Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
RN World Today -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ICAC, police to discuss McGurk murder

ELEANOR HALL: First to the explosive allegations surrounding the murder of a Sydney businessman.
The New South Wales Government says the state's police and the corruption watchdog will meet this
afternoon to discuss the Michael McGurk case and the allegations that the murdered man may have had
information that had the potential to damage state politicians.

ABC radio's PM program revealed on Friday that Mr McGurk said he had an audio tape which implicated
some Labor MPs in a bribery scandal. *(See editor's note)

The Rees Labor Government is resisting pressure from the Opposition to hold a Parliamentary inquiry
into the issue but the Opposition says it should have the numbers to force such an inquiry.

In Sydney Brigid Glanville reports.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Since Michael McGurk was murdered the list of the people who knew about the
alleged tape keeps growing.

The tape is alleged to implicate two or three state Labor MPs in a bribery scandal. The NSW
Opposition has been calling for the Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate.

At a press conference this morning, the New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees revealed police are
meeting with ICAC officials today but would not provide any more details.

NATHAN REES: I remind the media that the New South Wales police are currently investigating a
murder. For that reason, great caution should be exercised by those making and reporting public and
other statements. My following remarks do not relate to that murder investigation.

If there is a recording and it contains material alleging wrongdoing by any public official or any
other person that is to be referred to the State's corruption commission. If this matter is under
investigation by the New South Wales police or the ICAC, then that is the most appropriate place
for it to be examined and assessed.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Police won't confirm that they have the tape and the corruption watchdog won't
comment on any cases it may be looking into.

Three months ago Michael McGurk played the tape to former ALP powerbroker Graham Richardson. Mr
Richardson says he was demanding $8 million dollars of his client Ron Medich.

Mr McGurk told other associates and journalists that the tape proves some Labor MPs were taking
bribes but Mr Richardson told The World Today the tape was very scratchy and the part that
implicated ministers was inaudible. He also confirmed that he still worked as a consultant for Mr
Medich, the businessman in question.

Graham Richardson then went on to say he told police about the contents of the tape immediately
afterwards. Premier Nathan Rees urged anyone who has information to talk to the police.

NATHAN REES: If anyone has any information germane to the assertions that have been made in the
media, including journalists, they should take it straight to the police or the ICAC.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Since the allegations were first aired about the mystery tape. Graham Richardson
is the first person to publicly say he's heard it.

Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell says the Government shouldn't be relying on a former Labor
politician to discredit the tape.

BARRY O'FARRELL: Well it is bizarre that over the weekend, the State Government is refusing to have
ICAC investigate corruption allegations involving itself and then last night we see on TV, Graham
Richardson seeking to give the Government a clean bill of health.

With all due respect to Mr Richardson, that is not his role. That is the role of an anti-corruption
body. That is why the matter needs investigation.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The Opposition hopes a parliamentary inquiry will be set up to investigate the
corruption claims. Barry O'Farrell is pleased that the Independent Commission Against Corruption
and the police are meeting

BARRY O'FARRELL: That represents an advance on where the Premier was at on Saturday when he
dismissed out of hand an ICAC inquiry and where the Attorney-General on that same day said there
wouldn't be an ICAC enquiry.

Look, there are three matters here. There is the murder investigation which police understandably
should be conducting. Secondly there are the corruption allegations hanging over the head of the
Rees Government which requires airing and that is why the Independent Commission Against Corruption
is the best place to do it but thirdly at the heart of all of this appears to be planning decisions
made under the Planning Act with or without the involvement of ministers and departmental
bureaucrats and it is the Planning Act that ultimately is the responsibility of the Parliament so
that is why we're continue to press for a parliamentary inquiry.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the New South Wales Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell ending that report by
Brigid Glanville.

*Editor's note: This transcript was amended on 07.09.2009 to clarify the status of the alleged
tape.

Parliament set for stimulating debate

ELEANOR HALL: To the Federal Parliament now where the Opposition is promising to use the return of
MPs to Canberra to highlight what it says is the Government's waste and mismanagement of its
stimulus spending.

The Coalition is calling on the Government to scale back its stimulus program and is warning of
higher taxes and higher interest rates if it doesn't. But the Government says that Australia is
still only part of the way through the economic crisis and that it's far too early for any wind
back.

In Canberra, Naomi Woodley reports.

NAOMI WOODLEY: As federal parliamentarians arrived in Canberra today for another fortnight's
sitting of Parliament it became clear what will dominate debate. Buoyed by the G20's decision to
keep economic stimulus measures in place - Government members were out spruiking the merits of
their economic strategy.

NICK CHAMPION: It is a $42 billion package. It is programmed over time. It is targeted and it is
temporary.

SHAYNE NEUMANN: What we are doing is stimulating the economy. As the private sector has retreated,
we have got a targeted and temporary economic stimulus package.

NAOMI WOODLEY: Opposition MPs like the small business spokesman Steve Ciobo are keen to highlight
the apparent risks of the Government's plan.

STEVE CIOBO: This Government is consigning decades of debt on all Australians which will mean
higher taxes, higher interest rates and it is doing this with the full knowledge that the
Australian economy is not nearly as bad as Labor thought it was going to be.

NAOMI WOODLEY: Waste, mismanagement and excessive spending are shaping up to be the key themes for
the Opposition and it has the Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard firmly in its sights.

The Opposition's education spokesman Christopher Pyne says Ms Gillard has a lot of questions to
answer about the schools stimulus spending and other programs.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: So there has been an enormous amount of waste and mismanagement and yet the
Government has found the money for $3.5 million for plaques. $3.8 million for display signs outside
schools which found to be outside the rules and generally it is an absolute shambles - a bungle
from a minister with too much on her plate.

NAOMI WOODLEY: He says it goes beyond the Education portfolio.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: There are a lot of examples of basic competence are not being met by the
Government.

NAOMI WOODLEY: Julia Gillard will face some embarrassment today. The Electoral Commission has ruled
that the signs put up outside schools to advertise the upgrades are in breach of the Electoral Act.
The Government had already committed to putting authorisation stickers on the signs out of an
abundance of caution but the official ruling from the commission will be more fodder for the
Opposition.

Nonetheless, Julia Gillard says the Government won't be deterred from continuing its economic
strategy.

JULIA GILLARD: If we hadn't had economic stimulus, tens of thousands of Australians would be out of
work today. So economic stimulus needs to continue to support jobs.

NAOMI WOODLEY: One of the Opposition's main points of attack is the effect the Government's
spending will have on the official cash rate but the Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has rejected
any notion that the Government and Reserve Bank are at cross purposes.

LINDSAY TANNER: The Reserve Bank is not indicating that it will soon put up interest rates. It has
only indicated that at some point in the future, interest rates can be expected to rise because
they have been at emergency lows. It has given no indication as to when that might be.

NAOMI WOODLEY: Lindsay Tanner is also taking aim at the suggestion by the Greens leader Bob Brown
for the Senate to recall the Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, as part of a review of the stimulus
spending.

LINDSAY TANNER: I don't regard it as appropriate that senior public servants just automatically get
called to appear before senate committees.

NAOMI WOODLEY: But Bob Brown says now that the economy is performing better than expected - it is
time to decide if the Government's stimulus spending needs to continue as planned.

BOB BROWN: Things have changed quite for the better since then and it has got to be that we have
got to do a check on that. After all, it is going to leave a long-term debt and that means money
that is not available for future spending on schools, hospitals, public transport and so on.

NAOMI WOODLEY: And he's not ruling out supporting calls for the spending to be cut, if the evidence
supports such a move.

BOB BROWN: The question would be to the Government, how come you are unable to readjust your sights
in light of new economic information.

NAOMI WOODLEY: The independent Senator Nick Xenophon likes the idea of a review, as does the Family
First Senator Steve Fielding, as long as the Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens is also called to
give evidence.

The Opposition too has promised to consider the Greens proposal - and the Opposition backbencher
Jamie Briggs thinks the Government should take note.

JAMIE BRIGGS: It is a strange day when the Greens seem to have more fiscal responsibility going
through their veins than the Labor Party.

ELEANOR HALL: Liberal backbencher, Jamie Briggs ending that report by Naomi Woodley.

Job ads rise after 16 months

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government may be warning that we're only part of the way through the
economic crisis but there are more signs today that Australia's economy is strengthening.

The latest job ads survey from the ANZ Bank shows that the number of job advertisements rose in
August. This is the first monthly increase since April last year and there are also positive signs
from the struggling construction industry.

I'm joined now by finance reporter, Sue Lannin with the details.

So Sue, how much weight should we give to these numbers in the job ads survey?

SUE LANNIN: Well this survey by the ANZ Bank is a closely watched survey Eleanor. It is in line
also with another private sector survey that came out this morning that also showed a rise in job
ads in August.

Now the ANZ survey says that ads in major newspapers and on the internet rose 4.1 per cent in
August from July and as you said, that was the first monthly rise since April 2008

Still job ads are down by nearly half from the same time last year. Victoria though was the only
state to experience a fall. Their job ads dropped by about 15 per cent and interestingly, New South
Wales had the biggest rise. Job ads rose by one quarter.

ANZ economist, Riki Polygenis says the job market may have bottomed.

RIKI POLYGENIS: It is suggestive of that. It is only one month's worth of data and we will be
looking for further months of data to confirm that this is the start of an upward trend but
nevertheless, it is an encouraging signal that a recovery in the Australian labour market is now
ahead of us.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the optimistic view of Riki Polygenis, ANZ economist.

Well, the official unemployment numbers are out later this week. Are they likely to be better than
the Government is predicting?

SUE LANNIN: Yes, as you said on Thursday the official numbers come out. The medium forecast of
economists surveyed by Bloomberg, they are predicting a rise of 0.1 of 1 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

Now the thing is that the economy is growing, slowly. The Government said back in the Budget that
unemployment would peak at 8.5 per cent by 2010, sorry 2010/2011.

Because of this good news that has been coming out, many economists now think that the Government
will have to revise down that forecast and ANZ says it thinks the unemployment rate will peak 7.5
per cent mid next year. But for August it thinks unemployment will go up.

Riki Polygenis says she thinks the unemployment rate will rise to 6 per cent.

RIKI POLYGENIS: Despite the improvement in job advertisements, we still believe that the low levels
of labour demand do suggest that there will have been some residual job shedding in August and we
also expect the unemployment rate to have risen because of very strong growth in the supply of
labour or in the number of people looking for work.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the ANZ's Riki Polygenis, and Sue, what is the news from the construction
industry today?

SUE LANNIN: Well, it has actually been some quite good news. The latest Performance of Construction
Index by the Australian Industry Group and the Housing Industry Association - they survey 100
companies - it shows that the index rose three points to 42.4 in August from July so the pace of
decline actually eased but the industry is still contracting and in fact, it has been shrinking for
a year and a half because of higher interest rates last year and the global financial crisis.

The worst hit sectors were engineering and commercial construction again. So their activity is
falling but house and apartment building is actually improving. That is really being helped by
higher subsidies for first home buyers but new orders and employment fell again.

And Tony Pensabene, the chief economist from the Australian Industry Group says tight credit is an
issue and it will be some time before the sector recovers.

TONY PENSABENE: I think because the continued weakness on commercial and apartment side, I think it
is going to be towards the end of this year before we start to see significant growth start to
reappear in the construction sector and probably into the early part of 2010.

ELEANOR HALL: Tony Pensabene, chief economist from the Australian Industry Group and Sue Lannin our
finance reporter.

Tired doctors admit deadly mistakes

ELEANOR HALL: Lets go now to Queensland where two doctors working in the state's hospital system
say that they made deadly mistakes because they were overworked.

A confidential survey commissioned by a doctors' union includes testimony from more than 100
doctors who came forward to admit to fatigue-induced mistakes. The survey reveals that some doctors
are being forced to work for 72 hours without a break. And two doctors admitted that their fatigue
contributed to the deaths of their patients.

The union is using the survey to try to put pressure on the Queensland Government to reduce
doctors' working hours. But the Government says that while it is committed to solving the problem,
it will take two years to do so.

In Brisbane, Francene Norton reports.

FRANCENE NORTON: Doctor fatigue has long been a scourge of our hospital system. Medical research
shows that working for 12 hours straight is the equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05 per
cent.

But a survey of mainly junior doctors in Queensland's 173 public hospitals has revealed many of
them are working like drunks.

Susannah McAuliffe is an industrial relations adviser for Salaried Doctors Queensland, which
commissioned the survey.

SUSANNAH MCAULIFFE: Doctors are being forced to work these dangerously long hours. The hours vary
from one hospital to another. But in cases that have been reported to us, there are hours being
worked up to 72 hours without a real break.

FRANCENE NORTON: The union group's survey conducted in May and June paints a grim picture - 59 per
cent of the 113 doctors who responded made mistakes performing procedures - 80 per cent of them
made mistakes in prescribing medications.

Ms McAuliffe says the investigation details a litany of fatigue-induced blunders.

SUSANNAH MCAULIFFE: One of the most disturbing stories was from a doctor who speaks of not being
able to look down an operating microscope because he kept going cross-eyed. That same doctor talked
about actually having a micro-sleep while assisting in surgery and falling off his chair.

FRANCENE NORTON: And it's not confined to the city. The Rural Doctors Association of Queensland
says one rural doctor has reported working for 168 days straight without relief.

The association's president Sheilagh Cronin says there should be at least two doctors on staff for
every hospital in Queensland.

SHEILAGH CRONIN: The present system is that you are basically on call 24 hours a day for weeks on
end before you get relief. We are looking for a greater amount of time off but also to try and
convert one-doctor set-ups to two-doctors.

FRANCENE NORTON: These issues are not new. A coronial inquiry last year blamed failures in the
health system for the death of a 10-year-old girl on Queensland's Sunshine Coast in 2002.

Elise Neville had fallen from a top bunk bed and was taken to Caloundra Hospital, but was sent home
by a junior doctor who was in the 19th hour of a 24-hour shift. The coroner criticised the Medical
Board of Queensland for failing to regulate doctors' working hours.

Queensland Health said at the time it was working hard to address the issues but the State
Opposition's health spokesman Mark McArdle says the Government is dragging its feet.

MARK MCARDLE: At the end of the day a tired doctor is a potential dangerous doctor. Queensland
Health has again ignored the fact that doctors are there to save lives but Queensland Health don't
seem to understand that the tired doctor is working the risk of danger, the risk of a slip up
increases significantly.

FRANCENE NORTON: Salaried Doctors Queensland says there is a cure for this broken system. It's
pushing for 12-hour shifts, 10-hour breaks between work and adequate relief staff and it's using
the survey as ammunition.

Spokeswoman Susannah McAuliffe says the demands are part of the latest enterprise bargaining
negotiations, which have been going for more than a year.

SUSANNAH MCAULIFFE: Look this isn't a question about doctors' salaries. It's a question of patient
safety. The doctors in question are desperately concerned about these fatigue issues.

FRANCENE NORTON: Queensland's Health Minister Paul Lucas says he's trying to fix the problem but
the state needs the doctors to do it and that means money.

PAUL LUCAS: What can governments do to eradicate this - have more doctors. What are we doing -
having more doctors.

FRANCENE NORTON: But having more doctors takes time. Mr Lucas says the Government wants to
legislate to eliminate long doctor working hours but the plan will take two years to implement.

PAUL LUCAS: Now over the past five years, we've employed 2,100 more doctors in Queensland Health.
We have got over the next few years, we'll have double the number of medical graduates coming out
of our universities. This is about making sure we can provide the number of doctors so we can
reduce those hours.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Queensland's Health Minister Paul Lucas, ending that report from Francene
Norton.

Whistleblower admits to more leaks

ELEANOR HALL: The public servant who blew the whistle on lax security at Sydney airport admits that
he did leak a report he wrote to the then Federal opposition.

Allan Kessing's admission raises the prospect that he could be convicted for leaking unauthorised
information. He was previously convicted for leaking the documents to the media.

Now the independent Senator Nick Xenophon is calling for a judicial inquiry into Mr Kessing's trial
and the subject at the heart of it - airport security.

In Canberra, David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: In 2007 the public servant Alan Kessing, was convicted for disclosing information
without due authorisation. He was given a nine-month suspended sentence.

Eighteen months earlier The Australian newspaper had published a story based on a report written by
Mr Kessing on airport security in 2003. Shortly after the story was published the Federal
Government initiated an investigation into airport security led by Sir John Wheeler.

Mr Kessing says the report was in the national interest but had been suppressed by management of
the Australian Customs Service.

ALLAN KESSING: I am speaking out today to set the record straight. I did not leak that report to
The Australian newspaper. I did provide information about its contents to the office of Anthony
Albanese, MP, two months before The Australian broke their story.

I did not give evidence at my trial and my dealings with Anthony Albanese's office were never
mentioned during the legal process.

DAVID MARK: Mr Kessing says he met with one of the staff members of the then Opposition transport
spokesman, Anthony Albanese, two months before The Australian published its story. He was hoping
that Mr Albanese would publicise the contents of the report in Parliament with the protection of
privilege.

Mr Kessing says he's disappointed the Mr Albanese didn't take up the case.

ALLAN KESSING: As I say, I would hope that a member of Parliament would be the first stop for
important information because if they don't have privilege, they should have privilege and one
would hope that they had the best interests of the country at heart.

DAVID MARK: And why wasn't the matter of his visit to the MP never made public during a long court
process?

ALLAN KESSING: For the last four years I have been unable to give my side of the story and I am
still constrained. I mean, I can't even talk about the reports so I am still as constrained as I
was four years ago.

DAVID MARK: Neither Mr Kessing, nor his supporter, the independent Senator, Nick Xenophon, is
suggesting that Mr Albanese or a member of his staff leaked the document to The Australian
newspaper.

But today Mr Kessing did reveal that members of the Labor Party provided Mr Kessing with a
barrister - the ALP didn't pay any of his costs. He's paid $72,000 in legal costs - which has cost
him his superannuation - and he still owes another $10,000 to $15,000.

And he says the case has taken an extreme mental toll. His phones were tapped and his mother was
dying during part of the investigation.

ALLAN KESSING: The feeling of violation that takes place is just incredible when you think about
it. I have now spent all my superannuation. My 15 years in customs have come to naught.

DAVID MARK: In any case, Mr Kessing says he's not the issue. He wants to know why the customs
service never released his report on airport security:

ALLAN KESSING: Who suppressed these reports? Why and why was the senior management of customs
unaware of them? That to me is an issue of principle.

DAVID MARK: They're questions which he says he still can't answer, publicly.

ALLAN KESSING: What I believe would have to rely upon information I gained as an officer which is
an offence under section 70, paragraph 2 of the Crimes Act.

See this is the point. I can't tell you what I know. I am still constrained to tell you what I
know. I can tell you what I was told by superior officers.

DAVID MARK: Which was?

ALLAN KESSING: Well, commercial implications - the sheer cost.

DAVID MARK: And what does he make of that reason?

ALLAN KESSING: (Laughs) The sheer banality of that as a reason, I'm sorry. It just leaves me
speechless.

DAVID MARK: The independent Senator Nick Xenophon, says Mr Kessing faces the prospect of fresh
charges over today's revelations. He's calling for an independent inquiry to examine Mr Kessing's
case, airport security and protection for whistleblowers.

NICK XENOPHON: What happened to Allan Kessing is a national disgrace. It should not happen to
anyone else and that is why we need effective whistleblower protection laws.

ELEANOR HALL: Senator, Nick Xenophon, ending David Mark's report.

And the World Today did contact Anthony Albanese's office, but the Minister has not been available
to comment.

Australian aid worker kicked out of Sri Lanka

ELEANOR HALL: The Sri Lankan Government has ordered an Australian United Nations employee out of
the country. The Government says that UNICEF spokesman James Elder has been spreading propaganda on
behalf of Tamil Tiger rebels.

But UNICEF says it stands by Mr Elder and other human rights organisations say this is part of a
broader crackdown by the Sri Lankan Government on its critics.

South Asia correspondent Sally Sara has our report.

SALLY SARA: UNICEF's spokesman in Sri Lanka is getting ready to pack his bags. The Sri Lankan
Government has cancelled James Elder's visa and given him two weeks to leave.

Mr Elder arrived in the country in July last year and has made regular appearances on local and
international media outlets, talking about the humanitarian situation in the north of the country.
He was an outspoken voice during the final days of the war in May, when civilians were trapped on
the battlefield on the Sri Lankan coast.

JAMES ELDER: It has been an unimaginable hell. There couldn't have been a worse place on the planet
to be than that very small stretch of beach over the last weeks. Hundreds of children have been
killed. Many, many more are suffering severe malnutrition.

SALLY SARA: The Sri Lankan Government says James Elders comments were not based on fact, not
researched and were Tamil Tiger propaganda.

But, UNICEF has given its 100 per cent support to Mr Elder and backed his statements. UNICEF's
regional spokeswoman, Sarah Crowe says James Elder has always spoken accurately about the plight of
children and other civilians caught up in the war.

SARAH CROWE: We absolutely stand by everything that has been said throughout this year, throughout
the conflict, throughout the very difficult times when children were stuck in this sort of
relentless bombing that happened through the last days and weeks of the Sri Lankan conflict.

And our mandate is to speak out on behalf of those who do not have a voice. That is what James was
doing. That is what anybody else in his position, who will take his, who will replace James would
do and we will continue to do that, continue to uphold our voice on behalf of those who do not have
one.

SALLY SARA: The Sri Lankan Government has accused the UN and other groups of exaggerating the
number of civilian casualties. Four Sri Lankan doctors who gave casualty figures from the front
line were arrested and are still facing court. A local newspaper editor who was critical of the
Government was killed by unknown attackers and several other local journalists were assaulted. The
bureau chief of the Associated Press in Sri Lanka, Ravi Nessman also had his visa renewal declined
in July.

Press freedom and human rights groups have accused the Sri Lankan Government of shutting down
freedom of speech. But, after its resounding victory against the Tamil Tigers and in the absence of
any strong regional criticism, the Sri Lankan Government is holding its line.

This is Sally Sara reporting for The World Today.

Afghan conference call from Europe

ELEANOR HALL: The leaders of Germany, the UK and France are calling for an international conference
on the future of Afghanistan to be held before the end of this year.

After a meeting in Berlin, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and the British Prime Minister Gordon
Brown said the aim of the conference would be to encourage the Afghan Government to take on more
responsibility for the country.

But as the vote count from last month's presidential election continues, investigations into fraud
allegations have forced the results from almost 450 polling booths to be annulled.

Barbara Miller has our report.

BARBARA MILLER: Matters financial were expected to dominate the meeting in Berlin between Angela
Merkel and Gordon Brown but in the end concerns about Afghanistan took precedence.

In the two-and-a-half weeks since the country's presidential election, more than 2,000 complaints
of fraud or irregularities have been lodged. Now results from 447 polling booths will be annulled.

Daoud Ali Najafi is the chief electoral officer for the Independent Election Commission.

DAOUD ALI NAJAFI (translated): We had sufficient evidence of fraud in some polling stations. We
have annulled the results of those polling stations. This evidence was provided for us based on the
investigations of our team on the ground.

BARBARA MILLER: Democracy International has had a team of election monitors based in Afghanistan
since July. The organisation's Afghanistan director David Avery says the decision to annul some
votes is a potentially positive sign.

DAVID AVERY: This annulment actually is evidence that the Election Commission is looking at results
and is acting, to some degree, when it sees a problem. Now we still however have 25 per cent of the
polling stations with a view of the results published so I think it is a little bit too early to
bestow any sort of verdict on the election at all.

BARBARA MILLER: With vote counting continuing, Afghanistan's current president Hamid Karzai is
edging very close to the 50 per cent he'd need to avoid a run-off. But even if he is declared the
winner, serious doubts will remain about the validity of the poll, given the concerns about fraud,
and the fact that only one quarter of eligible voters participated in the election.

Against that backdrop and ongoing domestic concerns about the financial and human cost of the war
in Afghanistan, key European leaders have announced it's time for the Afghan Government and people
to take on more responsibility. The call comes as the top US commander in Afghanistan Stanley
McChrystal prepares to deliver a key policy assessment of the war.

Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown made the announcement after their meeting in Berlin.

GORDON BROWN: We both support a conference which would bring together the next Afghan Government,
the United Nations, NATO and all key contributing countries to look ahead at the next phase of our
mission and to look ahead at it in these three areas; security, governance and development and to
see how the Afghan population itself, its army, its police force and its civic institutions can
play a bigger role in the future and to ensure that our strategy is properly supported by the
resources that are needed to deliver it.

BARBARA MILLER: Angela Merkel said the conference initiative was also supported by the French
President Nicolas Sarkozy.

She also commented on a controversial raid ordered by a German commander in Kunduz province on
Friday. The commander called in the airstrike after Taliban fighters hijacked two fuel tankers
close to a German base. Estimates of exactly how many people were killed vary from about 50 to 125,
but civilians are thought to be among the dead.

Ms Merkel stressed that the matter would be thoroughly investigated:

ANGELA MERKEL (translated): Regarding the Kunduz incident I would firstly like to clarify that the
German Government and I personally want to see a NATO investigative team swiftly put together that
will carry out a thorough and quick explanation of what took place and whether there were civilians
killed. If there have been civilians among the victims I will, of course, deeply regret this.

You know that our whole strategy is designed to reach confidence among the Afghan population.

BARBARA MILLER: Germany's opposition parties say that's not enough. The Greens say the Chancellor
needs to ensure that Germany's reputation is not further damaged by the handling of the incident.
And the Left Party is calling for a criminal investigation against the commander who ordered the
strike.

All this just three weeks away from a German general election and with strategists warning that the
Taliban could deliberately target German troops in the run-up to try and also influence that
election result.

ELEANOR HALL: Barbara Miller reporting.

Academic condemns bilingual education cut

ELEANOR HALL: The Northern Territory Government's education changes have come under further attack
today with allegations they'll be a step backwards for Indigenous children.

Under the existing bilingual schooling system, students learn their own language first and English
is treated as a second language. But from next year, all schools will have to teach in English only
for the first four hours of the day.

The Territory Government says the change is intended to give all children in the territory the best
possible chance in life but South Australian academic Professor Peter Buckskin has condemned the
change.

Sara Everingham has our report.

SARA EVERINGHAM: When it comes to education in the Northern Territory, the issue of bilingual
education has generated debate for years.

Professor Peter Buckskin from the University of South Australia has been doing research for the
Australian Government on the future directions in Indigenous education. His brief wasn't to look at
bilingual education but in the Northern Territory he says it was hard to avoid.

PETER BUCKSKIN: We make a comment about bilingual education and indeed the importance of Aboriginal
languages in the curriculum and being made available to those communities that wish to have
Indigenous languages taught in schools.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Nine remote schools in the Northern Territory use the bilingual system but under
changes introduced by the Territory Government the system is being phased out this year. Next year
they'll all have to teach in English for the first four hours of the day.

Professor Peter Buckskin again.

PETER BUCKSKIN: There is no evidence to suggest that these schools are any worse off than those
schools where there is immersion totally in English.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The school at the community of Yuendumu about 300 kilometres from Alice Springs
has made the change this year. Wendy Baarda is a strong advocate of the bilingual system. She's now
retired, but worked at the Yuendumu school for 30 years and helped set up the bilingual program.

She says the system saw students learning the Warlpiri language in the first years of school.
English was taught as a second language and gradually phased in.

WENDY BAARDA: In the transition year one it would probably 25 per cent English and then by year
two, three maybe 30, 35 per cent English. Year four it is 50/50 and as you get into five and six,
English becomes you know, 70 per cent of the program.

SARA EVERINGHAM: A spokesman for the Northern Territory Government says the change of policy is
needed to give kids the best chance of achieving benchmarks in literacy and numeracy. He says the
results from the bilingual schools in the national literacy and numeracy testing were too low.

But Professor Peter Buckskin says what's needed are more resources to support a bicultural program.

PETER BUCKSKIN: And clearly those schools that have immersion in English only and a majority of the
Northern Territory schools do, the evidence isn't there to say that they are achieving especially
in like to like schools like other remote communities that don't have a bilingual program but do
have English-only teaching, are no better off than these bilingual schools and the learning
outcomes that year three and five in terms of the national literacy survey.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The Government says Indigenous languages can still be used by assistant teachers
to translate to students and that after first four hours in English each day the schools can use
the bilingual system if they wish

But Wendy Baarda fears students at Yuendumu will be worse off.

WENDY BAARDA: There are many studies that have shown if you don't become sophisticated in your
first language then your chances of becoming sophisticated in a second language are very poor.

It is very important to keep that first language going and strong and becoming an adult language.
If you just sort of drop it when children are five, for all the new things they are learning in
school, in effect, they are operating as a five year old linguistically and that is not an
advantage.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The Government says the bilingual schools already have 20 per cent more resources
than other schools of similar size. It says that funding will continue.

ELEANOR HALL: Sara Everingham reporting.

Environment conditions not enforced: report.

ELEANOR HALL: A report from the Australian National University suggests that the Commonwealth is
not enforcing the environmental conditions it sets when it approves projects. The study found that
more than 60 per cent of the companies surveyed had not been followed up by the federal regulator.

But the mining industry says while it doesn't dispute the survey results, the Commonwealth's role
is redundant anyway as it is simply duplicating the state regulators.

Bronwyn Herbert has our report.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The Commonwealth uses environmental impact assessments as its way to maintain a
check and balance on industry development. It comes on top of environmental conditions set by state
and territory governments.

Now researchers from the Australian National University say the Commonwealth environmental
regulator is not following up on its job.

ANDREW MACINTOSH: Our finding was that about 60 per cent of projects that go through the process
and have conditions imposed on them, haven't received a site visit so that would suggest that the
Commonwealth Government is having a lot of problems with on-ground monitoring of conditions and the
projects that receive approval.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Andrew Macintosh is the associate director of the ANU Centre for Climate Law and
Policy. He says 144 companies were surveyed as part of the research and that it is not just major
deals like the Gorgan gas project that need to be watched, but hundreds of smaller developments. He
says of particular concern is the amount of agricultural land clearing that goes on unchecked.

ANDREW MACINTOSH: The regime is meant to pick up any project that poses a significant threat to
threatened species or threatened ecological communities and because of that it should be picking it
up but for some reason it is not and it appears the main reason for that is that the Commonwealth
Government doesn't really have the capacity to track land clearing and to enforce its laws amongst
the state and territories.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He says the system comes at a significant cost.

ANDREW MACINTOSH: This regime is costing us and developers a lot of money. It's costing the
Government about $200 million over nine years and it has cost developers about $500 million.

BRONWYN HERBERT: So why isn't the money allocated here effectively spent?

ANDREW MACINTOSH: It is the structure of the regime. The regime is designed to overlap a number of
state regimes and as a result it is finding it very difficult to actually generate beneficial
effects for the environment.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Mitch Hooke is the chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia.

MITCH HOOKE: For years now we have said that the feds and the states need to get their act
together. There is absolutely no justification for a duplication of regulatory processes.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He says it's more an issue of wasting money than the Commonwealth not following up
on its responsibilities.

MITCH HOOKE: Why would you want the Commonwealth out there duplicating exactly what the states are
doing, so this idea that the Commonwealth is not following up on its regulatory decisions, is an
absolute red herring. It's the role and the responsibility of the states to do that. We don't want
people tramping all around the countryside spending taxpayers' dollars to do exactly the same
thing.

BRONWYN HERBERT: A spokesman for the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says the Government
is undertaking an independent review of the national environment law. The final report will be
handed to the Government at the end of October.

ELEANOR HALL: Bronwyn Herbert.

Survey shows ignorance of drinking guidelines.

ELEANOR HALL: The Salvation Army is calling on the Federal Government to do more to publicise the
country's alcohol guidelines as it raises the alarm about the level of drinking by children.

It's been six months since Australia's official definition of harmful drinking was tightened but
research commissioned by the charity shows the message isn't sinking in.

Simon Lauder has our report.

SIMON LAUDER: The traditional wisdom of allowing a child a sip of beer or wine so they can be
introduced to alcohol slowly is now dismissed by experts.

John Eyre is the executive manager of the Alcohol Related Brain Injury Australian Services, or
ARBIAS. He says parents can even unwittingly encourage drinking by being seen with a beer or a
glass of wine.

JOHN EYRE: I drink alcohol in front of my kids. I am in my 50s and I allowed them to have a sip. I
got into this field that I am in some years ago and learnt what I learnt and I do not do that
anymore.

SIMON LAUDER: Today the Salvation Army has released the results of a survey of 687 people aged 14
and over who were questioned about their drinking habits.

The Salvation Army's Major Brad Halse says the survey shows many people have had an early
introduction to alcohol and that may explain why so many Australians are heavy drinkers.

BRAD HALSE: Approximately 2.3 million Australians had their first taste of alcohol aged 10 or
under. That seems quite startling to us.

SIMON LAUDER: What is wrong with that?

BRAD HALSE: Medical and social researchers are increasingly telling us worldwide as well as in
Australia that there are some very real health concerns about that and also a lot of research would
suggest that the younger you start drinking, at whatever level, the higher the danger of forming
unhealthy social drinking patterns throughout the remainder of your life.

SIMON LAUDER: The new guidelines on drinking from the National Health and Medical Research Council
take a hard line on teenage drinking, saying anyone aged under 18 shouldn't drink at all.

Major Brad Halse is worried that message isn't getting through.

BRAD HALSE: We are not coming from a Salvation Army wowser point of view. This is sort of public
attitudes we are talking about. It is medical research. This is about public health and awareness.

SIMON LAUDER: The survey asks people when they had their first alcoholic drink or their first
alcoholic sip. Wouldn't you say there is a big difference between those two things?

BRAD HALSE: We'd acknowledge that and for research purposes we needed to couch the question in
whether it was a sip or a taste or a drink but the fact of the matter is, they were introduced to
alcohol in some form or another.

It should prompt current parents with young children and teenagers to at least think about this and
the concerns and realise that perhaps the adage that well if our family is a drinking family, best
to try and educate our children about how to drink as children, even pre-teen let alone in early
teens, might need some rethinking.

But there is absolutely no disadvantage to holding it off as long as possible.

SIMON LAUDER: John Eyre from ARBIAS says although there's no evidence a sip of alcohol does damage,
there are risks.

JOHN EYRE: The problem is that one sip leads to more. You've had the taste but I would suggest that
whilst the research doesn't give anything prescriptive around what one sip will do, generally what
research does say is that alcohol of any type, given to any person under the age of 20, does damage
the brain cells.

SIMON LAUDER: It's been six months since the new drinking guidelines were introduced, but the Roy
Morgan research commissioned by the Salvation Army shows less than 30 per cent of respondents know
about them.

Major Brad Halse says more should be done to raise awareness.

BRAD HALSE: We would also like to see the Federal Government further and better promote the alcohol
guidelines and make that a continuing education campaign - not just at certain periods through the
year because it would appear it takes a lot of effort to get through public consciousness.

SIMON LAUDER: The Australian alcohol industry funds a group called DrinkWise which is running an ad
campaign to discourage parents from drinking around children.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Lauder reporting.

Plan to restrict free mammogram service

Kite surf attempt across Bass Strait.

ELEANOR HALL: Bass Strait's notoriously rough waters have long attracted adventurers attempting to
paddle, sail or even windsurf across them.

Now two Melbourne men are attempting to become the first to kite surf across Bass Strait as
Felicity Ogilvie reports.

FELICITY OGILVIE: There's the gentle art of flying a kite, and the skill of surfing and one extreme
sport that combines both.

BEN MORRISON-JACK: Kite surfing is basically getting towed behind a kite on a surfboard.

FELICITY OGILVIE: That's Ben Morrison-Jack. He and his friend James Weight are about to become the
first people to attempt to kite surf across Bass Strait.

JAMES WEIGHT: You use a harness like windsurfing and the harness takes most of the weight from your
arms. So you use your body, you use your back and most of the stress is on your legs as you are
going over bumps and over waves. Your upper body will get tired but it is not as physically
demanding on your arms as it looks.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The pair will leave from Stanley in Northern Tasmania on Wednesday morning. Mr
Morrison-Jack says 10 hours later they expect to land at Inverloch near Phillip Island.

BEN MORRISON-JACK: We have got quite a fluid plan because if the wind changes we might end up
somewhere else but the basic distance is about 250 kilometres. It could get a little bit shorter
but it will probably get a little bit longer.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Because you are kite surfing, aren't you completely dependent on the wind? If the
wind stops, will you guys basically be stranded in the middle of Bass Strait?

BEN MORRISON-JACK: Yeah, pretty much. That is why the weather information is such a crucial part.
We have to go with enough wind to get out of Stanley which is tricky and we also have to have
enough wind from the right direction in the middle of Bass Strait so we are not covering too much
distance jiving and what not and then the trickiest part of all is having enough wind to actually
finish on the other side so we have got to pick a place to land that still has the breeze coming
in.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The weather forecast for their trip is good.

Tim Bolden is from the Bureau of Meteorology.

TIM BOLDEN: Generally the wind is only about 30 to 40 degrees from their path so essentially there
won't be much need for tacking and a bit of a tail wind so I imagine it will assist them.

FELICITY OGILVIE: They'll need ideal conditions because as James Weight explains the journey will
be risky.

JAMES WEIGHT: It is probably not a good place for kite surfing. That is what attracted us to doing
it because, you know, a lot of people think that it can't be done. It is all about the challenge
for us.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Ben Morrison-Jack has some idea of just how rough Bass Strait can get because
he's sailed four Sydney to Hobart yacht races. And he's used his yachting contacts to organise a
support crew.

BEN MORRISON-JACK: Grant Wharington, the owner and skipper of Skandia Wild Thing is going to be
following us in his speed boat and we have got some guys on there that will be looking at the
weather and monitoring it all and they will able to be in contact with them if something goes wrong
or if the wind dies out.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The friends have just got onto a boat in Melbourne and are on their way to
Tasmania - ready to turn around and hopefully kite surf their way back across Bass Strait and into
the record books.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie.