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Major Government legislation hangs in the balance

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government's negotiating skills are being tested. As Parliament sits for
the last week before the budget, there is still no breakthrough on key parts of the Government's
legislative agenda.

The tax increase on alcoholic drinks and the re-write of Australia's workplace laws are being held
up by cross bench senators and the Opposition.

But there is one new Government policy that all of them agree on - that is the move to cut the
number of skilled migrants entering Australia.

In Canberra, Hayden Cooper reports.

HAYDEN COOPER: For a week that is crucial for more than one piece of Government legislation, it's
surprising that proceedings have begun on a bipartisan note.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: This is a certainly a welcome move.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull agrees with the Government's step to cut
skilled migration.

The intake will be slashed by 14 per cent: so bricklayers, carpenters, welders and plumbers can no
longer be sourced from overseas.

The Immigration Minister, Chris Evans.

CHRIS EVANS: The changes we've made this week will ensure that only the most critical skills are
still on that list. We will still need doctors, we will still need some specific skills. And the
major way that people come in under the permanent migration program will be through the employer
nominated program.

In other words, people will only come in if they have got a job which means that people won't be
coming in to compete with Australians for jobs in areas where there is rising unemployment or
increasing competition for jobs.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, we have been calling for the Government to cut its immigration intake for
months now in light of the worsening economic situation. It is good that they have finally
recognised the gravity of the threat to jobs in Australia and acted to reduce the immigration
intake.

HAYDEN COOPER: But that's where the agreement ends.

The Senate will work like a production line over the next four days as the Government ramps up the
pressure to pass key bills before the seven-week break.

The first vote will decide whether to approve, retrospectively, the Government's tax hike on
pre-mixed alcoholic drinks.

And on that, the Opposition leader has unveiled a new position.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: We propose to validate the collection of the tax over the last 12 months. We will
oppose the collection of the tax in the future. It is not a health measure; it is a revenue raising
measure.

HAYDEN COOPER: The tax has been collected since April last year and without legislation it would
have to be refunded to manufacturers.

But Malcolm Turnbull wants to stop the tax increase in the future but without the risk of refund.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: What we will do is pass amendments that mean the tax that has been raised without
legislative authority obviously, does not have to be paid back.

There is quite a lot of money there. We don't know how much but it is in the order of $250-million
and that can be used for really effective practical measures to address the problem.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Health Minister Nicola Roxon was quick to attack Malcolm Turnbull's plan.

NICOLA ROXON: We know that he has been in the pockets of the alcopops industry right from the
beginning and all he is doing today is their bidding. This is exactly the position that they put to
the Senate Committee and we now see Malcolm Turnbull pretending that this is his new idea.

HAYDEN COOPER: So you will continue to direct your efforts towards convincing Steve Fielding, I
take it?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, we'll work with all of the Senate. We believe this is a good initiative. We can
see from the sales data that consumption is being reduced. We are determined to push ahead with
this measure.

HAYDEN COOPER: Senator Fielding seems determined to secure new restrictions on alcohol advertising.
Is that an area on which you will give ground?

NICOLA ROXON: Look, we are not prepared to take action today and tomorrow to ban advertising as Mr
Fielding, Senator Fielding wants. We are however, prepared to talk with him and others about the
sorts of measures that can be part of a package.

HAYDEN COOPER: The other great tussle for the Government is in the realm of workplace relations.

The Opposition's Senate leader Nick Minchin is still holding out on revealing his party's
intentions if the series of Liberal amendments are not met.

NICK MINCHIN: We will wait until we see what amendments the Government agrees to with the
cross-benchers: the Greens, Family First and Senator Xenophon.

HAYDEN COOPER: But some Coalition backbenchers take a stronger line. Wilson Tuckey is one who's
less than happy with the leaders of the party who've been distancing themselves from the
WorkChoices-era.

WILSON TUCKEY: What I mean is that the leadership was rushing in and telling people what they
thought without checking with the party room. The party room has never held the view that Julia
Gillard had the right to wreck the Australian economy through her style of union dominated
industrial relations.

And certain people that haven't been in the party, in the government or Parliament as long as
others, made comments that were not approved by the party room. It is as simple as that.

HAYDEN COOPER: It's clear that the Fair Work Bill rests with the cross benchers. Julia Gillard is
meeting them again today.

The Greens are likely to support it but Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding are holding out for
adjustments; and at this point changing the new unfair dismissal protections for small business
remains the sticking point.

ELEANOR HALL: Hayden Cooper in Canberra.

Construction union calls for pause in 457 visa scheme

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government has cut Australia's intake of permanent skilled migrants. But
the union movement is now pushing for it to make further cuts.

Employers can still apply to bring in foreign workers using the 457 visa category for temporary
workers.

And the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union wants the Government to restrict immigration
under this scheme as well.

Sara Everingham has our report.

SARA EVERINGHAM: According to the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union the 457 visa scheme
can't be justified in the construction sector given the downturn in the industry.

Dave Noonan is the National Secretary of the Construction Division of the CFMEU.

DAVE NOONAN: Certainly in relation to construction, there is no good reason for the importation of
people on temporary guest visas. These were, the employer said, all about addressing a skill
shortage.

In a declining construction market and a serious downturn caused by the global financial crisis,
there is no reason for temporary workers to be brought into the construction industry.

SARA EVERINGHAM: He's concerned that as companies cut jobs it's local workers will be the first to
go.

DAVE NOONAN: Some employers are actually laying off local workers and keeping 457 workers because
they have been able to get away with paying them less money. And because those workers are in a
very precarious position in terms of their ability to speak up about bad treatment in the
workplace.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The labour market and immigration analyst Bob Kinnaird argues changes to the 457
visa scheme are overdue

BOB KINNAIRD: There is about 82,500 457 visa workers in Australia at the moment. At the time that
many of those people were granted visas there were not Australians around who could do the work
because the economy was booming and so on.

But we are faced with an entirely different situation now and there are surplus Australians
available and likely to become available in virtually every occupation that you can think of.

SARA EVERINGHAM: He is pushing for greater restrictions to the scheme.

BOB KINNAIRD: The list of occupations for which 457 visas can be granted should be cut back. At the
moment virtually every occupation from trade level up to general manager is eligible for a 457
visa. Now the thing is that at the moment it is just not appropriate to have such a wide range of
occupations eligible for 457 visas. They should be cut back to only those critical skills which
Australia desperately need.

SARA EVERINGHAM: A large employer of 457 visa workers has been the meat industry.

Kevin Cottrill is the CEO Australian Meat Industry Council.

KEVIN COTTRILL: There is a requirement under the 457 system to demonstrate that you have tried to
fill those jobs with Australian labour first. It is a matter of whether or not we can get access to
labour and whether that labour can be trained up to a point where we can replace the current 457s.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But you would say that those workers are needed?

KEVIN COTTRILL: Absolutely and there is a requirement to continue to demonstrate that on a regular
basis to the Commonwealth.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Peter McDonald the director of the Australian Demographic and Social Research
Institute at the Australian National University. He argues restrictions to the 457 visa scheme
aren't necessary.

PETER MCDONALD: Well, I think the 457 is driven by demand from employers and it has been rising, of
course, before the recession fairly sharply because of the increased demand. But the word around
Canberra is that demand, the number of applications for 457s is falling off quite sharply and so
the market in a sense is taking care of 457 and that was the way that the 457 visa was designed.

You know, that it would respond to the market. As demand goes up the numbers go up, as demand went
down the numbers would go down and that is exactly what seems to be happening.

SARA EVERINGHAM: And there are reports that workers on 457 visas already here are losing their jobs
and finding themselves in difficult circumstances.

One report says that three Filipino workers in Western Australia have found themselves without jobs
and thousands of dollars in debt to a labour hire agent.

If they don't find work within 28 days it is likely they'll be forced to go home.

ELEANOR HALL: Sara Everingham reporting.

More job losses but economy sound, says President

ELEANOR HALL: After weeks of delivering dismal assessments on the state of the US economy, the
Obama administration is now striking a more positive note.

The White House today said the world's largest economy was 'fundamentally sound'.

It's a message that's being welcomed in the state of South Carolina, where unemployment is running
at 10.4 per cent.

North America correspondent Kim Landers reports from that state's capital, Columbia.

(Sound of hair dryer)

KIM LANDERS: Last year, South Carolina's beauty salons were key battlegrounds in the Democratic
presidential race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Now, all the talk has turned to the recession - people losing their jobs, their homes, their hope.

KATHELLA JONES: I hear it on the news almost every day; all over, not just here but all over the
world. The tentacles stretch long and wide with this thing.

KIM LANDERS: Kathella Jones is one of the lucky ones. She's got two jobs.

She works five days a week at the Department of Social Services and on Saturday she works as a
massage therapist at this beauty salon in Columbia, South Carolina.

KATHELLA JONES: I'm thankful. Very, very, very, very thankful.

KIM LANDERS: Thankful that you've got a job?

KATHELLA JONES: Exactly!

KIM LANDERS: In South Carolina, unemployment has jumped to 10.4 per cent - the second highest in
the nation and well above the national rate of 8.1 per cent.

And people here know it could get worse.

Sharon Harris is a social worker for the local school district which is getting ready to cut jobs.

SHARON HARRIS: Yeah, it's something that people probably never would have thought would be
happening. You know, you always thought that if you were in a medical field, you are good to go. If
you are in an education field you're pretty much good to go, but that just goes to show how quickly
things can change.

We've been seeing people, you know by way of news, by way of people, you know, in the church that
have been given testimonies about the different things that are happening on their jobs and that
they are actually losing their jobs. So of course, you see it, you know, first hand and then you
hear it as well.

KIM LANDERS: President Barack Obama has acknowledged that many families are suffering what he calls
'incredible pain' from the recession.

But in the past week he's been trying to strike a more optimistic note telling Americans he is very
confident the country can get through the tough times.

Sharon Harris has confidence in the President.

SHARON HARRIS: I think what the hell I've got, yes he can turn it around. Of course, you know, he
inherited a lot and I think he is doing a wonderful job. But at the same time, regardless of
whether he went into the office or someone else, no-one would be able to do anything overnight as
though people are kind of projecting.

So I think if they just give it time and just trust more in a higher power, opposed to him, I
think, you know, they will have a better understanding of what is going to happen in the future.

KIM LANDERS: Kathella Jones is also optimistic.

KATHELLA JONES: I think it is not going to happen overnight but I do believe we are going to come
back, the economy, the stock market - everything is going to be on a rise but it is going to take a
while. It took a while to get like this so it is going to take a while for it to come back, but I
am very optimistic.

KIM LANDERS: John T. Elliott has owned this Columbia beauty salon for 18 years. In between washing
one client's hair and styling another's, he tells me that while the customers talk about the
recession, he is not worrying about it.

JOHN T. ELLIOTT: I did at first. I did at first and like I said here again only because it was
being talked about so much in the media. But I really, honestly must say that I have not felt it in
my business and I think a lot of that has to do with your business skills as far as customer
service and things like that.

KIM LANDERS: Phyllis Chavers is one of those loyal customers.

PHYLLIS CHAVERS: I am really not concerned about the economy because my trust is in God and I
believe he has everything in control so I am not concerned about it as far as I go. I know that
people are suffering and they have their concerns so I can't speak for them. I can only speak for
me. My trust is in God and I feel he is taking care of me.

KIM LANDERS: And she approves of how President Barack Obama is handling the crisis.

PHYLLIS CHAVERS: I mean the situation is bad so he can't just sweep it over with all these
platitudes of how great things are going to be. People need to know the real deal but they don't
have to hear it every day until they are just overwhelmed with pessimism. But you need to know the
truth as well as you need someone who does have a positive outlook that is saying okay, well it is
bad right now but we can get through it.

KIM LANDERS: The recession in America has now lasted 15 months and very few people are willing to
predict when it will end.

This is Kim Landers in Columbia, South Carolina for The World Today.

City finds more families caught up in crisis

ELEANOR HALL: In Australia's largest city the financial crisis is pushing more people onto the
streets.

For the first time in 25 years the majority of people calling the City of Sydney homelessness
centre have said that financial difficulty was the cause of their plight.

Suzie Matthews is the manager of social policy and programs for the City of Sydney and she spoke to
me a short time ago.

Suzie Matthews, what prompted the council to commission this survey?

SUZIE MATTHEWS: Well, the council has been running the Homeless Persons Information Centre for 25
years now and so we have been collecting data for obviously a very long period of time.

What has prompted the release of this data is the significant rise in the number of people
reporting crisis eviction as a reason for becoming homeless in our service; and so that has only
been over the last two years we have noticed that significant increase.

ELEANOR HALL: What was it that surprised you in the results?

SUZIE MATTHEWS: Well, I think generally the main reason for homelessness is that people report
family breakdown or mental health issues or substance abuse issues and that is primarily been the
cause over the years.

This represents a significant change and I think it really shows the beginning of the effect of the
economic slowdown on our community.

ELEANOR HALL: What sort of stories are people telling you and your staff?

SUZIE MATTHEWS: Well, I think there is the issue obviously of either not being able to afford rent
in Sydney or not being able to secure rental properties. I think there is a really diminished
supply at the moment.

I think the other issue is not being able to keep up with mortgage payments; so where one member of
a family, maybe the husband or the wife has lost their job and they can no longer keep up on their
mortgage repayments.

ELEANOR HALL: Financial difficulty is clearly then causing personal problems but it is also making
it difficult for businesses to operate. So how is that affecting the council's plans for more
housing construction in Sydney?

SUZIE MATTHEWS: Well, obviously council has a very strong commitment to generating affordable
housing and at the moment we actually have a draft Rental Affordable Housing Strategy on public
exhibition which seeks to ensure that over the next 22 years and particularly as part of
Sustainable Sydney 2030 - The City Strategy, that we have around 15 per cent of affordable or
social housing provided in the city by that time.

ELEANOR HALL: But has the financial crisis put back the plans for that affordable housing?

SUZIE MATTHEWS: Well, look I think it is going to create challenges and I think council and
certainly the State Government and Commonwealth governments need to look at innovative ways to levy
on property developers ways to develop affordable housing.

Of course, I think the slowdown is going to have an effect on that but we will continue to seek
ways to make sure that a demarket provides, you know, solutions for our community in that respect.

ELEANOR HALL: How are you going to address the immediate need?

SUZIE MATTHEWS: In terms of the immediate need, obviously people need somewhere to sleep so
homelessness is a growing issue for the city. Obviously our hate-pic data (phonetic) tells us that
there has been a significant increase in the number of calls received in the first two months of
this year actually an unprecedented number of calls in our 25-year history.

So the first thing that we do is obviously provide that direct support to people in crisis so that
is referral out to accommodation services, to finance counselling services and also to finance
support services such as Centrelink. So that is meeting that immediate need.

Obviously, there needs to be a longer term solution. We would rather not people rotate through
crisis refuges and crisis accommodation night by night; so we are about providing long-term
solutions.

We are actually working in partnership with state and Commonwealth governments to develop the
common ground project in Sydney which is a project that provides affordable, long-term stable
accommodation for homeless people straight off the streets and that is to ensure that people can
stay in accommodation fully supported to do so.

And it is based on models that have worked very successfully in cities like New York and across the
rest of Northern America.

ELEANOR HALL: Are there enough places in crisis accommodation centres at the moment?

SUZIE MATTHEWS: Absolutely not. No and this is certainly what our Homeless Persons Information
Centre is telling us is that they are finding it very difficult to provide accommodation for people
and there is an increasing pressure on those services and what we are actually seeing is probably a
more visible presence of homeless people on the streets of Sydney.

And indeed our recent street count which we conducted on the 17th February saw, you know, a visible
number of homeless people sleeping rough at night.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's Suzie Matthews, the manager of social policy and programs for the City of
Sydney.

Legal action launched against captain of oil spill ship

ELEANOR HALL: Queensland's maritime safely authority has launched legal action against the captain
of the ship responsible for the state's biggest oil spill.

Three investigations are now underway into the cause of the spill which has covered 60 kilometres
of Queensland's coast with toxic sludge.

And while the clean-up continues analysts say the Government's handling of the disaster could cost
it votes at this weekend's state election.

In Brisbane, James Kelly reports.

JAMES KELLY: The captain of the cargo ship, Pacific Adventurer, surrendered his passport to
Commonwealth authorities late yesterday after he was served with legal papers in the port of
Brisbane.

His boat was allegedly responsible for accidentally dumping hundreds of thousands of litres of oil
into the waters off Moreton Island near Brisbane, during rough seas associated with tropical
Cyclone Hamish on Wednesday.

That oil covered 60 kilometres of the state's most beautiful coastline.

Queensland's Deputy Premier Paul Lucas says three investigations are underway and legal action is
being taken by Maritime Safety Queensland and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority against the
ship's captain and the owners of the boat.

PAUL LUCAS: We didn't cause this accident but sure as eggs we are gonna sort out why it happened in
the first place.

JAMES KELLY: Mr Lucas says the captain has to clarify why 31 containers of ammonium nitrate
fertilizer fell overboard - one of them puncturing the oil-filled hull and why he seriously
underestimated how much oil leaked from the ship.

PAUL LUCAS: Thirty tonnes of oil was first reported to have been spilled by the ship. When the true
figure is now believed to be about 230 to 250.

JAMES KELLY: The Swire Shipping Group, which owns and operates the cargo ship, has denied
suggestions it knowingly lied about the amount of oil which leaked from the Pacific Adventurer.

The company says it told the truth at all times.

Today the massive clean-up is continuing on the Sunshine Coast where several beaches are still
off-limits to swimmers.

On Moreton Island which bore the brunt of the oil slick, 300 council workers are on-site.

Trevor Hassard from the Tangalooma Island Resort is working alongside various government agencies.

TREVOR HASSARD: All guns blazing at the moment. We've got helicopters here from the state
government and the Port Authority - all picking up stuff at Tangalooma which is the staging point
and taking it over to the ocean beach to the inaccessible areas.

We've got about 25 kilometres of oil-stained beach and they have cleaned up about three, maybe four
kilometres to date.

JAMES KELLY: Where it's been cleaned up, it's pristine again?

TREVOR HASSARD: It looks fantastic. I mean, actually there is some problems but on the ocean beach
they are actually cleaning all of the Spinifex dunes. They are getting the oil out of the Spinifex
grasses. They are getting it off the sand - no problems at all.

JAMES KELLY: But it's not such a good outlook on the island's northern side.

TREVOR HASSARD: The cape is another matter. There is oil all through the rocks and you probably saw
on the news last night that, you know, that is yet to be decided how we are going to attack or how
they are going to attack that.

JAMES KELLY: Mr Hassard says it could take a month before the clean-up ends.

The oil slick has been the main talking point in Queensland for almost a week and has partly
overshadowed the other big race against time - the state election this weekend.

The Opposition Liberal-National Party, known as the LNP, has been consistently leading in the most
recent polls but only by a couple of points over the incumbent Labor Government.

Political analyst Scott Prasser from the University of the Sunshine Coast says the Government's
handling of the disaster could cost it votes on Saturday.

SCOTT PRASSER: It has come at a very bad time for the Government and I think the Government had
done the best they can to respond. But it makes it look, it has been made to look and can be made
to look that the Government didn't really have an emergency plan in action.

That has been the issue that the Greens and the LNP have been trying to push. I would have thought
it may have made Green issues and therefore the Green vote more relevant to the election and they
don't seem to have pushed that as much as I thought they could have.

JAMES KELLY: So what do you think may be the result on the weekend? A Labor win?

SCOTT PRASSER: I still think it is going to be very close. Initially at the beginning of the
campaign thought the Labor Party would have a good majority. To me it is now going to just depend
on what happens in last week. Whether the LNP can keep up the pressure and whether Anna can start
to show a bit more flexibility in responding.

So I still think the Labor Party has got a chance to hold on.

ELEANOR HALL: Political analyst Scott Prasser, ending that report by James Kelly.

March puts more pressure on Pakistan Govt

ELEANOR HALL: Now to what some analysts say is the worst crisis facing Pakistan's President, Asif
Ali Zardari, since he took office last September.

The country's main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, is leading a march of thousands of
anti-government protesters to the capital, Islamabad.

One of the protestor's key demands is the reinstatement of the chief judge Iftikhar Mohammad
Chaudhry who was dismissed in late 2007 by the then president and army chief, General Pervez
Musharraf.

And it now seems the Government has bowed to public pressure, and will reinstate the Chief Justice.

Dr Christopher Snedden from Deakin University's International Relations department is a close
watcher of Pakistan's political situation. He spoke to me about the latest developments a short
time ago.

Dr Snedden to what extent are these protests destabilising the Government which is still facing
criticism over its security efforts for the Sri Lankan cricket team?

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: Oh, they are highly destabilising and very distracting. The Government, which
has major economic and social problems and not to mention issues like the Taliban, is highly
distracted by these protests at the moment.

ELEANOR HALL: And how dangerous is this sort of instability, not just for Pakistani's but for the
wider region?

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: Highly dangerous and I think that is why there has been a lot of foreign
pressure and pressure from the Pakistan army put on the President particularly to solve this issue
and remembering of course that India hasn't yet responded in any military way to the Mumbai
terrorist incidents and it is probably not likely to but that is something that the Pakistani's
must also factor into their thinking.

ELEANOR HALL: So they clearly don't need this sort of political infighting but there is a long
history between President Zardari and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This latest conflict
seems to have been sparked by the Supreme Court's decision to block Nawaz Sharif and his brother
from political office. Was that decision justified?

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: Look, I think the history between the two of them is actually not really the
major problem. That is part of it certainly and Mr Sharif did consider that that judgement by the
Supreme Court was not instigated but certainly influenced by Mr Zardari.

But it also goes back to a thing called the Murray Declaration and even further beyond that to the
Charter for Democracy when they did talk about instituting an impartial Supreme Court and in that
Murray Declaration which came out after the elections in February last year, they talked about
restoring the judiciary within 30 days of the formation of a federal government.

And I think that is what really upset Mr Sharif - that Mr Zardari says certain things and then
doesn't do them and Mr Sharif, I think has felt a little bit devalued by that process.

ELEANOR HALL: So Mr Sharif's criticisms of the President are justified in your view?

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: I think so, yes. I think he has been rather badly treated given that Mr
Zardari had some charges dropped against him in a deal with General Musharraf that allowed both Mr
Zardari and his now deceased wife, Benazir Bhutto to return.

So there is corruption surrounding both of them but one party has done better than the other and
that party being Mr Zardari who is now the President. The other party Mr Sharif's, hasn't got any
position at all and can't even stand for the National Assembly.

ELEANOR HALL: Well there is now speculation that the Government of Zardari will reinstate Iftikhar
Mohammad Chaudhry, the Supreme Court judge who was sacked by the former president Musharraf. Is
that likely to resolve things?

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: It will resolve that particular issue in the short term; but then there is
also the issue of what to do with the former, if he is going to be the former, Supreme Court head.

But also I think that will resolve that issue in the short term but there are other issues then to
deal with the impartiality of the Supreme Court. Things like a code of ethics for that court; no
special courts as a military establishment; the establishment of a federal constitutional court.

And in particular, the amendment of the 17th amendment which gives the President power to sack the
Parliament and call elections and that is something that almost everybody in Pakistan wants and
that again, that is something that Mr Zardari agreed to do.

ELEANOR HALL: So what do you think is now going to happen with this march on Islamabad?

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: I think it will continue. They will arrive in Islamabad probably later today.
They may even be allowed to move closer to the National Assembly than what they first thought given
that they blockaded the area around that, the police and various others.

And the PPP will say, well look, we are a democratic party. We allowed this democratic movement to
continue and the PMLN, Mr Sharif's party will also say, look we got here and we've had the Chief
Justice reinstated and it is a victory for us. So it will be a face saving sort of a formula I
think.

But as I suggest, I think then they are going to continue to want have reform of that court and
they are also going to want Mr Sharif to be allowed to stand for Parliament and they are also going
to want that 17th amendment changed.

And in Punjab there are issues to be sorted out as well with the PMLN government there having been
sidelined by governor's rule and they are going to want them to be reinstated and they are also
probably wanting the governor there sacked who is very pro-PPP and very anti-PMLN.

ELEANOR HALL: So do you think that the Zardari Government can survive?

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: Well, I think they can because the big winner out of this if anybody is Mr
Gilani, the Prime Minister who has shown himself to be a fairly conciliatory and broad-minded and
inclusive politician and he has also now standing up to the President.

And the President would be stupid to call elections because the PPP would now be routed by the PMLN
which has, as I suggested, so much wind in its sails. So I think things will probably chug along
the way they are and there is just going to more protests and politicking but it will eventually
settle down.

ELEANOR HALL: And what about the future for the President particularly if the Supreme Court judge
Chaudhry is reinstated?

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: Well, that is a great worry for Mr Zardari because he is concerned that those
charges of corruption will be reinstated or they will certainly re-examine that deal between
Zardari and Musharraf so he will be concerned about that.

But I would think that in the deals that were made, there would have been some sort of pressure or
inducement placed on Mr Chaudhry not to do that. So that remains to be seen.

The President can, of course be impeached, which would require half of one of the houses bringing
that motion forward and then two-thirds majority of both houses for that to succeed. But it would
have to be on the grounds of incompetence and it is hard to argue that he has been incompetent. It
is just part of the political process.

But that said, that is 47, Article 47, Article 48 of the Pakistan constitution also says that he
should be following the Prime Minister's advice and that is what everybody wants him to be - a
figurehead and he may, given his high levels of unpopularity, either do that - become a figurehead
or even resign although politicians love power in Pakistan and I don't see that as being likely to
happen.

ELEANOR HALL: Dr Snedden thanks very much for joining us.

CHRISTOPHER SNEDDEN: You're welcome Eleanor, thank you.

ELEANOR HALL: Dr Christopher Snedden. He is a professor of International Relations at Deakin
University.

Maldives to go 'carbon neutral'

ELEANOR HALL: As Australia's Parliament considers an emissions trading scheme that would reduce
carbon emissions by as little as five per cent, one of the world's smallest nations has pledged to
reduce its emissions by 100 per cent.

The president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, said his country will swap fossil fuels for wind
and solar power within a decade.

Simon Lauder has our report.

SIMON LAUDER: As rich nations agonise over how much responsibility they should take for the world's
biggest environmental problem, one of the poorest and smallest countries is aiming to go all the
way.

The Maldives is a chain of coral islands, south of India. The islands are less than two metres
above sea level and are home to 385,000. Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed says he wants his
ambitious plan to inspire the world.

MOHAMED NASHEED: We understand more than perhaps anyone what would happen to us if we don't do
something about it or if the rest of the world doesn't find the imagination to confront this
problem.

So basically we don't want to sit around and blame others; but we want to do whatever we can. And
hopefully if we can become carbon neutral and hopefully when we come up with the plans and the
investments plans as well, we hope that there plans also will serve a blue-print for other nations
to follow.

SIMON LAUDER: The Maldives plan is simply to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar power -
requiring 155 wind turbines and a half square kilometre of solar panels. It would cost an estimated
$US110-million per year, but the President says the investment will pay-off.

MOHAMED NASHEED: We ourselves, are already spending this kind of money to other energy costs so I
think it is really quite interesting that we found out this week that it is going to cost us
$110-million a year; but then it is going to pay back in 10 years.

So within 10 years, this $110-million we would have already paid back and then we would have
hopefully assisted to save environment degradation to a certain extent and also at the end of the
day we would be coming out with much cheaper energy.

SIMON LAUDER: Scientists told a conference last week that sea levels appear to be rising almost
twice as fast as previously forecast by the United Nations.

The pledge from the Maldives sends an unambiguous message to world leaders who are preparing to
meet for an international climate change conference in Copenhagen at the end of the year.

The announcement has been timed to coincide with the launch of a film that also sends a blunt
message.

(Extract from movie)

EXCERPT FROM 'The Age of Stupid'(voiceover): Observing people on a far off beach. Running around in
circles. Fixated on these small area of sand under their feet as a tsunami races towards the shore.

(End of extract)

SIMON LAUDER: 'The Age of Stupid' uses computer generated scenes, such as a burning Sydney Opera
House in an attempt to get an urgent and dramatic message about climate change through to a
mainstream audience. It shows a man looking back from the year 2055 and wondering why no-one acted
sooner.

Filmmaker, Franny Armstrong spoke to the BBC.

FRANNY ARMSTRONG: Our film is the humans, the human story. What this is about is that our actions
now are going to kill hundreds of millions of people.

SIMON LAUDER: Franny Armstrong describes the current proposal for a post-Kyoto agreement as a
'suicide pact' and she wants to use her film to affect the political mood before the Copenhagen
summit.

FRANNY ARMSTRONG: We are aiming for 250-million people seeing this film before Copenhagen which
sounds ludicrously ambitious but it is only 10 times more than we managed for our last film McLibel
and also we are talking about the end of the world so, you know. We should really, you know, let's
aim high.

Yeah, we raised the money by a scheme that we call crowd funding. Basically 228 different people
invested in the film - between $500 and $35,000 pounds each and they all own a piece of the profits
as do the crew who had to work at ridiculously low wages.

But the point is that we wanted to own the rights so that we could control the distribution and we
could maximise the number of people who see it this year, get inspired and then join the fight to
pressurise the governments before Copenhagen.

ELEANOR HALL: That is film-maker, Franny Armstrong ending that report from Simon Lauder.

Austrian dungeon case goes to trial

ELEANOR HALL: The trial of the man accused of locking up his daughter for a quarter of a century
and fathering seven children with her, begins today in Austria.

Lawyers for Josef Fritzl say he will plead guilty to incest and rape.

But while international media interest in the trial is intense, commentators say many Austrians
just want it to be over.

Barbara Miller has our report.

BARBARA MILLER: Hundreds of journalists have set up base in the town of St Polten in Lower Austria
to report on the trial of Josef Fritzl.

The 73-year-old is accused of holding his daughter Elisabeth prisoner for 24 years in a cellar in
his house. During that time he fathered seven children with her.

Three remained in the cellar, never seeing the light of day.

Three were brought up by Josef Fritzl and his wife in the house above the cellar.

He's reported to have told his wife that Elisabeth had run away but returned several times to leave
her children on the doorstop.

Mrs Fritzl apparently believed him and faces no charges.

Josef Fritzl is accused of rape, incest, enslavement, and murder over the alleged death shortly
after birth of one of the children.

Mr Fritzl's lawyer Rudolf Mayer says his client is remorseful, and will plead guilty to some of the
charges.

RUDOLF MAYER (translated): He regrets his actions. He regrets that he has the mentally disordered
personality as assessed in the expert report ordered by the prosecution and he is nervous like any
defendant ahead of his trial.

BARBARA MILLER: Legal experts say the murder charge will be hard to prove - leading to fears that
he will get off lightly.

VOX POP (translated): It is not possible to make amends for what he did and I think he deserves
what he did to his daughter - to be put in a dungeon.

VOX POP 2 (translated): I am expecting that he will get a fair trial although I didn't like what I
read about the expert report, where the psychologist said that it was all because of his childhood.
I don't agree with that and I hope that he will get an appropriate sentence.

BARBARA MILLER: Mr Fritzl's lawyer says whatever sentence his client gets will mean life:

RUDOLF MAYER (translated): He will plead guilty to incest and to rape. He will plead not guilty to
murder and enslavement. One can't predict the verdict. One can't control a trial, particularly in a
jury trial, one can't predict the verdict. But the age of the defendant, 73 years is an age where
any sentence will consume his life.

BARBARA MILLER: When the crimes came to light almost a year ago, questions were asked about whether
there was something particular to Austrian society which allowed them to happen.

Parallels were drawn to the case of Natascha Kampusch, another young Austrian who was kidnapped and
locked up for eight years in a basement.

Anneliese Rohrer a prominent Austrian journalist and columnist with the Kurier newspaper, says many
Austrians are now tired of the debate.

ANNELIESE ROHRER: People are really tired of being confronted. After the first hype and after the
first hysteria, the international hysteria of getting asked, you know the question over and over
again - is it anything to do with the Nazi past? Can it be compared to the Holocaust and what is in
the Austrian-ness in this crime?

I mean these were the issues that have really been dealt with over and over and over again when the
case broke; so I have the feeling that people really want to suppress it, you know, get the trial
over with. Be done with. Don't let's talk about it because we do not want to talk about what is
Austrian about this.

You know, at any instance maybe quit my time (phonetic) maybe anything else. It is always what is
Austrian about it. What has it got to do with the Nazi past?

So people immediately go on the defensive and you know, after a while they just react very
aggressively. You know, what do you mean what is Austrian about it. We are not the only country
where this happens.

BARBARA MILLER: In Amstetten, where Elisabeth Fritzl and her children were held, the 'House of
Horror' as it's been dubbed still attracts many visitors.

Many locals say they can't stand the attention.

VOX POP 3 (translated): The name of Amstetten will always be linked to one persons crime. This is
very irritating and terrible for us and we can't bear this in the long run.

BARBARA MILLER: Elisbeth Fritzl, who's not been seen publicly since she was freed one year ago is
not expected to appear at the trial.

A lengthy video will be played to the court of her testimony.

A verdict is expected as early as this Friday.

ELEANOR HALL: Barbara Miller reporting.

Govt gets more time to review Rio proposal

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government has announced that it needs more time to scrutinise the
proposal by China's biggest aluminium producer, Chinalco, to increase its stake in Rio Tinto.

The Foreign Investment Review Board will get an extra 90 days to study the controversial deal.

Mining analysts say it is the most important decision on foreign investment since the then
treasurer, Peter Costello, prevented oil giant Shell from taking over oil and gas producer,
Woodside Petroleum, eight years ago.

More from finance reporter, Sue Lannin.

SUE LANNIN: The Federal Government has to decide whether allowing a major customer to double its
stake in Rio Tinto is in the national interest.

John Murray is managing director of Perennial Value Management.

He oversees about $300-million worth of Rio shares.

JOHN MURRAY: This is a very significant decision which needs to looked at. It was always going to
be a bit tight anyway. So in that sense, no great surprises there.

SUE LANNIN: Does it suggest to you that the Federal Government is concerned about the deal?

JOHN MURRAY: It certainly suggests that the Government is looking into it very closely. What we are
looking at here is a major consumer of Australian raw materials becoming a part-owner of those raw
materials and also becoming a potentially a very significant part-owner in Rio, the company which
produces these raw materials.

It is a bellwether in some ways.

SUE LANNIN: Have you decided yet whether you will support the deal or oppose the deal?

JOHN MURRAY: The short answer is at the moment we haven't made a clear cut decision at this point.

SUE LANNIN: Some Rio Tinto shareholders like John Murray have been up in arms over the deal which
would see a cash injection from Chinalco of about $30-billion.

But that pales into insignificance when you compare what could have been.

Last year Rio Tinto walked from a takeover offer from BHP Billiton which valued Rio at around
$165-billion.

Mining analyst, Stephen Bartrop.

STEPHEN BARTROP: The firm will be considering other alternative in terms of this Chinalco deal and
I think if you stand back and look at, you know, for example the scope for acid sales and the scope
that, remember that BHP offer which was withdrawn last November.

But that would be worth around $105 at the moment per Rio Tinto share which is more than double the
current Rio Tinto share price. So there is a lot of things the firm has to consider.

SUE LANNIN: Do you think the Australian Government opposes the deal?

STEPHEN BARTROP: Look, I think the risk is that it applies some quite heavy restrictions on the
deal and you know, overall that could be quite a negative for Rio because, bear in mind, you know,
Rio is removing any scope perhaps for a takeover premium that could emerge from BHP or other
companies in the future.

So this is a big decision for Rio shareholders and for the Government, so it is not going to be
easy. The Government wants to appease the Chinese but at the same time, it doesn't want to give
away undue influence over Australian assets.

SUE LANNIN: Peter Chilton is a fund manager from Constellation Capital Manager which also owns Rio
shares.

He says it's the best offer on the table at the moment given the global financial crisis and the
difficulty of getting finance.

PETER CHILTON: The Australian Government would clearly recognise this is a very important deal and
has to be considered very fully but the extension by night to day is just normal course of business
and I don't think it necessarily means that the Government thinks this is more serious than any
other deal that might be contemplated.

SUE LANNIN: Do you think the deal is the best offer on the table?

PETER CHILTON: Well, on the basis of the availability of financing and on the basis of the fairly
reasonable prices they have got for the assets which they are selling, on the face of it and in the
absence of any other alternative that we are aware of, it seemed to be quite a good deal.

SUE LANNIN: Rio Tinto shareholders will get to vote on the plan once all the legal hurdles are
passed.

And at a time when credit is hard to get, Australian businesses are still borrowing.

Figures from the Bureau of Statistics show the number of companies borrowing money rose 6.5 per
cent in January much of that refinancing of existing loans.

ELEANOR HALL: Finance reporter Sue Lannin.

Don't fence me in, say inmates

ELEANOR HALL: Authorities in Vanuatu are having a hard time keeping their prisoners behind bars.

Some prisoners who escaped from the main jail in Port Vila are considered dangerous and have been
on the run for weeks.

Now the publisher of Vanuatu's main daily newspaper is accusing prison officers of assaulting him
because of his paper's coverage of the issue.

Kerri Ritchie has our report.

KERRI RITCHIE: Vanuatu's main prison is in a busy part of the capital Port Vila - across the road
from Parliament.

A few months ago Vanuatu's Daily Post newspaper published a photograph on its front page which
showed the gates of the jail had been left open.

Marc Neil-Jones is the publisher.

MARC NEIL-JONES: The caption was 'Gate wide open, eyes wide shut - when are correctional services
going to do their job'. Something like that. Along those lines.

KERRI RITCHIE: The next day the 51-year-old says he was working alone in his office, when he
received a visit from corrections officers.

MARC NEIL-JONES: And they were very angry and it looked as though they had been drinking as well.
They basically belted me up. One in particular, another one was putting the boot in.

It was lucky that I did remain behind my desk.

KERRI RITCHIE: Marc Neil-Jones says police still haven't laid any charges. He's been told by the
Vanuatu's police commissioner they're still collecting evidence.

The country's Prime Minister Edward Natapei says the assault on the newspaper publisher is very bad
news.

EDWARD NATAPEI: We're against this happenings with people bashing up journalists just because of
news that they have written about situation in our country.

KERRI RITCHIE: He says Vanuatu's prisons are overcrowded - due to the rising population.

EDWARD NATAPEI: The population of Vanuatu has been growing rapidly. People have moved from the
islands into town looking for jobs. Without jobs, they are bound to create problems.

KERRI RITCHIE: A few months ago 30 prisoners escaped after they burnt down the other jail in Port
Vila.

Mr Neil-Jones says the safety of locals is being put at risk. He says both the Australian and New
Zealand governments give aid money to Vanuatu which is spent on its police force and prisons - and
it's not working.

MARC NEIL-JONES: They need to take concisive action. People can't understand why a prison right in
the middle of a town centre, hasn't got concrete walls. They don't use common sense in cutting down
nearby trees that were growing over the prison so that was how a lot of prisoners escaped from the
old prison.

The new one is more of a concern. It could be sorted out quite quickly by putting a four-metre high
concrete wall around and I have implied that they would get it for next to nothing because I would
think most of the business houses would sponsor bags of cement to keep the prisoners in.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Marc Neil-Jones, the publisher of Vanuatu's Daily Post newspaper. That report
from Kerri Ritchie.