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Experts fear swine flu could be the one

Experts fear swine flu could be the one

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:10:00

Reporter: Peter Cave

PETER CAVE: Well, as you've just heard, one of Australia's leading experts on the spread of
diseases believes the current outbreak of swine flu could be the pandemic that the world has been
getting ready for and dreading since a SARS pandemic failed to eventuate six years ago.

Bird flu had the potential, but so far it's largely only afflicted those with direct contact with
infected birds.

Now, a worrying new form of influenza from pigs may have jumped the species barrier in Mexico. More
than 80 people have died there and it's suspected that the disease may have spread to the United
States and perhaps half a dozen other countries.

Ten New Zealand students who recently visited Mexico have been quarantined, after developing
flu-like symptoms. Tests are being carried out in Melbourne to confirm if they do indeed have swine

In a moment we'll take a look at what the Australian authorities are doing here.

Professor Paul Kelly is an infectious diseases expert from the National Centre for Epidemiology and
Population Health at the ANU.

He was on a teaching trip to New Zealand he was drafted in to help local authorities.

I asked him if the New Zealand students definitely had the disease.

PAUL KELLY: They have tested positive for flu, but the actual definitive diagnosis is pending at
this stage.

PETER CAVE: How long will that take?

PAUL KELLY: At least another couple of days before, before the the actual result will be available.

PETER CAVE: How serious a situation is it for New Zealand and, I guess, for Australia?

PAUL KELLY: This issue of swine flu - it appears to be a new virus.

Influenza, of course, we have influenza seasons, usually in the winter months in the northern and
southern hemispheres. So at the moment, it's the flu season in the northern hemisphere.

There's various types of flu; A and B are the two major components there. And within the A strain
there is a number of sub strains, if you like, of influenza.

Now, this appears to be a new strain which appears to also be circulating from, spreading from
human to human, and that is a very concerning thing.

And certainly in Mexico, there have been a number of deaths. The last report I saw was 82 deaths
and over 1000 people have been made sick by this particular strain.

PETER CAVE: Is what we're seeing in the United States and what we're seeing in Mexico the same

PAUL KELLY: It appears that way, yes. There's been a number of cases - as of yesterday, 20 cases
have been confirmed by the laboratory testing in the United States in several states.

There's also possibly reports from other countries, including these 10 possible cases - I should
say possible cases at the moment - in Auckland.

PETER CAVE: What do you think has happened? Do you think that this swine flu from pigs has combined
with a human strain?

Or is that taking it too far at this stage?

PAUL KELLY: That appears to be the case. Of course it's all very early state - it's an early state
in this potential epidemic at the moment.

What appears to have happened though is what we've been concerned about for a number of years, of
different strains of flu from different animals combining, and causing, and transferring into a flu
strain that is transmissible between humans.

PETER CAVE: Is this as serious as the avian influenza threat?

PAUL KELLY: Well, avian influenza we've been concerned about for about 12 years, as the first cases
came on, and we've been very much in preparation mode for that particular strain transferring into

And there has been limited - to a limited extent that has happened in Indonesia and other places.
But it's never been on the sort of scale as this. And this is actually really more worrying.

PETER CAVE: Why exactly is it more worrying?

PAUL KELLY: Well, it doesn't seem to have as much, as high a fatality rate as the avian influenza,
but it does seem to be able to more easily spread, and rather rapidly.

PETER CAVE: Why is it a bad thing that it doesn't have the same fatality rate?

PAUL KELLY: Well, of course for people that die of it, that's a terrible thing.

But in terms of an epidemic, for the virus to be able to spread, it's actually better for the virus
for humans to remain alive, because they can actually spread it more quickly and more, to a greater
extent geographically.

PETER CAVE: Swine flu has been regarded as a fairly mild disease in the past. Has it changed?

PAUL KELLY: That remains to be seen for this particular strain.

The death rate is rather high in Mexico; at the moment there's been no deaths, as far as I know,
anywhere else.

PETER CAVE: A couple of years ago, when there were deep concerns about avian influenza, there
wasn't enough Tamiflu, there wasn't enough Relenza.

Are stocks sufficient to deal with this? And does it indeed - are Tamiflu and Relenza the drugs of
choice to treat swine flu?

PAUL KELLY: Well, so far the information out of the United States says that this particular strain
is sensitive to Tamiflu or Relenza; both of them in fact. So that's good news.

Vaccination is another plank in our response and preparedness for this sort of event. As far as we
know, the vaccine that is currently available is not suitable for protection against this strain.

PETER CAVE: So is the advice for people to go and get the flu shot as normal?

PAUL KELLY: Absolutely. Coming up to our influenza season which will be starting soon, in our
winter months in Australia and New Zealand, definitely vaccination is recommended, particularly
people with underlying illness.

PETER CAVE: Vaccination was also recommended in the case of bird flu, because there was the
possibility of the bird flu combining with another flu, and therefore it was a good idea to have
more people vaccinated. Is that still the case for swine flu?

PAUL KELLY: Yes. I mean, we would expect that we will have influenza in Australia this flu season
as normal. Whether that happens to be some of those cases being this new strain or not, it's too
early to tell.

But for the moment yes, vaccination is still recommended.

PETER CAVE: Who is at the greatest risk?

PAUL KELLY: Well, that's an interesting thing. So far, out of what we have from other parts of the
world, it's not the typical people that are at greatest risk during a normal flu season.

So, a lot of the people that have been, that have died from this illness in Mexico, for example,
have been young, otherwise fit people.

PETER CAVE: Why is that? It was much the same with bird flu, I seem to remember.

PAUL KELLY: That's right, and it's one of the typical things one looks for when a new strain hits
the human population.

And so, when we look back to the major pandemics of the 20th century, particularly the 1918-19 flu,
that was the case. It was predominantly young people that were badly affected, and many of them

PETER CAVE: Young healthy people.


PETER CAVE: What works to protect yourself against influenza? Masks, washing your hands, staying
away from crowded areas? What are the best things to do?

PAUL KELLY: Well, all of those things have been enacted and are helpful. But at this stage I think,
you know, within Australia, there's no need to panic or to consider major public health messages
like that - at the moment.

But the normal thing would be reducing your role in spreading respiratory infections, which as you
said, washing your hands, staying at home if you're ill, seeking medical advice if you're required,
staying away from other people that are sick, and so on.

And that's the sort of thing that's happening in New Zealand at the moment in relation to those
cases in Auckland.

PETER CAVE: Infectious diseases expert, Professor Paul Kelly, speaking to me earlier.

Australia well prepared for swine flu, says chief advisor

Australia well prepared for swine flu, says chief advisor

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:14:00

Reporter: Barbara Miller

PETER CAVE: As governments around the world step up their surveillance and control measures in
response to the swine flu outbreak, authorities in Australia are saying what the Professor has just
said - that there's no need to panic.

The chief medical officer, Dr Jim Bishop, says that large stockpiles of anti-virals are available
should swine flu enter Australia.

Dr Bishop says that border security measures are currently under review and will be tightened if

Barbara Miller reports.

BARBARA MILLER: It's the time of year when many people either have some flu-like symptoms or know
someone who has. But authorities say it's highly likely it's merely a bout of seasonal flu.

GPs have been asked though to be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms in recent travellers to
Mexico or the US.

Dr Rad Naidu is the director of the Surry Hills Medical Centre in Sydney.

RAD NAIDU: There was one patient today who came from Mexico. I did a nose and throat swab, and, but
she was symptomless. That means that she had no fever, there was no cough, there was no fatigue,
she was excellent.

Because she came for something else, and she said that she has travelled, just arrived four days
ago from Mexico. And so I did the nose and throat swab, and I will wait for the results to come in.

BARBARA MILLER: Tests on two people in New South Wales and two in Queensland who recently travelled
to Mexico or the US have come back negative.

Queensland's chief health officer is Jeannette Young.

JEANNETTE YOUNG: On Saturday evening we sent out information, and we called all the major emergency
departments, and we put them on notice that they may get people presenting with flu-like illness
who've been travelling overseas in either Mexico or the United States. So, we let them know that
this was a potential.

The two people from last night didn't quite meet the case definition, but we went through and
tested them just to check that all our procedures worked, and we got those results.

BARBARA MILLER: Some experts say it's only a matter of time before swine flu reaches Australia.

The chief medical officer, Dr Jim Bishop, told Radio National's breakfast programme that if that
happens the country is well prepared.

JIM BISHOP: We're prepared because we have very good surveillance. Secondly, we have very large
Tamiflu banks, and also Tamiflu available through normal commercial methods. And this virus seems
to be quite sensitive to Tamiflu.

And then finally we've given directive out to general practitioners and to emergency departments
that if they have a person who could be a possible recipient of the flu from Mexico, they should
be, first of all the local public health authority should be notified.

Secondly, we should take the swabs so we do the work to find out what we're really dealing with;
because there is a background flu, even in travellers, that's not this particular flu.

BARBARA MILLER: But doubts have been raised about Australia's response to the outbreak.

The Greens Senator Bob Brown says more needs to be done.

BOB BROWN: This has been brewing for three weeks, apparently, in Mexico City. The Government has
known about it for some days.

I think on Saturday, the whole work of alerting the public and keeping the public fully informed
ought to have been underway. And I think we should be checking people at airports.

BARBARA MILLER: Celia, a caller to ABC Local Radio in Melbourne, is also worried.

CELIA: My daughter flew out on Wednesday morning for Mexico City. And I'd like to know actually
when the Government knew about it, because our big major airline didn't say anything to her.

The first she knew about it was when I spoke to her yesterday on the phone. Her hotel didn't have
anything, because they all speak Spanish, and she doesn't. And she did say that when she wandered
around and looked at sites on one of the days, that everything seemed to be closed on a Sunday.

And she put it down to being a highly Catholic-type place! (laughs) But it was because of the
warning over there.

BARBARA MILLER: Canada has become the latest country to confirm cases of swine flu.

Six people who recently travelled to Mexico or had contact with someone who did, have tested

Dr David Butler-Jones is Canada's Chief Public Health Officer:

DAVID BUTLER-JONES: To have our first confirmed cases is, of course, troubling.

I know that the general public right now is probably very concerned.

BARBARA MILLER: Screening measures at some airports around the world are being increased
significantly. In Hong Kong, for example, passengers travelling from affected countries are being
given a health check.

Australian authorities are currently meeting to review border security arrangements.

The Australian Government's official travel advice for Mexico has been updated to include a
paragraph about a serious outbreak of influenza.

But the overall level of advice remains unchanged.

Travellers are advised to exercise a high degree of caution, rather than to reconsider the need to
travel or not to travel.

PETER CAVE: Barbara Miller reporting.

Greens seek to block increase to MP allowance

Greens seek to block increase to MP allowance

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:18:00

Reporter: Emma Griffiths

PETER CAVE: The issue of politician's pay has raised its ugly head again, after the independent
Remuneration Tribunal approved an increase of nearly $5,000 a year for MP's electorate allowances.

The money is allocated to pay for things like donations to sporting clubs and assistance to

But any left over at the end of the year can be rolled into the MP's income.

The Greens say the rise should be put on ice, and they're preparing to try to block it in the

From Canberra, Emma Griffiths reports.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: For the first time in nine years, the remuneration tribunal has lifted the
electorate allowance paid to MPs. It'll rise by $4,700 to an annual total of $32,000.

It's spent at the discretion of local members and senators, and the tribunal says it has no doubt
that the costs of the various commitments that MPs use the allowance for, have increased.

At the end of the year, any of the allowance that hasn't been used is considered to be part of the
MP's personal income.

The Greens Senator Bob Brown says it's a pay rise by another name - that should be stopped.

BOB BROWN: Well, it can't be going through, surely. It's embarrassing and it's the wrong time for

We simply should put it on ice and I'll be moving a disallowance motion on it.

It's just impossible to justify an extra $90 a week in the global income for MPs at a time when
we're struggling to find, and the Government's indicating it may not find $30 a week for

EMMA GRIFFITHS: He's won the backing of the Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

NICK XENOPHON: I think that politicians are paid adequately enough, and I think that we need to
lead by example.

This is, the dilemma is that we're in the worst economic crisis for 70 years. Politicians need to
lead by example in terms of the wage restraint. And I think we'd set a very bad example for the
rest of the community.

I think that given the economic uncertainty, given that there are thousands and thousands of
Australians losing their jobs each month; I think we need to lead by example on this.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: But the Liberal MP for the Western Australian seat of Moore, Mal Washer, says the
allowance is put to good use, helping constituents.

He says there are 97,000 people in his electorate, and the extra money will be well spent.

MAL WASHER: We've got an increasing number of people, increasing workload and increasing demands on
our electoral allowance.

And to cater for that, we need more money to service those constituents.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: What do you actually spend the electorate allowance on?

MAL WASHER: Well, it goes on multiple things from, you know, mainly sporting events of donations to
service clubs, or whatever in the electorate people are doing things; you know for all sorts of
odds and ends to give them some money to help out.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: And do you spend all of the allowance that you can?

MAL WASHER: Yes I do, and a bit more. And sometimes I take it out of my own pocket a bit as well,
and I think most members would probably be in the same boat.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: The Greens say this is just not the time to be increasing any sort of allowances or
wages for MPS, and they're going to move a disallowance motion in the Senate.

Do you think they've got a reasonable argument there?

MAL WASHER: Well look, if I was a Senator I probably wouldn't have to spend any of this on my
constituents. I don't think they ever see any constituents, so that's a luxury they can afford to
do. But I think all this generally, most members, all this money goes towards helping their
constituents and a worthwhile cause.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: The Labor frontbencher and Senator Nick Sherry was one of the few Government MPs
able to be asked about the increase.

He says it's not a pay rise.

NICK SHERRY: Well I don't keep the money, because it's the electoral allowance; it doesn't go into
my pay, it doesn't go into my pocket. It's for expenditure in the electorate.

And typically I would spend, and I spend all of mine, on things like donations to sporting and
community organisations, raffles, donations to individuals - they're the sorts of expenditures.
That is what it's for.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: Last year, the Prime Minister put a freeze on politicians' pay by blocking an
increase recommended by the Remuneration Tribunal. That cost MPs about $5,000.

The tribunal is due to make its next determination later this year, and a spokesman for the Prime
Minister says he is considering extending the freeze.

The Liberal MP Mal Washer says that just discourages people from entering politics.

MAL WASHER: Most professional people and most good businesspeople - the type of people we want in
politics in difficult times - they just laugh and walk away.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: Because it's not worth it?

MAL WASHER: No, cripes. I don't know any worthwhile business or professional people that earn that
low amount of money if they are very successful people, the kind of people, the dynamic people you

EMMA GRIFFITHS: But the Greens Senator Bob Brown says the job shouldn't be just about the money.

BOB BROWN: I think Australian politicians are amongst the best paid in the world. It's a privileged

It does require not just the incentive of money, but the feeling that you want to do what you can
for this nation of Australia. And so there are other values at play here.

But nobody can argue that Australian politicians are in Struggle Street. That's where pensioners
are, however, having committed their lives and given so much in their time to this country, and I
think they should be getting the priority.

PETER CAVE: Greens Senator Bob Brown ending that report from Emma Griffiths.

No rush, as First Home Buyers Grant nears deadline

No rush, as First Home Buyers Grant nears deadline

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:22:00

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

PETER CAVE: An expected rush on property sales didn't occur this weekend despite speculation that
the home buyers grant is going to end in June.

Some say this was largely due to the Anzac Day public holiday.

But others say it's getting tougher for first home buyers to secure loans as banks tighten credit.

The Australian Property Institute argues this is a good reason to extend the grant.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: The Anzac Day public holiday may have led to fewer people turning up for auctions
and property inspections this weekend, but one Sydney real estate agency was still fairly busy.

Peter King is the group sales manager with LJ Hooker in Sydney's inner west.

PETER KING: It probably didn't pick up a great deal from previous weekends.

The last three or four months have been quite strong with inspections, especially with those
properties that are in that 500 sort of range.

The weekend just gone, we've got a property in Illawarra Road at Marrickville, where we had 52
couples through, which was excellent. So the numbers are still quite strong.

JENNIFER MACEY: Last October, the Government doubled the First Home Buyers Grant to $14,000 dollars
and tripled it to $21,000 for new homes.

Peter King says he's worried that if this boost ends on June the 30th, there'll be a big drop in
the market.

PETER KING: You'll probably see a drop-off initially, because obviously people having their deposit
and the banks being a bit tighter on their values and how much deposit you need, I definitely can
see that that's going to be an affect to us.

We're definitely going to see a drop-off, there's no question about it.

JENNIFER MACEY: Other reports say the first home buyers rush is already over.

Caryn Kakas is the executive director of the Residential Development Council, a division of the
Australian Property Council.

She says there's already been a 10 to 20 per cent drop at inspections and auctions.

CARYN KAKAS: We're getting close to sort of that June deadline, and finance has changed, which
means it's harder to get finance. You've got to have more money in the bank in order to get that

And the goalposts have really shifted, which means banks are tightening their loan-to-evaluation
ratios, both for deposits and on income; which has meant that if you were eligible you've probably
been out there and buying.

But people have been quite hesitant, and also have a bit more difficulty in terms of getting
finance, and I think that's had a real impact on the marketplace.

So people aren't going to be rushed into buying a home, I don't think.

JENNIFER MACEY: Caryn Kakas says extending the grant by six months will give many first home buyers
extra time to save for a deposit.

KAREN KAKAS: Our view is that the First Home Owners Grant has been probably one of the most
successful part of the stimulus.

It's ensured a construction industry has continued to soldier on, and it's kept people in jobs.

And the last time the First Home Owners Grant ended, we saw between a three to six months'
departure from the marketplace.

JENNIFER MACEY: But economist Matthew Bell from the Australian Property Monitors disagrees.

He doesn't think there will be a big fall in property sales because he says there are other factors
driving the property market.

MATTHEW BELL: It's been hard to discern whether it's interest rates, falling prices, or first
homeowners, so I think that if the first homeowner boost isn't extended, I don't think you're going
to see a precipitous fall in those areas.

There might be some flattening off, and there's always a chance that investors that haven't been
investing in the last quarter will jump back in.

JENNIFER MACEY: However the Government hasn't announced which direction it will take. Yet it is
expected to announce another measure to help ease the financial burden for people already with

Changes to the consumer credit protection laws would allow people with loans of up to $500,000
dollars to seek hardship provisions.

Phil Naylor is the CEO of the Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia.

PHIL NAYLOR: Look, we're not seeing any massive increase or change in defaults at this stage, but I
think what's happening is people are worried that, because of all the projections about
unemployment increasing over the next year or so, that we may start to see some more defaults, and
we need to just provide some sort of default mechanism so that people can seek alleviation of their
mortgages if they are in that hardship position.

So, increasing that threshold does make sense.

JENNIFER MACEY: He also wants to see the First Home Buyers Grant extended beyond its June 30th

Meanwhile, real estate agent Peter King says if the grant isn't extended he says there'll be
increased pressure in the rental market.

PETER KING: We've got such a shortage of rental properties still, so, you know, all that's going to
do if they don't extend it, is just going to even create a larger demand for rental properties and
we may even see the rents increase even further.

JENNIFER MACEY: And he says if rents do go up, it's going to take a lot longer for many first home
buyers to save for that first deposit.

PETER CAVE: Jennifer Macey with that report.

Senior US envoy targets Aussie civilians for Afghanistan

Senior US envoy targets Aussie civilians for Afghanistan

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:26:00

Reporter: Peter Cave

PETER CAVE: The US State Department's top spokesman in Afghanistan says the Obama administration
will not only be seeking more combat advisors from Australia but also an increase in civilian
advisors; including experts in agriculture to help build the country's shattered economy.

Mark Stroh also echoed concerns expressed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the
growing power of the Taliban in neighbouring Pakistan.

Mr Stroh who is the US embassy spokesman in Kabul is in Australia on a private visit, but he took
time out to speak to The World Today.

I asked him when the new direction of the Obama administration would become apparent in

MARK STROH: The new strategy has been unveiled, and it's being implemented as we speak.

You're talking about an increased effort on civilian-military cooperation; increased effort in
agriculture and anti-corruption measures; and I think you're going to continue to see progress on
that strategy over the next few months over the summer and into the fall as additional civilian
capacity is brought to bear; both American civilian capacity and, we hope, international,
corresponding international commitments.

And as you know, there's going to be about 17,000 new US troops arriving in Afghanistan throughout
the course of the summer.

So, we do have a strategy; we are in the process of placing the resources to fully implement that
strategy there in Afghanistan, and we're optimistic about the progress that that's going to result

PETER CAVE: How much more help do you need from countries like Australia?

MARK STROH: Well, we need more help from everyone. And let me just sort of characterise that by
saying the Australian commitment, the commitment of the other troop-contributing nations is
extremely crucial.

What the Australians are doing in the south, in Uruzgan province in particular, is incredibly
important; not just in defeating the insurgency, taking down bomb makers, terrorists; but also the
mentoring role that they participate in training the Afghan army, the Afghan police.

But we need more. We need more training capacity, from both the Australian army and indeed the
Australian police. I recognise that the federal police are stretched quite thin with the
commitments they have in places like East Timor, but civilian capacity in particular.

And this was a focus really of the new plan from President Obama, and the work that Ambassador
Holbrook has been doing.

Just take an example, like agriculture. Afghanistan is a 70 per cent agricultural country,
agricultural economy.

It's got a rich tradition of production of some of the finest fruits and nuts - things like
pomegranates, almonds, apricots, raisins - that you see in the world, but that capability obviously
has been debilitated by about 30 years of war.

I haven't spent a lot of time in Australia - just a couple of weeks - but in my travels I've seen
that there is an incredible wealth here of agricultural know-how.

Incredible production, not just in crops, but things like pasturing, dairy industry obviously,
beef; these are, co-pen (phonetic) veterinary expertise; these are things that certainly could be
brought to bear to help the Afghan people do better for themselves.

PETER CAVE: The chief of Australian forces, Brigadier John Caligari, has said on our AM program
this morning that pressure was mounting to send in more combat advisors with ASAF.

You're talking about a civilian force. What size civilian force would you be looking to bring in
from Australia?

MARK STROH: Well, again I think that we would welcome, the international community would welcome
any commitment that Australia could give, just as we would any other nation, any other
troop-contributing nation.

There's agricultural advisors from many different countries in Afghanistan. And it's not just
agriculture - that's one easy example.

But judges, lawyers; rule of law is obviously an area where Afghanistan has to improve if their
government is going to stand up and be more responsive to the needs of the Afghan people.

Although, if I can backtrack just a little bit, I would agree with what the General said. I did see
that interview this morning on the Internet, and I absolutely agree.

I think later in that interview, or perhaps in another one, there was a question of, "Well, what's
the end state? How much longer are we going to be involved?"

And the troops will be able to come home when the Afghan national security forces are fully up to
speed. And that's an effort that we're committed to putting tremendous more resources into. Of
those 17,000 troops that we're sending in this summer...

PETER CAVE: Would you like to put a number of years or months on that?

MARK STROH: I couldn't - I couldn't begin to do that. It depends on the commitments that we have,
increased commitments that we may or may not get. It would be impossible for me to put a date on

PETER CAVE: To what extent - the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed grave concern
about what's happening across the border in Pakistan.

A lot of the insurgency is coming from the tribal areas, and you now have armed Taliban militants
operating within easy striking distance of the capital of Pakistan.

How much concern is there within the State Department about that big neighbour?

MARK STROH: Well, we don't necessarily look at it... We look at the threat in a regional and an
international way.

The reason that we are in Afghanistan, as you well know, is because of terrorist attacks that were
planned and implemented from there to our soil.

We believe very strongly that the terrorist threat that comes in, that has sanctuaries, support
bases - particularly in that border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan - is an incredible threat, a
signal threat.

Not only to those two governments and those two populations - the peoples of Afghanistan and
Pakistan - but the people of the world; people of Australia, people of the United States, people of
Canada, people of Germany, the Netherlands.

So we are extremely concerned about the terrorist threat that has various sanctuaries in that

And that's why we're there.

PETER CAVE: Is there any point in wiping the Taliban out or wiping their influence out in
Afghanistan, if they're expanding in Pakistan?

MARK STROH: Well, it's a threat that has a regional base, and it's a threat that has to be
confronted regionally. I can really only speak definitively about what happens on my side of the
border, on the Afghan side.

But absolutely - confronting those bad actors, those terrorists, in Afghanistan is an important
mission. And, you know, we can't say that they won't try and operate elsewhere, but I think
everything we need to do to confront them wherever they are, and my mandate unfortunately stops at
the border, is desperately important work.

PETER CAVE: Mark Stroh, the US embassy spokesman in Kabul.

ABC quiet on delay to Marysville fire warning

ABC quiet on delay to Marysville fire warning

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:34:00

Reporter: Alison Caldwell

PETER CAVE: Did we the ABC do our job as the designated emergency services broadcaster as fires
bore down on the town of Marysville in Victoria on Black Saturday earlier this year.

Tonight on ABC Television, Four Corners will report that a fire spotter warned authorities in
Marysville at 4:30pm that the fire was coming their way, but it was an hour later when the first
threat message was broadcast by the emergency broadcaster, ABC Radio.

The ABC won't talk about what happened and says it will only speak to the Royal Commission.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: The fire which swept through Marysville north east of Melbourne on Black Saturday
began 25 kilometres away at a saw mill at three o'clock in the afternoon.

A firefighter arrived at the scene 15 minutes later. By 4:30 in the afternoon, Marysville
firefighter Chris Gleeson arrived at Narbethong, eight kilometres away, where he saw burning embers
falling to the ground.

CHRIS GLEESON: That's when I noticed that there was gumnuts falling everywhere in the mill, tiny
gumnuts, and sheets of bark. And I thought, oh, this does not bode well, you know.

And I jumped in me car again and headed back to Marysville to tell them what was coming at 'em.

When I got to Marysville, and you know, I said to the boys at the station, I said, "We're going to
come under severe ember attack here at any moment. We better start planning what we're going to

ALISON CALDWELL: At around the same time, a Department of Sustainability and Environment fire
spotter on Mount Gordon, contacted authorities in Marysville telling them the fire was heading
towards them.

But it wasn't until 20 to six that the emergency broadcaster, ABC Local Radio, broadcast its first
DSE-issued threat message for Marysville.

(Excerpt from DSE threat message)

"We're now extending that threat message to include the communities of Marysville and Buxton, which
we also expect to come under direct attack from this fire."

ALISON CALDWELL: Madeleine Love lives in Marysville. She says by the time they heard the first
warning on the ABC, they'd already found out that their house had been destroyed.

MADELEINE LOVE: Well, my husband was in touch with the fire communication at eight o'clock that
night, but also earlier in the day through the websites.

But what we learnt at eight o'clock that night was that our house had burnt down, and shortly after
that, I heard on the radio - ABC Radio - that Marysville might come under threat.

And, this is - something went wrong (laughs).

ALISON CALDWELL: Would you like to know what happened? Would you like to know what was going on, in
terms of the flow of information?

MADELEINE LOVE: I would like to know. Given that we knew - or something - on such a terrible day,
we could see the smoke plumes going down to, towards Marysville, slightly to the west. But you
know, fires can go anywhere, really.

That we knew the Kinglake experience, that the DSE report had, were clearly up on the screen very
early on. I would like to know why that early warning wasn't put out through the ABC.

It took a long time before the fire was registered as being real.

ALISON CALDWELL: A local community radio station in Marysville, UGFM, broadcast unofficial reports,
unconfirmed reports, that the fire was approaching Marysville. But it wasn't until about 20 to six
that the ABC reported that there was a threat alert for Marysville.

The ABC, as I understand it, only broadcasts official warnings. Do you think maybe that policy
should change when there's an emergency?

MADELEINE LOVE: I understand the need for an official warning. I'd like to know why there wasn't an
official one earlier.

But on the other hand, when such a day was there, one would have wanted everyone to know pretty
soon that there was a fire in the vicinity, or could be in the vicinity, so at least people were
more alert to making decisions.

There is a problem though; that the ABC is not - what came out at the Royal Commission community
consultations - that the ABC is not well received as a broadcaster in that area.

So a lot of people don't actually get ABC Radio.

ALISON CALDWELL: The ABC won't comment. A short time ago a spokeswoman issued this statement:

ABC BUSHFIRE RESPONSE STATEMENT (voiceover): The Victorian Royal Commission is looking closely at
the timeline of events on Black Saturday and the adequacy of the warning systems.

The ABC has been asked to provide broadcasting material and written evidence and may make its own
statement to the inquiry. No further comment will be made at this time.

PETER CAVE: And that was a statement issued by the ABC and read by an actor, ending Alison
Caldwell's report. The Four Corners program can be seen at 8:30 tonight on ABC1.

Indigenous community stores accused of selling substandard food

Indigenous community stores accused of selling substandard food

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:40:00

Reporter: Nicole Butler

PETER CAVE: According to the Bureau of Statistics, the top 10 disadvantaged communities in
Australia are all Indigenous.

Now a Federal parliamentary inquiry into community grocery stores has received submissions that
indicate the nation's poorest are being ripped off.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Queensland says people are getting sick because local stores are
stocked with sub-standard - if not rotting - food.

And the price of basic goods are up to seven times higher than elsewhere.

From Queensland, Nicole Butler reports.

NICOLE BUTLER: Indigenous communities Australia-wide have long been complaining about the state of
their grocery stores - the lack of basic, healthy foods and hygiene products.

And from the outset, a federal parliamentary inquiry into Indigenous stores expected to find the
cost of goods was exorbitant.

Inquiry chair, Victorian Labor MP Richard Marles said so a month ago when hearings began in

RICHARD MARLES: For their basic food stuffs. And so one of the things we do want to look at is how
we can do something about the issue of prices.

Because obviously the people who are paying these prices are, in many cases, the people who can
least afford them.

NICOLE BUTLER: That view's been backed up by a damning submission prepared on behalf of the
Lockhart River residents in far north Queensland.

It states a packet of pasta that sells for 60 cents in major centres costs $4 in the Gulf
community, and deodorant is more than $10.

John Japp is CEO of the nearby Kowanyama Council, and he says the country's poorest are being
ripped off.

JOHN JAPP: I found some prices between Cairns and Kowanyama were between 200 and 300 per cent

And these weren't luxury items, or items that would require refrigeration, expensive handling
processes. Things like pumpkin and onion.

NICOLE BUTLER: But it's not just the cost of groceries in Cape York. Mr Japp says supplies are
unreliable and often sub-standard.

JOHN JAPP: The quality varies. I mean, my own experience is out-of-date stock still on the shelves,
not by a few days but by a few months.

I've purchased bread there myself on a Friday, and by Saturday the mould is growing on the bread.

NICOLE BUTLER: Mr Japp says in February the store had virtually no vegetables in stock. And he says
frozen goods aren't being safely handled.

JOHN JAPP: I even took some photographs of a load of cargo that arrived by aircraft with frozen
stuff defrosted and chilled stuff at room temperature.

On the aircraft - it's a normal aircraft, no refrigeration - and they're loading refrigerated cargo
without any supporting refrigerant.

So you're looking at 4-5 hours in transit from Cairns to Kowanyama...

NICOLE BUTLER: Tropical North Queensland, very high temperatures.

JOHN JAPP: That's right. I mean, you know, we can have 36, 37, 38 degrees in the warehousing.

NICOLE BUTLER: So were people getting sick from eating product that's out-of-date, or possible fro
thawed and refrozen?

JOHN JAPP: I can only go by anecdotal information, people that come to see me. Well yes, in
conversation, you know, people say they had this, and they didn't think it was right, and they felt
sick afterwards.

NICOLE BUTLER: Gil Hainey is with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

She says poor quality and a lack of healthy foods are causing more than short-term illness.

GIL HAINEY: The connection between healthy diet and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, are well

And there was a piece of research done by the Menzies School of Research, which showed that the
sugar content of food available in remote stores in the Northern Territory was considerably higher.

Now that was a Northern Territory piece of research, but it's fairly easy to extrapolate that to
far north Queensland.

And the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables, the lack of healthy choice options, is absolutely
having an impact on people's health.

NICOLE BUTLER: The Kowanyama CEO says what concerns him the most is that Indigenous community
stores are run by the Queensland Government.

John Japp again.

JOHN JAPP: You'd think the Government would offer a far superior service, because they are the
regulatory authority.

NICOLE BUTLER: Queensland's Minister for Indigenous Partnerships wasn't available for comment.

Meanwhile, the federal parliamentary inquiry into the Indigenous stores begins hearings in the
Northern Territory today.

PETER CAVE: Nicole Butler reporting.

Sub-Antarctic changing quicker than expected

Sub-Antarctic changing quicker than expected

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:47:00

Reporter: Felicity Ogilvie

PETER CAVE: Scientists are warning that global warming is affecting the survival of the tiny
creatures that are the basis of life if the sub-Antarctic.

An international forum in Hobart has been told the Southern Ocean is becoming so acidic that
microscopic plankton are losing their ability to make shells.

The tiny creatures are the basis of the food web there.

The scientists blame manmade climate change, saying more carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the
ocean, turning it into acid.

Felicity Ogilvie reports from Hobart.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The sub-Antarctic is the area of the Southern Ocean that's just north of

Doctor Will Howard says the water down there's getting more acidic than it's ever been

He's a research scientist at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Centre in Hobart.

Doctor Howard says when the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere it produces a weak
form of carbonic acid.

WILL HOWARD: This impact is happening faster than I and a lot of other scientists anticipated. The
impact has already begun to be felt where previously many models would have suggested that we would
only begin to see it in, maybe the next century.

But both the models and the data are coming together to tell us that we will see these impacts
within the coming decades. And indeed our data are saying we're seeing it now.

FELICITY OGILVIE: And what exactly are you seeing now?

WILL HOWARD: Well, we're seeing a decrease in the shell-making ability of some of the key organisms
in the Southern Ocean ecosystems.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The animals that are losing their ability to make shells are microscopic zoo
plankton. Their only one cell creatures, but they are the basis for an ecosystem that goes all the
way up to whales.

But scientists can't say what ocean acidification will mean for animals higher up in the food

WILL HOWARD: That's an area of active research that we still don't really understand what it means
for, let's say, some of the higher organisms that we're used to seeing and interacting with, like
whales, seals, birds.

But we do know that significant impacts at this level in the food web almost always reverberate up
the food webs to, in many ways, in unpredictable ways.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The International Forum on the Sub-Antarctic has also been hearing from
scientists who've been studying what effects climate change has on the region's islands.

South African oceanographer, Isabelle Ansorge has been studying the Prince Edward Islands. They're
directly south of Africa on the edge of the Antarctic.

ISABELLE ANSORGE: Well, we've basically been looking at trends over the island to see that there's
been a big drop in precipitation. Sea surface temperatures have gone up by about 1.4 degrees
Celsius. We're seeing an increase in the wind systems from the north.

So we're seeing less rain, warmer winds, and certainly a rise in temperatures over the last 50

FELICITY OGILVIE: And why is it significant to look at the sub-Antarctic in terms of how that area
is warming?

ISABELLE ANSORGE: Why it's interesting is that the sub-Antarctic islands are home to hundreds of
thousands of birds, seals.

So changes that you see in your ocean environment are picked up very easily at the islands, by
changes in breeding patterns, increases in pup mortalities, seal pup mortality, changes in foraging

So, it's very easy to sort of watch the animals, and try and relate that to changes in the ocean

FELICITY OGILVIE: She says by studying the sub-Antarctic islands, predictions can also be made
about what will happen in the rest of the world if the oceans continue to change.

PETER CAVE: Felicity Ogilvie reporting.

Kirin set to take lion share of big brewer

Kirin set to take lion share of big brewer

The World Today - Monday, 27 April , 2009 12:53:00

Reporter: Sue Lannin

PETER CAVE: Australia's second biggest beer maker looks set to be taken over by its biggest
shareholder, the Japanese brewer Kirin.

It's offered to buy out Lion Nathan, in a deal which values the company at $6.5 billion.

The deal still has some way to go - it needs to be approved by shareholders, the competition
regulator, and the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Finance reporter, Sue Lannin.

SUE LANNIN: There have been days of intense negotiations between the maker of beers like Tooheys
and XXXX, and its major shareholder, Kirin Holdings.

But now Lion Nathan shareholders have been offered $12.22 a share, a 50 per cent premium on last
week's closing price.

Chairman Geoff Ricketts says Lion Nathan will remain in Australia if the deal is given the

GEOFF RICKETTS: Lion Nathan will of course remain an Australasian-based business, employing over
3,000 Australian and New Zealanders, and producing some of the region's best-loved brands with
locally-sourced ingredients.

While I note that Kirin has stated that Lion Nathan will be an integral part of Lion's... Kirin's
growth strategy in the region, and the transaction would create exciting development opportunities
for our people across an enlarged group.

It should be noted that the sole focus of the board's negotiation to this point has been on
maximising the value delivered to non-Kirin shareholders.

SUE LANNIN: Kirin has been the biggest shareholder in Lion Nathan for more than 10 years. Now it's
expanding around Asia to counter falling demand in Japan.

Last year it took over Dairy Farmers, Australia's biggest milk processor. It also owns dairy and
fruit juice producer, National Foods.

The deal means Kirin will take over the 54 per cent of Lion Nathan it doesn't already own.

Chairman Geoff Ricketts says the discussions over price were frank.

GEOFF RICKETTS: Civil, but tense (laughter).

A lot of toing and froing. I mean, you've got to remember that we've sat round the table with these
people for 11 years, so we know them. So in many ways I think that made it easy, because we could
talk to each other pretty frankly.

SUE LANNIN: It's not clear yet if the current management will stay on.

But analyst Prasad Patkar from Platypus Asset Management says he thinks the deal will be supported
by shareholders.

PRASAD PATKAR: Yeah, I believe so. Shareholders of Lion Nathan were always likely to get a bid from
Kirin as one of their exit strategies, and crystallise value in that manner.

So, I suspect it was only a matter of time, and this bid does crystallise value for shareholders
rather quickly. And it's an opportunistic bid, but it does represent good value.

SUE LANNIN: Last year, Lion Nathan offered more than $7 billion for alcohol and soft drinks maker
Coca-Cola Amatil, in a tie up that would have created the largest beverages company in Australia.

The bid was dropped earlier this year.

If there any regrets Geoff Ricketts and chief executive, Rob Murray didn't want to talk about that

GEOFF RICKETTS: Well, commercially we obviously think it makes sense, because we had a bet to
(phonetic) whether our returns or not I guess depends a bit on whether it's available, or can be
negotiated, at what we think is fair value.

ROB MURRAY: I mean, it was off the agenda for Lion's. You know, you're asking us to think about a
bigger group that we, you know, we just don't.. that's just not where we've been at.

Our focus the past few days has just been on maximising this price; so that's something to worry
about another day.

SUE LANNIN: And Prasad Patkar says there are still a lot of hurdles to clear for a tie-up between
Coca-Cola Amatil and Lion Nathan to go ahead.

PRASAD PATKAR: The transaction as we understand it failed for non-value reasons. So there were
certain terms which the Coca-Cola company in the US and Kirin could not come to an agreement on.

SUE LANNIN: Kirin's takeover plans must be approved by shareholders, the competition regulator, and
the Foreign Investment Review Board.

But it strengthens the company's hand in the battle of the brewers with market leader, Foster's

PETER CAVE: And that's Prasad Patkar ending that report from Sue Lannin.