a joke?", but I'll leave the
rest, you know he tried to make sure this was an honest call.

KIM LANDERS: Prosecutors allege Blagojevich had been on a political corruption crime spree that had
to be stopped.

The US Attorney in charge of the investigation, Patrick Fitzgerald, says the most appalling crime
caught on tape was the Illinois Governor trying to sell Barack Obama's newly vacated Senate seat in
return for campaign cash or a new job for himself or his wife.

PATRICK FITZGERALD: The Governors own words describing the Senate seat quote "it's a bleeping
valuable thing, thing you just don't give it away for nothing".

KIM LANDERS: Rod Blagojevich has been charged with soliciting a bribe and mail and wire fraud and
faces up to ten years in jail.

He appeared in court today wearing a tracksuit and sandshoes and has been released on bail.

It wasn't only the Senate seat that Rod Blagojevich was allegedly trying to manipulate.

Prosecutors say he was scheming to send a message that if the Tribune newspaper company wanted to
sell the Wrigley Field baseball park, the price of doing so was to purge some of the paper's
editorial writers who'd been critical of him.

PATRICK FITZGERALD: In the Governor's words, quote "fire all those bleeping people, get them the
bleep out of there, and get us some editorial support" close quote, and the bleeps are not really
bleeps.

KIM LANDERS: Bruce Dold is the editorial page editor for the Chicago Tribune.

BRUCE DOLD: I never had a whiff of this, no-one in the Tribune parent has ever suggested to me what
we should write, how we should write and no one has ever said we had to back of the Governor.

Certainly no one was saying that I ought to get rid of my deputy editor. So I can tell you I think
he ran into a brick wall when they tried to do this.

KIM LANDERS: Patrick Fitzgerald says there are no allegations Barack Obama was involved in any
conversations regarding the Senate seat scheme.

The President-elect says he was unaware of the attempt to profit from the appointment of a new
Senator to serve the remaining two years of his term.

BARACK OBAMA: I had no contact with the Governor or his office, and so we were not, I was not aware
of what was happening. And as I said it's a sad day for Illinois, beyond that I don't think it's
appropriate to comment.

KIM LANDERS: Rod Blagojevich is a Democrat who became Governor in 2003 with promises to clean up
after his Republican predecessor, George Ryan, who's now serving a six year prison sentence after
being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges.

The US Attorney who won that conviction of the previous Governor is Patrick Fitzgerald, the same
man now going after Rod Blagojevich.

Patrick Fitzgerald is also the prosecutor who went after former vice presidential staffer Lewis
"Scooter" Libby.

It's unusual for a federal prosecutor to have on his resume two such politically sensitive
investigations.

Ordinarily it's up to an incoming president to choose new US Attorneys. But Barack Obama has
already pledged to keep Patrick Fitzgerald in his job.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.

ABC centres set to close

ABC centres set to close

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:38:00

ELEANOR HALL: After weeks of uncertainty the receivers at ABC learning, have announced that 55 of
the company's childcare centres will close, and the future of a further 241 centres are in doubt.

The Federal Government says it will appoint its own receiver and will keep the centres open for
now.

The receivers say the outcome is in fact far better than they expected.

Annie Guest was at the receivers' announcement in Brisbane and she joins us now.

So Annie, what does the closure of these 55 centres mean for the parents and the staff?

ANNIE GUEST: Eleanor, about 4,000 children are enrolled at those 55 centres, and the receiver,
Chris Honey of McGrathNicol today said that they'll all be offered places at other ABC centres
within about a 2.5 kilometre radius.

About 80 per cent of the staff at those 55 centres will keep their jobs into next year, and about
100 will lose their jobs.

Now in terms of their entitlements which we've heard a lot of in recent weeks, there's still no
word and that's expected to be part of the Federal Government's announcement this lunchtime.

ELEANOR HALL: And what will the Federal Governments announcement mean for the other 241 centres?

ANNIE GUEST: Julia Gillard is making that announcement at the moment, and The World Today
understands that she is saying that the 20,000 children enrolled at that 241 centres will keep
their places in the short term, because the Federal Government is going to appoint, there will be a
court appointed receiver to oversee those 241 centres.

Now we understand that the receiver Chris Honey of McGrathNichol. came to the conclusion that they
were unviable and that's when the Federal Government stepped in.

ELEANOR HALL: And so the Federal Government will be putting more money in?

ANNIE GUEST: Yes, now we understand that Julia Gillard is going to make an announcement on money
this lunchtime, and that she'll say that the Federal Government wants to find a way to keep these
open at least in the short term.

She's believed to be of the view that there were no options for these parents, and that the Federal
Government saw that there was an opportunity for the Government to have more diversity in the
marketplace and it was going to pursue that.

Of course, ABC Learning was, is the biggest private operator in the market with 25 per cent, it had
25 per cent of Australia's child care places.

ELEANOR HALL: Annie, it's interesting that the receivers said this outcome, with 55 centres closing
and 241 being unviable, was better than they expected; how did they explain that?

ANNIE GUEST: They said that five weeks ago they couldn't have imagined that this would be the
outcome, that it had been a very complicated corporate collapse, and that the process, that they
had been very dependent on Government support and bank support.

We understand that Australia's four big banks are all exposed to ABC Learning, and have continued
their lines of credit. So really the situation without that Government support, particularly today
that we're going to hear more about, would be a lot worse, with perhaps those 241 centres closing
on top of the 55, which amounts to about eight per cent of Australia's childcare places.

ELEANOR HALL: Annie Guest in Brisbane thank you.

Aussie pilot relives Arctic ordeal

Aussie pilot relives Arctic ordeal PRINT FRIENDLY EMAIL STORY

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:42:00

Reporter: Sara Everingham

ELEANOR HALL: Australian pilot Oliver Edwards-Neil is relieved to be on safe ground today.

When his plane crashed in the Arctic, he and his flying partner were stranded for 18 hours on an
ice sheet.

The pair was rescued by a fishing boat but the pilot says he didn't expect to survive the ordeal.

Sara Everingham has our report.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Twenty five year old Oliver Edwards-Neil and his co-pilot were flying to Sweden
from northern Canada when they came into trouble.

OLIVER EDWARDS-NEIL: It was night time, it was after dark and we were over the Hudson and the first
engine, we got lower and lower oil temp on the first engine, then suddenly low oil pressure, and
then the engine, this loud metallic boom and the engine quit and smoke filled the cabin, and yeah,
we started to panic and get into gear and get out the fire extinguisher, and luckily the second
engine was still running.

So we sent out a mayday and said that one of our engines is gone, we're going to try and make it to
our destination on the remaining engine, but if they could be on standby.

Then within a matter of minutes the second engine, we heard this loud bang, and that was gone too.
We were, there was that eerie silence of no engine power.

SARA EVERINGHAM: All he could see below them was icy water, as he told ABC 702's Adam Spencer.

OLIVER EDWARDS-NEIL: We literally had no choice at that stage, the plane was going down no matter
what, and the only question was either to put it on the ice patch perhaps, or in the water.

And we chose to put it into the water next to some ice, and the other plane, on impact the ice and
the water just smashed through all the front windshields and filled the plane with water within
seconds it was up to the roof and yeah, we were just lucky to get out of there alive.

I couldn't get the door or window open, because of the force of the water and managed to smash the
window and get out of there.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The pair managed to get out of the plane and climb across one of the wings onto
the ice.

OLIVER EDWARDS-NEIL: Once we were onto the ice, there was actually nothing to do, the plane totally
sunk within two minutes, we watched it go down and it was a pretty lonely feeling you know, just
the two of us out on this ice sheet, middle of nowhere with no communication, no transport,
nothing.

SARA EVERINGHAM: There they stayed for in the sub zero temperatures for 18 hours.

They hadn't had time to take lights or signals to attract the attention of rescuers.

OLIVER EDWARDS-NEIL: Numerous times the aircrafts came flying within 50 or 60 metres of us, there
were flashlights shone on other areas but ours, so it was really, really frustrating.

SARA EVERINGHAM: They were losing hope, Oliver Edwards-Neil says he didn't think they'd be found.

They decided to hop across ice sheets to get onto solid land, 20 kilometres away.

OLIVER EDWARDS-NEIL: I didn't think we were going to be found actually, I mean, in the middle of
the night when they stopped searching, there was no more activity, we thought okay, in the morning,
as soon as it's light they're gonna come out again, so we held out all through the night,
struggling and fighting with the cold, and in the morning the light came, and nothing.

The pair was eventually rescued by a fishing boat, Oliver Edwards-Neil says he has frostbite but
otherwise his injuries are minor.

So, will he think twice before taking to the sky again?

OLIVER EDWARDS-NEIL: If I can do this then anything else is going to be easier, so it's not going
to stop me, I might take a couple of weeks break though however. Rest for a couple of weeks but
then I'll be back on the horse, no worries.

ELEANOR HALL: Couple of weeks? Australian pilot Oliver Edwards-Neil who's with his companion is
recovering in hospital in Canada from his 18 hour ordeal on the ice sheet in the Arctic. Sara
Everingham with our report.

Basketball slamdunked by financial squeeze

Basketball slamdunked by financial squeeze

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:46:00

ELEANOR HALL: It was once a thriving sport, awash with dollars and popular with fans. But
Basketball in Australia seems to be lurching from one crisis to another.

This week the Cairns basketball team, the Taipans, called in the administrators.

This team's troubles come on top of the demise of the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets and a
shortage of funds at Sydney's surviving team, The Spirit.

Simon Santow has our report.

SIMON SANTOW: Officials from Basketball Australia flew into Cairns this morning to deliver the
players and coaching staff an ultimatum: either take a pay-cut of up to 50 per cent or the club
will have to fold effective, immediately.

If the terms are agreed to by tomorrow, The Taipans will be able to survive at least until the end
of the season.

In its heyday in the 1980s and 90s, Basketball was the 'it' sport.

Crowds flocked for the entertainment and the athleticism, best shown off by the flamboyant imports
from America, like Cal Bruton.

CAL BRUTON: Back in my day we all had nicknames, you know, I was called the Black Pearl. You had
'Leaping' Leroy Loggins, you had 'The Mean Machine' Al Green, you had 'The Chairman of the Boards',
'The Alabama slammer', James Crawford.

You know, we had names, that's how much people wanted to identify with us. Now you go around, these
guys are here for five minutes and if they don't, what so-called, produce the goods and excite the
crowd, help get the Ws on the board - see ya! They're paying them to go out the door.

SIMON SANTOW: Cal Bruton's involvement with the sport wasn't just confined to the boards.

He coached until just a couple of years ago and now despairs at the way the game has been neglected
by administrators.

CAL BRUTON: The game has a strong grassroots participation. There's about 600,000 kids playing the
game, parents are paying exorbitant fees. I coach Marist College here, a little private school, I
see the parents pay for their kids to participate because a skyrocket what the parents pay.

We don't even have referees, a referee with no shoes on here. And this is the capital, supposedly
of Australia and the AIS (Australia Institute of Sport) is based here and all that, and that's the
sort of level that we actually are giving back to the fans at the grassroots. But they're still
paying to get involved.

When you look at rugby league, you look at AFL, you look at Union, man they've got it so
professional at the grassroots level that they don't miss out on all those sponsorship dollars that
govs(phonetic) coming through from that level.

Where we do because, again, I don't think that about people rolling up their sleeves, stepping out
of the schools, doing those promotional programmes, knocking on doors as corporate salesmen, saying
hey this is the product we got to offer.

We got administrators sitting where they sit trying to put out fires all the time and tell the
story why another team just bit the dust.

SIMON SANTOW: Andrew Gaze is one of Australia's greatest ever basketballers. He played with the
best in the world in the NBA and was also a mainstay of the domestic NBL competition.

ANDREW GAZE: There's no question there is some significant issues that have to be addressed, but
I'm actually encouraged by the reform that the sport is going through right now and that the
various changes that are being proposed or suggested are such, that I have very good confidence
that the future is bright.

SIMON SANTOW: Andrew Gaze says basketball needs to diversify from its current set up where all
clubs are privately owned.

ANDREW GAZE: We've seen the ABA level where there's many teams right throughout the country in
every state, and trying to get those up to a level where they can compete and have access into the
highest level of competition, I also believe is a way forward.

SIMON SANTOW: And the former Australian captain says players will need to take their share of the
pain being experienced by their clubs.

ANDREW GAZE: Unfortunately we're faced with a situation where the number of clubs are struggling to
make it work here, the formula needs to be changed and I think that that process has to include
some sort of reform of the players' salaries.

For whichever way you slice it, we're pretty much living beyond our means and we'd rather have a
healthy and vibrant and economically viable competition, that's got to be a starting point, and
along the way hopefully that will include some criteria which enables the top players to continue
to choose Australia as a viable option to make a living.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the former captain of the national basketball team, Andrew Gaze, ending that
report from Simon Santow.

Volunteers wanted for Ibis count

Volunteers wanted for Ibis count

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:50:00

ELEANOR HALL: They're regarded by most city dwellers as remarkably annoying birds, now we're about
to find out just how many Australian White Ibis are in our cities.

This weekend the Australian Museum in Sydney will begin a headcount.

The native bird species has a bad reputation because it picks through rubbish and its nesting spots
often have an overpowering smell.

The bird survey will help identify the main populations and work out why the birds congregate where
they do.

Brendan Trembath has our report.

(Sound of birds chirping, wings flapping)

BRENDAN TREMBATH: I'm walking through the garden of a college in inner Sydney. The tall palm trees
around here have been turned into a home by a small colony of Australian White Ibis.

They're not the loudest of birds - you can probably faintly here them in the background - but they
do make their presence known in other ways. I certainly have to watch out where I'm stepping. The
smell is very distinctive too.

It's one reason why a lot of city dwellers don't like these birds. Bad eating habits are a turn off
too.

JOHN MARTIN: They do sometimes give themselves a bad name by scavenging food from people, getting
food out of bins.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: John Martin is a scientific officer at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

The Museum and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are conducting a big count of Australian
White Ibis in New South Wales this weekend.

JOHN MARTIN: I'm doing a census but we're also asking the community to also do a census, and there
are obviously a lot of sites that we're not aware of, and the community may be aware of.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The researchers want volunteers to help with bird spotting.

JOHN MARTIN: Maybe take some binoculars and do a quick census, count how many birds there are, you
can send the details in of the location, the time and the number that you've counted and also if
you saw birds nesting there and with coloured bands on for example.

You can report that to us and aid our knowledge of the distribution of the species in the Sydney
region and also across the state.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: This morning John Martin was studying a colony at Lake Gillawarna in Sydney's
south-west. There are more than a thousand birds there.

JOHN MARTIN: They're not a bird you may have grown up with, for instance, in the Sydney region Ibis
weren't so common 20, 30 years ago. And so now that they're more common people have that perception
that they're an introduced species and a pest.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: He says the biggest concentrations of Australian White Ibis are in the nation's
south east.

JOHN MARTIN: They used to occur in much larger numbers in the inland wetlands of New South Wales,
south-west Queensland and Victoria. So what you'd classify as the Murray-Darling Basin, they're
there in much smaller numbers now because of the lack of suitable habitat. Whereas in the city,
there's essentially permanent water, abundant food and also abundant habitat.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Are they Indigenous to Australia?

JOHN MARTIN: Definitely, Australian White Ibis. But they do occur in Papua New Guinea and up to the
Moluccas Islands, which is part of Indonesia.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: You're researching them but do you like them?

JOHN MARTIN: Definitely, yeah, they're a charming bird. (laughs)

ELEANOR HALL: Sorry about that, Australian Museum scientific officer, John Martin, speaking to
Brendan Trembath.

Award winning poet Dorothy Porter dies

Award winning poet Dorothy Porter dies

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:54:00

ELEANOR HALL: Australia's literary community has been shocked today by the death of one of the
country's great poets.

Dorothy Porter died from breast cancer this morning aged just 54.

She is best known for her poems "The Monkey's Mask" and the more recent "El Dorado".

Both are fast-paced, intense crime thrillers. And in a rare achievement for poets, "The Monkey's
Mask" was made into a film starring Susie Porter and a young Abbie Cornish in 2000.

Alison Caldwell has our report.

ALISON CALDWELL: Known as Dot to her friends, Dorothy Porter was one of Australia's most widely
read poets.

Her poetry captured the flavour of the times, skilfully juggling narrative and poetry, Dorothy
Porter's verse novels were intense crime thrillers, dealing with murder, lust, innocence and guilt.

DOROTHY PORTER: Just like the others boss, detective sergeant Rodney Mason shifts his great big
slow arse out of my view, and the little girls face is revealed, grubby from the grave, but without
trauma, just dead.

Just dead and just like the others with a gold thumb print on her forehead as if she'd been laid to
rest, cherished, gilded and blessed.

ALISON CALDWELL: One of Dorothy Porters earliest verse novels "The Monkey's Mask" was about a
lesbian private detective who falls in love with a suspect in the disappearance of a young woman.
It became a film and a play and was recently adapted for radio by the BBC.

She spoke to ABC Radio National's Book Show last year about her latest novel El Dorado.

DOROTHY PORTER: A great number of the serial killer genre crime novels that I've read have violent
and sexually explicit and highly repulsive crimes.

And a lot of these books seem to be upping the ante, books seem to be getting more and more
violent, more and more pornographically horrible. And I thought I didn't want to do that, and
certainly that's not how my killer thinks or works. So, my killer is killing children, and that's
the ultimate fear, is the...

MICHAEL GURR: It's the biggest taboo of all isn't it?

DOROTHY PORTER: It's the biggest taboo of all is the child serial killer. And I thought it would be
interesting to deal with this in poetry, because poetry has always dealt with taboo material from
way back. That's part of its sort of holy nature, its vocation is to tackle huge and morally
ambivalent themes.

ALISON CALDWELL: Dorothy Porter grew up on Sydney's northern beaches in the 1950s.

DOROTHY PORTER: And I remember, you know, walking around in my adolescence in a very precious way
with my own little leather bound copy of Keats in my pocket, which I used to read during prayers at
school and so on.

Though I remember I loved Tennyson when I was kid, 'break break break on thy cold grey stones, O
sea, and I would that my heart could utter the thoughts that arise in me'.

One of the few poems I know off-by-heart.

ALISON CALDWELL: To composer and musician, Paul Grabowsky, Dorothy Porter's words were lyrics.

PAUL GRABOWSKY: Well Dot was an amazing life force, she was somebody who I loved working with, she
knew exactly what she wanted, she worked very, very quickly and of course she was the most
incredible wordsmith, as a poet and as a sort of creator of narratives constructed out of verse.
She was without peer.

From a musical point of view, because she was able to distil very complex ideas into a very few,
very powerful words, she of course was a joy to work with, because, you know, her poetry is so
melodious.

In spite of the fact the poetry maybe has a relatively small audience, because of things like
"Monkey's Mask" and "Wild Surmise", these kinds of books, she has a kind of broader outreach than a
lot of other people, within that genre, and she was looking forward, I think, to expanding that
further.

It came as a bolt out of the blue, because I think that apart from the people most close to Dot,
none of us were really aware that she was that sick, and you know, it's an immeasurable loss.

(Sound of music - Katie Noonan singing "The Most Beautiful Thing")

ELEANOR HALL: A shaken Australian composer, Paul Grabowsky, ending Alison Caldwell's report on the
death of Dorothy Porter.