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Negative growth sparks debate on recession, cash handouts

Reporter: Alexandra Kirk

ELEANOR HALL: First to the political stoush over the Australian economy. Despite the evidence that
the economy went backwards for the first time in eight years in the last quarter of last year, the
Federal Government is not prepared to say that Australia is yet in recession and it's continuing to
defend its stimulus package for the economy.

But many economists and business leaders say that whatever the technical definition the country is
in recession and the Opposition is dismissing the Federal Government's actions as 'failed economic

In Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Both the Government and Opposition are resisting the temptation to say whether
Australia is in recession, preferring to stick to the argy bargy over who has the best ideas to
avoid the full force of the global recession.

KEVIN RUDD: It gets harder and harder for Australia to swim against the global economic tide.

What we're dealing with here is a global cyclone. At the end of the day, you can't go out there and
say to the public, I can stop a cyclone from coming. What you can say is we're making the
preparations as good as possible to reduce the impact of the storm as it hits.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Mr Rudd has a failed economic policy.

KEVIN RUDD: It is absolutely clear cut that had we not begun the economic stimulus strategy last
year, that the impact now on the Australian economy and jobs will be much, much worse.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Every reaction he's had to this crisis has been an overreaction.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Malcolm Turnbull says the first cash payments from the Government's first stimulus
package haven't worked.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: He is nonetheless going out to do another cash splash in March so he's
compounding his error.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But the Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner reckons it's still early days.

LINDSAY TANNER: Nobody will ever be able to tell precisely what the net impact of these payments
will be because they're all jumbled up within the ordinary economic activity of the country, but
what we can expect is that this does add very substantially to economic activity, to people buying
things and therefore to jobs.

And what we can absolutely be certain of is that had these payments not been pushed out, then
things would be very substantially worse. You'd see more job losses and more businesses going out

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Opposition leader maintains he has a more effective plan.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: We went to the Prime Minister and said, sit down with us. We're happy to
negotiate a plan with you.

Here is our alternative which was spending half the amount of the money, therefore borrowing half
as much money, and spending money in a way that would genuinely deliver jobs, that would benefit
every business across the economy, lower the cost of employment for small business, provide real
incentive for green industries and green jobs. Labor wasn't interested in that.

LINDSAY TANNER: The Liberal Party says something different every day. They are completely

ALEXANDRA KIRK: While the Government has pledged billions for capital works, Mr Turnbull has
singled out infrastructure as a gaping hole.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: And you see the bizarre thing about this Government is at the same time as
they're shovelling tens of billions of dollars out in cash splashes which are demonstrably not
working, they are not getting started with infrastructure which is shovel-ready.

Now I was in Cessnock the other day, on Friday, where of course there have been workers laid off by
Pacific Brands and the Bonds factory. There is a road there, a freeway extension, the F3 link, to
link the Newcastle Freeway to the New England Highway which is fully approved, the land has been
acquired, the planning is done. It could start tomorrow. Why isn't it getting underway?

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government says that road project is on the shortlist that's being assessed by
Infrastructure Australia for possible inclusion on the national priority list to be released later
this month. And it says there are more than 3,000 local government infrastructure projects already
underway, plus 42 road projects that have been fast tracked.

The former treasurer Peter Costello has entered the fray, suggesting the Government rethink its

PETER COSTELLO: The first is it's got to rethink in relation to energy policy. Its emissions
trading scheme which is going to put up the price of energy is going to affect manufacturing. It'll
make manufacturing in this country more difficult.

And I think the Government has now got to reconsider that. It has to reconsider its proposals in
relation to industrial relations, which might have been okay in times of good growth but will
affect jobs in a downturn.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Malcolm Turnbull has reaffirmed his view that the Coalition is finished with

MALCOLM TURNBULL: WorkChoices is dead.


MALCOLM TURNBULL: We recognise that WorkChoices went too far for the Australian people but we're
not giving Labor a carte blanche, you know, a blank cheque to do whatever they like.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government is pressing on with its second stimulus plan and while it's being
urged to delay the introduction of its emissions trading scheme because less economic activity
means lower greenhouse gas production, there's no suggestion from Labor that it's anything but full
steam ahead.

LINDSAY TANNER: We do not have time to waste here and the most important thing is that Australia's
economy is in better shape, we are suffering less than the vast majority of major countries around
the world and we are pretty close to the highest per capita emitter of carbon in the world.

If we were to pull away, if we were to shelve our response to climate change and say - well, not
now, maybe later - to the rest of the world, that would be sending a dreadful signal and it would
be a very significant contributor to the rest of the world deciding well, maybe we'll worry about
this at some time down the track.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner ending that report from Alexandra Kirk in

Minister calls a summit on small business

Reporter: Eleanor Hall

ELEANOR HALL: Despite the political argument there is no question that the Australian economy is
now going backwards and small business owners are complaining that they are particularly

The Council of Small Business says that its members are finding it hard to get finance and that the
credit squeeze could drive many viable operations to the wall.

The Federal Minster for Small Business, Craig Emerson, has responded by calling the country's major
bankers and small business owners to a summit tomorrow and he spoke to me about this a short time
ago in Canberra.

Minister thanks for being there. You've called a summit of small business leaders and bankers for
tomorrow to test small business complaints that the banks are refusing to lend them money. Are you
sceptical that small businesses are finding it hard to get loans?

CRAIG EMERSON: I'm not sceptical. I'm curious and I want to get to the bottom of this issue because
the banks themselves are saying that they are providing finance for small business but small
business organisations and individual small businesses are saying that finance is harder to get.

Now both can't be true and it seems to me that the only way of testing that is to have both sides
of the argument in the room at the same time, testing each other's propositions.

ELEANOR HALL: How critical is it for the Australian economy, especially with growth now going
backwards, that credit is available to the small business sector?

CRAIG EMERSON: It's crucial. I mean credit is vital for small business and indeed for larger
businesses. And we want small businesses to the maximum extent possible to be able to retain their
staff. In order to do so, and indeed to invest in the future, they need access to finance.

The banks are saying that they will continue to provide ample finance. I note today, the
Commonwealth Bank has made a statement to that effect and I congratulate the Commonwealth Bank. The
ANZ did recently and Westpac I think has appointed a lot more small business advisors in its

So these signs are positive but it would be very useful to have everyone ventilating their
perspective and then seeing if we can get some common ground out of this meeting tomorrow because
if we can keep the funds flowing then that keeps small businesses viable.

ELEANOR HALL: As you say they can't both be right. If you find that the banks aren't lending
adequately to small business, what are you, what is the Government prepared to do?

CRAIG EMERSON: Well I think banks are sensitive to criticism. Sometimes people wonder if that's the
case. But already I mean, who knows, maybe the Commonwealth Bank announcement today was in
anticipation of the meeting tomorrow. I'd like to think so. Perhaps not. Who knows?

But they are sensitive to criticism and they are expressing some exasperation, some, that they are
providing funds and then being told that they're not.

Now it is a more risky environment now than it was two or three years ago and so there will be
small business propositions that may not be funded now that would have been two or three years ago.

And I'm not saying that the banks should fund every proposition, every person who walks through the
door, no matter what the merits of the small business proposal are. But if it's a matter of
continuing existing lines of credit and lending to good, sound, small business propositions then I
would hope and expect that the banks will continue to do so.

ELEANOR HALL: Well hopes and expectations and speaking harshly to banks are one thing, but are you
prepared to wield a stick; for example, making it a condition of the deposit guarantee that banks
do continue to lend money?

CRAIG EMERSON: Well I mean if the banks are right and if the banks are going to continue to provide
funding for small business then I don't think it's appropriate for me to start making threats here
on the program as to what would happen if they don't. I mean they are saying that they will.

Let's get people in a room together. Let's have the small business organisations test the arguments
of the banks and in fact bring up a few examples if they wish to do so, so that we can get to the
bottom of this matter.

I'm more in the trying to get a result than some sort of political grandstanding here and the
result that I'm seeking is continued flow of credit in good quantities to small business at
reasonable prices.

ELEANOR HALL: If you are convinced though that lending in this sector is drying up, would you
consider insisting that in return for the guarantee the banks do lend money, you know in a similar
way as you've done for the commercial property and car finance sector?

CRAIG EMERSON: Well I'm not convinced on the basis of arguments today that in aggregate terms that
the funding of small business by banks is drying up. I mean we've had an announcement by the
Commonwealth Bank today. What am I to do - say, oh well that can't be right?

What I want to do is get to the bottom of it. We've got most of the major banks saying that they
are continuing to fund small business development at high levels. So why would I say well I don't
think that's right and therefore we need to wield a big stick?

ELEANOR HALL: There are of course plenty of established business owners telling stories of being
denied credit for everyday business needs like restocking. I mean small business owners say also
that even when the banks are lending their rates are high. Are you concerned about the impact of
high rates on small business?

CRAIG EMERSON: Well it does come down to two questions, doesn't it - the quantity of funds
available and the price of those funds.

And of course we want to continue to exert maximum pressure on banks to pass through any reductions
in their financing costs. And in some respects there have been reductions in their financing costs.
In others there have been increases in their financing costs. That is to the extent that they
secure funds from overseas wholesale funding, the cost of that funding has risen as a result of the
global financial crisis which has infected most of the world now.

So again it would be easy for me to say all banks are bad, they're ripping everyone off - terrific
for a headline. I want to get to the bottom of this, get a good result for small business.

ELEANOR HALL: Minister, thanks very much for joining us.

CRAIG EMERSON: My pleasure.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Federal Minister for Small Business, Craig Emerson. And that summit will
be held tomorrow in Melbourne.

Fresh questions raised over Pakistan's security measures

Reporter: Emily Bourke

ELEANOR HALL: As allegations surface that Pakistan's police received advanced warning of a
terrorist incident this week, survivors of the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team want to know
why they were left so exposed.

One of those caught in the strike on the cricket convoy says that during the ordeal in Lahore he
felt like a 'sitting duck'. Almost 48 hours after the brazen attack by masked gunmen, more
eyewitness accounts are emerging, along with more anger and more questions.

Emily Bourke has our report.

EMILY BOURKE: Two days after the commando-style assault in Lahore, Pakistani security forces are
coming under intense criticism.

It's been reported that a letter dated the 22nd of January was sent to a local Punjabi police chief
with details of a planned attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team either at their hotel or somewhere
between the hotel and sports stadium.

Political instability and recent changes to officials and the ranks of senior police have been
blamed for the lack of preventative action. Islamabad has dismissed accusations of any negligence.

But after being promised 'presidential-style' security, the International Cricket Council's match
referee Chris Broad is furious.

CHRIS BROAD: After the incident and we were able to see television pictures, you can quite clearly
see the white van that we were in next to the ambulance, the white ambulance, in the middle of this
roundabout with terrorists shooting past our van, sometimes into our van, and not a sign of a
policeman anywhere. They had clearly gone, left the scene and left us to be sitting ducks.

EMILY BOURKE: Also in his convoy Australian umpire Simon Taufel who arrived at Sydney airport this
morning with questions of his own.

SIMON TAUFEL: You tell me why no one was caught. You tell me why supposedly 25 armed commandos were
in our convoy and when the team bus got going again we were left on our own.

Obviously they'll investigate those issues. What I can tell you this morning is that we were
isolated, we were left alone, we were unaccounted for. We were not given the same security and the
same attention as the playing staff were.

EMILY BOURKE: The driver for the officials and umpires was shot dead and their eventual escape from
the scene turned into high farce. A police officer scrambled into their minibus but he didn't know
how to drive and it took several more minutes amid the gunfire before another person climbed into
the driver's cabin and drove their van away.

Simon Taufel again:

SIMON TAUFEL: We hit a checkpoint and the thoughts that went through my mind were such that we were
probably going to be targeted as possible terrorists ourselves. We were actually coming after the
van. We're coming to the ground. We're racing through the streets and we might actually attract
more gunfire.

Thankfully that didn't happen but we got to the ground and they wouldn't let us in the ground. They
stopped us outside the gate. The van door opened. We started to get out of the van. They opened up
the front gates to the ground. We all just ran out of the van and into the pavilion. And we walked
into the umpires' room, or ran to the umpires' room. Basically gave each other a bit of a hug, sort
of didn't want to leave the room for a good hour or so.

EMILY BOURKE: His colleague, and fellow Australian, umpire Steve Davis arrived in Melbourne this
morning similarly shocked at the security response.

STEVE DAVIS: There's a bit of anger there that, you know, we were let down. We had all sorts of
assurances before. And I'm sure the team feels that way too. They had some assurances. And despite
all that, this was still able to happen and we were put in a very vulnerable position and felt very
helpless. So there's a mixture of anger and what if, what could have been.

EMILY BOURKE: There have also been questions about whether the gunmen had inside information about
the security arrangements.

Sri Lankan spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan (*see editor's note) told commercial radio in Adelaide
about his suspicions.

MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN: But somehow in this incident there was not many people sometimes the police
were in the bus, also two people are staying at the gun. Because if someone there with a gun we
have the chance of defending ourselves...

RADIO PRESENTER: So the police didn't have guns?

MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN: No police were in the bus, inside, this time when we went.

EMILY BOURKE: The umpires and the Sri Lankan team want to know why the Pakistani team changed its
departure time that day.

MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN: What happened was we left at 8.30. So Yunus Khan has said they are going at
8.35, five minutes later. We saw the two escorts. We got one escort and they had one escort.
Normally all of the buses go, about four, five escorts go. So they divided into two and maybe they
would have well known information and everything.

EMILY BOURKE: That five-minute delay has also been playing on Simon Taufel's mind.

SIMON TAUFEL: We were told they wouldn't target the players, that they wouldn't target the
sub-continent team. There are a lot of questions. I mean the first two days both team buses left at
the same time. The third day the Pakistan team bus leaves five minutes after the Sri Lankan one.
Why did that happen? I don't know the answer to that question.

Would they have attacked both buses at the same time? I don't know. You know, we can speculate as
much as we like. I've just got to deal with the facts in front of me and the fact that, you know,
I'm quite lucky to be here and see my kids and wife again and you know have an opportunity of still
participating in the game of cricket.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Australian umpire Simon Taufel ending that report by Emily Bourke.

*Editor's note: Transcript amended on 05/03/09 to correct Muttiah Muralitharan's name.

Sudan turns on aid groups over presidential arrest warrant

Reporter: Oscar McLaren

ELEANOR HALL: The International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for the
President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has sparked celebration amongst Darfur refugees and protests on
the streets of the Sudanese capital.

The Sudanese Government maintains that the court has no jurisdiction over the President. There's
now a nervous wait to see whether the Sudanese leadership will follow through on its threats of

Oscar McLaren filed this report.

OSCAR MCLAREN: On the streets of Khartoum news of the first ever arrest warrant issued for a
sitting head of state was greeted with rowdy demonstrations.

DEMONSTRATOR (over loudspeaker, translated): God willing, we have said before that the warrant for
the arrest of the President was issued that the warrant means nothing for the people of Sudan. We
repeat and repeat and repeat, it means nothing for the people of Sudan. God is great. Hallelujah.

OSCAR MCLAREN: In London, the Sudanese ambassador to the United Kingdom Omer Siddiq dismissed the
court's warrant.

OMER SIDDIQ: We don't think the prosecutor has any jurisdiction over our President and we are not
answerable to him of course. And that is a club of the willing - 180 countries yes joined the
agreement but Sudan doesn't.

OSCAR MCLAREN: In Australia Alpha Lisimba is the president of the Darfur Australia Network. He
escaped from persecution in Sudan and stayed up late into the night watching coverage of the
court's proceedings.

ALPHA LISIMBA: It was exciting because I will finally see the President who is responsible for
killing hundreds and thousands of people, for raping the women, for moving people from their
villages, families being indicted.

OSCAR MCLAREN: The news was also welcomed by the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. His
spokeswoman Michele Montas called for Sudan to avoid any retaliatory action over the warrant.

MICHELE MONTAS: The secretary-general calls on the Government of Sudan to continue to cooperate
fully with all UN entities and their implementing partners while fulfilling its obligation to
ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, UN personnel and property and that of
its implementing partners.

OSCAR MCLAREN: The threat of retaliation from the Sudanese Government is shaping up to be a major
problem. The Government has already told aid agencies like Oxfam to restrict their operations in
the country. Oxfam says that will have a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of people.

Rania Rajji from Amnesty International supports the International Court's decision, but she says
there's now a nervous wait to see what the effect will be on the local population.

RANIA RAJJI: It's not the end of impunity in any way but maybe one day there will be justice in
Sudan. But I have to say my greatest reaction was a thought towards the people in Darfur and just
to follow up on how things will develop on the ground.

OSCAR MCLAREN: Melissa McCullough (*see editor's note) from the Darfur Australia Network says
concerns about retribution in Sudan are real and the international community must engage with Sudan
to ensure the population is protected.

MELISSA MCCULLOUGH: It's hugely devastating what's happening in response to the ICC's decision to
issue the arrest warrant but hopefully this will raise the profile of Darfur and highlight all the
concerns that are paramount here - the need to re-engage in the stalled peace talks which are the
Qatar peace talks and the need for all the international actors to make good their commitment to
UNAMID (United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) so that we can have full capacity of this
peacekeeping force as soon as possible.

OSCAR MCLAREN: But already there are some arguments that the court should have taken different

Sir Geoffrey Nice was a prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and is now acting for a
nongovernment organisation in Sudan as well as the Sudanese Trade Union Federation. He says the
arrest warrant has the potential to throw a delicate peace process off course.

GEOFFREY NICE: This might destabilise the peace processes between north and south Sudan and also so
far as Darfur is concerned, these are carefully drawn peace processes that are thought by many to
be vulnerable. This event is the sort of thing that could disturb them.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Sir Geoffrey Nice ending that report from Oscar McLaren.

*Editor's note: Transcript amended on 05/03/09 to correct Melissa McCullough's name.

Rights groups fear for people after Bashir arrest warrant

Reporter: Oscar McLaren

ELEANOR HALL: As we heard in that report, aid agencies now have a nervous wait to see how the
Sudanese Government will respond. With aid organisations already being restricted, there are fears
that the Sudanese population may end up paying the price for the International Court's warrant.

Oscar McLaren asked Sara Darehshori from Human Rights Watch about whether the International
Criminal Court should have taken this into account.

SARA DAREHSHORI: The news about the humanitarian agencies is definitely alarming and we've seen
this reaction from Khartoum before of pulling visas from people, you know, when they feel
affronted. And we have to wait and see what happens. We're monitoring it. But we're hoping that
this is not something that is actually followed through because of the implications, the serious
implications this would have for people on the ground.

But in the broader context of peace versus justice, that debate that this has triggered, I think
that we've seen that from past indictments of heads of state, that expectations that there will be
serious repercussions and negative consequences for peace talks have been overblown.

So for example in Kosovo, Milosevic was indicted during the negotiations with NATO to end that
conflict and eight days later a settlement was reached. And same with Liberia. During the civil war
Charles Taylor was indicted, or his arrest warrant was unsealed at the exact time he was arriving
in Ghana for peace negotiations there.

In both cases, in that case as well there were predicted retaliatory violence and an end to the
peace talks but instead what happened was marginalising him was beneficial to the peace talks and
ultimately the retaliatory violence didn't occur and a lasting settlement was reached within a
matter of months.

So it's impossible to predict in the long term what kind of effect this will have on peace but the
experience we have so far has shown that the expected consequences have been exaggerated.

OSCAR MCLAREN: I suppose we are dealing with a particularly brutal regime here. I mean do you think
there is any argument that the ICC perhaps should have waited until he lost power for whatever

SARA DAREHSHORI: That's an interesting question. Now I think if the ICC's responsibility is really
just to look at the evidence and to determine whether based on the evidence before it there are
grounds to support bringing charges, reasonable grounds to believe that Bashir is responsible for
the crimes; it's not within their mandate to look at political considerations, nor should it be
because it's really beyond the expertise of a court to examine broader implications for peace and

So the court was really, it has been performing its function just by examining the evidence. The
Security Council does have the ability to consider whether or not justice should be put aside in
the interest of security in the region and that's a debate that's gone back and forth for a while
and we'll see what happens going forward with that.

ELEANOR HALL: Sara Darehshori from Human Rights Watch, speaking to Oscar McLaren.

Peoples' Congress feels the heat

Reporter: Stephen McDonell

ELEANOR HALL: The world economic crisis has put China's leaders under pressure that they're not
used to and that's on display at the annual National People's Congress which opens today.

Across the country industry is slowing and unemployment is rising and the investment from Hong Kong
and Taiwan that once flowed so freely is drying up.

From Beijing, China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Over the last decade this has been the day when China's leaders would stride into
the Great Hall of the People, confident in their country's economy and extremely confident in the
strength of their grip on political power.

Now neither of those things has been lost but this year's National People's Congress is
significantly different to those in recent times. The pressure is on. China's leaders must explain
how they're going to get this country out of an economic downturn which by their own reckoning
threatens mass unemployment and social instability.

Hong Kong University's Professor David Zweig says no one will feel this pressure more at the
congress than Premier Wen Jiabao.

DAVID ZWEIG: He's got to do two things. He's got to say to the people: Look, we understand the
economic situation is difficult. We understand there's hard times out there. Here's what we're
doing to solve that and you guys need to support us.

And he's got to give off a real strong sense of confidence. He feels if people are confident
they'll spend money. If they spend, the economy will continue to develop.

And I think that this NPC rather than being some kind of standard rubber stamp or some kind of
political performance or something, this is really a time when he's got to be on the money and
really speak to the people and speak to the officials and really rally the nation.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: But apart from getting messages out to the public, Professor Zweig says Wen
Jiabao will have his hands full with nearly 3,000 delegates.

DAVID ZWEIG: They're going to get an earful, you know they're going to get an earful from a lot of
places who are saying we're in trouble.

You've got provinces like Zhejiang province, wealthy provinces that depend enormously on exports.
Exports have shrunk by 50 per cent so they're going to hear all this kind of stuff and they need to
be able to say to these officials - don't panic; we'll manage this. We'll see this through to a
better day in about a year or two.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Hong Kong University's Professor David Zweig ending that report from Stephen

Premier Wen hints at change on Taiwan

Reporter: Stephen McDonell

ELEANOR HALL: Let's cross now to Beijing where Premier Wen Jiabao has begun speaking at the
Congress and has made some surprising statements about China's relationship with Taiwan.

The ABC's China correspondent Stephen McDonell joins us now from the Great Hall of the People.

So Stephen, the Premier said that China is 'ready to create conditions' to end hostilities with
Taiwan. How significant is this statement?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well look, to tell the truth at most of these congresses something is said about
Taiwan. I mean China genuinely does want to, that is mainland China, unify itself with Taiwan and
they usually use these meetings to say something to show a willingness along these lines and to
draw a bit of attention.

But there's been no actual sort of concrete acknowledgment of the problems or even a concrete plan
that might encourage this sort of thing.

ELEANOR HALL: So you're suggesting this is just a rhetorical flourish?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well it does seem to be. I mean without any sort of actual step towards you know
meeting the demands that the Taiwanese Government and the Taiwanese people seem to say is a
precondition for unification I can't see it happening or even any movement down that road.

ELEANOR HALL: There is of course a lot of rhetoric in these sorts of meetings. Are China's leaders
being any more candid about the difficulties facing the Chinese economy?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Yes, when it comes to the economy Premier Wen has been speaking about the
'arduous task' facing people in China. You know in the past, they come into these meetings as it
we've heard from the analyst say just now that you know the economy is the jewel in the crown here
for the Government but now they're talking about the need for example to go into budget deficit to
the tune of $AU216-billion to try and boost domestic demand and somehow make up for this huge loss
of export revenue that the country has faced.

ELEANOR HALL: There was talk that China's official growth numbers were massively understating the
problem. Is that seem still to be the case?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: The problem with the growth figures in China is that most of the China watchers
don't really know how accurate they are but for example we're seeing here in the speech today a
pledge to keep GDP growth at this magic eight per cent that some (inaudible) have decided is what
is needed to maintain social stability as they say. And they're also saying they can keep inflation
under four per cent; that even in times of great economic difficulty that these are the sorts of
figures that can be achieved through the Government's economic plan.

ELEANOR HALL: Has the Premier signalled any change at all to the Government' s approach to these
economic challenges?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: No, it's a bit of a sort of you know acknowledge the problems but don't worry,
we've got everything under control kind of speech. You know he's been saying to the delegates that
in the long run things will be okay.

Basically he's spoken about the fundamentals. He's been on sort of trying to talk up the base
strategies in place and that for example that economic and social developments and that the
long-term trend of the Government's economic plan is going to work even if the next few years are

ELEANOR HALL: Stephen Long - Stephen McDonell I'm sorry, the ABC's China correspondent, joining us
there from the Great Hall of the People. Thanks Stephen.

Bush administration accused of abuses of power

Reporter: Kim Landers

ELEANOR HALL: In the United States, some Democrats are pushing for a 'Truth Commission' to
investigate alleged abuses of power by the Bush administration.

The independent panel would examine the actions taken by the US Government after the September the
11th attacks, including the establishment of the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.

As Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports, the commission was proposed at a hearing of the
Senate Judiciary Committee today.

KIM LANDERS: Democrats have branded the Bush administration one of the most secretive in US
history. Americans were kept in the dark for a long time about harsh interrogation tactics, the
extraordinary renditions of detainees and the warrantless wiretapping program.

Now the US Senate has taken the first step towards setting up a probe into alleged abuses committed
under the Bush administration's 'war on terror' policies.

The Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, is calling it a 'Truth

PATRICK LEAHY: How did we get to a point where Abu Ghraib happened? How did we get to a point where
the United States Government tried to make Guantanamo Bay a law free zone? How did we get to a
point where the White House could say if we tell you to do it, even if it breaks the law it's
alright because we're above the law?

KIM LANDERS: Patrick Leahy has compared his proposed panel with South Africa's post-apartheid Truth
and Reconciliation Commission. He believes the US version should look specifically at allegations
of questionable interrogation techniques, extraordinary rendition and the executive overriding of

Senator Leahy says it should also have the power to issue subpoenas and offer immunity to witnesses
in order to get at the truth.

Not surprisingly, Republicans are questioning the need for a Truth Commission.

Arlen Specter is the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He says there's no need
to, quote, 'go off helter skelter' on 'a fishing expedition'. Senator Specter says the Justice
Department is capable of doing an investigation, although he's also offered a glimmer of support
for the Truth Commission.

ARLEN SPECTER: I would not mind looking backward if there's a reason to do so, if there's a
predicate. If we have evidence of torture, torture is a violation of our law. Go after it.

KIM LANDERS: President Barack Obama says he's more interested in moving forward than looking
backwards but he also says if there are clear instances of wrongdoing then people should be
prosecuted. The US Senate hasn't yet decided whether or not to see up the Truth Commission.

David Rivkin is a lawyer who served in the Department of Justice during the administrations of
Ronald Reagan and the first president George Bush. He says it's a bad idea because it would cut
across any possible criminal investigations.

DAVID RIVKIN: A commission of whatever variety to investigate the Bush administration activities
and its officials is a profoundly bad idea, a dangerous idea - both for policy but more importantly
for me as a lawyer for legal and constitutional reasons.

KIM LANDERS: The Obama administration is already lifting the curtain on some of the Bush
administration's policies. It's declassified nine Justice Department legal memos covering things
like sending detainees to other countries and authorising the military to search the homes of
Americans without a warrant.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been pushing for the release of the memos and dozens more.
Jameel Jaffer is the director of the ACLU's national security project.

JAMEEL JAFFER: So there are still dozens of memos that are secret, including memos that provided
the basis for the national security agency's warrantless wiretapping program, memos that provided
the basis for the CIA's torture program.

KIM LANDERS: And Jameel Jaffer says a Truth Commission could investigate a question not answered by
the release of these memos.

JAMEEL JAFFER: What conduct was authorised on the basis of these legal memos? Because in some
senses these legal memos tell us what the Justice Department thought that the executive branch was
authorised to do but they don't actually tell us what the executive branch did.

KIM LANDERS: This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.

Donation scandal stymies election bid

Reporter: Mark Willacy

ELEANOR HALL: The man tipped to be Japan's next prime minister is suddenly fighting for his
political survival. Prosecutors have raided Ichiro Ozawa's office looking for evidence of alleged
illegal donations and his chief secretary has been arrested.

But the leader of the Democratic Party is refusing to resign, saying claims that his party received
hundreds of thousands of dollars from a construction company are politically motivated.

From Tokyo, North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports.

MARK WILLACY: After 40 long years in the Japanese Parliament, Ichiro Ozawa is just a fingernail
away from the prime minister's job and with an election expected within months, every opinion poll
in the country suggests the burly Ozawa is poised to end 53 years of almost unbroken rule by the
Liberal Democratic Party.

But allegations of illegal campaign donations could very well unravel his dream of winning the top

(Ichiro Ozawa speaking)

'This raid of my office by prosecutors is beyond standard practice,' says Mr Ozawa. 'This is
politically and legally unjust,' he says.

Prosecutors believe a major Japanese construction firm gave more than $600,000 in illegal donations
to a political support group for Ichiro Ozawa. It's been reported that the money was in exchange
for Mr Ozawa using his political influence to help the construction company's business dealings.

It's an allegation the 66-year-old Opposition leader denies.

(Ichiro Ozawa speaking)

'My position is that I will not even think of resigning,' says Mr Ozawa.

He maintains the investigation is politically motivated, designed to derail his drive to victory in
the upcoming election.

And it seems some of the mud is beginning to stick.

(Woman speaking)

'The investigation is certain to reveal the facts and I believe he will be forced to resign,' says
this woman.

(Man speaking)

'I'm not convinced by Ozawa's explanation, but that's always the case with politicians,' says this

(Second man speaking)

'I'm sure his conscience is not clear,' says another.

It's not surprising Japanese voters are wallowing in cynicism. Their Government has an approval
rating in single figures, their finance minister had to resign after turning up plastered to a
press conference and now the man they were poised to vote in as prime minister is up to his neck in

This is Mark Willacy in Tokyo for The World Today.

Forestry Tasmania to log Arnhem Land

Reporter: Felicity Ogilvie

ELEANOR HALL: Aboriginal leaders in the Northern Territory have done a deal with Forestry Tasmania
to log trees in Arnhem Land.

The trees would have been bulldozed to clear the way for Rio Tinto's bauxite mine and the timber
will now be used to build houses in the local Indigenous community. Forestry Tasmania will also
help to train local workers in logging skills.

Felicity Ogilvie has our report.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Arnhem Land in Australia's Top End is slightly bigger than Tasmania and the state
known for its forest industry has joined forces with the Top End's traditional owners to set up
their own timber industry.

Aboriginal leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu has signed a deal with Forestry Tasmania to teach locals how
to harvest trees that'll be used to build houses.

GALARRWUY YUNUPINGU: And our style of homes that we're going to build out of our local timber will
be our style of home which is more suitable to Aboriginal people and Aboriginal environment.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Bob Gordon is the managing director of Forestry Tasmania.

BOB GORDON: We've been invited up there by the Aboriginal landowners who are interested in
processing their local timber, converting that to products including houses and furniture-grade

FELICITY OGILVIE: The hardwood that'll be cut down is growing on 850 hectares of land where Rio
Tinto has a bauxite mining lease.

Galarrwuy Yunupingu says if the wood wasn't cut down it would've been bulldozed to make way for the

Under the deal the Gumatj Association will pay Forestry Tasmania to teach Aboriginal workers how to
cut down trees and run sawmills. The money will come from royalties paid to the Gumatj Association
by the bauxite mine and the Federal Government's job creation fund.

GALARRWUY YUNUPINGU: And I think it's long overdue kind of opportunity, giving young men and women
both the skills to cut timber.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The deal has been cautiously welcomed by the coordinator of the Northern
Territory's Environment Centre Stuart Blanch.

STUART BLANCH: From what I've heard it makes sense to harvest the trees and create jobs for
Aboriginal communities from the trees that would be bulldozed anyway for expansion of the mine but
foresters have been eyeing off the tall forests right across northern Australia for years and there
are two proposals now to have mills across parts of the Top End of the Northern Territory.

What the Environment Centre wants to know is what do they mean by selective sustainable logging?

FELICITY OGILVIE: The head of Forestry Tasmania Bob Gordon says the logging in Arnhem Land will
always be a small operation designed to create employment for the local Aboriginal people.

BOB GORDON: The first stage is to cut enough timber to build some houses. We think there's a
potential for further processing that timber, as I said, into furniture-grade material, making
coffee tables, chairs and high-value products. It's a beautiful, hard, quite attractive timber.

FELICITY OGILVIE: He says there are no plans to sell any of the timber from Arnhem Land to the
Tasmanian forest industry.

Forestry Tasmania sells timber to the company Gunns. Gunns plans to build Australia's biggest pulp
mill in Tasmania but Forestry Tasmania says no wood from Arnhem Land will end up in the mill.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie with that report.

High Court ruling a dangerous precedent, say experts

Reporter: Nance Haxton

ELEANOR HALL: Legal analysts are warning that a High Court decision to allow prosecutors to use
evidence that is kept secret from the defendant has set a dangerous precedent.

In a unanimous decision all seven judges agreed that the South Australian police could present
incriminating evidence that was not made available to the defendant, an Adelaide nightclub owner.

In Adelaide, Nance Haxton reports.

NANCE HAXTON: The case against Adelaide nightclub owner Genargi Krasnov has been running since
2005. His application for a liquor licence was knocked back by the South Australian police, despite
Mr Krasnov only having traffic offences on his record.

He took his case to the High Court to challenge the powers of the South Australia police to use
secret criminal intelligence as part of their case but the High Court upheld the decision and the
use of covert evidence.

Criminal procedure and evidence expert Associate Professor Katherine Biber from the University of
Technology in Sydney says the decision is significant as it challenges fundamental principles of

KATHERINE BIBER: On the one hand it suggests that it's possible that evidence can be produced by
one side and not disclosed to the other side, and the other side can be penalised as a result of
that evidence. That's contradictory to all of the general rules that we have about procedural
fairness and natural justice.

NANCE HAXTON: Could this have ramifications for future criminal trials?

KATHERINE BIBER: Well look it's possible that it could. In 2007 the High Court handed down three
separate judgements where covert evidence had been obtained by police and even though that evidence
was disclosed to the other side the High Court held by majority in all three of those cases that
even though the evidence had been improperly obtained it was still going to be admissible against

So it does seem like the High Court rather than having absolute principles about natural justice
and procedural fairness seems to be taking more of a balancing approach.

I think it does raise some concerns because I think most people would agree that there are certain
principles that are fundamental and that we shouldn't outweigh them with something else.

NANCE HAXTON: Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales says the High Court
decision was a shock and could have major ramifications.

GEORGE WILLIAMS: I was surprised by the decision of the High Court. Normally the courts are very
jealous in ensuring that people affected by a decision get access to the information against them
and have the opportunity to make their case. It's a basic principle of natural justice that they're
able to do so.

In this case the High Court found that the good object of preventing infiltration of organised
crime meant that somebody could have decision made against them without them seeing all the
information. But that I think goes against the fundamental principle and I think is a matter of

NANCE HAXTON: What really could this mean for future criminal trials? Does it mean that covert
evidence could be allowed in future court cases?

GEORGE WILLIAMS: I think that does raise some pretty fundamental questions for all type of cases
before the courts.

Is it appropriate to enable a decision by a judge to be made without you being able to rebut the
evidence put against you? Is it really fair that the evidence be put without you being able to see
it? And also, does this have the potential to undermine confidence in the decision maker?

I think people will be worried if decisions can be made without the person affected seeing the
evidence. They might wonder whether the decision is being fairly made or really what the basis of
the decision was.

NANCE HAXTON: Does this give more credence to calls from some circles for a charter of rights?

GEORGE WILLIAMS: Personally I'd like to see a charter of rights that actually does protect
everyone's rights and ensures that we have a fair legal system and that justice is always done.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales, ending that
report by Nance Haxton.

Small light shines for the blind

Reporter: Simon Santow

ELEANOR HALL: A medical trial in the United Kingdom is holding out a tantalising promise to people
who've been blind for many years.

Doctors have developed a bionic eye and the early results are startling. But some experts are
warning that more work needs to be done before the most common cause of blindness can be reversed.

Simon Santow has our report.

SIMON SANTOW: For almost half of his life Englishman Ron has been unable to see.

RON: They said let there be light, and there was light. For 30 years I've seen absolutely nothing
at all. It's all been black. But now light is coming through.

SIMON SANTOW: Ron is a patient at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. He's been blind since
developing retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes the retina to degenerate.

While he might be shy about giving his surname, he's told the BBC what the technology has been able
to do for him.

RON: I pick up this bright purple light which isn't constant. As an experiment, if any of you push
the knuckles of your index fingers into your eyeballs you will find you will get lots of little
light impulses that seem to revolve and move around.

SIMON SANTOW: Australian trained eye surgeon Lyndon da Cruz operated on Ron.

LYNDON DA CRUZ: We place this electronic device inside the eye in apposition with the retina, or
the nerve layer inside the eye. That device is then stimulated wirelessly from a pair of video
glasses which actually pick up the visual signal, or see. That stimulates the residual retina to
form a impulse in the optic nerve which goes to the brain. And so we're taking up the missing part
of that person's vision which is the retinal function.

SIMON SANTOW: The trial is at least two years away from completion.

LYNDON DA CRUZ: The first stage of the trial is to make sure the implant works and is stable and
doesn't damage the retina and that seems to be going okay. Now we can reprogram the processor that
transmits the video signal into the wireless signal to the eye to see if we can increase things
like persistence, form, and get some sort of definition so rather than them know that there's an
object without knowing what it is, start to get some sense of what it is and where it is.

SIMON SANTOW: Professor Mark Gillies is from the Save Sight Institute at the University of Sydney.

MARK GILLIES: The bionic eye is only really at this point a treatment for total blindness. The
commonest cause of what's called legal blindness in Australia is macular degeneration and at the
moment the bionic eye really is not suitable for those patients.

SIMON SANTOW: He says bionic eyes are being worked on around the world, including in Australia.

MARK GILLIES: There are a number of challenges. The main thing is the interface between the actual
bionic eye and the eye itself and you have to have diseases where only some of the retina or the
optic nerve has been damaged but the rest of the visual function is normal and these are fairly
specific diseases. It's certainly not applicable to all causes of blindness.

SIMON SANTOW: American company Second Sight Medical Products says it developed the technology to
initially help people who in a sense had nothing to lose by trialling it.

Second Sight's president and CEO is Robert Greenberg.

ROBERT GREENBERG: We wanted to start with the folks that were the most affected because the
risk-benefit ratio was the best for them. In a sense they couldn't be made more blind. Many people
with macular degeneration tend to have some residual vision so before looking very much at that
population we wanted to make sure that the device was safe.

SIMON SANTOW: But the bionic eye's inventors say they're working to eventually adapt it for more
widespread use.

ROBERT GREENBERG: This latest device called the Argus II actually has 60 electrodes and so the
significance of more electrodes is like more pixels on a monitor, going from standard definition to
high definition if you will.

We have in development increasingly higher pixel count. These devices now are taking individuals
who are either completely blind or are what's called bare light perception, you can just barely see
a flash of light, and taking those individuals to the point where they can now begin to recognise
objects, follow lines. The kinds of things you've heard Ron doing are fairly typical of the
individuals who get these devices.

Where I think it can go is ultimately to normal vision and perhaps even beyond.

ELEANOR HALL: Amazing. Robert Greenberg is the CEO of Second Sight, the US company which developed
the technology for the bionic eye. Simon Santow our reporter.