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Fears new building code will delay reconstruction of fire razed communities

Fears new building code will delay reconstruction of fire razed communities

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

Reporter: Emily Bourke

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Police in Victoria investigating reports of deliberately lit bushfires have made
two arrests.

The fire threat in the state has eased with more favourable weather and work by fire-fighters to
stop bushfires spreading.

But now the State Government, insurers and residents are contemplating the enormous task of
rebuilding entire communities from the ground up.

There are concerns that any moves to toughen up building rules in fire-risk areas will add
significant time and cost to the reconstruction effort.

Emily Bourke reports.

EMILY BOURKE: The clean-up is well underway according to the Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce

BRUCE ESPLIN: At this point in time we have 400,000 plus hectares of land burnt; 1069 homes lost;
181 lives unfortunately lost; over 7,000 people displaced; and many, many thousands of enquiries to
the Red Cross in relation to family and friends.

The power companies are doing everything they can where it is safe to go into those communities and
re-rig lines, provide backup generation where it is appropriate. But I would just stress that some
of those communities, some of those areas are not yet safe. The fires are still burning actively
and aggressively.

Also there is still the process where the police, the fire services and the Australian Defence
Forces are doing the disaster victim identification process and the work of identifying properties
where there may be bodies continues.

EMILY BOURKE: Despite the massive scale of the task, there are precedents for such operations.

Tony Powell is a retired town planner and civil engineer and he was the chairman of the Darwin
Reconstruction Commission after Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

TONY POWELL: The key issue is sewerage, controlling sewage because that is a health hazard so that
is the first item of repair. The second is the restoration of water. Then the third is the sort of
secondary clearing of things like unstable vegetation, trees and that sort of thing and roadside
clean-ups; and also to clear spaces for the incoming equipment and people and cars and trucks and
everything that are going to descend on that place very quickly.

EMILY BOURKE: There's been an overwhelming response from construction companies, builders and
tradesman offering their skills and services.

Brian Welch is from the Master Builders Association of Victoria.

BRIAN WELCH: We have a list of over 100 companies that are volunteering their services to help in
any way. I am passing that information across now to the Insurance Council so they in turn can pass
it to the insurers and hopefully building work can commence as quickly as possible.

We could certainly provide, under their direction, temporary accommodation for people, preferably
close to where these people lived. And then we will need to negotiate, the insurance companies will
need to negotiate with their clients to see what building they want replaced, the size of it, the
scale of it, go through the process of getting the plans finalised and permits received and then
you can start building.

EMILY BOURKE: But with the State Government keen to toughen up building codes for high fire-risk
areas, there's concern about delays and a blowout in costs.

Brian Welch from the Master Builders Association wants clarity.

BRIAN WELCH: I wouldn't image regulations would be through the system in less than six months and
that process of course is going to delay those people who are wishing to rebuild. And it's
certainly going to be a burden on insurance companies because if they are obliged to provide
temporary housing then their costs will escalate dramatically.

So I think in the interests of those that are affected by the fire and those who are willing to get
the job done, we need clarity, we need it soon.

I also have a concern for those people unaffected by the fire who may face, who knows, $20,000
increases in costs when they were ready to build. They may now not have the money to build.

EMILY BOURKE: The death toll stands at 181 and that's still expected to rise.

Police believe the fire Churchill was deliberately lit and perhaps arson was also to blame for the
Marysville blaze.

Two people have been arrested in relation to suspicious behaviour relating to the fires between
Seymour and Yea north of Melbourne. No charges have been laid.

Earlier today detectives from the special taskforce investigating arson attacks questioned a
separate man but have discounted his involvement.

This afternoon, Melbourne's Catholic Archbishop will offer a mass at St Patrick's Cathedral for the
bushfire victims and in Canberra the Prime Minister's office has announced there will be a national
service to honour the victims of the fires. The details are still to be released.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Emily Bourke reporting.

Proud Toolangi residents pick up the pieces

Proud Toolangi residents pick up the pieces

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:15:00

Reporter: Michael Vincent

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The small Victorian town of Toolangi was spared the worst of Saturday's fires
with only a few properties lost but about half the town's 300 locals chose to evacuate. The fire
threat has now lifted.

The town is a proud one. It's the birthplace of the famous poet CJ Dennis whose best known poem is
The Sentimental Bloke.

Reporter Michael Vincent toured the town this morning and he joins us on the line.

Well Michael, what is the mood of the townsfolk?

MICHAEL VINCENT: Well at the public meeting this morning it was calm. There was some anxiety and
yet some sort of quiet stoicism and good humoured. These people know that, these people have been
isolated because the fire burned around the town centre and they are very aware, they tell me that
there is still a lot of fuel that a fire, if it does come back, could burn.

So today is the first day in five days that they have had the threat lifted but the town has been
filled with smoke and as one of the local leaders told me, today is the first day the sun has not
been blood red.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: What services are they getting restored first?

MICHAEL VINCENT: Yesterday they got a doctor and a couple of nurses and a counsellor in. People
were asking about counselling services, those (inaudible) for a few as they are expecting a few
more today.

I was with a convoy of people including Red Cross. They are taking names down now hoping to
reconnect loved ones.

The couple of technicians from Telstra were there to tell people they are hoping to put phone lines
on so people can have what other places like for example where I am now back in Kinglake, so they
can have communication services, internet maybe, maybe phone lines. They are just trying to sort
that sort of stuff out.

Like I said, it is good humoured. One of the guys, one of the Telstra guys told people that they
could reconnect their home phone, maybe put it through to their mobile. Someone piped up from the
back of the crowd and said, 'But hang-on, that means the telemarketers can get hold of us'. So
people are quite good humoured given the circumstances they are under.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Never safe from telemarketers.

So how would you say that locals are coping day-to-day?

MICHAEL VINCENT: Well, I did see people enjoying the fresh fruit and veg. Kids sort of coming in
and chatting to each other in the town hall that is named after the famous poet CJ Dennis. It is a
very small hall but it is now filled with food and blankets and people coming together and seeing
each other each day.

They are very aware that, like I said, they have still got a lot of fuel that could burn around
their property.

I talked to one woman about her kids. To keep her kids busy, get them out doing the chores. The
chores are now cleaning up, cutting down, getting rid of brush and making sure that their
properties are as fire safe as they can get them. And yeah, she just said that with a smile on her

But you know, these people know that if a fire comes back that they will have a struggle on their

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The fire threat has lifted but are there still many fire-fighters about?

MICHAEL VINCENT: There was a quick briefing given by fire-fighters from the Department of
Sustainability and Environment then they rushed off to do a bit of back burning.

Someone did ask them if they were doing a bit of back burning because a lot of smoke was coming up
into her property and they said, 'Yes, we'll get back up there right now'.

So they are trying to put in containment lines and it's simply a very big task for a very small
town. They know that fire-fighters are busy elsewhere but they know that if they can get a lot of
the work in now, they might be better protected if, as I say if, a fire does return.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Michael Vincent in the small Victorian town of Toolangi.

Survivor shuns 'death valley'

Survivor shuns 'death valley'

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:18:00

Reporter: Alison Caldwell

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The homeless from Victoria's fires have to make some hard decisions.

One family who lost their house is now living in a tent in Yea.

Reporter Alison Caldwell spoke to the 23-year-old Ricky Petkovski. He says there's no way he'll be
returning to an area he now describes as 'death valley'.

RICKY PETKOVSKI: Well we've got people on standby at the moment. They go if you need a place to
stay, clothes, food, whatever like you've had here to survive on, is you are more than welcome to
come and stay at our place. Just go there, relax and don't worry about nothing. One step at a time
you can gradually build what you've lost.

It is heart wrenching to know that your house is actually gone but you have walked away with your
lives, you have escaped with your lives and that is the main thing.

Family sticks together and one step at a time to achieve what you've lost.

ALISON CALDWELL: Do you think you'll want to move back to Flowerdale?

RICKY PETKOVSKI: Me, personally, no. My dad he goes 19 years of living up there, he goes I'm not
going to have a fire like this make us move away from the area. He goes, I'm going to put up this
fight and I want to build there.

But mate, it is him against the rest of my family. We do not, we do not want to move up there. We
have been up there for 19 years and I think that's what it was told and I don't want to go back
there. I have seen enough.

ALISON CALDWELL: Why don't you want to go back? Because it was such an awful experience or are you
afraid it might happen again?

RICKY PETKOVSKI: Yeah, you can say it was a very awful experience. We had a scare a while back but
that didn't get as severe as what this one got and the intensity of how this one is. Nah. This was
a sign saying nah. For us anyway, for my dad, yeah he wants to move back and build. This is as
scary in 19 years of something to seen. Just build up gradually and just move away a bit. Mmm, not
for me.

Look where we are. Sitting in a tent outside on a bed that was set up for us.

ALISON CALDWELL: It looks like an army camp bed.

RICKY PETKOVSKI: Yep, yep. Sitting out there on this, my mansion you could say. A 12 or a six
person tent.

ALISON CALDWELL: I heard somebody came down and gave you a caravan full of stuff. That's amazing.

RICKY PETKOVSKI: Yeah, I helped unload some of the stuff out of that one yesterday. Then I got told
yesterday that someone donated it to a fire victim. And you're lost for words to describe, you
know, you don't know how to say, what to say and he goes, 'I know youse have gone,' he goes, 'this
is from me to you and just say thank you'. You know God bless. It means a lot. One person who paid
money for this thing is just donating it to someone who has lost their house and it is full of
goodies inside which is, thank you, you know. It's unbelievable but there is people with hearts out
there that can actually help people that have lost something.

ALISON CALDWELL: Can you look down the track, say three months down the track? Where would you see
yourself in three months?

RICKY PETKOVSKI: Um, I don't know. Hopefully in a house. Not in our mansion which is a tent at the
moment but. But we'll be helping people out, putting people into homes and um, that will probably
be our home for temporary until we can find out whereabouts we stand and take off from there.

Because we don't want to see death valley, what people have called it and just memory lane you
know. Every time you drive through there your heart clenches up. You don't know what to think, what
to say. You start crying over what is in front of you.

I don't know. But yeah, if we can get a house, if they can find one for us which a lot of people
have been finding and getting into homes slowly, well I guess we will move into that and work out
where we are going to build from where we are living, where we were living at the moment to where
we are staying when we find a place.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Ricky Petkovski speaking to Alison Caldwell.

Stimulus package in the balance

Stimulus package in the balance

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:22:00

Reporter: Lyndal Curtis

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Federal Government has given some ground in the effort to get its $42-billion
stimulus package through the Parliament.

It's cut some of the cash payments by $50 and it's willing to work on some of the ideas put forward
by the cross-bench senators.

But it will not back an amendment by independent Senator Nick Xenophon to give more money to fix
the Murray Darling Basin.

So what will happen to the package?

Chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis joins us now.

Lyndal, where has the Government given ground?

LYNDAL CURTIS: Well Brendan, it's actually something of a surprise that the Government has given
ground at all. There had been no signs that the Government was going to give any ground until a
short time ago. No amendments at all were being circulated and no side was saying they were
anywhere close to a deal.

But the Government's Superannuation Minister Nick Sherry has since told the Senate that the
Government will cut the value of two of the $950 bonuses - the one going to single income families
and the more general one to all those with a taxable income under $100,000 - cut those to $900.

NICK SHERRY: We do not reduce these payments lightly because we know they are essential to support
growth and jobs in the near term but we have decided on this small reduction which maintains the
overall effectiveness of the Government's plan, supporting jobs and growth while taking into
account the views of others.

The Government is acting responsibly to protect jobs and businesses by ensuring these bills are
passed. We hope others will see the need to act responsibly and in the interests of Australia at
this difficult time.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Now those cuts in the bonuses which the Government says will save about $500-million
had been proposed by Nick Xenophon, the independent Senator in order to free up some money for the
Murray Darling.

The Greens have proposed action on green jobs, help for the unemployed and the Murray Darling as
well and Family First wants a job package and help for the unemployed.

Senator Sherry says the Government is prepared to look at some of those proposals but not all.

NICK SHERRY: The Government has had constructive discussions with Senator Brown over the past week.
Senator Brown has proposed a number of sensible and pragmatic options all designed at stimulating
the economy and supporting jobs and the Government will be working with Senator Brown to see a
number of these proposals are realised.

Senator Fielding has made a good proposal on a community based jobs plan. The proposal has merit
and we have indicated we wish to work with Senator Fielding to move that proposal forward. It will
require some more work but we are confident that we can move on it. He feels strongly about the
issues; he expressed that yesterday. And we share his concern, passion, commitment and focus.

Senator Xenophon has proposed to us over the past week a number of bring forwards to Murray Darling
programs. That's reflected in the amendments that have been circulated in the Senate this morning.
We have indicated to the Senator our willingness to bring forward very significant funding.

As Senator Xenophon this morning has circulated an amendment which deals with the Murray Darling.
The Government will not be supporting that amendment.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Superannuation Minister Nick Sherry.

Lyndal Curtis, will this be enough?

LYNDAL CURTIS: Well it's likely to be enough for the Greens. Bob Brown the Greens leader has just
told Parliament that the Greens have made very substantial progress in negotiations with the
Government and they are very close to a final agreement.

He says that the Government has freed up some money by cutting some of those bonuses from $950 to
$900. He says the Greens will not take a sledgehammer to the Government package.

But they are close to amendments which will relax the liquid assets test. That's the amount of
savings that someone for example who is unemployed has to run through before they can get
Government help. There will be energy efficiency measures that the Greens have been calling for.
Even down to very specific issues like continuing funding for a bushfire community research centre
in Melbourne and Bob Brown says taking that global, increasing funding for the Australian Bureau of

So the Greens do look like they are very, very close to a deal with the Government. From what you
heard Senator Sherry say, it may well be that Senator Fielding is also happy.

But the major sticking point may well be the refusal to back Senator Xenophon's amendment. That
will depend of course on what deal the Greens have struck with the Government on the Murray Darling
Basin because they have their own changes that they want.

But Senator Xenophon made it very clear on his way to Parliament that he wants money brought
forward to help the river system.

NICK XENOPHON: The Government is putting me in an impossible position. I want to do the right thing
by the nation. I want to make sure that this package is in the national interest and it can't be in
the national interest if you ignore the plight of the Murray Darling Basin and you don't bring
forward the money that has already been allocated to fix up the basin.

LYNDAL CURTIS: So you will vote no?

NICK XENOPHON: Well, the Government is putting me in an impossible position and that is my dilemma
and I take this responsibility very seriously. But the fact is, this package will not work, this
package will not do what it's meant to do unless you sort out the Murray Darling Basin.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Is it possible to say if the package will go through?

LYNDAL CURTIS: I don't think you could say anything with any certainty at this point in time. It
still remains a moveable feast as I said. While the Greens look close to a deal and there is the
possibility of a deal with Senator Fielding, Senator Xenophon is probably the major sticking point.

Senator Xenophon only recently circulated the details of his amendments on the Murray Darling. As
you heard Senator Sherry say from the Government's point of view, they are prepared to bring
forward some payments, but will it be enough for the South Australian independent?

If the signals from Senator Xenophon's office are right, then the package still looks to be on very
shaky ground.

Of course sitting on the sidelines, having dealt themselves out of negotiations is the Coalition
which opposed the package. And of course if the package doesn't pass you know it will be the
Coalition feeling the full force of the fury from the Government rather than the cross-bench

The vote is still at midnight. The pressure is building and Senator Sherry was making the pitch
again for the package to pass.

NICK SHERRY: So I say to the cross-benches, to the minor parties and the independents, this is
decision time.

Are we to be the only country in the world that has been debating a fiscal stimulus package, that
rejects that fiscal stimulus package? Are we to be the only country to date that has been debating
these issues and the importance of a fiscal stimulus package that rejects a critical stimulus
package which is necessary to underpin our economy and jobs during this emergency and this emerging
world economic crisis?

So there is a heavy responsibility on the crossbench parties and the independents to support this
package and I would appeal to them. This will be, this is the hour, this is the decision making.

Australia needs this stimulus package and I urge the Senate to support it.

SPEAKER: Minister your time has expired.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: And the Minister who was cut off, Senator Nick Sherry speaking in Parliament.
Lyndal Curtis joining us from Canberra earlier.

Environmentalists accused over hazard reduction

Environmentalists accused over hazard reduction

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:29:00

Reporter: Oscar McLaren

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Fires are still burning across Victoria but already there are accusations that
outspoken environmentalists have contributed to the severity of the fires.

Some environmentalists are being accused of putting the welfare of native habitat before the
welfare of humans.

A former specialist in fire weather says the environmental movement has undermined hazard reduction
policies .

Oscar McLaren filed this report.

OSCAR MCLAREN: The devastation brought by the Victorian bushfires is of a magnitude not seen

But David Packham of Monash University says there's a clear explanation for that.

DAVID PACKHAM: The green movement has developed a manifesto that prescribed burning is not a good
thing for our environment and that in fact they have gone so far now, there are scientific papers
where they say this, that these large, disastrous fires are actually good for our biodiversity.

Now my view is that that's absolutely rubbish.

OSCAR MCLAREN: David Packham says fire management has been taking place in Australia for 40,000
years but present policies have changed those practices.

DAVID PACKHAM: If you can reduce your fuels by one-tenth, you actually reduce your fire intensity
by one-hundredth and that is what the Indigenous people did in their stewardship of Australia for
30 or 40,000 years and we have thumbed our noses at what they did.

OSCAR MCLAREN: Ray Nias from the environmental group the WWF maintains that fire management is too
complicated to talk about as a single issue.

RAY NIAS: Fire is a fundamental part of the Australian environment and its ecology. Fire management
in Australia is however very complex. In parts of Australia fires can be too frequent, not frequent
enough or at the wrong time of the year. Some ecosystems only survive in the absence of fire while
others require regular fire.

OSCAR MCLAREN: And he says deciding what policy to take is best left to fire authorities.

RAY NIAS: In our view the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and the various
bushfire management agencies in Victoria are amongst the most competent in the world in dealing
with fire and the environment and they deserve our support and respect and we would, our policy
would be to support the scientific study and analysis conducted by those agencies.

OSCAR MCLAREN: Ray Nias also says the recent fires should inspire discussion about whether it's
safe to live in some areas of heavy bushland at all.

RAY NIAS: People choose to live in places like the mountain ranges of Victoria, South Australia,
New South Wales and elsewhere where there is a high bushfire risk and so, you know, we need to
realise that people are, more and more people are living in those high bushfire prone areas and
that in itself is an issue.

OSCAR MCLAREN: David Packham say that even in heavily vegetated areas, fire management is good for

DAVID PACKHAM: If they walked through some of the good prescribed burns afterwards and I've seen
insects and stuff come out from underneath my feet, out of the leaf litter and you can almost hear
them saying, oh God, what was that.

OSCAR MCLAREN: The Nationals Senator Ron Boswell believes it's time to reassess the management of
some national parks. He says the parks are understaffed and allowing logging and other commercial
activities back into some of them could help.

RON BOSWELL: You know, the people who can manage this best of all are the forestry people; they
understand it, the people that have worked in the forestry all their lives. They understand it and
if they are allowed to do their jobs, they do it properly.

But they've also got to be able to be in there and there has got to be enough people in the
national parks. There is never enough people in the national parks. It is one thing to say hurrah,
look what I have just done, I've created a national park. But that doesn't work if you put 13
people in a park that should have 130 people in it.

OSCAR MCLAREN: But for Ray Nias from the WWF, the Victorian fires mark the beginning of a new era
which will need a complete rethinking of bushfire policies.

RAY NIAS: One thing we can be sure of is that climate change will make things much worse in that
regard. And I think it's important for us to consider that we might need to fundamentally rethink
how we live in those landscapes, given that they are going to be, in many parts of Australia, for
example in Victoria, probably much hotter and much drier in the future and therefore more likely to
be prone to massive wildfires.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Ray Nias from the WWF ending that report from Oscar McLaren.

Telephone warning systems another bushfire season away

Telephone warning systems another bushfire season away

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:34:00

Reporter: Simon Santow

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Many of the survivors of Victoria's bushfires have said they wished they'd had
more detailed and earlier warning of the approaching firestorm.

It seems they could get their wish, but only in time for next summer's bushfire season.

The Federal Government says it has the legislation ready to introduce a standard telephone alert
system across the country. But as Simon Santow reports, there's a level of frustration that it was
not in place sooner.

SIMON SANTOW: Out of tragedy, there's often anger in amongst the grief. Then there's the soul
searching - just what could have been done differently or additionally to somehow lessen the human

For Victoria's Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin the idea of having a telephone alert
system is all of that rolled into one.

BRUCE ESPLIN: We refer to them as an electronic door knock. We believe you need to have some sort
of intrusive message that actually lets the public know that there is something happening and that
they need to take some course of action.

Our view is that there are something in the order of nine to 10-million land lines and there is
something in the order of 22-million mobile phones growing.

What is proposed is the ability to ring every landline and every mobile phone and either send it a
text message or a recorded voice message with a piece of instruction.

We would be able to do that on the basis of defining the area that we want to be contacted so you
would spatially define the area and then contact every landline and every mobile in that area and
give a particular piece of information.

It might be turn on radio or television and await further information. It might be something more
explicit. But it would be another critical part of making the community able to play their part.

SIMON SANTOW: The alert system idea isn't new. It's been on the table for a few years and its
implementation held up by wrangling between the states and territories over which system to adopt,
who would pay for it, and how to get around accessing phone databases and privacy legislation.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland on AM this morning.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: It is an important system.

SIMON SANTOW: Is it regrettable that it hasn't been put in place now?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Oh well, look of course it's, every system that potentially would be available
would be a good thing to have in place. There is no doubt about that.

SIMON SANTOW: Bill Oborn makes a living from telephony systems. Two years ago he helped set up He says he was tired of waiting for governments to move. His system is an
opt-in one rather than a mass one and he says it's been a raging success.

BILL OBORN: Our belief is that people are better off to get more information than no information.

A typical scenario was a couple of weeks ago there was a major fire on the lower peninsula near
Port Lincoln. Our alerts went out as soon as the fire was spotted. The fire very quickly progressed
to become a major threat to public safety.

During that day our system sent out five different updates during the day. The alerts were also
sent out by ABC radio. And the people have come back with very, very positive feedback.

SIMON SANTOW: Tony Clough is a farmer in the New South Wales Riverina. He also takes charge of four
brigades of the Rural Fire Service.

TONY CLOUGH: Yeah, I think the early warning system that we have in place here in our brigades and
in other brigades around our region here works very effectively and I think it would have helped in
the situation down in Victoria. It would have given some of those people some early warning about
what they should do and how they should, well, when they should get out.

SIMON SANTOW: Tony Clough says fire-fighters find the alert system very handy and it's potentially
a life-saver if harnessed properly by fire authorities.

TONY CLOUGH: If there was a situation where everyone needed to be evacuated, that message could be
put across the system and warn all these people that they must evacuate immediately.

SIMON SANTOW: Obviously the proposal is to expand the system so that it's not, that it's actually
run by the fire authorities, in your case the Rural Fire Service.

TONY CLOUGH: Well I think the Rural Fire Service as such would probably take this on board as an
auxiliary system to their, to what they have now. I think they would find it very effective. As I
said before, it works very well in our community and neighbouring communities.

SIMON SANTOW: Do you think it would be more effective than tuning in to local radio?

TONY CLOUGH: Oh absolutely. Absolutely. I think that you know in times of emergencies, a lot of
people might have their radios on but they also might be outside and trying to clean up and tidy up
or whatever, or pack their gear or whatever they might have to do and they might not have a
wireless on. So I mean, and they might not think of having it on either.

So I guess this is a better system because they will always have their mobile phones with them.
They will always have their landlines operating. So I think it's a very efficient way of getting a
message out to everyone with a very quick response.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: A Rural Fire Service captain in the New South Wales Riverina, Tony Clough, ending
that report from Simon Santow.

Unemployment jumps to highest level in almost three years

Unemployment jumps to highest level in almost three years

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:40:00

Reporter: Sue Lannin

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The number of people out of work has jumped to its highest level in nearly
two-and-a-half years.

Official figures show the unemployment rate rose to 4.8 per cent in January. That's up 0. 3 of one
per cent from December.

For more, I'm joined in the studio by finance reporter Sue Lannin. Well, these figures certainly
look bad.

SUE LANNIN: Yes Brendan, they're pretty bad. The unemployment rate of 4.8 per cent was more than
expected and it's certainly more evidence of the economic downturn. It is in line also with other
data we've seen out recently.

Now the number of people out of work rose by nearly 37,000 in January to more than 540,000 across
the country.

Now New South Wales had the biggest rate of unemployment on a state-by-state basis. Their
unemployment rate was five-and-a-half per cent.

Now the surprising thing from these figures is that the number of full-time jobs actually
increased. Employers put on 1200 more people in January but it's really unclear whether that's a
statistical blip or whether employers are holding onto people.

What we do know is unemployment is expected to get worse. The Government's official forecasts are
seven per cent during next year although some economists say 10 per cent.

Now Brendan, there is more bad news today. The debt laden plastics company Nylex has gone into
administration and receivership. The receivers say it will continue trading and there'll be talks
with workers and unions.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: As well as the jobs surprise, there is also a lot of talk in business about a
possible deal between the miner Rio Tinto and the Chinese aluminium producer, Chinalco.

SUE LANNIN: Yes, we have seen a lot in the newspapers over the past week about this.

Now Rio Tinto is in trading halt. That is ahead of an expected announcement by the company later
today when it releases its annual profit results.

Chinalco is expected to buy stakes in several Rio mining projects as well as convertible bonds. Now
that would inject about $30-billion into the company.

The big problem that Rio faces is its huge debt. It owes nearly $US40-billion. That's because of
the takeover of Canadian aluminium producer Alcan in late 2007.

A lot has happened since then. We've seen the credit crunch, the end of the commodities boom, the
failed takeover bid from rival BHP Billiton and now Rio is going cap in hand to Chinalco which has
got a nine per cent stake.

That of course has to be approved though by the Government so it has to go to the Foreign
Investment Review Board.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Sue Lannin, if this deal is approved what sort of control will this Chinese
company have over Rio's board?

SUE LANNIN: Well the talk is that Rio will take about a 20 per cent stake in the company so
certainly it will take one or two seats on the board.

This is not without precedence. We've already seen China's Sinosteel takeover Western Australian
iron ore miner Midwest Corporation and take seats on the board. Also the Federal Government
approved Sinosteel's takeover of Murchison Metals last year.

Now this expected deal will be the biggest involving a Chinese backed firm and an Australian listed

Now mining analyst Gavin Wendt from Fat Prophets says he doesn't believe Chinese interests will be
able to influence prices of key commodities like iron ore even if they've got control.

GAVIN WENDT: At the end of the day I don't think so. I mean I couldn't see it happening. They've
got a nine per cent stake at the present time so they are a minority shareholder. Even if the
Government allows them to increase their stake to in the vicinity of 18 per cent, you know, they've
got one board seat. They may well think that they can apply some pressure but they are still in a
minority position. So I wouldn't anticipate that there would be any material impact on iron ore
price negotiation.

SUE LANNIN: That's mining analyst, Gavin Wendt.

As I mentioned Rio's results are out today. Analysts are expecting an annual figure of about

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Finance reporter Sue Lannin.

Contrite bankers on the defensive

Contrite bankers on the defensive

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:44:00

Reporter: Michael Rowland

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The chief executives of America's biggest banks have been feeling the full force
of public fury over how they've used government bail-out money.

Appearing before a congressional hearing the bankers have been challenged by both Democrats and
Republicans about huge salaries and generous bonuses. The chief executives acknowledged they had to
work hard to regain the public's trust.

Washington correspondent Michael Rowland reports.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: They're among the most powerful corporate figures in America but before the House
of Representatives Financial Services Committee the chief executives of America's eight largest
banks looked more like courtroom defendants with angry Congressmen happily serving as the

Massachusetts Democrat Michael Capuano.

MICHAEL CAPUANO: Basically you come to us today on your bicycles after buying Girl Scout cookies
and helping out Mother Teresa, telling us, 'We're sorry. We didn't mean it. We won't do it again.
Trust us.'

Well, I have some people in my constituency that actually robbed some of your banks and they say
the same thing. They're sorry. They didn't mean it. They won't do it again. Just let them out.

Do you understand that this is a little difficult for most of my constituents to take - that you
learned your lesson?

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The banks together have received nearly $260-billion in government money since
late last year. They've been criticised for not using the cash the way the government wanted - to
kick start consumer and business lending.

Instead the bank bosses have been accused of using the money to line their own pockets in the form
of hefty salaries and huge bonuses.

Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and John Mack, the head of Morgan Stanley, kicked off
what was to be a chain of mea culpas.

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: It is abundantly clear that we are here amidst broad public anger at our industry.
Many people believe and in many cases justifiably so that Wall Street lost sight of its larger
public obligations and allowed certain trends and practices to undermine the financial system's

JOHN MACK: I believe that both our firm, our industry have far to go to regain the trust of
taxpayers, investors and public officials.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Most of the bankers said bonuses were vastly smaller at the end of last year.

Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney took issue with the more than $4-billion in bonuses paid
out to senior executives at struggling Merrill Lynch, just before it was taken over by Bank of

CAROLYN MALONEY: How can you justify paying bonuses to managers that were running their company
into the ground to the point that they were forced into a merger?

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Bank of America chief John Lewis insisted he had no control over the payments but
was quick to point out he didn't receive any bonus last year. Mr Lewis also acknowledged his
dramatic fall in status.

JOHN LEWIS: I feel more like corporal of the universe, not captain of the universe at the moment.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Citigroup chief executive Vikram Pandit apologised for his bank's decision to buy
an $80-million corporate jet at the height of the financial crisis.

VIKRAM PANDIT: We did not adjust quickly enough to this new world and I take personal
responsibility for that mistake. In the end I cancelled delivery. We need to do a better job of
acknowledging and embracing the new realities. If I may be clear with the committee, I get the new
reality and I will make sure Citi gets it as well.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: It's a reality that's going to involve far fewer zeros on the bankers' pay

In Washington this is Michael Rowland reporting for The World Today.

More allegations against Patel

More allegations against Patel

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:47:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The former Bundaberg Hospital doctor Jayant Patel allegedly told a patient's wife
an operation had been successful with little bleeding, while nurses and an anaesthetist raised
concerns about blood loss.

Patel is charged with manslaughter along with grievous bodily harm and fraud.

The court also heard allegations that Patel dismissed concerns his patient was bleeding after
surgery. But Patel's defence counsel questioned one of the nurses about whether she had something
against Patel.

Our reporter Annie Guest is at the Brisbane Magistrates Court and joins me now.

Well, Annie who has appeared at Jayant Patel's committal hearing today?

ANNIE GUEST: Today at the Brisbane Magistrates Court one patient's wife and four nurses have
appeared via video-link from Bundaberg.

Gerardus Kemps' wife, Judy Kemp, was one of those who appeared. Now her husband died after Patel
performed an oesophagectomy. This is the operation that he'd been restricted from performing in the
United States.

He had previously been sick, his wife Judy Kemp told the court, and was offered a free check-up lat
in 2004. She was concerned he looked a little anaemic so she said have the check-up. Now he ended
up diagnosed with cancer and sent to hospital. Not long afterwards he was dead.

Under questioning from the prosecution, Judy Kemp said that Patel rang her after the operation. She
told the court, 'That's right, he rang me up to say that the operation was finished, it was a real
big success. There was only a little bleeding but it was nothing.'

Now a little later we heard from two theatre nurses and an anaesthetic nurse and they told the
court that Gerardus Kemp bled hundreds of millilitres into a drain during and after the operation.
One nurse said Patel didn't want to accept there was any blood loss during the operation.

Now he was called back by the anaesthetist to see Gerardus Kemp who was still on the theatre table
after the operation and the nurse said that, 'he was cranky and he had no intention of reopening
him and he accused us of holding up his theatre.'

Now later on Gerardus Kemp was sent to ICU, later operated on again and died.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: How did Jayant Patel's lawyer respond to this?

ANNIE GUEST: Well defence counsel Michael Byrne asked one of the nurses, Marie Goatham about notes
she'd made about the incident and later added to and he asked, 'Was it because you had something
against Dr Patel that you made additions?'

And she said, she told the court, 'No, it was because there had been an incident and I was going to
prepare a statement.'

And the defence also pressed the theatre nurse on her recollection of another operation Patel is
facing charges over - questioning her over whether the anaesthetist had given an inappropriate
fluid to a person with kidney disease - that's Ian Vowles, the patient's name is Ian Vowles - and
whether her recollection of Dr Patel having accidently cut a bile duct was correct. And the defence
counsel suggested it was in fact another doctor.

And that argument that the defence counsel has been running throughout, yesterday we heard that
they painted a picture of an overworked and dedicated doctor in Patel.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: So what happens next?

ANNIE GUEST: Next we will hear from more nurses and a doctor via video-link from Bundaberg at this
committal hearing which is expected to run for at least another week.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Annie Guest at the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Study raises hope of urine prostate cancer test

Study raises hope of urine prostate cancer test

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:51:00

Reporter: Sara Everingham

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Scientists in the United States say they're a a step closer to developing a urine
test to distinguish between benign and aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

At the moment it's hard to tell them apart and it means some patients have unnecessary treatment.

Experts in Australia say the US study is promising but more tests will be needed.

Sara Everingham reports.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Each year in Australia there are around 18,000 new diagnoses of prostate cancer.
The difficulty for doctors is knowing how serious it is.

Dr Phillip Katelaris is a urologist and a director of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

PHILLIP KATELARIS: We know of course that prostate cancer activity spreads, it covers a very wide
range of clinical activity from virtually non-active indolent prostate cancer, right through to
highly malignant, aggressive prostate cancer.

And what we don't have as yet is an accurate way of knowing which prostate cancers will behave
aggressively and therefore which cancers need aggressive medical intervention.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The dilemma can sometimes lead to over-treatment - whether it's screening,
radiation therapy or surgery.

Associate professor Philip Stricker is the director of the St Vincent's Prostate Cancer Centre.

PHILLIP STRICKER: We already try and not over-treat the older men and the people with very low
aggressive cancers but we probably still over-treat it so it would be nice to have a market to
decrease that yet further.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Researchers in the United States think they're close to finding it. In a new study
published in the journal Nature they say they're one step closer to developing a urine test to
differentiate aggressive from non-aggressive types of prostate cancer.

The lead researcher is professor Arul Chinnaiyan from the University of Michigan. He spoke to the

ARUL CHINNAIYAN: There might be screening tests for the presence of prostate cancer and you would
then get a follow-up test. That test would tell you whether you would need treatment for that
prostate cancer, whether it be surgical treatment or radiation treatment. Otherwise we would just
monitor those patients.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The researchers examined more than 1000 molecules or metabolites produced by the
body in 260 tissue blood or urine samples.

One in particular, sarcosine, was often found at elevated levels in samples taken from patients
with advanced cancer. In fact they found sarcosine was a better indicator of advancing disease than
the traditional marker - prostate specific antigen - or PSA.

But experts here warn the research is in its early days.

Associate professor Phillip Stricker again.

PHILLIP STRICKER: It is certainly one of the many studies that are now reporting markers which may
turn out to differentiate aggressive from non-aggressive types of cancer. The problem with it is
the numbers are small and it hasn't been properly tested in clinical testings.

Until you test it on human beings in real situations, you are not really sure whether it's got the
strength to hold out and really be the holy grail.

SARA EVERINGHAM: He says those clinical tests could be done in two years but even then there's a
need for caution.

PHILLIP STRICKER: I think you have to go at it logically and one step at a time otherwise what will
happen is you will over-spruik these things and then suddenly you will have a test which is
inaccurate and you will be making clinical decisions based on it.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Eventually he says the search for prostate cancer markers will lead to less
invasive screening and other changes in the way patients are treated.

PHILLIP STRICKER: With some of the new less aggressive therapies, which we are trialling as well,
it may be that the less aggressive ones get less aggressive focal treatment or nothing and the more
aggressive ones get the more aggressive therapy like surgery or radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Dr Phillip Katelaris agrees changes to treatment lie ahead.

PHILLIP KATELARIS: If we were able to use a blood sample, a urine sample, a semen sample to measure
metabolites that were highly predictive of whether a man would or would not get prostate cancer and
to predict the behaviour of that prostate cancer clinically, that would go a long way towards
solving a lot of the prostate cancer dilemma.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Dr Phillip Katelaris, a director at the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
That report from Sara Everingham.

Socceroos take another step towards World Cup

Socceroos take another step towards World Cup

The World Today - Thursday, 12 February , 2009 12:55:00

Reporter: Mark Willacy

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In soccer, Australia has hung on to its world cup hopes in a tough qualifier
against Japan in Yokohama overnight.

Neither Australia nor Japan scored though a draw is still worth something.

At times the Socceroos were under constant attack but the Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwartzer held

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Yokohama.

(Sound of soccer crowd)

MARK WILLACY: They came covered in gold, some with big, blow-up kangaroos, others carrying cans of
beer. The Australians certainly drowned out the Japanese fans outside the stadium.

But inside, just before kick-off, the entire crowd of 65,00 was silenced in honour of the victims
of the Victorian bushfires.

SOCCER ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, with the deepest condolences we now would like to ask you
to stand and have a moment of silence for the victims.

(Announcement in Japanese)

SOCCER COMMENTATOR: Back towards South Africa, this Aussie side responds well to adversity. We are
underway at the stadium.

MARK WILLACY: From the second the whistle blew, the Australians were on the back foot - the Blue
Samurai attack slicing through the Socceroos.

SOCCER COMMENTATOR: In towards the near post and it hits in the side netting.

MARK WILLACY: The Australians defended grimly while up front they failed to put together any
threatening attacking moves. And as the Japanese continued to probe, the Socceroos got sloppy.

SOCCER COMMENTATOR: There was contact in the opinion of the Syrian official and Scott Chipperfield
becomes the first name into his notebook.

MARK WILLACY: In the second half, the Japanese continued to threaten with the Socceroos' attack
unable to control their passing or provide any clean ball to striker Tim Cahill.

At the other end, it was left to goalkeeper Mark Schwartzer to keep Australia in the game.

SOCCER COMMENTATOR: Putting it midfield and oh, in space. Schwartzer tips it over and behind for a

MARK WILLACY: Thanks to some dogged defence Australia snuck home with a draw, earning them a
valuable point on the qualifying table.

It wasn't pretty but the Socceroos' unbeaten run remains intact although coach Pim Verbeek
acknowledged his team may have been lucky.

PIM VERBEEK: So I am very pleased but to give you an answer I think we are still not qualified but
we made a big step today and we are very pleased.

MARK WILLACY: Outside the stadium, Socceroos fans were relieved to escape Yokohama with a draw.

SOCCER FAN 1: So once they come to Australia I reckon we'll kill it, eh?

SOCCER FAN 2: Yeah, mate we'll dominate when they come to Aussie.

SOCCER FAN 3: I think 0-0 is a good result for Australia now. We come back to Australia. Hopefully
we beat Japan then, yeah, you know it's a good result for us now.

MARK WILLACY: Only a disastrous finish to the qualifying campaign could now threaten Australia's
run to its second straight World Cup finals appearance.

This is Mark Willacy in Yokohama for The World Today.