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Healesville residents leave town to avoid fire danger

Healesville residents leave town to avoid fire danger

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:10:00

Reporter: Emily Bourke

BRENDAN TREMBATH: As fires rage in many parts of rural Victoria so too does the debate over the
fire warning system.

Authorities are maintaining they did everything in their power to give the best possible advice to
communities threatened by weekend blazes.

But around the popular tourist town of Healesville where the fire threat has eased, residents are
still opting to leave.

Emily Bourke reports.

EMILY BOURKE: Emergency agencies are still facing questions about whether they did enough to warn
people as the weekend fires roared towards their towns and homes.

Russell Rees is from the Country Fire Authority,

RUSSELL REES: The fire services planned for this day. Their planning was meticulous and detailed.
It was thorough. It was a plan that was put into place with efficiency and effectiveness but the
fires were, as you all know, enormous.

We worked with our communities and we pleaded with them to be prepared. We asked those questions
over and over again, for people to understand the risk that we were facing. The people of Victoria
need to realise that any process that goes through of inquiry is not about the fact that our
emergency services did everything possible they could in their circumstances.

EMILY BOURKE: But authorities are now in the firing line over roads closures.

On Fairfax commercial radio in Melbourne this morning, Michael, a fire survivor from Kinglake, was

MICHAEL: There's just no trust with the police or the CFA. We need to leave and get our generators
and fuel and all that sort of stuff and it's like, they let us leave and then they lock them out
and now we're sort of waiting to find out whether we can leave to get off and get some stuff and we
don't trust that we're going to get back up here.

EMILY BOURKE: Michael's wife Jane said the weekend road blocks could have played a role in the high
death toll in Kinglake. She demanded answers from the Victorian Premier John Brumby.

JANE: We were all told that we could go off and we could meet at a point in Whittlesea and come
back and those people that went off and left their families here, their wives and their children,
who have lost so many, were not, were unable to come back. They went down on the precedence and
they were told that they could leave and come back.


JANE: And they were told, when they got down there to come back, they were unable to come back to
their families. Now that is wrong.

JOHN BRUMBY: Yup. I agree with that.

JANE: Those people left their families here.

JOHN BRUMBY: My understanding is that that problem is resolved today and I will check with the
police authorities this morning after we conclude this interview to make sure that that matter is
resolved and in some areas police have been, everyone has been, I think, trying to do their best
and they've been, in a sense, trying to protect the privacy of communities as well and some of
these areas where, for example in Marysville where there is still deceased persons in houses and
the road is very dangerous, they've not wanted to let people through but I agree with you Jane and
I will check immediately on the completion of this interview that that road has been opened and
that people are allowed back.

JANE: Can I just sort of say that there is a big trust issue that has gone here and you want people
to have that trust factor and to believe in what is being told and that's gone. That would have

EMILY BOURKE: Fires are continuing to burn south-east of Toolangi and east of Healesville.

And while the threat has been downgraded, residents are being told stay on alert with winds
expected to pick up this afternoon.

But already, Healesville residents like Paul O'Dwyer and Frank Wright are clearing out.

PAUL O'DWYER: We are in Healesville, I live on Mount Riddell Road and we have decided to pull out
and go up to Ringwood and stay with friends. The main fire front is further away but the ember
attack is starting to get close to home.

Our two neighbours have decided to stay and fight. One of them is CFA and he has been relieved so
he is going back to protect his home but the rest of us have decided to pull out so yeah, everyone
is pulling back this time. Nobody really wants to stay and face it after what happened up at
Kinglake and that.

FRANK WRIGHT: We live up the other end in Badger Creek up near the weir end and the flames are sort
of going up along the edge of the hill up on Mount Riddell so we thought, well better be safe than
sorry so we are down here staying at memo hall. They set up the hall for sleeping and accommodation
for anyone that wants to be in a safe spot in the middle of town.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Healesville resident Frank Wright ending Emily Bourke's report.

Survivors weigh up their options

Survivors weigh up their options

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:14:00

Reporter: Rachael Brown

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Reporter Rachael Brown is close to the Victoria - New South Wales border.

At Ovens, south of Beechworth at least four people have been killed, more than a dozen homes have
been destroyed and around 30,000 hectares have been burnt out.

Well, Rachael Brown what is the situation there?

RACHAEL BROWN: Well slightly brighter news for Beechworth residents and surrounding areas today.
The fires have been downgraded to an alert, which means people still need to be vigilant but
because of the great weather conditions firefighters have had over the past couple of days - low
temperatures, mild to no winds - they have managed to strengthen containment lines around a lot of
areas on the fire especially the southern flank.

So it's looking good at the moment. Firefighters expect to have those containment lines in place by
today or tomorrow.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: A better outlook but what are the locals saying about should they should stay or

RACHAEL BROWN: It depends on when you go. I've spoken to a hotel owner here in Beechworth and she
said she just wouldn't take the risk. That's what insurance is for. I spoke to a lady who owns the
Stanley pub and she lost her home and was talking to me about the enormous loss that she went
through when she returned there yesterday.

She's lost her daughters shoes, her first christening gown, things that are irreplaceable but still
she says she would do the same thing in a heartbeat again. Her neighbours down the road from her,
she lost, a young couple who'd sent their children away to their grandmother, they perished in the
fire, the man still holding the hose.

So stories like that are abominable and then you go to other areas have survived where the threat
is not as pronounced, just south of the fire where I was yesterday crews were conducting a burn out
and of course, these areas in a good spot in terms of they were below the fire and the fire was
heading north-east but the risk is still there.

They are surrounded by pine plantations so if there is spotting or it gets in there, they're in a
lot of trouble too.

I asked the CFA's fire chief from Harrietville about what the mood in the farming community of
Havilah was there, south of Beechworth.

GARY WESTON: This area probably about 100 people, a mostly farm community.

RACHAEL BROWN: And do know whether most have decided to stay?

GARY WESTON: All of the community here have decided to stay. They are a fairly resilient bunch up
here in Havilah. Yeah, they are pretty rock solid.

RACHAEL BROWN: One man laughed at me before as if there was any other option.

GARY WESTON: Yeah, well old Bill over there is an old dogone (phonetic) from way back and had a
stroke several years ago but he is a pretty tough old boy.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: CFA fire chief Gary Weston, speaking at the farming community of Havilah.

For the people who are leaving, where are they going?

RACHAEL BROWN: An evacuation centre has been set up at Chilton Memorial Hall. Families from places
like Stanley and Dederang who have lost their homes have gone there for the nights previous. There
is staff there from the Department of Human Services, Centrelink, there is financial services and
counselling there and they are starting to rebuild their lives.

Now I understand the Premier John Brumby and his government has received a lot of flak lately about
potential insufficient state warning systems. He's actually in the area today so I am not sure what
kind of community response he'll get here.

But I spoke to the Indigo Shire Council's CEO Brendan McGrath about whether residents think there
needs to be a better warning system in place.

BRENDAN MCGRATH: I think the sentiment is a bit mixed. I think people, a lot of people who live
here have been through this situation in the fires in 2003 so that is still pretty fresh in
people's minds so I think there is a combination of being worried about what might be coming but
also some sense of relief that we're not experiencing some of the stuff that other parts of the
state are, which is all pretty awful.

RACHAEL BROWN: Your community is faring much better than other parts of Victoria. Has there been
much talk, as there has been in other areas, of the warnings? A lot of people are angry out there
they weren't given enough.

BRENDAN MCGRATH: I think we have been pretty fortunate in that regard. Since certainly Saturday
night when the fire started the winds were pretty wild and things moved very quickly so probably
Stanley, Stanley and the outskirts of Beechworth were probably caught a bit by surprise. But really
since Sunday and particularly yesterday and today the winds have been very calm and generally in
the right direction for us so the fire for the last couple of days has been moving very slowly so
people have actually had quite a lot of warning and quite a lot of time to think about plans and
preparations and so forth here.

RACHAEL BROWN: In terms of resourcing, how are your faring here?

BRENDAN MCGRATH: Well look, I think pretty well. I think everyone is pretty understanding of the
fact that resources right across the state are really stretched to the limit. I'm not hearing any
specific reports of being under resourced although I am sure the CFA and others would say if they
had more people and more equipment they could certainly utilise it.

I think communications have been stretched pretty thin with, the fire here is spread over a very
wide area so we have got centres set up in two or three locations which makes communication between
those sites a bit of a challenge but I think, you know, generally it has been about as good as you
could expect given the conditions across Victoria and southern New South Wales.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Brendan McGrath, the chief executive officer of Indigo Shire, and our reporter
there was Rachael Brown.

Damage more extensive than expected

Damage more extensive than expected

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:18:00

Reporter: Simon Lauder

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In the central Gippsland the fire damage is greater than anyone expected and much
of it is yet to be assessed.

Twenty-one people have died in the Churchill blaze and dozens of homes have been lost.

Simon Lauder has been into the area this morning and joins me now.

Simon, what have you seen?

SIMON LAUDER: Brendan, I went along with the Country Fire Authority this morning to an area south
of Churchill in the La Trobe Valley and along Thompson Road which burned only yesterday when the
afternoon winds caused a flare up.

The ground is covered in piles of ash only broken by the stubble of grass and some burnt trees many
of which are still burning.

Among the damage though are some houses which look like the fire came right up to them but managed
to escape being burned themselves.

No houses were lost yesterday but on Saturday, of course, it was a completely different story.

We moved further along this morning to Glendonald Road which is where this huge fire began and the
devastation there is immense. Out of all the houses I saw most of them had been burned to the

We saw bizarre I guess examples of how fire can be a bit random in terms of the damage it causes.
You know, a dog house remaining unburned where the family house is burned down and a house on the
hill 50 metres away unscathed - I guess we don't really know whether those residents stayed to
fight the blaze and whether that was the difference or what happened there but the level of
devastation is completely unexpected by all accounts.

I spoke to someone from the CFA who was in charge on the day and he said he'd actually been
fighting another fire for a week which devastated the area and burnt out 30 houses when this
Churchill fire broke out on Saturday and they pretty much turned around and went there and were met
with one of the worst fires in history.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: And Simon have residents been able to get back in?

SIMON LAUDER: No, they haven't been able to get back in but the damage to the trees makes it too
dangerous and the Country Fire Authority has ordered the roads be blocked and they've been going
through lopping off trees and limbs that are in danger of falling off and perhaps killing people
and electricity contractors are working their way through slowly restoring power to places and the
Country Fire Authority has also got a huge job in assessing the damage, moving from house to house
finding out exactly what has been destroyed and where lives have been lost.

They got some help from the military today. Twenty military personnel coming through to help with
that job and 66 firefighters from South Australia arriving to also help with that job.

I understand most of the area is yet to be assessed and that is going to take quite a long time.

I spoke to the incident controller, Stephen Walls who says the Country Fire Authority is making it
a priority to get people out of the area.

STEPHEN WALLS: There are some people who have been in there without power for a number of days and
because of the trees over the road there was for example a couple who ran out of chainsaw fuel.
They were trying to cut their way out and they ran out of chainsaw fuel. They were trying to do the
right thing and be self-sufficient, that was very good, but because of the sheer length of road and
the number of trees, it has taken us a very long time to get in there.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: CFA incident controller Stephen Walls ending that report from Simon Lauder in
Central Gippsland.

Kinglake tries to get back to basics

Kinglake tries to get back to basics

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:22:00

Reporter: Michael Vincent

BRENDAN TREMBATH: North of Melbourne, roads in and out of the township of Kinglake are partially
opened for the first time since the fires.

Until today, people have largely stayed put despite losing everything. While many are still in
shock, they're attempting to resume normal lives.

That includes getting children back to school.

Michael Vincent is in Kinglake and he joins me now.

Michael, I understand you've just been at a town meeting. What have they said there?

MICHAEL VINCENT. Yeah, hi. It is actually, when they said partially open it is partially open for
the ingress of emergency services and supplies. Residents who have gone off the mountain will not
be allowed back. The meeting has been quite an angry meeting. Some very upset people about that.
They want to be able to get down and come back up.

There's about 1,000 people they say, authorities up here say, that are waiting to come back up and
they do not want them here basically because they cannot cope with 1,000 more people coming back to
this town of Kinglake.

They don't have enough food for them. They don't have shelter for them if they have lost their
homes and they also have to deal with dangers of getting up and down on the road where trees are
still falling. Police say the conveys that go out, they go out with CFA or police. That's safe

If people want to evacuate, they can evacuate but people are simply not going to be allowed back up
here because the police say the roads are not safe. They are still recovering bodies on the side of
the road as well as the fact they do not have the ability to cope with the numbers of people that
are expected to come back up here.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Michael, with things in such disarray, how then are people trying to resume their
normal lives?

MICHAEL VINCENT: Well, disarray may not be the best word. People are trying to organise as quickly
as they can, as best they can. It is now 72 hours. They are getting food, they are getting fuel.
There are more generators coming up here so people can power their homes.

Every basic need is going to be supplied to them including people who want to stay up here who have
lost their homes. There is shelter available, limited, but there is some shelter available.

The process is now, many of the people here are trying to get some sort of normalcy by simply
coming to these daily meetings that are occurring at midday and then again in the afternoon at

They come in to get their food supplies first thing in the morning at the shed and grab a bag of
milk and bread and bits and pieces and take it back to their families.

Just today, they started down at the local primary school, they started a local playgroup for a
couple of hours and they're hoping to keep that going every day with the local kids.

ROS FLEMMING: The kids are enjoying it. The kids have got somewhere to play. They think it is
wonderful. Instead of school they've got two hours of play so they are having a really good time.

The parents are meeting and chatting and that's great so we are trying to run this every day this
week for the moment between ten and 12 for families and kids to come up, kinder kids, older kids
can come up and play.

People have been up helping and working too which is great so we will try and keep it going. We had
some chaplains here today and we hope later in the week to get some more if we can at this meeting

MICHAEL VINCENT. For the parents and the children?

ROS FLEMMING: Yes for the parents and the children. They are happy to talk to anyone or organise
sessions back at the CFA stations.

MICHAEL VINCENT. I can probably count maybe a dozen, maybe a few more children, maybe 20 children
here. Are you surprised there are that many children still up here?

ROS FLEMMING: Yes and no. I said there's a lot have gone and I didn't know how many would come.
There are some I am very pleased to see that I haven't seen yet so I am glad to know they are safe
and well. That is really good.

MICHAEL VINCENT. That would obviously be the hard part for you. Knowing who was going to turn up
and if they would turn up.

ROS FLEMMING: Yes, I know. It is hard, it is hard to get messages out. People don't know about the
meetings at the CFA shed at 12 and we need to get the message out and let other people know and
invite other families and children along.

MICHAEL VINCENT. At what stage, I mean this is obviously going to be a play session for a while
now, at what stage do you think you will be able to reopen the primary and start doing classes of
any sort?

ROS FLEMMING: I don't think it will happen until we have power. I think it is a requirement and
phones because we can't run those things like that. The region has just closed the schools so we
are just using what we can and by the end of the week I'm sure we will have more news but people
can get news if they are here between ten and 12.

MICHAEL VINCENT. These kids look like they are, you know, pretty happy having a play.

ROS FLEMMING: Yeah pretty happy, pretty normal. They are pleased to see their friends. They are
making new friends because there is a few schools on the mountain so we are combining at the moment
and the kindergarten and that too, which is lovely.

MICHAEL VINCENT. They look like it is a welcome distraction, I guess, from hanging around at home
or it they haven't got a home, at their friend's places.

ROS FLEMMING: Yes, I think they have got their play equipment and things facilities here for a lot
of things they haven't got at home so that's important too.

We have even got some older children up here working too. Some ex-students from the school that are
back here helping us which is really wonderful.

MICHAEL VINCENT. How, I mean there is still something smoking over there. There is still the odd
chopper going overhead. Are those sort of things you wish weren't still happening - constant
reminders for the kids?

ROS FLEMMING: I think so but I think they are getting, kids adapt and accept and I think they
distract easily and come back to it. I think we don't so much. I am going to have to mention to the
CFA about these trees over here when I get back to the shed but luckily the school's relatively
safe. It is a safe haven here.

It has been checked by the CFA a lot and they know. And they know, as long as they know we are
here, they will come and help us if the fires flare up again.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Ros Fleming - a teacher in Kinglake speaking to Michael Vincent.

Pathologists admit inability to identify all victims

Pathologists admit inability to identify all victims

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:26:00

Reporter: Alison Caldwell

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Police and forensic pathologists say it might not be possible to identify every
person who has died in Victoria's bushfires.

A taskforce is examining how people perished in the flames; the investigation could take up to 12

Investigators will also look into whether or not some of the fires were deliberately lit.

If arson is to blame, the head of the taskforce says police will find those responsible.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: Justice Jennifer Coate is Victoria's State Coroner. Her office has admitted 101
bushfire victims over the past three days and the painstaking task of identifying each and every
one of them has begun.

JENNIFER COATE: We have implemented our disaster victim identification plan in response to the
significant number of reported deaths as a result of Victoria's bushfires.

ALISON CALDWELL: While it is nothing compared to what families of the dead are now facing, Justice
Coate says her office has a difficult job ahead.

JENNIFER COATE: I do ask, urge and plead with the community to understand that we are engaged in an
unprecedented enormously medically, scientifically and legally complex task and to get that right,
to ensure that we respect the dignity of all of those people that have now come into our care and
to give the answers to the families who have been bereaved by this tragedy, we are going to give
every single person that's come into our care, as much expertise as we can garner in this nation to
ensure that we've got right the identity of those persons that have come into our care and the
tasks of ensuring we understand what has happened to them.

ALISON CALDWELL: Assisting in the identification process is the director of the Victorian Institute
of Forensic Medicine, Professor Stephen Cordner.

He says people need to be prepared for the possibility that their relatives may never be

STEPHEN CORDNER: It is important, I think, that people appreciate that the effects of fire make the
elements that we rely upon to help identify in some cases, impossible to achieve, sadly.

There will be some cases unfortunately, where it will not be possible.

ALISON CALDWELL: Victoria Police has today announced a new taskforce to investigate whether the
fires were deliberately lit, and if so, arrest the offenders.

Involving some of the state's most experienced detectives, Taskforce Phoenix will investigate every
fire death and prepare inquest briefs for the Coroner.

Crime Department Assistant Commissioner Dannye Maloney is in charge of the taskforce.

DANNYE MALONEY: At the end of the day, we hope to produce identify all the victims, establish how
they died and produce inquest briefs on every individual deceased for the information of the
Coroner to determine the cause of death and other issues.

ALISON CALDWELL: He's asked the friends and relatives and neighbours of those killed to cooperate
with police and victim identification teams in the coming days and weeks. Fearing as many as 230
people may have been killed in the fires, he says identifying each one of them will be extremely

DANNYE MALONEY: We have a situation where people do go and seek support from neighbours. Do go to
their houses and try to be safe and sadly those houses are burnt so we have houses there with
unknown people within them that we've now got to identify and track their movement.

Similarly, we have people that left their homes, drove, got trapped, left their vehicles,
pedestrians who were picked up by other motorists trying to escape this tragedy and were killed in
cars in the passenger seats.

We must pin this all together.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Gippsland fires are believed to have been deliberately lit. The first stage of
the Churchill fire started over a week ago and was brought under control. Police believe it was
relit late last week.

There are reports that a photo fit will be released by police this afternoon.

Dannye Maloney shares concerns justice may be forgotten, as a witch-hunt gets underway for those
allegedly responsible for what happened.

DANNYE MALONEY: You are always concerned about fairness and so forth but look, we operate as
investigators on facts and then facts lead to evidence.

I would just encourage responsible media response in due course if in fact we prosecute anybody in
regard to these fires.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Taskforce Phoenix commander Assistant Commissioner Dannye Maloney, ending Alison
Caldwell's report.

Premier talks up SA arsonist programme

Premier talks up SA arsonist programme

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:30:00

Reporter: Nance Haxton

BRENDAN TREMBATH: A South Australian program to crack down on arson could be introduced in other
parts of the country.

Police in South Australia trying to keep an eye on known and suspected arsonists with surveillance
and personal visits.

The program is called Operation Nomad.

South Australia's Premier Mike Rann credits the four-year long operation with preventing a number
of grassfires in South Australia from burning out of control on Saturday, as the state sweltered
under similar weather conditions to Victoria.

He's speaking to Nance Haxton in Adelaide.

MIKE RANN: How that works is that over the years we've got a data base of people who are suspected
of being arsonists or being potential arsonists based on intelligence and information given to us.

They haven't necessarily been convicted but they are suspected. They're what are known as persons
of interest.

So on Saturday 40 persons of interest were visited by police and were told that we were watching
them, that they were under surveillance. To stay at home, not to go out and we've found this to be
particularly effective.

I mean, obviously we can't guarantee anything but the police believe that the number of
deliberately lit fires in South Australia has gone down since we've had Operation Nomad but there
is still a number of them.

I mean we had, a few years ago, about five years ago, I was given information that about 50 per
cent of the fires in the Adelaide Hills were deliberately lit. So far this summer it is about 20
per cent of the fires in South Australia are deliberately lit.

So we think that Operation Nomad is worthwhile. Certainly our fire services, both the Country Fire
Service, Metropolitan Fire Service believe so and so do the police.

NANCE HAXTON: Is that why you credit the program for having such success - because it actually
targets these arsonists really on suspicion?

MIKE RANN: Absolutely. I mean this is, in the last few months we have seen 35 people charged with
offences ranging from deliberately lighting a bushfire which carries a life sentence and we upped
it massively a few years ago to 20 years and now we have made it a life sentence.

But we're also doing this thing about people who are suspicious and we are being pro-active rather
than reactive.

I should say that in addition to turning up and basically letting people know that we are on to
them, we also have what is known as an automated number plate recognition camera which is deployed
and the police load into that camera the vehicles that we know are known arsonists or potential
arsonists and we have, so we have their number plates loaded into the system.

We also have vehicles of their associates as well and these cameras, which are deployed at various
locations, as soon as that car goes by with that recognition built into the computer technology, we
have got our patrols out there following them.

NANCE HAXTON: Is psychiatric treatment offered to those people as well?

MIKE RANN: Before you can compel people to have psychiatric treatment, you have got to have proof
and evidence. We are being more proactive than that. We are basically saying, we are basically
intervening in order to prevent things happening.

I have to say, I find it stunning, I find it stunning that we have got hundreds of people fighting
fires and we have got 120 people preventing these idiots from lighting them.

What I don't like to see however is when people get up before the courts, we hear these bleeding
heart stories about them. I think the public is sick and tired of it. These people are terrorists
and need to be treated as terrorists because that's exactly what they were.

So we shouldn't be diving into the depths of sympathy for people who are basically putting
everyone's lives at risk.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: South Australia's Premier Mike Rann speaking to Nance Haxton in Adelaide.

PM returns to subdued capital

PM returns to subdued capital

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:34:00

Reporter: Lyndal Curtis

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has returned to Canberra as Parliament resumes
regular sittings but the general mood remains subdued because of the bushfire disaster.

Mr Rudd is expected to have something more to say on the rebuilding communities in Victoria some of
which have been almost completely destroyed by the firestorm.

While Parliament is subdued, meetings are continuing on the Government's stimulus package with the
Senate debate resuming.

Chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis joins us now.

Well, Parliament dedicated yesterday to condolence motions. What have politicians said about the
fires so far today?

LYNDAL CURTIS: Well, it had been thought Parliament would be getting back to normal today and there
was some talk about how MPs would handle that, handle the potential for political debate.

MPs arrived at Parliament thinking there would be a Question Time but urging that point scoring be
left at the door.

STUART ROBERT: Look, I think it is with a heavy heart that Parliament will resume. Cognisant that
over 170 lives have been lost.

JAMIE BRIGGS: I am not sure what questions you ask. I don't think people want to see competitive
sort of Question Time as per normal. I think they want to see us come together in support of those
who are still fighting down there.

BRUCE SCOTT: I think it is behoven on all of us today and for the rest of the week to remember
whatever we say in that House, that there are people who are really suffering out there and that
families have lost so much and any theatre in here is something that I couldn't support.

DAVID BRADBURY: There are some serious issues that will be the subject of rigorous debate in the
Parliament. We will continue to have those discussions, but I think we can do that in a way that
pays respect to those people that have lost life and property and at the same time, I think we can
honour their contributions.

LYNDAL CURTIS: But during the morning in between a meeting between the Opposition and the
Government, the decision was taken to cancel Question Time in both Houses of Parliament although
the Greens leader Bob Brown has told the Senate he believes that Question Time should be held every
sitting day even during times of national emergencies.

In the Lower House they will continue to debate the condolence motion that was began yesterday.

The Prime Minister will be the first speaker. He was in Victoria during yesterday's emotional
speakers and didn't have a chance to contribute in the Parliament. Other speeches are expected to
be given by MPs who represent areas affected by fires.

One who won't be there is Fran Bailey. She is still in her electorate which bore the brunt of the
fires on the weekend. Her home town of Healesville has been under a threat warning although that
has now been downgraded.

Tony Smith who holds the electorate next to hers and who is in fact housing her electorate office
staff because they have been evacuated from Healesville will speak as well.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: What's the Prime Minister expected to say about the level of Commonwealth
assistance for fire devastated communities?

LYNDAL CURTIS: Well, the Prime Minister has come back to Canberra after a couple of days in
Victoria. He is expected to go back down there later on. There are three ministers down there today
and others are expected to visit. He is expected to say something today about the reconstruction
effort ahead. The Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has told a Labor caucus meeting this morning
that consideration is being given to a long run Commonwealth support package to assist with

She says the Commonwealth response will continue for the day, months and years ahead. It will be a
mammoth task to reconstruct infrastructure and rebuild homes.

If you take Canberra as an example, there was a firestorm in 2003. Five hundred homes are lost.
Some are still being rebuilt today so that does show you the scale of what is ahead for Victoria.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Apart from the fires, the debate over the stimulus package is going on, some of
it behind closed doors. Are the Senators any closer to deciding whether the measures will pass the
Upper House?

LYNDAL CURTIS: No, not yet. The debate has resumed again in the Senate and that will be running all
night. There have been two enquiries going on. They were both delayed yesterday out of respect for
what had happened in Victoria.

One met late last night and the other one met this morning talking about housing, the public
housing part of the package.

Community groups and the housing industry have told the enquiry that they support the package
although they want benchmarks for states to meet so that things get done.

The Housing Industry Association did quibble with a question from the Greens about mandating energy
efficiency saying that would make the building effort slower.

The Greens do want more energy efficiency measures in the package. The Greens leader Bob Brown is
talking to the Treasurer today as is Nick Xenophon. The other crucial vote, Steve Fielding held
talks with Mr Swan last night.

Senator Fielding wants more help for the unemployed. Nick Xenophon wants lasting benefits from the
package including money set aside from the Murray-Darling Scheme. Now that would be a sizeable
chunk of money you would think to fix that problem so it is not sure how he will go.

His position may be known later today when he speaks in the debate. The Senate will be expected to
vote on this bill on Thursday. The House of Representatives will now have to sit on Friday to
consider what the Senate does.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Chief political correspondent, Lyndal Curtis at Parliament House in Canberra.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a transcript of the Brisbane edition of The World Today which contains a
clarification of the Federal Opposition's position on the Government's economic stimulus package.

Floodwaters recede, but grave fears held for missing boy

Floodwaters recede, but grave fears held for missing boy

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:38:00

Reporter: Nicole Butler

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The north Queensland town of Ingham is seeing the end of the worst floods in 30

The most resilient locals are even donating their disaster relief payments to victims of Victoria's

But further north at the Daintree near Cairns hopes are fading for a five-year old boy who was
taken by a crocodile on Sunday.

And for a 34-year-old man who was swept away by floodwaters near Tully.

From Queensland, Nicole Butler reports.

NICOLE BUTLER: The rain is easing over drenched north Queensland.

The town of Ingham is at last seeing the end of the worst flood in three decade, when the river
cruelly rose and fell twice.

Roads are re-opening, although aerial food drops are still being delivered to isolated homes and

And Wayne Preedy from Emergency Management Queensland says a lot of people still aren't able to
return to their homes.

WAYNE PREEDY: The ones that registered at the emergency accommodation centre is 49 still and other
people we know of self-evacuated to friends and family within the town area.

NICOLE BUTLER: Despite their hardships, locals in the sugar cane town continue to show their
resilience and spirit.

Peter McCarthy from the Communities Department says even though some people have lost everything,
many are offering their disaster relief payments to victims of the Victorian fires.

PETER MCCARTHY: A lot of people have been coming through and while they have suffered loss
themselves and understandably upset at their loss and the damage that their property might have
suffered, a lot of them have made comments to our staff, well we are not as bad off as the poor
people in Victoria. Thank God we are not in Victoria and some of them have even said that they plan
to give some of the money to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

NICOLE BUTLER: Further north at the Daintree it's the third day of frantic searching for
five-year-old Jeremy Doble - who's believed to have been taken by a crocodile.

Acting police inspector Jason Smith says authorities have narrowed down the search to one
particular croc.

JASON SMITH: There are a number of crocodiles that we have in the Daintree River system. A
description has been given to us by the witness and that together with local knowledge of people
that live in the area as well as the missing boy's father who has an intimate knowledge of the
area, we have been able to narrow the likelihood down of being a particular crocodile in the area.

We are suspecting a larger crocodile of approximately four meters in length.

NICOLE BUTLER: Jeremy Doble had been walking with his seven-year-old brother Ryan along a boardwalk
on his family's property on Sunday morning.

The boy's dog jumped into the Daintree River and five year-old Jeremy Doble followed.

His brother Ryan says he saw a crocodile just after his brother vanished - and locals say recent
flooding has brought more crocs into the areas.

Inspector Smith says the search for the young boy has been extensive.

JASON SMITH: We've conducted searches that have not at this stage afforded us any further evidence
or information rather in regard to the attack. We remain hopeful that we will find something but at
this stage we hold grave fears.

NICOLE BUTLER: Further south at Tully another grim search continues today.

Two 34-year-old men were swept away in their car by floodwaters on the Bruce Highway on Saturday

Police Inspector David Tucker says the body of one of the men was recovered yesterday.


New survey paints picture of recession

New survey paints picture of recession

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:42:00

Reporter: Peter Ryan

BRENDAN TREMBATH: A closely watched business survey out today has signalled that the Australian
economy might already be in recession.

The National Australia Bank's monthly business survey suggests confidence is back at recessionary
lows, despite a retail spending inspired bounce in December.

I'm joined in the studio now by business editor Peter Ryan.

Well what does this latest survey tell us about the health of the economy?

PETER RYAN: Well Brendan, this monthly survey says confidence has returned to record lows after a
December blip - back to the levels before the Government's $10-billion stimulus package late last

It says forward orders and employment remain at "recessionary lows", and there've been more falls
in capital spending, and capacity utilisation.

It says manufacturing, transport and construction are also falling rapidly to recessionary levels.

Exports are sharply lower and the survey implies no growth at all in domestic demand for the time
being at least.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: But the gloomy outlook is not necessarily the case for the electronic retailer JB

PETER RYAN: Yes, Brendan. JB Hi-Fi is bucking the trend. It's notched up a half year profit of
$59-million. That is a record and a 40 per cent improvement on this time last year.

The retailer is expecting another strong year of steady profit margins, despite a lot of
discounting it has withstood from its competitors.

There have been strong sales particularly in home entertainment, games, satellite navigation,
computers and mobile phones and the retailer's chief executive Richard Uechtritz says JB Hi-Fi is
now planning to open 150 new stores in Australia and New Zealand over the next couple of years.

And he's examining a range of expansion opportunities as competitors bite the dust.

RICHARD UECHTRITZ: Companies like Crazy Clarks and GoLo are possibilities and some car sound sales
that would otherwise have gone to the Strathfield business upon closure of some of those stores.

Like a lot of industries, the big are getting bigger and stronger. Ourselves, Harvey Norman, the
Good Guys - most other players are struggling.

Large retailers will come out of this downturn in an even stronger position.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The chief executive of JB Hi-Fi, Richard Uechtriz.

But could those expansion plans come unstuck Peter Ryan, if the global economic deterioration
plunges Australia into a recession?

PETER RYAN: Well Brendan that is an ever present threat and no chief executive at the moment is
willing to lock him or herself into any profit estimate.

But Richard Uechtriz noted the benefits of deep cuts to official interest rates recently and the
prospect of more to come.

And he believes the government's $42-billion stimulus package will help consumer confidence.

But as I said, like many CEO's at the moment, Mr Uechtritz is looking at an uncertain horizon and a
range of volatile factors that really do underline the risks ahead, especially given the prospect
of rising unemployment.

RICHARD UECHTRITZ: No one can guess where we're going. We can make some good assumptions on where
everything is going but all we can do is do what retailers should do and let the broader factors
look after themselves.

If, for example, unemployment goes up and if the sales are not as strong as they are but we are
doing everything right, then we are happy.

And remember, we have traded through this period and there is probably only one other company in
the country being Woolworths that have traded strongly through this period.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The chief executive of JB Hi-Fi, Richard Uechtriz.

The strong result from the company was something of a surprise given the current trading
conditions. How has the share market reacted?

PETER RYAN: JB Hi-Fi shares jumped more than 14 per cent after that profit announcement. Mainly
because of that unexpected news but there was another surprise result this morning from the maker
of the bionic ear, Cochlear. Its half year profit rose 22 per cent - better than expected at
$70-million and Cochlear's shares are up around four per cent this morning.

All this on a day importantly when the overall market is weaker with concerns about the overall
local economy and global economy and as a result the All Ordinaries is down around one per cent.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Business editor Peter Ryan.

Rio head steps down

Rio head steps down

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:46:00

Reporter: Sue Lannin

BRENDAN TREMBATH: There's more turmoil at the top of one of the world's biggest mining companies.

The incoming chairman of Rio Tinto has resigned, just weeks after his appointment.

Jim Leng's departure is the latest setback to hit the company, just a few months after BHP Biliton
abandoned a hostile takeover bid.

Finance reporter, Sue Lannin has more.

SUE LANNIN: Things seem to be going from bad to worse for Rio Tinto; the end of the commodities
boom, massive debt and arguments over how it's going to survive the global recession.

PETER ARDEN: I would call it a bit of a clash of cultures.

SUE LANNIN: Peter Arden, research analyst at stockbroking firm, Ord Minnett.

He says Rio's incoming chairman Jim Leng was pushing for change.

PETER ARDEN: Rio Tinto's a very proud sort of mining, culture driven and has a very proud mining
culture and Jim Leng would be seen as a bit of an outsider. He would probably be finding it
difficult to get them to change the way they have always done things.

SUE LANNIN: The main bone of contention is Rio's big debt.

It owes nearly $US40-billion because of its takeover of aluminium producer, Alcan.

The company has been selling off its businesses to try and pay off the debt.

Its major shareholder, the Beijing backed Chinalco, has offered to buy some of its assets.

Jim Leng says he resigned because of a difference of opinion and he's believed to oppose the deal
which could give the Chinese company a bigger stake in Rio.

Peter Arden again.

PETER ARDEN: The choice is, if they don't repay the debt, they become a defaulter and they don't
want to do that. It's a great company and they wouldn't want to let it get to that. I think really
what Rio Tinto is trying to do is actually give themselves a buffer. They actually want to sell a
few more assets and give themselves more breathing space to show the market that, you know, they're
not under any future pressure.

But I think it looks like Jim Leng, you know, didn't want them to sell the crown jewels to do that.

SUE LANNIN: The spotlight is now on the future of chief executive Tom Albanese.

Shareholders were already up in arms over the board's rejection of rival BHP Billiton's hostile
takeover offer.

Resources analyst James Wilson from DJ Carmichael in Perth.

JAMES WILSON: I would certainly think that Tom Albanese would be under a lot of pressure from, from
the board but I mean, given the fact that Jim Leng has stepped down, it does show that he does have
support from the board in favour of giving an equity stake to someone like Chinalco.

So he still does have a lot of support there and that, you know, is basically the reason that
someone, the likes of Jim Leng can step down because Jim doesn't have obviously the support from
the board.

SUE LANNIN: All eyes will now be on Rio's financial health as it releases its annual profit results
on Thursday.

Its share price crashed further since BHP Billiton walked away from its takeover bid in November.

Last week BHP said its earnings for the past six months had fallen by just over half because of the
slump in commodities prices.

James Wilson again.

JAMES WILSON: What we've seen from people like BHP is that their iron ore business is still going
great guns considering the current crisis. They're still making a lot of money out of those
operations so we expect similar kind of things from Rio Tinto.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Resources analyst James Wilson, ending that report by finance reporter, Sue

Italian woman in euthanasia controversy dies

Italian woman in euthanasia controversy dies

The World Today - Tuesday, 10 February , 2009 12:50:00

Reporter: Barbara Miller

BRENDAN TREMBATH: A comatose Italian woman at the centre of a euthanasia controversy has died in
hospital after doctors switched off her feeding tubes.

The woman's fate has polarised the country, pitting the Vatican and the Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi against the courts and the President.

Her death was announced as the Italian Parliament was debating emergency legislation to try and
force doctors to keep her alive.

Barbara Miller reports.

BARBARA MILLER: Seventeen years have passed since Eluana Englaro was left in a coma following a car

She was 21 at the time.

But her death - when it came - was sudden.

Doctors had begun switching off her feeding tubes on Friday, after her father won a long legal
battle to let her die.

But she was expected to live for at least a week.

The government of Silvio Berlusconi was trying to use that time to reverse the decision to end her

Mr Berlusconi had issued a decree to that end but President Giorgio Napolitano refused to sign it.

The Government then drafted emergency legislation to force doctors to keep her alive. That Bill was
being debated in Parliament as the news came that Eluana Englaro had died.

Gaetano Qaugliarello is a senator in the centre-right coalition.

GAETANO QAUGLIARELLO (translated): Eluana has not died. Eluana has been killed.

BARBARA MILLER: The Opposition had been set to vote against the Bill to try and keep Eluana Englaro

(Anna Finocchiaro speaking Italian)

BARBARA MILLER: Senator Anna Finocchiaro accused the coalition and Silvio Berlusconi of what she
called extraordinary, vulgar and grim profiteering.

The case has polarised Italian society and dominated political debate.

Gaetano Rando is an Associate Professor in Italian Studies at the University of Wollongong.

GAETANO RANDO: There are other things going on in the political scene. Italy is, of course,
involved in a financial crisis along with everyone else but in the last few days that really hasn't
been mentioned.

BARBARA MILLER: Gaetano Rando says Silvio Berlusconi's intervention in the case was typical.

GAETANO RANDO: Berlusconi, in general, is well-known for trying to override matters on a number of
issues. I guess it is difficult to fathom out how convinced Berlusconi might be of this but for
whatever reason Berlusconi is putting, the Right to Life line, it is also involved with her modus
operandi politically.

So in a sense it's yet another example of Berlusconi pushing through to get what he wants
irrespective of whatever checks and balances there may be in the process.

BARBARA MILLER: Is it a big blow to him then that he failed in that attempt?

GAETANO RANDO: I should think it would be. Berlusconi has been seen both in his business ventures
and on the political scene as really wanting to get to where he wants to go and I think what has
happened in the past tells us that whatever Berlusconi doesn't it is somewhat of a problem for him.

BARBARA MILLER: Eluana Englaro has passed away.

But the right-to-die debate will live on in Italy.

President Napolitano is in favour of passing a law on living wills, to allow people to stipulate
what medical treatment they would want in the event they later become unable to make a decision

That's fiercely opposed by the centre-right coalition and by the Catholic Church.

In response to the announcement of Eluana Englaro's death, a Vatican spokesman said may the Lord
welcome her and forgive those who led her there.