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Powerbrokers apologise for lights going out in Sydney

Reporter: Simon Santow

ELEANOR HALL: The New South Wales Government is again in apology mode over the power failure which
plunged 70,000 homes and businesses into darkness late yesterday and caused chaos throughout
central Sydney.

Australia's largest city is fast gaining an unwanted reputation for failing infrastructure.

Today, the State Government apologised to residents who have also had to deal with frequent
transport debacles.

But the Government insisted that the response from emergency services workers was excellent.

Simon Santow has our report.

SIMON SANTOW: On the weekend, many Sydneysiders chose to switch the power off to make a point for
Earth Hour.

Just after 4.30 yesterday afternoon, they had no say in it.

VOX POP 1: The lights went out and the power went out, and that was the end of it.

VOX POP 2: We've been asked to leave. The emergency lighting's about to go out so everyone's got to
leave the building.

REPORTER: An inconvenience for you?

VOX POP 2: It's a pain in the arse... can't find a way home, can't drive home, the car's locked in
the car park, so it's inconvenient.

SIMON SANTOW: Some people were caught in lifts which were going nowhere.

VOX POP 3: The alarm bell inside the lift doesn't work, so you hold it for five seconds and nothing
happens (laughs).

I'm, like, right out the front of one of the doors or halfway between a level, so I've opened our
inside doors and I'm trying to jimmy open the other ones.

But just sitting tight and waiting for someone.

SIMON SANTOW: The problem for energy workers was trying to locate the fault.

Energy Australia took almost two hours to get the power back on.

But in that time, Sydney's powerbrokers had a cascading problem to deal with.

People pouring out of buildings took to the roads.

Traffic lights were out across the city.

Then one of two crossings north, the Harbour Tunnel, was closed, along with the Eastern
Distributor, which feeds into it.

New South Wales Roads Minister, Michael Daley.

MICHAEL DALEY: We're talking about a very rare, major power failure and what the people of Sydney
expect in the event, in such an event, is that information gets out as quickly as possible, and
that the police, and the RTA and government departments work as quickly as they can to get police
on point duty, and to make people aware that there are going to be major disruptions.

And yesterday afternoon, that happened.

It went well, and there were major disruptions and we are very sorry about that.

SIMON SANTOW: Deputy Police Commissioner Dave Owens.

DAVE OWENS: It's my job to make sure that traffic management is installed, it's in, the police are
where they should be and all of the agencies are working together, and that's exactly what I did.

SIMON SANTOW: Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan.

STEVE WHAN: I would, first of all, like to apologise for all the people who were inconvenienced, on
behalf of the New South Wales Government, for the inconvenience that they had while this fault was
going on.

It is important, though, to underscore that we had a plan that swung into operation immediately,
involving the police, the RTA, the fire brigades and emergency services.

And that emergency plan worked well in a very difficult situation.

SIMON SANTOW: The New South Wales Government says it sent out SMSs to 2,000 building wardens
telling them what was going on.

But a loudspeaker system installed for APEC was not used.

STEVE WHAN: At the same time a decision was made not to use the loudspeakers, which are around the
CBD, as it was felt that they were not appropriate for this situation as the train system was still
working, and they're designed for other events, including terrorist events.

SIMON SANTOW: It was an easy decision for authorities to make.

The system requires electricity and none was available.

Opposition spokesman Duncan Gay.

DUNCAN GAY: We've got some cute comments this morning saying, 'Well, it wasn't a transport
emergency, therefore it wasn't needed.'

The fact is, if it was needed, it couldn't have operated.

If you do have an emergency in New South Wales, the chances are you're going to lose electricity,
like we did yesterday.

And what use is it going to be?

So once again, no warning from the emergency warning system, even if the Government had wanted to
use it, and no warning from the Government.

Ministers hiding in their offices, behind trees, no-one wanting to come out and talk about it, and
put information to the people of Sydney.

SIMON SANTOW: Energy Minister Ian Macdonald was directly affected by the blackout.

IAN MACDONALD: This came at a peak time and caused a massive inconvenience to people across the

And, of course, was something that we would like to avoid at all, on all occasions.

Had a meeting on it at one point there, and that was held by candlelight.

SIMON SANTOW: The Government says it still doesn't know the cause of the fault.

The Minister says finding out could take weeks.

IAN MACDONALD: Well, whether it's avoidable or not, I'm not too sure.

It was a fault in one of our very large cables - a KB132.

There are four of them that supply the CBD and Eastern Suburbs through two sub-stations at Daley
Street in Surry Hills.

When one of these four cables went out, it tripped the other three out as a precautionary measure.

SIMON SANTOW: Ian Macdonald argues that the two-hour disruption is much better than what happened
in Auckland 10 years ago.

Back then New Zealand's largest city went without power for weeks.

IAN MACDONALD: The system worked precisely as it's mean to; tripped out, it took a bit of time for
them to work out which cable had caused the problem and then isolate it, so that the other three
could then be brought back on-stream.

SIMON SANTOW: So were you happy with the response?

IAN MACDONALD: Well, I'm not an operationals person; I don't know precisely these matters in great
technical detail, but I'm meeting shortly with the acting head of Energy Australia to go precisely
through these issues.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the New South Wales Energy Minister Ian Macdonald ending that report from
Simon Santow.

Bikie war to continue, says former top cop

Reporter: Michael Vincent

ELEANOR HALL: A former senior policeman says Sydney's bikie war will only stop when the gangs
decide they're losing too much money fighting, rather than selling drugs.

The threats and attacks continued overnight with a suspected bomb left at the house of a Bandidos
gang member.

A Hells Angels member remains under police guard in hospital, recovering from wounds he received in
a shooting the previous night.

But former assistant police commissioner Clive Small says the conflict is only like to be resolved
when the gangs realise how hard it is hitting their organised crime balance sheets.

Michael Vincent has our report.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Police were called to a house in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba last night after an
anonymous tip off about a bomb.

A suspicious package was found next to a detached garage; the bomb squad was called in to deal with
the device.

The home belongs to the head of the Parramatta chapter of the Bandidos, Mostafa Jouayde.

News Limited has reported that he wouldn't leave his home with his wife and child and accused those
responsible for the bomb for being cowards.

He's quoted as saying:

'You want to see me, see me in the street. Say it like a man. Don't bring it to my doorstep. This
is chickens roaming behind my back door.'

It's not the first such device used in what appears to be an escalating conflict between the gangs.

Just last month a bomb exploded at the clubhouse of the Hells Angels in Petersham, damaging the
building and spraying shattered glass 70 metres away.

In October last year, a bomb was exploded under a car belonging to the leader of the Notorious gang
in Lane Cove.

And two years ago, a Nomad's headquarters in Granville was bombed, allegedly by the Comancheros.

Former assistant police commissioner, Clive Small.

CLIVE SMALL: I think the fact that they are even thinking about bombs shows that there is an
escalation in the violence and the retribution and we're likely to see that continuing.

So what we have now is not only an increase in the number of shootings and drive-bys and that, but
we now have, we now have an increased number of shootings and drive-bys, and we now have an added
threat and potential of bombs.

MICHAEL VINCENT: A senior police source has told The World Today the bombs the bikie gangs have
used over the years are pretty basic in nature

He says that they generally use only a small amount of explosives but it's still enough to maim or

Whether they explode or not, information about the components of each device - from the detonators
to the wiring - is logged and shared with police interstate and overseas.

And if the numbers, sophistication or size of the bombs being used in this gang war increases, that
will be a warning to police of a more serious intent, and may well ramp up the national response to
the current conflict.

And that could include using the skills of Australian police with experience in terror attacks

The World Today has also learned from an experienced former bomb disposal technician that the
bikies may well have people who have been trained as qualified blasters from the mining,
agricultural or pyrotechnics industries.

Or that simply, they've learned their trade from other gang members, like the drug cooks do.

He says his greatest concern is that a bomb aimed at a bikie gang member will kill an innocent

But former New South Wales assistant police commissioner Clive Small says, whether innocent people
are killed or not, the gangs will only stop fighting for one reason.

CLIVE SMALL: They will start losing money.

The cost of the feud will become great. It will be too big, too much to bear, and they'll need to
start making a profit again to get themselves back on a financial footing.

That's when they're likely to cause a, or call for a break in the war, in effect so they can get
back to business, get themselves financial again, stock up with weapons, and start the war over

MICHAEL VINCENT: There's an economic imperative at stake.

CLIVE SMALL: Absolutely.

I mean, these gangs have to finance their own operations for the longer term, because we need to
bear in mind - these gangs are here for the longer term. They're not just about one individual, and
when that person goes, the gang falls apart.

So they need to fund themselves to set them up for the longer term; that means investment in
legitimate businesses.

But they also need to pay the members of the gang that are committing the crimes for them.

MICHAEL VINCENT: And that involves returning to their business, rather than fighting each other?

CLIVE SMALL: That's right.

I mean, the fact, the fact that while they're out there shooting one another, their businesses are
disrupted in two ways.

One is they're losing members, because they're being killed or wounded in injuries.

Or two is that they're in hiding, because they fear they're next on the list.

Then separate to that, they just can't go around doing business as normal.

Meeting drug dealers, supplying drugs - the whole network is disrupted by these feuds.

MICHAEL VINCENT: How much is the police, or the extra police attention, also stopping their

CLIVE SMALL: I think there's two parts to that.

I think the challenge for the police is to forget the political quick-fix, like the governments
want, and say, 'No, we are looking for a genuine law enforcement response that is going to reduce,
or minimise, or solve the problem. We're not, there are no quick fixes to this."'

So they have to be willing to say, 'We're in it for the long term', and do quite comprehensive and
thorough law enforcement operations, undertake law enforcement operations.

And that will take a lot of commitment by them because there will be times when they're going to
have to, if you like, pull the Government into line by saying, 'Hang on, there is no quick fix - we
are there for the long term. And you might be waiting several years for an answer.'

ELEANOR HALL: That's former assistant police commissioner Clive Small ending that report by Michael

Obama rejects restructure plan for auto giants

Reporter: Peter Ryan

ELEANOR HALL: Let's go now to the United States, where the US President Barack Obama has rejected a
critical restructuring plan for General Motors and Chrysler, forcing the once mighty auto industry
onto life support.

This time yesterday, we reported that the President had asked for the head of General Motors to be

But it seems that was just the start of what President Obama is calling his 'tough love' approach.

In an extraordinary move from the headquarters of capitalism, the White House has now given the car
companies 60 days to come up with a new survival strategy, or consider going into bankruptcy.

With the details we're joined now by business editor, Peter Ryan.

So Peter, how much of a shock was this decision for the US car companies, given that they did what
the administration asked of them yesterday and sacked the CEO of General Motors?

PETER RYAN: Well Eleanor, the US auto chiefs have been on notice for months, if not years, knowing
that the tactic of going cap-in-hand to Washington and asking for tens of billions of dollars was
distasteful and offensive to the US taxpayer.

So, President Obama laid it out in stark terms for them, for both General Motors and Chrysler.

He said time, patience had run out, and US taxpayers would not be shelling out another
$US22-billion they'd asked to keep the two companies afloat.

Mr Obama said the long term problems of the US auto industry had been duck shoved for years and
tough decisions had been avoided.

He said now, it's 'the end of the road' for aid from Washington.

As we reported yesterday, the President fired the chief executive of General Motors, Rick Wagoner.

We've learned this morning that he'll be retiring on a $US20-million annual pension.

ELEANOR HALL: Some firing.

PETER RYAN: That's right.

So delivering some tough talk in Washington today, President Obama outright rejected the
restructuring plan for GM and Chrysler, and he also rejected suggestions that the White House was
effectively nationalising the US auto industry.

BARACK OBAMA: Let me be clear: the United States Government has no interest in running GM.

We have no intention of running GM.

What we are interested in is giving GM an opportunity to finally make those much-needed changes
that will let them emerge from this crisis a stronger and more competitive company.

We cannot and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish.

This industry is like no other.

It's an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America's success.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the US President Barack Obama saying they won't be allowed to fail, but the US
Government won't be running them.

So Peter, are either of the major US car manufacturers likely to survive?

PETER RYAN: Well, you note that just then President Obama only referred to General Motors; he
didn't make much of a similar comment about Chrysler.

But clearly both are in perilous waters.

It seems GM won't be allowed to go under totally and that its executives will be forced to find a
way to convince the White House to provide more money.

Already, the combined auto industry has shed 400,000 jobs since the recession took a grip.

So with unemployment now steeply on the rise in the United States, President Obama knows that we
can't, he can't add more to that.

Chrysler, though, appears to be in the biggest jeopardy. That company's been told to do what it
takes to do a merger deal with the Italian car maker Fiat.

So there are some very big deadlines looming and the White House will be wanting to hear how and
when it might be getting some of the money back from Detroit.

And keep in mind, GM has already been given more than $US13-billion and Chrysler $US4-billion.

Well, now the money has run out and it seems time has also run out.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, compared to the US, Australia's economic problems seem minor.

But the Reserve Bank is warning today that things are going to get worse, isn't it?

PETER RYAN: Well, that's right.

The deputy governor of the Reserve Bank Rick Battelino has been speaking in Brisbane today.

In response to a question, he's warned that Australia's economy is likely to shrink for a few more
quarters this year.

So we've already had one negative quarter of growth, so this confirms a technical recession is

However, Mr Battelino is expecting a tentative recovery later in the year.

And these comments are important, with the Reserve Bank board meeting next week to consider the
direction of interest rates.

ELEANOR HALL: And just briefly, there was some news on the housing market that was a little

PETER RYAN: Mr Battelino says Australia's property market has held up well, though compared to the
US and Britain where prices have plunged more than 20 per cent.

Economists are split on this but Mr Battelino doesn't expect to see that correction reflected here,
and he believes that we won't see any of the fallout that we've seen in the United States and

ELEANOR HALL: Business editor Peter Ryan, thank you.

Sydney Airport bottom of the list... again

Reporter: Lisa Millar

ELEANOR HALL: It mightn't surprise those who regularly pass through it but Sydney Airport has been
rated the country's worst and most expensive airport.

It is the third time the consumer watchdog, the ACCC, has put Sydney at the bottom of the list.

And it's not just passengers who were critical - the airlines themselves complained about a
shortage of counters and queuing space.

As Lisa Millar reports.

(Sound of plane)

LISA MILLAR: It's not hard to find a critic of Sydney Airport.

VOX POP 1: It's just so bad. Too expensive; way too expensive. Just to be here for like an hour and
to have to pay $20 is ridiculous.

VOX POP 2: My name's Joanie and I'm from Oregon in the United States.

The signs outside do not match the signs inside as to which airline you're going to, and then they
make it very difficult when you get inside to find someplace to weigh your bags.

Like the country, not the airport. Like the people, but the airport - it's lacking some things.

VOX POP 3: And I seen the Domestic Terminal is disgusting, especially when you arrive.

From somebody want to pick up you, and there's no time to stop the car and put your bags there.

LISA MILLAR: That's just a taste of what The World Today was told this morning, after the release
of a report rating Sydney as the worst airport in Australia.

But it seems it does have some fans.

VOX POP 4: We landed at 9.30, wasn't it? And we were through the customs cleared waiting here for
our bus at five past 10. It was fabulous.

VOX POP 5: I think it's great, actually. We followed the signs and we got across the airport in
reasonable time. It worked out, works out well.

LISA MILLAR: Every year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission surveys passengers,
airlines, customs and immigration, asking them a range of questions about Australia's biggest five

Graeme Samuel is the chairman of the ACCC.

GRAEME SAMUEL: We need to get a complete, sort of, attitude from all those who are involved with
the airports as to their approach, as to their attitude to the services that are provided by Sydney
Airport, and the other airports that we survey.

Unfortunately to layer on top of all that, Sydney Airport also has the highest charges - that is
the highest charge per passenger - by far and away over any of the other airports.

So, what we're getting with Sydney Airport is high charges, low quality of service; and I have to
say to you that is always generally the result of where you've got a monopoly.

LISA MILLAR: And the one subject that is guaranteed to make everyone's blood boil - parking.

GRAEME SAMUEL: Car parking charges... Sydney Airport has the highest car parking charges,
particularly for the short term, that is the one hour through to 24-hour stay.

Car parking charges are a real problem because, again, the airports have a monopoly. Sydney Airport
has a monopoly in this area.

For short-term carpark for one hour the charge is $14, and for 24 hours is $46.

Now that compares, for example, with Adelaide, which has a one-hour charge of $4, and 24-hour
charge of $30.

Perth: $5.20 and $25.

So you can see that we're talking about significant increases, significant, excessive charges
beyond those that are charged by some of the other airports around the country.

LISA MILLAR: Now the Federal Government has toyed with taking further action on the car parking at
Sydney because it always raises the ire of many people. But is that even a reasonable suggestion?

GRAEME SAMUEL: The... we've had some discussions with Government about what we might do by way of
further investigation.

See, ultimately the best way of keeping charges down is to provide competition.

LISA MILLAR: Given that Sydney Airport has landed at the bottom of this list for three years in a
row and nothing seems to have changed - although I must say Sydney Airport says that it's spending
hundreds of millions of dollars on improving services - is this report and this rating system
actually doing anything?

GRAEME SAMUEL: I think all it can do is make transparent our findings, both as to the charges and
as to the quality of service that's being provided.

In the end I think what we need to do is to address any barriers to competition.

Not so much competition in terms of providing alternative airports, because that's a quantum leap
in a whole new direction, but rather barriers to competition in terms of particular car parking and
the like, and to see whether in fact we can break down some of those barriers so that competition
forces airports to provide lower charges and better quality.

ELEANOR HALL: The ACCC's Graeme Samuel ending that report from Lisa Millar, and which airport
scored the top spot on that list? That was Brisbane.

London calling for Thai PM, but home fires still burning

Reporter: Karen Percy

ELEANOR HALL: Thailand's Prime Minister is heading to London today and will be the first leader of
the Association of South East Asian Nations to represent ASEAN at a G20 gathering.

But he is leaving behind a protest movement that's threatening to overshadow the East Asia Summit
which is scheduled to be held in Thailand later this month.

The summit was supposed to have been held in December but was delayed then by anti-government

Now another group of demonstrators is out on the streets, as South East Asia correspondent Karen
Percy reports.

KAREN PERCY: The protesters shout, 'Get out Abhisit', and so far these members of the United Front
for Democracy Against Dictatorship - the so-called red shirts - have managed to shut the Prime
Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva out of his own office.

They've surrounded Government House in Bangkok since Thursday.

And despite repeated requests from police, they're staying put.

(Sound of speakers onstage)

They want Mr Abhisit to exit the building for good.

They say he and his Democrat Party stole Thailand's democracy when they took office in December
with the help of defecting members of Parliament, who abandoned the government backed by the
convicted former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

(Sound of Boonnak Kaewkul speaking)

Tomato farmer Boonnak Kaewkul has travelled more than six hours from his village of Ban Nalom in
Thailand's northeast.

(Boonnak Kaewkul speaking)

'We came here to demand democracy,' he says.

Like most of the red-shirt supporters, they are poor.

But they remain loyal to Mr Thaksin, who provided them with affordable health care and loans for
their farms.

Mr Thaksin has been living in exile after being forced out from office in 2006 in a military coup.

In recent days, he has laid the blame for his ouster on senior members of the Privy Council, which
advises Thailand's King Bhumipol Adulyadej.

Royalists in Bangkok are incensed at the accusations, and that's raising the possibility that the
yellow shirted People's Alliance for Democracy, the PAD, might take to the streets again.

A renewed campaign by the PAD would cause huge headaches for Prime Minister Abhisit, and could put
the sides on a deadly collision course.

(Sound of Thai music)

The red shirts say they're just following the PAD example - with one key difference.

(Sound of Boonnak Kaewkul speaking)

Boonnak Kaewkul says they will not break the law.

(Sound of Thai music)

The Thai Government has promised that it won't use violence against the protesters, as the previous
government did to disastrous effect.

But Prime Minister Abhisit wants to curb their activities.

To do that he's targeting Thaksin Shinawatra, seeking extradition talks with Dubai and Hong Kong,
where Mr Thaksin has spent time recently.

They want him to serve the two-year jail sentence he was handed last year when he was found guilty
of corruption.

This is Karen Percy in Bangkok reporting for The World Today.

New genetic evidence for breast cancer

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

ELEANOR HALL: A large international study on breast cancer has found further genetic evidence for
the disease.

The study was led by Cancer Research UK and looked at the genetic make-up of more than 40,000 women
with breast cancer from 16 countries - including Australia.

The researchers found two more regions of the human genome that, if altered, can change a woman's
risk of developing breast cancer.

Jennifer Macey has our report.

JENNIFER MACEY: It's a massive international study.

One hundred scientists from 16 different countries analysed the DNA of 80,000 women, half with
breast cancer and half without.

After sifting through piles of statistical information, the researchers found two new genetic links
to breast cancer.

The findings have been published in the latest edition of Nature Genetics.

The University of Melbourne's Professor John Hopper is one of the Australian breast cancer
researchers who contributed to the report.

JOHN HOPPER: What has been discovered are markers in these regions which are associated with a
small increased risk.

On their own, they don't really matter a great deal, but what's exciting about this research is
that it's identifying new regions, new genetic regions, which have obviously got something to do
with breast cancer.

JENNIFER MACEY: Unlike the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are responsible for up to 10 per cent of
breast cancer cases, these new genetic regions on their own aren't big risk factors.

But scientists say that when grouped with other genetic faults, they may increase the risk.

Professor Hopper says they now know of 13 genetic variants linked to breast cancer, but there could
be more.

JOHN HOPPER: In the fullness of time we may be able to do a number of tests and see what
constellation of genetic risk factors each woman has.

And then we also need to do the research to work out, given her level of genetic risk, what are the
appropriate prevention strategies and screening strategies that she should undertake.

JENNIFER MACEY: Dr Jennifer Byrne is a molecular biologist based at the Children's Hospital at

She says it's a significant study because so many women have been examined.

Yet she says it's a micro step, and studying for these new genetic variations is still a long way

JENNIFER BYRNE: Because I think there are clearly many more of these genes to be found, and the
only way that they can be found really is through these kinds of large studies that have the
statistical power that allow you to pick up weak effects by studying such large populations.

JENNIFER MACEY: But there are already women who are having double mastectomies...

JENNIFER BYRNE: Yes, that's right, yeah.

But those women have copies of genes that have a very strong association with breast cancer risk.

So those are women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

But really, at this point, because the genes individually have weak effects, it's hard to see how
that would happen right now.

We would need to know the identities of more of these genes.

JENNIFER MACEY: And she says these genetic changes could be linked to other types of cancers - not
just breast cancer.

This is the hope of Professor Ian Olver, the CEO of the Cancer Council of Australia.

And he warns women against being alarmed.

IAN OLVER: At the moment women shouldn't rush out and ask for tests.

In fact, still probably the strongest factor is if they know they've got a family history, rather
than the subtleties of which genes are altered.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Professor Ian Olver, the CEO of the Cancer Council of Australia, ending that
report by Jennifer Macey.

Industry calls for more emission concessions

Reporter: Alexandra Kirk

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government is coming under pressure from business to further soften the
financial blow of its emissions trading scheme.

The Australian Industry Group says the scheme will cost business an extra $8-billion in the first
year, and it's calling for faster write-offs for all investments that reduce greenhouse gas

The Government says it will consider the proposal, but it comes at a time of maximum pressure on
the Budget.

The Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is in the United States and she spoke from there to
Alexandra Kirk.

PENNY WONG: I think there are two things which have struck me about the discussions I've had so

The first is that people are watching very closely what is happening in Australia.

There is consideration of Australia's experience in designing our carbon pollution reduction

And the second thing that's obviously very important to the United States is ensuring that their
domestic position and their international negotiating position align.

There's been a great interest in the people with whom I've met in the detail of the Australian
scheme and obviously we're very happy to share our experiences.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You say that the Government has a clear imperative to find a way to make
Australia's economy rely less on greenhouse emissions.

But business is arguing that it's going to cost them $8-billion in the first year and $13-billion a
year after that.

Do you accept that that is the cost of an emissions trading scheme to business?

PENNY WONG: Well, it depends what the carbon price will be.

But let's remember, the Government has put in place a very substantial set of assistance to
Australian business to enable them to adjust to the introduction of the scheme.

And let's also remember this: that climate change is with us.

If we simply defer action on climate change, if we simply refuse to start transforming our economy,
what we are doing is increasing costs and we are handballing this problem to the next generation to
deal with.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In addition to the assistance you've already promised, the Australian Industry
Group wants to be able to claim all capital expenditure on investments that cut greenhouse
emissions over the first half of their effective life, rather than the total period.

Are you willing to fast-track that write-off?

PENNY WONG: Well look, these are policy ideas that are being put forward by some aspects of
Australian business.

We'll certainly consider what they're putting to us.

There is the capacity in the assistance the Government's already constructed - that is, the Climate
Change Action Fund - to assist with the retooling that will be required, the investment in new
equipment, and in more energy efficient technologies.

But let's also remember this: that we have to ensure that we also help Australian households, and
that there are a lot of calls for assistance from the Government as we move to introduce the

We've made decisions about the proportion of assistance, bearing in mind the need not only to help
business, but also to help Australian households.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is it a reasonable request from the Australian Industry Group?

PENNY WONG: Well, as I said, we'll consider what the Australian Industry Group have put to us.

I again say, we've already put in place, in the Government scheme, assistance to industry for this
sort of investment.

ELEANOR HALL: Climate Change Minister Penny Wong speaking to Alexandra Kirk.

Cooler weather slows dengue outbreak

Reporter: Meg Purtell

ELEANOR HALL: Authorities trying to control the outbreak of dengue fever in Far North Queensland
say the dry weather has helped to reduce the number of dengue mosquitoes.

The mosquito-borne disease has infected more than 800 people since the epidemic began late last

But the cooler conditions may finally bring an end to the outbreak.

As Meg Purtell reports.

(Sound of rain)

MEG PURTELL: The heavy rainfall of the wet season in Far North Queensland has provided ideal
conditions for the Aedes aegypti mosquito to breed.

Since December, more than 800 people have been infected by the disease, and an 82-year-old woman
died from dengue-related illness earlier this month.

Brian Montgomery is a senior medical entomologist with Queensland Health.

BRIAN MONTGOMERY: Unfortunately, all the signs right back in beginning of December were there to
say, 'hey, this is going to be a unique and large outbreak'.

So it's no surprise, I guess, that the numbers have gone high.

It's anyone's guess as to how high they can go.

MEG PURTELL: It's the first time all four types of dengue have been active at the same time in one

And it's also the widest spread outbreak - affecting seven communities from Townsville to the tip
of Cape York.

This morning, Cairns recorded its coldest March morning since 1953 and Dr Montgomery says the
cooler weather will help.

BRIAN MONTGOMERY: Certainly, if you want to grow dengue mosquitoes all you have to do is leave a
container in your back yard and add water.

So what we've seen at the moment is quite a bout of drier weather, so less water means less dengue

As we head towards winter we know that the life cycle of the dengue mosquito also takes longer,
which gives us more opportunity to get our field teams in and control mosquitoes before they spread
the virus.

MEG PURTELL: Queensland Health has spent almost $2-million trying to keep the epidemic under
control and 80 staff are still working full time on the outbreak.

Inspection teams have visited more than 14,000 homes around Cairns, finding 50,000 mosquito
breeding sites.

Four people have been issued with on-the-spot fines for failing to clean up their properties.

But it's a much different story further south in Townsville.

Just 72 cases of dengue fever have been recorded.

BRIAN MONTGOMERY: The reason why Townsville is a much lower number is really that there wasn't that
significant delay from when the first person travelled to Townsville to when the health authorities
knew that there was a dengue outbreak.

So they are implementing the same strategies that we implement in Cairns, and it's really just a
matter of the dengue outbreak in Cairns had a much larger head start then the one in Townsville.

ELEANOR HALL: Dr Brian Montgomery is a medical entomologist. He was speaking to Meg Purtell.

Councillor facing black ban

Reporter: Nicole Butler

ELEANOR HALL: His constituents may like him but his co-workers in the Logan Council, south of
Brisbane, are refusing to deal with him.

Councillor Sean Black has been banned from face-to-face contact with council staff, because of his
alleged 'uncontrollable anger'.

He can't even attend the chambers without a security escort.

But the exiled councillor can't be sacked, and the unusual situation has locals wondering how he
can continue to do his job.

In Brisbane, Nicole Butler reports.

NICOLE BUTLER: He's obviously popular with his constituents in Logan, south of Brisbane.

After all, city Councillor Sean Black had to be elected to his position.

But many of his co-workers aren't fond of him.

In fact, things have become so bad that Councillor Black has been banned from having face-to-face
contact with Council staff.

PAM PARKER: Well, he's been using his position to intimidate others, including yelling, screaming,
swearing and other displays of uncontrolled anger.

There's been a pattern of behaviour over the past 12 months.

NICOLE BUTLER: Logan Mayor Pam Parker says the decision to effectively exile Councillor Black
hasn't been made lightly.

She says there have been several complaints about his behaviour and an investigation has found him
guilty of workplace bullying and harassment.

PAM PARKER: He has been apologetic for this. He's been apologetic many times for his behaviour.

Council no longer can tolerate this type of behaviour in the workforce.

We have a duty of care, a legal liability to protect our staff from this sort of behaviour.

NICOLE BUTLER: The Logan Mayor says there's no provision under the Local Government Act in
Queensland to sack Councillor Black.

PAM PARKER: But I can tell you now, if he was a member of staff, the CEO said he would not have a

NICOLE BUTLER: Sean Black's job is to represent his constituents.

Mayor Parker says special work arrangements have been put in place so he can still do that from

PAM PARKER: Councillor Black will have email provisions provided to him, dictaphones and a courier
service going to and from his home to provide pick-ups and drop-offs.

He will able to attend committee meetings, full Council meetings under security supervision.

NICOLE BUTLER: Some commentators have questioned how effectively Councillor Black will be able to
perform his duties in this unusual arrangement

Paul Bell is the president of the Local Government Association in Queensland.

He believes things will run smoothly.

PAUL BELL: It's our understanding that this can be made to work.

The Council, and I believe the staff in general, want to see Councillor Black be able to achieve
what he's been asked to do by the community, and that's to represent them and represent them well.

And the processes that have been put in place, we believe, will help.

NICOLE BUTLER: The LGAQ supports the Logan Council's actions - particularly as the allegations
against Councillor Black have been investigated.

But the man at the centre of the controversy says Mayor Parker's been heavy handed.

SEAN BLACK: At the end of the day, none of these processes were afforded to me natural justice.

None of the allegations have been able to investigate or cross-examine people who make various

Some of the behaviour I'd admit to - I'm a passionate advocate.

NICOLE BUTLER: And the behaviour Councillor Black's admitted to?

SEAN BLACK: Most certainly raising my voice to, and swearing, yes, I'll admit that.

NICOLE BUTLER: Sean Black is a first-term councillor, and he says there he's never had a complaint
made against him in the private sector.

Councillor Black says his so-called 'bad behaviour' is borne of frustration with over-abundant red
tape and the slow pace of council's bureaucracy.

SEAN BLACK: I've been a continuous advocate, a passionate advocate for these areas.

Obviously that's gotten me into trouble, and it's behaviour that has left me fall foul of the
political system.

But it doesn't mean that I won't continue to passionately advocate.

I just have to moderate and change that passion. I think that's an important lesson to be learnt
from this.

NICOLE BUTLER: The former real estate agent isn't sure if he'll stand for re-election when the time

ELEANOR HALL: Nicole Butler in Brisbane.

Space debris 'close to critical density'

Reporter: Barbara Miller

ELEANOR HALL: Scientists are warning that there's now so much junk in space that it's posing a risk
to astronauts.

Space scientists are meeting this week in Germany to discuss ways of dealing with the debris
problem that they say is so severe that near-Earth flights could soon become too dangerous.

As Barbara Miller reports, the meeting comes just weeks after two satellites crashed into one
another over Siberia.

BARBARA MILLER: When a privately-owned American satellite and a defunct Russian military satellite
collided around 800 kilometres over Siberia, they created a massive cloud of debris.

Scientists hope most of it will burn up.

But some is likely to add to the growing collection of space junk.

Richard Crowther is representing the UK Space Agency at the space debris conference in Germany.

RICHARD CROWTHER: There's some anxiety now that we're getting close to the critical density.

And that's where you have so many objects up there you get a so-called 'runaway effect', where one
satellite breaks up into fragments.

Each of those fragments go on and strike another satellite, and so the process continues.

So we are, in some parts of the orbital environment, I think we're very close to that.

BARBARA MILLER: There are thousands of bits of debris in space and even the smallest can cause
significant damage.

Kerry Doherty is the Curator of Space Technology at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

KERRY DOHERTY: The space shuttle actually had one of its windows in the cockpit cracked - actually
put a, you know, a quite noticeable pit and cracking.

And when they got back to earth they discovered that was a fleck of paint.

BARBARA MILLER: Earlier this month, astronauts on board the International Space Station had a close
encounter with a piece of space junk.

At short notice, they had to evacuate to the emergency capsule in case the object collided with the

Experts say if the debris problem is not addressed it will also mean satellites won't be able to
function properly.

One possible strategy is to redesign future satellites.

BARBARA MILLER: Satellites will be left with a small amount of fuel, so that at the end of their
operational lifetime, they can either be lowered, so that they will burn up in the atmosphere - you
know, re-enter and burn up - or, if they're already very high, like a communications satellite in
geo-stationary orbit, they can be bumped up into what they call a 'graveyard orbit', which is much
higher away, much further away from the Earth again, you know, out of the way of the operational
communication satellites in geo-stationary orbit.

BARBARA MILLER: That still leaves the problem though of what to do with the junk already in space.

Kerry Doherty from the Powerhouse Museum says zapping it is not an option.

KERRY DOHERTY: This would be a very bad move (laughs). I mean, if you blow up the satellite, you
automatically create hundreds or thousands more pieces, which are only going to contribute to the
problem. And that's the big issue - how do you remove what's already there?

BARBARA MILLER: Other possible solutions still sound a little like science fiction.

KERRY DOHERTY: There've been various proposals, including actually putting up into orbit large
blocks of aerogel, which is an amazingly light substance - it's actually the lightest solid, the
least dense solid known.

And this, supposedly you place it in an orbital location where it can actually attach pieces of
space debris in its structure, and then be itself de-orbited.

BARBARA MILLER: So it would almost be like a huge blob of jelly which would go around collecting
bits of debris?

KERRY DOHERTY: More like... putting a pad of something directly in the path of the space debris, so
in the orbital path, and these things will just block into it, and be captured by the material.

Kind of like a giant catcher's mitt.

There's another interesting idea, which is to equip all satellites being launched with some tether,
a five-kilometre long, very fine tether that can unwind and trail in space.

And because of the electro-magnetic radiation environment there, that will pick up and generate an
electrical charge, electro-static charge on the spacecraft, that will actually eventually slow it
down and cause it to re-enter.

BARBARA MILLER: The scientists agree that the most effective way to reduce the junk in space is to
simply stop creating it.

And last year the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space issued guidelines
for space-faring nations on how to best go about that.

ELEANOR HALL: Barbara Miller reporting.