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Australia avoids recession

Australia avoids recession

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:10:00

Reporter: Stephen Long

PETER CAVE: First though to the economy and the shock news that Australia has avoided a recession,
at least for now.

Defying market expectations, the economy grew in the March quarter, and then some.

In the first three months, output expanded by 0.4 of a per cent. And over the past 12 months, the
economy also grew by the same margin. It's a performance that ranks at the top of the Western

But is it a sign that Australia has turned the corner or is there worse to come?

Joining me to analyse the result is economics correspondent Stephen Long.

Stephen, what happened to that recession?

STEPHEN LONG: Well clearly Peter it was the recession we almost had to have, to paraphrase Paul
Keating. Perhaps it will be the recession we never have to have, on the basis at least of the
technical definition of two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

But all that really tells you is that that is quite an arbitrary and in some ways silly measure.
Because these results, this GDP number, actually points to an economy that is quite sick, not an
economy that is healthy as the headline number of a rise of 0.4 per cent in the month would imply.

PETER CAVE: Why isn't it a sign that the economy is travelling well?

STEPHEN LONG: Peter it's because of the components that contributed to the positive figure. The
main contribution was actually a collapse in imports; that added 1.6 per cent to GDP. There was a
small rise in exports adding 0.6 per cent, and household consumption added a little too.

But basically the main reason we didn't have a recession was because imports fell off a cliff, as
business brought in less capital equipment and people consumed less from overseas, but mainly the
business, business imports side of things.

And that tells you that companies are not investing and business investment cut 1.1 per cent off
economic growth. If it hadn't been for those import-export numbers, it's highly likely we would
have seen a recession.

And why are imports falling? It's actually because the economy is in a bad way and business is
pulling back.

PETER CAVE: What role, if any, did the Government's stimulus package have?

STEPHEN LONG: Well it did play a role, that's pretty clear from the numbers because there has been
an increase in household consumption; that added about 0.5 per cent to economic growth.

So the Government stimulus payments got people consuming and the housing side of things helped a
bit too.

So, it has had a positive contribution. The question is how long can you keep on contributing in
that way? We know of course that the Government investment in bricks and mortar, in buildings, in
roads, infrastructure and the like is coming down the track and that may lead to more positive

But yes, you can say, without really going to the merits or otherwise of whether it was a good
policy, that it has had the effect of making a positive contribution to economic growth.

PETER CAVE: You have been saying the economy is by no means out of the woods. Where does it go from
here and what are the dangers?

STEPHEN LONG: Well look, it's very, very hard to say because really the Australian economy is to
some extent captive to events overseas. If we get a relatively quick recovery in the United States,
in Europe and in particular in China where there have been some positive signs, then Australia may
really come out of this without going into a technical recession at all because the demand from
China for commodities could start boosting national income again.

On the other hand, if we have further falls in the terms of trade, cutting national income, things
could get bad, we could see that recession.

But whatever happens from here on, because business investment has been falling so much, we're
going to see less job creation - that's clear from all the forward indicators - and the
unemployment rate will rise significantly.

And I think that most people will feel as if we're in a recession even on a highly technical
definition it doesn't appear that we are.

PETER CAVE: How did the individual states fair?

STEPHEN LONG: Well this is one of the interesting things as well. If you look at the individual
states, we only have a proxy measure - State Final Demand - which tells you what's going in within
each state, it doesn't tell you what's happening with interstate trade.

But if you look at that, every state except for South Australia actually went backwards, saw growth
fall, and every state, bar New South Wales and also if we turn to the territories the ACT, actually
cut from economic growth, South Australia added some as well but just about every other state or
territory detracted from economic growth. New South Wales stood still if we look at the
contribution to the overall economic growth in the national economy.

But on a state by state basis, the only economy, state economy that didn't go backwards was South
Australia. And so that tells you that we're still seeing a pretty rough time and that adds to the
view that we will see, we will see unemployment rise.

But you have to say that this is very, very good news for the Federal Government, because the
headlines do matter, and the slight of having fallen into recession even judging it in a highly
technical way has been avoided, the Rudd Government must be very, very happy.

PETER CAVE: Well thank you Stephen Long.

Australia's growth figures not reflective of the economy

Australia's growth figures not reflective of the economy

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:14:00

Reporter: Brigid Glanville

PETER CAVE: Those headlines will of course say that Australia has avoided a recession but Annette
Beacher, the senior strategist from TD Securities, warns that these figures are by no means a true
reflection of the economy.

Annette Beacher spoke to Brigid Glanville.

ANNETTE BEACHER: I guess it's less of a surprise given the date flow yesterday, which had already
told us that the trade sector was adding significantly to growth, so I guess less of a surprise
than say two days ago.

I suppose what will be the disappointing sort of aspect of it is that Australia, the headline will
be that "Australia avoids technical recession", however if you net out the last three quarters of
GDP, in fact Australia's gone sideways for the best part of a year.

So while it looks like we've avoided technical recession from a growth perspective, we've gone
absolutely nowhere since September last year.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: And with unemployment projected to be around 8.5 per cent in 2010 and 2011, is a
recession still unavoidable?

ANNETTE BEACHER: Well it's a recession; it is a rose by any other name really. I mean, even if
Australia's GDP is positive one quarter and negative the next quarter, I think there is certainly,
potentially too much emphasis on a technical definition of a recession.

Given that it's fairly wide-spread that employment is set to collapse over the next sort of six to
12 months. For those people that are on the streets it's a recession to them.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: You've obviously been quite bearish in your predictions but the figures do show a
0.4 per cent jump. Now, most people were obviously expecting a drop, so what's behind that? There's
obviously, there is some growth going on in Australia.

ANNETTE BEACHER: Ah that's true, it does look like growth and the financial markets are certainly
treating it today as if the economy is growing, however those of us that are looking at the split
behind the numbers, what we're still seeing is that the business sector of the economy is in real

Business investment was one of the largest single falls in the GDP figures and in fact something
that contributes to growth ironically is a decline in imports. Imports actually added 1.5
percentage points, so that means businesses have such a poor outlook for Australia is they're not
restocking shelves.

So even thought the headline number is positive, there's still plenty of bad news buried in the

PETER CAVE: Annette Beacher who's a senior strategist with TD Securities, speaking there to Brigid

Defence watchdog clears dept of spying as Opposition calls for Minister's sacking

Defence watchdog clears dept of spying as Opposition calls for Minister's sacking

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:18:00

Reporter: Sabra Lane

PETER CAVE: The Inspector-General of Intelligence has backed up the Defence Department's assurances
that it did not spy on its own minister nor hack into his computer.

But that hasn't dampened the Opposition's demand that Minister Joel Fitzgibbon should go.

They're now honing in on his admission to Parliament last night that he failed to declare $450
worth of accommodation paid for by the health insurer NIB.

From Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: Despite assurances two months ago that the Defence Minister had forensically gone
through his records and had nothing more to disclose to Parliament, last night Joel Fitzgibbon got
to his feet and made another embarrassing admission to the House of Representatives.

Mr Fitzgibbon told the House he hadn't properly disclosed that $450 worth of accommodation he'd
accepted last year was paid for by NIB health, a company run by Mr Fitzgibbon's brother.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: The original plan Mr Speaker was for me to share accommodation booked by my
brother. Due to a last minute change in his plans, my brother was unable to join me. As a result I
paid for the accommodation.

Shortly thereafter I learned that NIB had contacted the hotel and cancelled my payment and
substituted it with their own.

I can only say that it is this confusion that led me to overlook the need to declare the sponsored

I have written to the registrar today to update my statement of registrable interest. I apologise
to the House for this oversight.

SABRA LANE: Two months ago, Mr Fitzgibbon was forced to make a similar statement after failing to
disclose free trips to China.

That apology followed claims published in Fairfax newspapers that Defence Department officials had
spied on their Minister; that the top secret Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) had hacked into the
Minister's computer and accessed banking documents relating to his friend, the Chinese born
business woman Helen Liu.

Following Mr Fitzgibbon's statement to Parliament in March, the Prime Minister said he expected
better of his Defence Minister in the future.

Opposition MPs say this latest admission is a mistake too far and that Mr Fitzgibbon should be

Liberal MPs Stuart Robert and Tony Abbott.

STUART ROBERT: I think Joel Fitzgibbon has proven that one, two, three strikes you're out. If he
can't be honest with the Parliament and with the Australian people, the Prime Minister simply has
to sack him.

TONY ABBOTT: How many mistakes does Joel Fitzgibbon have to make before Kevin Rudd gets serious
about ministerial standards? This man is basically a walking disaster.

SABRA LANE: But Government backbenchers Sharon Bird and David Bradbury say Mr Fitzgibbon's done the
right thing and doesn't deserve the axe.

SHARON BIRD: No I don't think he should resign. I think the Minister has made the mistake, he's got
at the first opportunity out there to explain what it was. It's a minor error.

DAVID BRADBURY: There were extenuating circumstances in relation to this particular disclosure.

SABRA LANE: Last week, a Defence Department inquiry cleared the department over the original spying
allegations. This morning, the department's secretary Nick Warner told a Senate Estimates hearing
that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security had come to the same conclusion.

NICK WARNER: And I am of course very pleased that his report has found no basis to any allegations
about DSD.

SABRA LANE: The Inspector-General Ian Carnell's report was published this morning.

He has broader powers of investigation, similar to a Royal Commissioner.

Mr Carnell says it seems the allegations made against Mr Fitzgibbon were contained in anonymous
letters sent to the journalists who wrote the Fairfax stories.

Mr Carnell did ask for copies and he wasn't given them.

Again, Nick Warner.

NICK WARNER: Significantly, Mr Carnell concluded that, and I'll quote this section, "the
allegations against the Minister could have been formulated without there having been unauthorised
access to the Minister's computing facilities," unquote.

SABRA LANE: But the Opposition's not letting go. Defence spokesman David Johnston's has hinted
there's more to come on Joel Fitzgibbon.

DAVID JOHNSTON: I've got to tell you I have never seen a lower standard for a minister in the
history of the time that I've been here and in the history in the time of John Howard's government.

There's never been a lower standard.

REPORTER: Do you think there's still a few more things to come out?

DAVID JOHNSTON: I think there's a lot more things to come out and I think estimates might be very
interesting today.

PETER CAVE: The Opposition's defence spokesman Senator David Johnston ending that report from Sabra

Debris confirmed as missing Air France flight

Debris confirmed as missing Air France flight

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:22:00

Reporter: Emma Alberici

PETER CAVE: The families of those on board the doomed Air France flight from Rio have been told
that the plane carrying their loved ones has crashed into the Atlantic.

Brazil's Defence Minister said debris found floating in the ocean was, without a doubt, from the
Airbus A330 that went missing almost two days ago after reporting electrical failure.

But the wait continues for an explanation about what caused the plane to fall out of the sky, amid
fears that the flight recorder may never be found.

Europe correspondent Emma Alberici.

EMMA ALBERICI: The area where the plane is thought to have crashed has been narrowed down to a few
square nautical miles between Brazil and the west coast of Africa after the Brazilian air force
spotted debris there over a five kilometre stretch of the Atlantic Ocean.

Brazil's Defence Minister confirmed that the objects seen in the water - including airplane
seating, oil, kerosene and a life vest - belonged to AF 447, which left Rio de Janeiro but never
made it to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris where it was headed.

At least 14 planes are now searching for the body of the Airbus A330. The United States joined the
search today, launching a navy surveillance plane. France has sent a research vessel that deploys
robots that can work 6,000 metres below the surface.

The ocean floor in the area being searched is up to 7,000 metres deep, which is posing great
challenges for investigators who are in a race against time. The black box flight recorder
containing conversations and data from the planes final moments will only emit a signal for 30

Spokesman for the French Military Commander Christophe Prazuck.

CHRISTOPHE PRAZUCK (translated): For the time being we can't find anything. The weather is pretty
bad; we're in an intra-tropical zone of convergence. There are a lot of squalls, a lot of storms.
The ceiling is sometime limited at 250 metres, which forces planes to fly very low over the water
and therefore to have a limited line of sight, which explains the delay in finding the location of
the crash.

EMMA ALBERICI: Was it a mechanical problem, lightning or a bad storm? Analysts are baffled as to
why this plane got into trouble, while Lufthansa, which flew two jets on the same route within half
an hour of the doomed flight, reported nothing remarkable about the weather.

The French Government has not ruled out the possibility that the plane came down as the result of a
terrorist attack.

For five anxious families in Britain, the wait has been traumatic.

Among those missing is an 11-year-old boy who was travelling alone. He'd spent the half term school
break with his parents in Brazil and was heading back to Bristol where he attended a boarding

Sixty-one-year-old structural engineer Arthur Coakley was also among the 228 people on the flight,
his wife, Patricia Coakley was at her mother's house when her son called.

PATRICIA COAKLEY: And he said, "Oh what flight's daddy on?" I said "Why?" He said, "Oh there's been
a plane crash."

And I went, so literally dropped everything, came home, checked out itinerary on the email and I
thought "Oh no", and then I realised it was his plane.

I think he might not come back but I kept phoning him on his mobile, and he's pretty useless on his
mobile, he hates them. I haven't tried it today, but yesterday it was ringing, so maybe they're not
at the bottom of the sea. That's my hope but I think it's... I think it's maybe fading today.

EMMA ALBERICI: In France, 40 families have maintained a vigil at Charles De Gaulle, wanting to stay
close to the investigation being coordinated at the airport. A team of psychologists led by
Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc is caring for them in a nearby hotel.

GUILLAUME DENOIX DE SAINT-MARC: For the moment, they refuse to think, they knew that the event
happened, but they still hope that the person they were waiting for has survived.

EMMA ALBERICI: It's the worst aviation disaster in Air France's 75 year history. It's the first
time an A330 has been involved in a fatal accident.

But a law firm in London representing 30 victims of a previous incident involving the same aircraft
flying for Qantas has issued a statement claiming that it is preparing to sue Airbus because it
suspects that this latest crash might prove that the aircraft could be vulnerable to electrical

Last October, the Qantas A330 suddenly plunged 200 metres during a flight over Western Australia.
Air accident investigators blamed the rapid descent on a malfunctioning computer.

(Announcement in French Parliament)

There was two minutes of silence in the French National Assembly in respect of those on board
Flight 447.

The international effort to find the aircraft is a search operation not a rescue one. There's been
no sign of life and, after nearly two days since contact with the plane was lost, there's no
expectation that there might be.

This is Emma Alberici reporting for The World Today.

Hunger in South Asia at 40 year high

Hunger in South Asia at 40 year high

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:26:00

Reporter: David Mark

PETER CAVE: UNICEF is blaming the global economic crisis for an extra 100-million people going
hungry in South Asia in the past two years.

The United Nations Children's Fund has released a report showing hunger has reached levels not seen
for 40 years.

The report says that rising fuel and food prices and war are also responsible for one in three
people in the region not getting enough to eat.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: There are 1.2-billion people living in South Asia; more than 400-million or one in
three is going hungry

MARTIN THOMAS: What this report shows is the global economic crisis is having a devastating impact
on the world's poor, every bit as much as a natural disaster such as a tsunami.

DAVID MARK: Martin Thomas is the director of advocacy and communications with UNICEF Australia.

MARTIN THOMAS: It's hitting South Asia particularly cruelly. The spike in food prices, the collapse
of local economies, is pushing, well an extra 100-million more people into hunger in the last two
years in this region alone.

DAVID MARK: In Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,
almost half of all children are underweight and three quarters of all people live on less than $2
per day.

MARTIN THOMAS: When you then get a economic shock, such as an increase in food or fuel prices, that
really makes life and death decisions for these people. They have to decide to either pull their
children out of school or take food off the table, sacrifice medical care in some cases, send their
children out to work. They're really significant decisions from any price shock.

More globally, these economies in the region are just being devastated. It's almost like a perfect
economic storm. You're having drop in trade, drop in tourism, money that comes into the country
through remittances has fallen dramatically and I guess the big question mark at the moment is what
is going to happen with overseas aid. There are fears that some Western countries may be forced to
cut aid by as much as 40 or even 60 per cent, which will be even more devastating.

DAVID MARK: UNICEF says the countries hardest hit are Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but it's a
dire picture throughout the region.

There are now as many as many people going hungry in South Asia as there were 40 years ago.

It seems the years of rapid economic growth in at least some countries have been simply wiped out.

Money is tight but UNICEF argues now is precisely the time to act on poverty.

Martin Thomas.

MARTIN THOMAS: Look I guess the key is a number of things. One is we're certainly advocating, where
possible, for governments of these countries not to scale back on social protection. What we did
see in the heart of the Asian financial crisis was a cutting back of protection measures for the
poor, we saw big falls in the number of children in schools, we saw big drops or really adverse
effects on those who are the poorest. So certainly we'd be advocating for not a scale back from
these countries.

DAVID MARK: Spending on human services can be doubly difficult in those countries racked by war -
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Professor Raghbendra Jha is the executive director of the Australia South Asia Research Centre at
the ANU.

RAGHBENDRA JHA: One may argue that public expenditure is inadequate, one may argue that it is
ineffective, but at least it is not completely ineffective when it is not completely, it's not

So there are positive amounts of funds being directed towards poverty alleviation but if there is a
war going on then they, basically the administrative infrastructure collapses and none of that
money can be spent.

It can be siphoned off in corruption but it is not spent on the poor.

PETER CAVE: Professor Raghbendra Jha from the ANU, ending David Mark's report.

Dementia diagnosis increases suicide risk

Dementia diagnosis increases suicide risk

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:30:00

Reporter: Meredith Griffiths

PETER CAVE: Doctors are being warned that an early diagnosis of dementia increases the likelihood
of suicide.

Associate Professor Brian Draper from the University of New South Wales says that one study has
found that people who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's early are eight to 10 times more likely to
take their own lives.

He'll tell a conference in Adelaide this week that doctors need to offer better support.

Meredith Griffiths reports.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: It used to be that a diagnosis of Alzheimer's came well after the disease had
begun to take its toll.

But greater understanding of the condition means many more people are now are made aware of what
will happen to them before they're suffering symptoms.

GLENN REES: Dementia is a condition that people are fearful of, they've got a general understanding
that they will lose many of their cognitive capacities, communication, feeling, emotional swing, a
whole set of things will change their lives forever.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Glenn Rees is the chief executive of Alzheimer's Australia, which is running a
national conference in Adelaide this week.

One of the speakers says the stress and trauma of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's means people are
at a higher risk of taking their own lives.

Dr Brian Draper is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.

He says that a Danish study published last year found that people aged 50 to 70 diagnosed with
dementia were eight to 10 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

BRIAN DRAPER: Whenever a study like this is done, it's important of course to get what we call
replication in other populations, trouble is there aren't many places around the world where there
is the capacity to get that kind of information that way.

It does seem to tally in though with what we call anecdotal reports, case reports of people with
early onset dementia having seemingly, making self-harm attempts at rates that weren't previously
felt to be happening.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Dr Draper says it's becoming more of an issue now because people are being
diagnosed earlier.

He says that despite the greater risks, suicides are still relatively rare.

But he says doctors need to be more careful about how they break the news to people and make sure
they have support mechanisms in place.

BRIAN DRAPER: We need to adopt a style of management of bad news that's being done in areas such as
Huntington's disease, where there are very clear guidelines for giving information about genetic

So we need to start looking at the sort of approaches that is there by making sure that we are
getting good counselling to people in those first few months.

Not just about the diagnosis, but about the whole aspects of the situation that they might face.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Glenn Rees from Alzheimer's Australia agrees doctors could do more.

GLENN REES: If you talk to any person with dementia or their carer, one of their primary concerns
will be about the lack of time that doctors can spend with them, the lack of referral to services,
the poor ways sometimes the diagnosis is communicated.

As an organisation, in the context of the Government's primary care review, we've suggested that a
number one priority for the Government ought to be a systematic look at how primary care is
provided to people with dementia.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: As the population ages there is more debate about how best to care for the
growing number of people suffering from dementia.

Last year, a British government advisor and medical ethicist Baroness Warnock attracted
condemnation for her views.

She said that elderly Alzheimer's sufferers should take their own lives, saying they were a burden
on their families and the public health system.

But Glenn Rees from Alzheimer's Australia refutes that, saying that people with dementia should be

GLENN REES: We support a positive approach to dementia, that's both in helping people get on with
their lives, helping them to be socially engaged, giving them the support they need. We also think
it's important that after centuries of stigma around dementia that people actually think positively
about dementia as a chronic disease, and one to which medical science will eventually find much
better answers.

PETER CAVE: Glenn Rees, the chief executive of Alzheimer's Australia ending that report from
Meredith Griffiths.

Deputy Prime Minister angers ACTU Congress

Deputy Prime Minister angers ACTU Congress

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:34:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

PETER CAVE: The Deputy Prime Minister has stared down hundreds of unionists at an ACTU Congress,
and endured a couple of heckles from delegates along the way, over criticism surrounding a building
industry watchdog.

Wearing yellow shirts to represent construction workers, the union members are calling on the
Federal Government to abandon coercive powers for building industry investigators.

Julia Gillard told the ACTU Annual Congress the Howard Government's Building and Construction
Commission will be abolished as promised and that a new body, Fair Work Australia, will be

But many delegates don't believe that the coercive powers will go and they're threatening to
boycott Labor at the next election over the issue.

Annie Guest reports from the gathering in Brisbane.

ANNIE GUEST: Within seconds of Julia Gillard arriving at this ACTU Congress at a Brisbane
convention centre this morning, a delegate ensured the concerns of many in the audience would be
heard, shouting, "Where's your shirt Julia?"

That's a reference to the yellow shirts, representing builders, worn by all unionists at the
conference calling for the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

And just in case she missed the garb worn by the self-described comrades, the ACTU's Sharon Burrow
asked for a model.

SHARON BURROW: As I've indicated the T-shirts say it all, one law for all, and the abolition of the
ABCC, somebody can stand up and show what's on the back.

Just so you can get the whole view.

ANNIE GUEST: The Building and Construction Commission was introduced in 2005 by the previous
Liberal government, in the wake of the Cole Royal Commission into the building industry.

It has powers to enforce workplace laws and it promotes proper conduct through education on rights
and obligations.

But it's the building watchdog's coercive powers that are at the heart of this dispute.

Julia Gillard didn't spell out the Government's position there, instead in a slow deliberate voice
she said the Government would carry out its election promise.

JULIA GILLARD: There is both debate and difference on display as the Rudd Government honours its
election commitment to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and replace it
on the first of February 2010 with a new specialist fair work body.

ANNIE GUEST: Then The Deputy Prime Minister and Workplace Relations Minister annoyed some in the
audience by giving this example of problems in the building industry.

JULIA GILLARD: But as there is debate and difference, I expect there to be one clear point of
unanimity. Like me, I'm sure you were appalled to read of dangerous car charges across Melbourne
city, involving car loads of balaclava wearing people, criminal damage to vehicles resulting in
arrests, threats of physical violence and intimidation of individuals, including damage to a
private reference.

ANNIE GUEST: Julia Gillard left before reporters could seek further clarification on the retention
or otherwise of the coercive powers.

Outside the congress, the ACTU's Secretary Jeff Lawrence and the secretary of the Construction
Union, Dave Noonan made clear they have outstanding suspicions.

JEFF LAWRENCE: Well we don't have legislation in front of us at the moment but there's a report
from a government commission that indicates that the coercive powers, that people can be forced to
have an interview without recourse, to protections, that normal protections that are there will be
retained, and that's completely unacceptable to us.

ANNIE GUEST: And any other elements?

DAVE NOONAN: We've got a situation where we had a delegate in that hall there today, a delegate of
my union who was a rank and file worker, who has been dragged before the courts for allegedly
refusing to participate in an interrogation over a safety meeting.

So when construction workers stand up for safety on site, they risk being dragged in front of a
government body, which has the power to jail them for six months if they don't answer questions.

These laws do not apply to any other Australian.

ANNIE GUEST: But Dave Noonan, what do you say to critics who say there's been significant unique
problems in the construction industry such as those that led to the Royal Commission?

DAVE NOONAN: Well the Royal Commission did not result in the prosecution of one construction worker
for doing anything illegal.

ANNIE GUEST: Delegates having a cigarette break outside the convention centre told The World Today
the issue was enough to change their vote at the next election.

PETER CAVE: Annie Guest reporting from the ACTU's Annual Congress in Brisbane.

Family law experts say 50-50 rule doesn't work

Family law experts say 50-50 rule doesn't work

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:38:00

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

PETER CAVE: Family law experts are calling for the shared parenting law to be scrapped or radically
overhauled, saying that the 50-50 parenting rule doesn't always work.

The law was introduced by the Howard government in 2006 and put greater emphasis on children
spending equal time with both parents.

But the head of the Family Law Council says this often gives fathers a false expectation that they
will be granted equal time, when this isn't true for the majority of cases.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: The Howard Government introduced changes to the Family Law Act three years ago,
claiming that equal time with both parents would be in the best interests of the child.

But the chair of the Family Law Council, Professor John Wade from Bond University, says the changes
were hastily written gobbledegook.

JOHN WADE: The amendments appear to have been bought in very hurriedly and pasted together at the
last moment, with a lot of compromises of wording with the result that you need a PhD in statutory
interpretation to understand what the amendments mean when they talk about shared parenting and

It's extremely difficult to understand and I think it's placed a very unfair burden on judges, to
in the few cases that get to court, to try to interpret what this means.

JENNIFER MACEY: Professor Wade says the laws create two problems, firstly, the children aren't
always best served by being split between two homes and secondly, that many parents are wrongly
given the impression they are entitled to a 50-50 shared arrangement.

JOHN WADE: And they begin negotiations with arguments that, "Oh but I'm entitled to 50-50" as a
starting point in the bidding, and that's led to some very unfortunate settlements where people
have agreed to young children being substantial equal time between parents and shuttling them
across cities or across the country.

And that's not the judges' fault, that's because people use the words as levers in negotiations.

JENNIFER MACEY: Since the law was introduced there's been much debate about whether equal shared
parenting is in fact the best thing for children.

Clive Price is the director of Unifam, the family and relationships counselling arm of the Uniting

CLIVE PRICE: From my experience in talking with children, living in two households is always going
to be more complicated than living in one. Kids complain about never knowing where their homework
is, about only being able to play sport every second weekend, and lots of practical things.

But much more importantly it's the conflict that kids are witnesses to and are caught up in, the
tug of war between two parents that has the biggest impact and effect on children.

JENNIFER MACEY: He believes separated or divorced couples should be given more support in how to
actually manage the shared parenting arrangements.

CLIVE PRICE: 'Cause a lot of money and a lot of resources goes into sorting out what the
arrangements are going to be, but I think we need to have more resources into equipping parents
after separation to know how to manage these new and often complex arrangements.

JENNIFER MACEY: While the rhetoric of the equal custody laws was that the presumption of courts
would be to share parenting, in reality, judges seem to be reluctant to grant a straight 50-50
split in most cases.

Figures released by the court from more than 1,400 cases finalised in 2007 and 2008 show that only
15 per cent of cases actually resulted in equal time.

But Professor John Wade says the reality is that divided custody is hard to maintain.

JOHN WADE: The stats can be very misleading 'cause they're not giving you the picture of the other
95 per cent of, or 96 per cent of cases that settle, and they're not telling you what happens a
year later.

And the initial research says a year later these arrangements just aren't working.

JENNIFER MACEY: The Government has commissioned the Australian Institute of Family Studies to
review the Shared Parental Responsibility Act and report back in December this year.

But Professor Wade says that's too late.

JOHN WADE: I think you should act sooner rather than later, you shouldn't fiddle while Rome burns.

JENNIFER MACEY: But Patrick Parkinson, the former chair of the Family Law Council and Professor of
Law at the University of Sydney, says there's no need to scrap the current law.

But he says it may need some tweaking.

PATRICK PARKINSON: Courts need further guidance and lawyers need further guidance on when shared
care is and is not appropriate.

You've got to be very careful with shared care arrangements under about five-years-old because of
the attachments that very young children have to their primary carer. You don't want to have long
gaps between the time they see mum.

It's better to have frequent short visits from dad rather than to have long separations from mum.

So there's some clarification needed, I think it's important to give further clarification around
the issue of relocation.

But it would be a grave mistake to think that the whole legislation is deeply flawed, it would also
be a grave mistake to amend the law on the basis of anecdotes or horror stories. We need proper
evaluation, proper research and careful thought.

PETER CAVE: Professor Patrick Parkinson from the University of Sydney ending that report from
Jennifer Macey.

Scientific budgets can't be victim of downturn

Scientific budgets can't be victim of downturn

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:42:00

Reporter: Rachael Brown

PETER CAVE: One of the world's leading scientists is in Canberra today discussing his claim that
biotechnology will drive wealth in the coming centuries.

Professor Josef Penninger directs the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Austrian Academy
of Sciences, in Vienna.

He spoke to Rachael Brown.

RACHAEL BROWN: Professor Josef Penninger led groundbreaking work on the SARS virus and he's in
Australia while it battles a similar respiratory disease, swine flu.

But he doesn't think it deserves the hysteria it's attracting.

JOSEF PENNINGER: I think swine flu is still fairly harmless at the moment, and of course one has to
observe it very closely, but I think the response of the Australian authorities is appropriate.

RACHAEL BROWN: Professor Penninger says the SARS virus has given birth to new medicine that could
be applied to new viruses like swine flu.

Internationally, Professor Penninger says science is an area that often suffers during uncertain
economic times.

But he says some countries have realised the folly in this and are increasing their research

JOSEF PENNINGER: Including China, the United States, and the reason is very simple, because every
company knows that if they do not innovate they won't have the business in the future.

We have been involved in development, so basically doing the science in new medicine which might
come on the market later this year, and the estimates already that it might have a revenue of
$2-billion a year. So new biotechnology can indeed make a lot of money and create a lot of jobs.

RACHAEL BROWN: He says he's excited by current research, such as Australian studies into
inflammation and brain diseases.

JOSEF PENNINGER: I think we are probably in one of the most exciting times in research. What we can
do, what we can actually understand, and how we can use this understanding to make really new
medicines, we've not been even dreaming about some years ago.

RACHAEL BROWN: But says the challenge will be retaining and attracting young talent.

He says countries must provide somewhat of a candy store for scientists, filled with top-notch
technology and brain power.

JOSEF PENNINGER: It's like good opera singers you know, you cannot find many, and of course every
opera house wants them, it's the same for the good scientists. So you have to create a candy store
or an infrastructure, however you like to call it, to attract the best talent and keep the best
talent, give them a chance to be successful.

RACHAEL BROWN: Professor Penninger says countries like his, Austria, with small populations, often
struggle keeping up with the quantity of research pouring out of the USA and UK, so he's urging
countries to find their own niche.

He says both China and Singapore are investing big dollars in science research.

JOSEF PENNINGER: More Chinese earn more money so they have to create better jobs for them in the
future. When I came here, I stopped in Singapore and Singapore is actually investing massive money
in science.

The reason it they wanted to attract the big companies, and the big companies did not come because
they said we need your local investments, we need to see that we have good talent locally, and so
they poured all this money into research and now they have developed a very good culture of science
and now the big companies are coming.

PETER CAVE: Professor Josef Penninger from Austria's Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, speaking
there to Rachael Brown.

UK Home Secretary quits in wake of expenses scandal

UK Home Secretary quits in wake of expenses scandal

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:46:00

Reporter: Barbara Miller

PETER CAVE: With his party looking likely to be delivered a blow in local and European elections on
Thursday, this was never going to be an easy week for the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Things have just got a lot worse though, with news that his Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is to stand
down in the wake of the expenses scandal which has engulfed UK politics.

Opposition parties are renewing their calls for an early general election, saying the Government
has become an international laughing stock.

Barbara Miller reports.

BARBARA MILLER: Jacqui Smith appeared destined for great things in politics.

In 1997 when the Labour Party swept to power she was one of a record number of new female MPs
dubbed "Blair babes".

Eight years later Mr Blair's successor Gordon Brown named her Home Secretary, the first woman to
hold the job.

Within days of her appointment she was being praised for her calm handling of failed car bombs in
London and a terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport.

Two years later, Jacqui Smith was making headlines for much more personal issues.

Her parliamentary expenses claim included the bill for two pornographic films which her husband had

He said sorry.

RICHARD TIMNEY: I'm really sorry for any embarrassment I've caused Jacqui, I can fully understand
why people might be angry and offended by this. Quite obviously claims should never have been made
for these films and as you know, that money is being paid back.

BARBARA MILLER: But the Home Secretary was also under spotlight for claiming a second home
allowance for what was actually the family home.

She was one of the first of a seemingly never-ending list of MPs to be exposed in the expenses
scandal that has dominated UK politics over the past months.

Phantom mortgages, second homes that weren't, moat maintenance, gardening, duck islands - British
MPs have exploited the system to claim for it all.

And now ahead of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle, it's been leaked that the Home Secretary intends to
stand down.

Andrew Rawnsley, a political commentator with The Guardian newspaper, says Jacqui Smith is jumping
before she's pushed.

ANDREW RAWNSLEY: I suppose from her point of view, it's rather more dignified for her to make it
clear and advance that she's stepping down as Home Secretary, rather than go through that grisly
rickshaw of a reshuffle when we in the media all line up on Downing Street like ghouls at the
guillotine, shouting at people are you safe? Have you resigned? Have you been promoted?

So I think there's a dignity question better to announce it yourself than have the chopper come
down on your own neck on the reshuffle day.

BARBARA MILLER: Indeed the taunting by reporters of Cabinet members ahead of the reshuffle is
already in full swing.

REPORTER: Is your job safe Mr Hoon?

REPORTER 2: Is there going to be a reshuffle Hazel?

REPORTER 3: Last Cabinet Hazel?

BARBARA MILLER: John Denham, the Secretary of State for Universities and Skills, says the news on
Jacqui Smith does not amount to a crisis for the Government.

JOHN DENHAM: I've seen a number of reshuffles, many over the years I've been in Parliament, I think
in almost every one, there has been one or more ministers have indicated in advance that they
didn't want to be considered.

But other ministers have said that they are not going to stand, that is a perfectly normal thing to

BARBARA MILLER: But it's certainly not a good look in a week when Labour is bracing itself for
something of a drubbing in local council and European Parliament elections.

Jacqui Smith joins a long list of Labour MPs who will now not be contesting their seats at the next
election, including the Australian born Patricia Hewitt.

And the Opposition is jumping on the news to renew calls for an early general election.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron.

DAVID CAMERON: At a time of national recession and political crisis, we've got a government that
must now be one of the laughing stocks of the world. It's terrible for Britain.

BARBARA MILLER: Gordon Brown is expected to announce a reshuffle within the next week.

Speculation is rife that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling will be one of the
victims. If things continue to go from bad to worse though, the British Prime Minister could find
himself more concerned with saving his own job.

PETER CAVE: Barbara Miller reporting.

Changing of the guard on late night US television

Changing of the guard on late night US television

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:50:00

Reporter: Lisa Millar

PETER CAVE: Late night television holds a special place in the homes of many Americans and there's
one show in particular that's has become such a feature over the decades that when one host stands
aside for a newcomer it's big news.

That's happened this week with the departure of Jay Leno from The Tonight Show and the arrival of
Conan O'Brien.

By Hollywood standards it was a smooth transition of power and one that will be closely watched -
not only by the millions of viewers but by the advertising and television companies whose profits
depend upon it.

Lisa Millar reports.

LISA MILLER: The Tonight Show chair doesn't change hands very often.

(Sound of The Tonight Show opening credits)

Johnny Carson hosted the late night television chat show on NBC for 30 years.

He retired in 1992 to be replaced by Jay Leno who, after 17 years in the job, is moving to a
different time slot.

In what has to be one of the smoothest transitions of power, Leno signed off last week by having
his replacement - Conan O'Brien - on as his guest.

CONAN O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

(Sound of audience cheering)

Alright that's... please, that's frightening. Alright, thank you.

JAY LENO: How you been? Now I know I see you've been doing a lot of press lately. Now what have
people been asking you about? Is it driving you batty yet?

CONAN O'BRIEN: You know, this is a compliment to you, I keep hearing over and over - because I've
done about 800 interviews in the last three days - and all I keep hearing over and over again,
which is a complement to this man, "big shoes to fill, you've got big shoes to fill".

(Sound of audience cheering)

LISA MILLER: And this week at 11:30pm, O'Brien became the 5th host of one of America's longest
running entertainment programs.

CONAN O'BRIEN: I have to admit, I think I've timed this moment perfectly. Think about it, I'm on a
last place network, I moved to a state that's bankrupt and The Tonight Show is sponsored by General

(Sound of audience laughing)

LISA MILLER: The handover is making news.

US NEWSREPORTER: Last night was the end of an era in comedy as Jay Leno stepped down from hosting
NBC's Tonight Show after 17 years.

LISA MILLER: Google Conan O'Brien's name and you'll get thousands of reports and reviews on his

US NEWSREPORTER: As a reminder of just how far Conan's come...

LISA MILLER: And why is all of this so important?

Money, and lots of it. The program pulled in $US224-million in advertising in 2008.

Changing hosts could be seen as a gamble for NBC.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has been the most watched program in that time slot for more than a

He's averaged five million viewers a night.

His rival David Letterman on the other hand - over on CBS - averaged about a million fewer viewers.

The early reviews of O'Brien's debut were mixed. Some called it a work in progress others described
it as impressive.

One thing's for sure, he'll have plenty of time to build up his audience - if the past is anything
to go by he'll be there for the long haul.

PETER CAVE: Lisa Millar reporting.