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Boat interception renews asylum debate

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government is bracing itself for more boatloads of asylum seekers heading
to Australia. The Government is now boosting the capacity of the Christmas Island detention centre.

But the Opposition says it's just a stop gap measure and that we're just one boatload of asylum
seekers away from crisis point.

In response to the Coalition's criticism that the Government isn't doing enough to stem the influx,
the Prime Minister says Australia, with Indonesia's help, has stopped 82 planned people smuggling
operations in the last year.

Most recently, the Indonesian navy intercepted a boat carrying 261 Sri Lankans after a specific
tip-off by Australia. They've since been taken to a port in west Java where they've reportedly
threatened to blow up their ship if they're forced ashore by the Indonesian military.

The Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, has just returned from an Interpol conference in
Singapore. Alexandra Kirk asked him exactly where this latest boat had been intercepted.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Look, I am advised it was in Indonesian waters. Of course what we do know is that
this interception really does underline how concerned the Indonesians are with people smuggling.
They have made that very clear.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is this a one-off agreement from Indonesia following Kevin Rudd's plea to stop this
one boat or is there a commitment from the Indonesian president to be more vigilant in intercepting
boats?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: I can only say to you that the Indonesians have made clear in their statements
yesterday that they are concerned with people smuggling and as a result they have taken action and
we work very closely with them. We appreciate their efforts.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: It has been reported that Indonesia is willing to do more but wants greater
resources, a greater access to Australia's satellite imagery, more training for security agencies
and help with maritime surveillance. Is that your understanding?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Look, can I say that it would not be, in fact can I say it is the case that the
AFP (Australian Federal Police) and the Indonesian national police have been working very closely
on a whole range of transnational crimes, particularly since 9/11, and we do share and provide
support to Indonesia and they provide for support for us.

That is how it should be.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do they want more access to Australia's resources?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, we, can I say that we have been very clear with this, Alex. We have always
provided support to them. The fact is when we are in their country we have sworn officers of the
Australian Federal Police located throughout Indonesia. We provide support. We have provided
support in the past. We will continue to provide support. If there is any request for support, we
will always consider it.

But it is not unusual, it is something that has gone on now for many a year.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Australian Government is sending 200 extra beds and port-a-loos to Christmas
Island to deal with the influx of asylum seekers, to expand the capacity to house now 1,400
detainees. The Opposition says it is only one more boatload away from being back at square one.
That it is like lining up ambulances at the bottom of the cliff. Is it only a stop gap measure?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, I am happy to have a policy debate with the Opposition but that is
impossibly while they are in complete chaos. Alex, they are split down the middle. They don't have
a policy.

The fact is, we are targeting the syndicates in relation to Christmas Island. The Minister for
Immigration has made clear that he has been considering contingencies and we are adjusting when
required.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: There is talk of a pipeline of some 10,000 people in south-east Asia wanting to
make their way to Australia. Is that the information that the Government is working on?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, can I say this that what is clear, everybody knows that there is of course
as a result of conflicts in Afghanistan, because of the very long conflict in Sri Lanka, there is a
greater likelihood of people seeking haven in first world countries and whilst a very small
proportion seek to come here, it is of course, an increased amount compared with recent years.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But how big a pipeline is there waiting to come to Australia?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: There is no, I don't think, this is not a particular science. We do know that
there are a number of people seeking to get to Australia.

We will do everything we can of course to prevent people being attracted to people smugglers.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In this case you succeeded in getting this boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers
turned back. What is their fate, the asylum seekers' fate?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, can I say that of course now the Indonesians have made clear that this
matter will be processed properly. It is really something you should directly ask them but of
course...

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Australia asked for Indonesia's help in this case.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, can I say to you that the Indonesians have made clear that they do not
support people smuggling. They also made clear that this interception by them was as a result of
their concern that people smugglers are exploiting people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The refugee advocates maintain that these people are condemned to spending up to
nine years in Indonesia waiting to be resettled. Is that satisfactory when Australia processes
people's claims within 90 days and then most are granted refugee status?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: We'll do our fair share in relation to humanitarian support and in relation to
providing support for refugees but we will not, at all, condone or support the process which
exploits people, that places them on dangerous vessels, that takes their life savings based on an
empty promise.

We will never support that approach and will continue to do whatever we can along with, of course,
other countries to prosecute people smugglers and jail them.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Will you keep an eye on the fate of these 260 Sri Lankans?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: I am sure that the International Office of Migration and other international
agencies will be engaged but that is something, of course, that is entirely up to the Indonesians.
It is a question of their sovereignty and it is of course for that reason, their issue.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor speaking to Alexandra Kirk in
Canberra.

Panel discusses Australia's asylum policy

ELEANOR HALL: So is the Rudd Government reprising the Howard government's Pacific solution but in a
different location, as the former immigration minister has suggested? Should Australians be
concerned about a flood of refugees and what are the options for the Australian Government in
dealing with the asylum seeker issue?

Joining me now to discuss this are three prominent players in immigration policy who come to this
from different perspectives.

Robert Manne is a Professor of Politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne and was a critic of the
Howard government's approach to asylum seekers.

Barrister Julian Burnside QC is also a critic of the previous government's policy and is well known
for his pro-bono legal work for asylum seekers.

And Dr Bob Birrell is the co-director of Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban
Research and he was a supporter of many aspects of the Howard government's refugee deterrence
policy.

Welcome gentlemen and thanks for joining us.

ROBERT MANNE: Hi.

JULIAN BURNSIDE: Hello.

ELEANOR HALL: First to you Bob Birrell. We just heard the minister talk about international
instability driving this influx of asylum seekers. What do you think is behind this recent
increase?

BOB BIRRELL: I think we've seen a high demand from people wanting to reach affluent western
countries but what has changed in the past couple of years is the Australian Government's rules on
processing people who make claims once they get to Australia or try to get to Australia.

So I think it is reasonable to deduce that the Rudd Government changes to the Howard government's
rules and regulations have, are largely responsible for this latest influx.

ELEANOR HALL: And are we, as the Opposition says, just one boatload of asylum seekers away from
crisis point?

BOB BIRRELL: Clearly it becomes more and more difficult to deal with these people when the location
designated for them is full up. I mean this is a serious problem just as it was back in the year
2000 when all of the detention facilities in Australia were filling up as well.

So it is a major administrative problem and if it means that we have to locate them in Australia
then it will overturn an essential plank in what was the Howard government's, still the Rudd
Government's policy, which is not to allow them direct access to Australian courts when they make
their asylum claims.

ELEANOR HALL: And Julian Burnside, do you agree that we are seeing this increase in people
smuggling because the Federal Government has lifted the Howard deterrence policies?

JULIAN BURNSIDE: No. I accept that that is possibly one element of it but I think if you ask our
troops in Afghanistan, they would probably tell you that things are pretty bad there and that is a
very likely explanation for the increased arrival rate because most of the recent arrivals have
been coming from Afghanistan and from Sri Lanka and everyone knows that conditions there are
frightful at the moment.

Now you have got to bear in mind that the voyage that they undertake is a very dangerous one and
most people aren't going to undertake that voyage unless they are desperate. If you are a Hazara in
Afghanistan, the way the Taliban are behaving, you would be pretty desperate.

ELEANOR HALL: And Robert Manne, what is your view? Are we seeing this increase in asylum seekers
coming here by boat because there has been a change in the government?

ROBERT MANNE: Well, look I actually find myself in the odd position of agreeing in a way on this
issue with both Bob Birrell and Julian Burnside. That is, I think clearly in events in Afghanistan
and Sri Lanka have led to large outflows of people fleeing from dreadful situations.

I also think it is sort of undeniable that the Howard government's deterrent policy in one aspect
only worked - that was the Pacific solution. - the boats stopped coming after this sort of flurry
of military activity around the last couple of months after Tampa.

And so I think it is true that the Rudd Government policy was certain to lead to people arriving on
Christmas Island or trying to get there because they have a very good chance of being, if they are
refugees and most of the people certainly from Afghanistan are real refugees, they have now a good
chance of being selected and allowed to come to Australia because no other country would take
people from Christmas Island.

JULIAN BURNSIDE: I think it is worth saying though Robert that the boats sort of stopped coming
very shortly after 353 people drowned when the SIEV X went down, and very soon after that the
Taliban in Afghanistan fell.

ROBERT MANNE: Yeah, I suppose we won't know for sure but it seems to me if you look at the figures,
that there were boats coming right through the 1990s through to the decision to use military force
and to send people to Nauru into situations of, you know, horror which Julian and I agree about.

I think that all the deterrent measures before then didn't work - like temporary visas and
mandatory detention etcetera - but my reading of the evidence is that people smugglers no longer
brought people to Australia because Australia was virtually closed after the decision to open the
Pacific solution in Nauru.

ELEANOR HALL: Staying with you then Robert Manne, what do you think of the Prime Minister making a
direct appeal to Indonesia? I mean should Australia be expecting Indonesia to take up the slack
when it has perhaps fewer resources than we do to deal with the problem?

ROBERT MANNE: Well, I wouldn't look at it exactly in that way. I think that there is both a
political and a moral dimension to this question and if one talks about the moral dimension then I
think Australia should be generous.

If one talks about the political dimension, which I don't think one can leave out of the
discussion, it is clearly a big problem for the Rudd Government because there is a strange thing in
Australian opinion, which I don't understand but I acknowledge, that 10,000 refugees brought in by
the Australian Government doesn't cause a problem for the Government. One thousand or even fewer
arriving without authorisation, particularly by boat, causes an incredible sort of ruckus and
political problems and I think we have, so I think somehow you have to balance the political and
the moral in this.

And I do think there is a precedent of successful action in this area which is to do with something
I followed very closely in the past - the Vietnamese refugee question - and maybe we could talk a
little bit about that.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, what is your solution there?

ROBERT MANNE: What the Fraser government discovered was that boats coming spontaneously to
Australia caused great problems but an orderly program of much larger numbers of Vietnamese
refugees coming from the camps in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and so on, an international program
where Australia was one of the key participants alongside Canada, France, United States and so on,
did not cause any ruckus in public opinion, was extremely successful and had bipartisan support and
it seems to me that that's the sort of solution if you want to use that word, that we should be
looking towards.

Something along the lines of what the Fraser government successfully managed with Vietnamese.

ELEANOR HALL: Let me get a response to that from our other participants. Julian Burnside, what do
you think of what Robert Manne is proposing, that Australia basically fund or support a system in
Indonesia to process asylum seekers there but ultimately bring them back to Australia?

JULIAN BURNSIDE: Yeah, look, first of all what Fraser and Ian McPhee did was very successful and
they were bringing in about 20,000 or 25,000 Indo-Chinese refugees each year and as Robert said,
that didn't cause any particular fuss in the community.

I would be interested in looking at the idea of processing in Indonesia with a couple of
reservations though.

The first is that you would have to be really careful to make sure the conditions in which people
were held were acceptable by Australian standards. Now at the moment there are people being held
there and supported by Australian taxpayers' money but being held in frightful conditions by the
IOM (International Organisation for Migration).

The second thing that would concern me is that the processing would most likely be beyond the reach
of the Australian legal system and there is a real risk that it would degenerate into the sort of
vindictiveness that we saw with processing on Nauru.

Now, you know, both conditions and legal remedies to ensure the fairness of the process are
extremely important in solutions like this and it only takes a slight shift in the attitude of the
government for a solution like that to get out of hand utterly the way the Pacific solution did.

ELEANOR HALL: Bob Birrell, what is your view? Should the Government be appealing to Indonesia or
what other solution is there? Should we be bringing back the Howard government's deterrents?

BOB BIRRELL: Yes, certainly engaging Indonesia in this process is crucial. It was the inability to
get their support prior to Tampa that led to the desperate measures put in place by Howard.

Now, look there is a system in place to quote "manage" unquote asylum claims already and people
from Sri Lanka or Afghanistan who make it to Indonesia can apply to the UNHCR (United Nations Human
Rights Commission) and have their cases heard and if they are declared to be refugees then they
have to wait until places are available in countries like, that take them, like Australia and New
Zealand and I think that is an appropriate way to deal with the problem.

Now what happened with the Pacific solution is that it, in effect, turned Nauru into a similar
management location in the sense that people who were picked up on the seas by the Australian Navy
were taken to Nauru and they were able to pursue their asylum claims there and if they succeeded
then they had to wait like people have to wait in Indonesia at present to find a place.

Now that puts them on the same plain as all other claimants. It doesn't give an advantage to people
who can pay the $15,000 to make it to Australia.

So, true, as Julian said, there are all sorts of problems with the management of these claims in
Nauru but in principle, the Pacific solution just provided a venue for assessment pretty much like
we are suggesting now. That is, that they have their claims heard in Indonesia and have to wait
their turn to find a country to accept them.

ELEANOR HALL: It will be interesting to see which way the Government goes. Thank you gentlemen very
much for joining us.

That is Dr Bob Birrell from Monash University, barrister Julian Burnside and Robert Manne from La
Trobe University.

Minister insists Telstra split will go ahead as planned

ELEANOR HALL: The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, today faced down criticism from Telstra
executives and investors over his bill to split the company, saying he's confident that a deal will
be reached with Telstra by December.

Senator Stephen Conroy won't rule out taking aspects of the issue off the table if it means
securing a deal.

But he rejected calls for any delay in debating the proposed changes as Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Communications Minister has just returned from Geneva where he says the
Federal Government's plans to overhaul the telecommunications industry were the talk of the town.

STEPHEN CONROY: It is fair to say that our activities have captured the attention of the global
communications community. There is a strong view that investing in infrastructure, in ensuring a
sustainable, competitive structure of the communications sector will underpin future of our
economy.

ALISON CALDWELL: Speaking at a conference in Melbourne this morning, Senator Stephen Conroy said he
was well aware of calls for a delay in the debate on proposed changes to telecommunications laws,
along with the calls to stick with the way things are for the sake of customers, shareholders and
investors.

But he said there was no way the Federal Government would delay the debate about its proposed
changes.

STEPHEN CONROY: This commentary also ignores the fact that the existing regime has failed over many
years to deliver the right competitive outcomes for Australian consumers and businesses.

It fails to consider that Australia is in the bottom half of the OECD (Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development) in terms of broadband take-up at 16th out of 30 countries.

It discounts that Australians pay more for broadband than most OECD countries, 20th out of 29, and
has some of the most expensive monthly subscription packages anywhere in the world.

Every day of delay is another day of higher prices, less choice and less service innovation for
consumers and small businesses, including those in regional Australia.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Minister described the bill as an historic piece of microeconomic reform in
the telco sector, changes which would lay the foundation for future growth and a new truly
competitive communications market.

STEPHEN CONROY: Our changes are specifically designed to create a fairer and more efficient system
that will in turn drive better services and prices for consumers and businesses.

Combined with the NBN (national broadband network) and other new consumer safeguards they represent
fundamental reforms to support improved competition and service innovation into the 21st century.

ALISON CALDWELL: Asked how discussions were progressing with Telstra, he said behind the scenes
things were looking good.

STEPHEN CONROY: The negotiations and discussions have continued and they are very, very
constructive and I am very positive that we will be able to meet the deadline of trying to have
something concluded by December.

Honestly, I know that there is a lot of commentary but the approach being taken by Telstra is very
constructive. David and Catherine have got a very much different approach to dealing with
government than the previous incumbents had so I am very, very confident that those discussions are
going very, very well.

ALISON CALDWELL: Speaking to the media afterwards, the senator wouldn't rule out allowing Telstra
to keep assets, including FoxTel, if it meant securing a deal.

STEPHEN CONROY: That is what a negotiation is about. I am not going to canvas this bit or that bit
of a negotiation but clearly these are issues of concern to Telstra and I am sure they'll be
putting them on the table.

ALISON CALDWELL: Senator Conroy is sceptical about the large institutional investors who predict
regulation will stifle investment.

He pointed out how Telstra's share price had slumped from $5.10 to $3.15 while former CEO Sol
Trujillo ran the company and questioned where the large institutional investor groups were back
then.

He blames them for the recent movement in Telstra's share price.

STEPHEN CONROY: Now that Telstra has chosen to take a more constructive approach to engaging with
government, some large institutional investors are calling for a continuation of the strategy that
so effectively and demonstratably destroyed shareholder value.

In recent days it would appear pessimistic analysis of these large institutional investors may even
have generated some new downward pressure on the share price.

ALISON CALDWELL: Senator Conroy is optimistic the Senate will vote in favour of the bill.

STEPHEN CONROY: There is many weeks of discussion that is possible in the chamber. Now the Liberals
are obviously indicating they are going to go for the delay tactic and they should be exposed. This
is simply because they don't have a policy.

ALISON CALDWELL: What will you do if the Liberals knock it back? What is the plan?

STEPHEN CONROY: Well, at this stage the Liberals haven't said that they are going to reject the
bill. The Greens have indicated they don't support delay. I think Senator Xenophon has indicated he
doesn't support delay. Senator Fielding hasn't said a lot at this stage and the National Party have
not indicated they support a delay in this legislation. So I am optimistic that we can get this
though the Senate by the end of the year as I have indicated.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy ending that report from
Alison Caldwell.

Obama health plan clears major hurdle

ELEANOR HALL: In the United States, the President's drive to reshape the country's health care
system has cleared a major hurdle.

An influential Senate committee has approved the health reform legislation which will now go before
the full Senate for a vote.

President Barack Obama says the legislation is not perfect but he declared that the US is now
closer than ever to achieving sweeping health care reform.

In Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: It's been nearly nine months since Barack Obama pledged in his inaugural address to
tackle health care - to expand coverage to the tens of millions of Americans who don't have it.

BARACK OBAMA: Today we reached a critical milestone in our effort to reform our health care system.
After many months of thoughtful deliberation, the fifth and final committee responsible for health
care reform has passed a proposal that has both Democratic and Republican support.

KIM LANDERS: Health care reform is the President's top domestic priority and the milestone that
Barack Obama's referring to is a vote taken today by a key Senate Committee.

COMMITTEE SPOKESMAN: Mr Chairman, the final tally is 14 ayes, nine nays.

MAX BAUCUS: The ayes have it.

KIM LANDERS: The Senate Finance Committee's vote is considered critical because its members are
regarded as more moderate, more reflective of the make-up of the Senate than the four other
Congressional committees which have devised their own versions of health care reform.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is Democrat Max Baucus.

MAX BAUCUS: Now pretty much everything has been said and now it is time to get the job done. The
costs of inaction are clear. Americans simply cannot afford the status quo.

KIM LANDERS: When Barack Obama says this version of health care reform has Republican support, it's
a little bit of a stretch.

There's just a solitary Republican backing it, Olympia Snowe.

OLYMPIA SNOWE: So is this bill all that I would want? Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No.
But when history calls, history calls and I happen to think that the consequences of inaction
dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the
monumental issues of our time.

BARACK OBAMA: And I want to particularly thank Senator Olympia Snowe for both the political courage
and the seriousness of purpose that she has demonstrated throughout this process.

KIM LANDERS: Health care reform has now advanced further than president Bill Clinton's ill-fated
effort more than a decade ago.

This version from the Senate Finance Committee is a 10-year, $US 829 billion plan to cut costs and
insure some of the 46 million people in the US who lack coverage.

It would require most Americans to take out health insurance.

It would ban insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical
conditions and for the first time it would limit their ability to charge higher premiums on the
basis of age or family size.

But it does not contain a government backed insurance plan, the so-called "public option", a
measure which some Democrats say is critical for winning their support.

The health insurance industry yesterday put out a report saying premiums for a typical family would
rise by $US 4,000 over the next 10 years.

People who support the bill, and that includes the White House, say they think the report is
flawed.

Republican Senator "Chuck" Grassley says the draft legislation would place the US on a "slippery
slope to more and more government control of health care."

CHARLES ERNEST GRASSLEY: The bill imposes unprecedented federal mandate for coverage backed up by
enforcement by the authority of the Internal Revenue Service. It increases the size of government
by at least one and eight tenths trillion dollars when fully implemented. It gives the Secretary of
Health and Human Services the power to define benefits for every private plan in America and to
redefine those benefits annually and that is a lot of power over Americans' lives.

KIM LANDERS: Barack Obama admits this draft legislation is not perfect.

BARACK OBAMA: We are now closer than ever before to passing health reform, but we're not there yet.
Now's not the time to pat ourselves on the back. Now is not the time to offer ourselves
congratulations. Now is the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done.

KIM LANDERS: There are plenty more political fights before a final version of the legislation can
reach the President's desk.

Democrats now have on paper the 60 votes needed in the Senate to reach the threshold which is
needed to ensure the parliamentary style tactics can't indefinitely delay a final vote.

The full Senate will begin debate on the legislation later this month.

The House of Representatives still has to pass its legislation and then both chambers will have to
agree on and vote on a final plan to put to the President.

Barack Obama is using a lot of political capital to try to push through health reform.

He's still got a long way to go, but he's achieved more than Bill Clinton, whose health care plan
never made it through all these Congressional committees.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.

Winged keel claim courts controversy

ELEANOR HALL: When the winged keel yacht, Australia II, ended a century of US dominance of the
America's Cup, it was hailed as a victory for Australian ingenuity.

Now, more than a quarter of a century later, a naval architect says it was a Dutch team, and not an
Australian who came up with the winged keel design.

Yachting experts say the controversy isn't unexpected and that the America's Cup has a long history
of subterfuge, legal challenges and unfair rules.

Timothy McDonald has our report.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Ben Lexcen shot to fame for his famous winged keel design which helped Australia
II over the line in the seventh and deciding race of the 1983 America's cup.

That same year he told the ABC he started altering keels when he was younger, after a visit to a
design tank at the University of Sydney.

BEN LEXCEN: And I saw a fellow towing a boat and trying to detect the tip vortexes off the bottom
of the keel with a little propeller on a piece of stick.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Now Dutch naval architect Peter van Oossanen says the Australian played only a
minor role in creating the winged keel.

He says it was his Dutch team who came up with the idea and Ben Lexcen's role was minimal.

PETER VAN OOSSANEN: He had, in other words, very little to do with the winged keel at all.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: He says he's sick of not receiving credit for his work.

PETER VAN OOSSANEN: People like Jim Hardy and others have been, well actually they, even though
they knew about the situation, have been fighting and have been commentating that we had nothing to
do with it and I suppose that was very upsetting.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Sir James Hardy, who was part of the Australia II team, says while the Dutch team
worked on the keel's wings, Lexcen turned the keel upside down.

JAMES HARDY: Peter's no doubt saying what he believes happened but I can tell you that Benny's hull
shape and everything and his ability to make sails - you wouldn't know which piece of coal made the
whistle blow.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The skipper of Australia II, John Bertrand, says Ben Lexcen was unquestionably
the main driving force.

JOHN BERTRAND: There's no-one else that could have been able to pull together the complexity of
that total design package, and that's what a designer's role is.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: But this is about more than a whinge over a pair of wings.

If Australia II was designed by a Dutch team, it potentially falls foul of the race rules, which
said if the boat was Australian its designers had to be Australian too.

But even if Peter van Oossanen thinks Australia broke the rules, he thinks Australia II should keep
its victory regardless.

Indeed, the victory has been challenged before and the Australian team was vindicated.

The editor at large of Offshore Yachting, Peter Campbell, says all the fuss isn't surprising,
considering the America's Cup has been controversial since US and British yacht clubs squabbled
over the race when it was first run in 1851.

He says in many ways not much has changed.

PETER CAMPBELL: Suggestions then that the Americans were changing the rules and certainly they did
in the earlier challenge by Australia and then of course, even in Perth when Australia defended the
cup there, there was a lot of controversy there.

There was the allegations that the New Zealanders had done something with the construction of the
hull and Dennis Conner demanded a core sample of the hull and of course it has continued even more
so with, since the cup has gone to Europe and won by the Swiss with constant legal challenges.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Peter Campbell says all that controversy is partly because whoever holds the cup
gets to determine the rules, and there's a constant temptation to use them to secure a home team
advantage.

But other factors are at play as well.

He says there's often a lot more at stake in the America's Cup than a shiny trophy for the yacht
club mantelpiece.

PETER CAMPBELL: It's an event in which egos and money play such a huge amount and role. In terms of
a sailing contest, it really is not a contest as a true sailing event because it is money and
certainly the egos of the yacht owners have always been the case, always been a great involvement
almost since the very early days of the race.

ELEANOR HALL: That is yachting journalist Peter Campbell speaking to Timothy McDonald.

More hospital mistakes in February

ELEANOR HALL: Medical experts are calling for changes in hospital procedures to deal with the risks
posed when trainees are admitted to the system.

Researchers say that they now have evidence to back the long held theory that the chances of
something going wrong in a hospital increase when new doctors are being trained.

An anaesthetist studied almost 20,000 patient records at a Melbourne teaching hospital and found a
spike in "undesirable events" at the beginning of the academic year, as Bronwyn Herbert reports.

BRONWYN HERBERT: It's long been hypothesised but researchers say they now have the facts to back it
up - more things go wrong when trainee doctors join hospitals.

GUY HALLER: It was really was the first time that we could show that what everybody more or less
felt that would exist, we could really demonstrate that it was not only a feeling but it was really
something that put also figures on numbers and that.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Anaesthetist Guy Haller is from the Geneva University Hospital. His research is
published in the British Medical Journal today and is based on analysing almost 20,000 patient
records from the Melbourne teaching hospital, The Alfred.

GUY HALLER: Not only patient characteristics, but also staff characteristics, the time of the day,
emergency status as well as undesirable events which are really recorded on a daily basis which are
very high sensitivity.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He says one important finding was that it wasn't just a phenomena for first year
trainees, it happened when new junior doctors joined hospitals.

GUY HALLER: So regardless of your level of clinical experience, if you haven't worked in a hospital
before and if you are a new staff member, then you are at increased risk of having undesirable
events.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Julie Johnson is an associate professor at the centre for Clinical Governance
Research at the University of New South Wales.

She says it can no longer be disputed that the start of the academic year is more problematic.

JULIE JOHNSON: It would not be the time that you would want to find yourself in the hospital
seeking care if you could avoid it because of the addition of the new trainees who are trying to
get up to speed and trying to figure out their own role in a new clinical setting. But I think that
the study can help us now move forward and say, yes we understand that this is a problematic time
and what can we do to fix this problem.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Paul Barach is a professor of anaesthesia in the Netherlands.

He says it is now critical that there's changes made in the way hospitals deal with new graduates.

PAUL BARACH: How do we manage the supervision, by fellows and other attending, by carefully
managing the staffing pattern to ensure that the lack of seniority of the new trainees does not
cause patient harm?

BRONWYN HERBERT: The president of the Australian Medical Association Dr Andrew Pesce says there's
no doubt more effort needs to go into supervising young doctors.

But he says the nature of hospital admissions at that beginning of the year also needs to be taken
into consideration.

ANDREW PESCE: Hospitals usually shut down for anything except emergencies so the patients that are
coming through the hospital system at that time of the year are sicker and of a higher acuity and
it may well be that you would expect there to be more undesirable outcomes because you are dealing
with a different set of patients who are treated during the year outside the Christmas shut down.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The AMA also released its report card today on the state of public hospitals
across Australia.

Dr Andrew Pesce says patient care is comprised by poor access to emergency departments and
hospitals are struggling to meet public demand.

ANDREW PESCE: There has been a gradual deterioration. There had been some improvements in
admissions for elective surgery but one of the phenomena that we have observed is that there is now
a waiting list for the waiting list.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the president of the Australian Medical Association Andrew Pesce ending that
report from Bronwyn Herbert.

US dollar continues to lose lustre

ELEANOR HALL: The continuing decline of the US dollar as the world's reserve currency has caused
more jitters on currency markets overnight.

The once all powerful greenback is now at its weakest level against the Euro since before last
year's collapse of Lehman Brothers.

But not everyone thinks that the dollar's glory days are over, as business editor Peter Ryan
reports.

PETER RYAN: The value of the US dollar against other major currencies has been on a slippery slope
throughout the global financial crisis, and at times the falls have been steeper as signs of
recovery become stronger.

The decline of the greenback created a new milestone today when it reached its lowest point against
the Euro since August last year, well before anyone contemplated the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

BBC REPORTER: The Euro rose 0.1 US cents to $1.481 US cents and that pretty much represents the
lowest value the US and dominant world currency, the dollar, has reached in 14 months, measured
against...

PETER RYAN: As you'd expect, the BBC maintained its composure in the midst of such excitement,
unlike other commentators who are on the defensive about the US dollar losing its shine.

CNBC REPORTER: It is not the dollar. It is the anti-dollar and that is really helping the Euro.

PETER RYAN: But most currency watchers agree the times are changing and that the US dollar is
eventually destined to lose its reserve currency status.

ROGER BOOTLE: Oh, I think that is going to happen but I think it is a very gradual process.

PETER RYAN: Economist Roger Bootle has been reflecting on the once all-conquering British pound
which is now buying a $US1.59.

He says the demise over time of the pound is evidence that such changings of the guard don't happen
overnight.

ROGER BOOTLE: The pound retained a very important international role long after Britain had gone
into relative decline. I think a clump of historians say that from about 1870 or so, 1880, the UK
was in strong relative decline.

First of all taken over by America as number one, probably earlier than that in the mid-19th
century and then subsequently by Germany in the late 19th century, and yet well after the First
World War the pound is the dominant currency still and only after the Second World War, during the
Second World War, is the dollar completely preeminent.

I think we will see something similar with the dollar. We have got a long time to go before America
is replaced by China as a world's leading country and I suspect long after that the dollar will
still be pretty important.

PETER RYAN: But the Macquarie Group currency strategist Rory Robertson believes the hand wringing
over the value of the US dollar misses the point in a world sinking in debt and unemployment.

He says the weaker greenback is exactly what the US economy needs right now.

RORY ROBERTSON: If you have got the weakest economy you've had in generations, the US just went
through its biggest recession since the 1930s. It just lost seven million jobs. It has lost 5 per
cent of its workforce, so it has got the biggest output gap, the most excess unemployment in
generations.

It is going to take 10 years to get back where it started. It needs a weak currency and so
discussions about, you know, the US dollar might not be so important as the reserve currency as it
used to be, well so what?

The weaker currency you can get the sort of better right now I think for most American workers.

PETER RYAN: So if you are sitting in the United States out of work, and out of work possibly
long-term hoping for exports to start lifting, the weak currency is a good thing?

RORY ROBERTSON: Absolutely. You know all those, you know car workers across America that don't have
jobs now at least the weak currency means that cars that are made in American factories are now
more competitive against say the Japanese car makers or the European car makers.

So a weak currency is a good thing if you have got massive excess unemployment and you know, wages
and prices growth trending towards zero.

PETER RYAN: The Australian dollar has also been a big winner from the falling greenback. It's
steady today at around 90.7 US cents.

That's good news for anyone planning a holiday in the US but with parity on the horizon, Australian
exporters climbing out of the downturn are seeing their profit margins narrow by the day.

ELEANOR HALL: Business editor Peter Ryan.

Gas clash leaves local industry fuming

ELEANOR HALL: There's plenty of the resource in the ground but Queensland's natural gas industry is
complaining that its development is being stymied by the state government.

The Queensland Government has proposed quarantining up to one fifth of the $40 billion resource for
Australian consumption.

But the industry is warning that such restrictions could scare off investors.

Annie Guest reports from Brisbane.

ANNIE GUEST: When Western Australia's extensive North West Shelf Joint Venture was developed - one
of the biggest projects in Australia's history - 15 per cent of the gas was quarantined for
domestic sales.

Enormous tankers waiting at the port in the Pilbara are loaded up, while a pipeline also carries
gas hundreds of kilometres to the south for eventual commercial and domestic use.

In Queensland, the Natural Resources Minister Stephen Robertson says up to 20 per cent of future
coal seam gas produced in his state could be reserved for local sales.

STEPHEN ROBERTSON: Any responsible government would want to ensure that during the development of
the new industry that it is focussed on exporting one of our most important energy resources, that
we reserve sufficient gas for our own domestic needs.

ANNIE GUEST: The Federal Government is reported to be concerned that the state government's
proposal to quarantine up to one-fifth of the $40 billion worth of coal seam gas for local sales
could deter foreign investors.

The Federal Minister Martin Ferguson is overseas and unavailable for an interview. A spokesman has
denied the reports, saying there's plenty of evidence Australia is one of the best places to invest
in gas.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Minister Stephen Robertson says the proposal is only one of several in a
discussion paper released to the industry.

STEPHEN ROBERTSON: In fact the wording in the discussion paper actually says between 10 and 20 so
it would be misinterpretation for anyone, whether it be the Federal Government or anyone else, to
say that we are looking for a reserve of 20 per cent.

ANNIE GUEST: But the industry is strongly opposed to any suggestion of some gas being quarantined
for local use.

The peak body representing gas producers is the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration
Association.

Its chief executive, Belinda Robinson, says such restrictions deter investors.

BELINDA ROBINSON: And so for just all the same reasons for example that you don't have domestic
reservation for coal or bauxite or iron ore but we have both a domestic industry and export
industry. Those same sorts of marketing parities apply to natural gas as well.

ANNIE GUEST: So rather than quarantining an amount of the production for domestic sales, your
argument is that the market should control that and, for instance, the producer sells to the
highest bidder?

BELINDA ROBINSON: Well, doesn't quite work like that but yes, we are essentially saying that there
is a very good efficiently operating domestic market. Let's let that market do its job.

ANNIE GUEST: But yet in Western Australia at the North-West Shelf Joint Venture, 15 per cent of
that production in reserved for domestic sales. Would you argue that that's hampered contracts and
the market in that industry?

BELINDA ROBINSON: Yes we would.

ANNIE GUEST: But this is a project that has expanded by what, almost 50 per cent or expanding by
almost 50 per cent at the moment, and there are huge contracts for forward sales of LNG.

BELINDA ROBINSON: Yeah, no what I am saying is though that it is acting as a disincentive for other
players so those companies wanting to enter into the Western Australia market.

ANNIE GUEST: What does it mean for the price paid by the consumer?

BELINDA ROBINSON: The work that is being done by the Queensland Government which they have outlined
in their discussion paper shows that the reservation policy will make next to no difference to the
long term price of gas.

ELEANOR HALL: Belinda Robinson is the chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and
Exploration Association. She was speaking to Annie Guest in Brisbane.

Cuban blog blockade

ELEANOR HALL: Human rights activists have condemned the Cuban Government's decision to block one of
its citizens from travelling to the United States to receive an award for journalism from Columbia
University.

Yoani Sanchez's blog Generation Y details the struggles of daily life in Cuba and her government
has branded her a professional dissident.

But human rights group Amnesty International say the decision to refuse her a travel permit is an
unnecessarily punitive measure.

Michael Vincent has our report.

(Cuban music)

MICHAEL VINCENT: From home videos of major Cuban events like this recent peace concert to a mocking
poem on the state the Cuban economy.

(peace campaigner speaking at rally)

"Our economic plan for the year has been realised" it says, "1100 street hustlers, 2,000 child
prostitutes" and so on.

Yoani Sanchez is a keen observer of Cuban life.

She's reportedly called her blog "an exercise in cowardice" that allows her to say what is
forbidden in the public square and at a time when personal web pages are commonplace, it's notable
that this 34 year old has got international attention.

Last year Time Magazine declared her one of the world's most influential people of 2008.

Today she was to have been presented with one of journalism's oldest awards - the Maria Moors Cabot
Prize.

But Columbia University in New York says the Cuban Government has blocked her from attending the
ceremony.

It's the fourth time she's been refused travel in the past two years.

The dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism Nicholas Lemann issued a statement saying:
"The Cuban Government ought to value Ms Sanchez's work as a sign that young Cubans are ready to
take Cuba into a better place - one that will have the free press the Cuban people deserve."

Ms Sanchez's blog, Generacion I Griega, or Generation Y, is translated into 16 languages and gets
an estimated 1 million hits a month.

She says tongue-in-cheek it is for the Cubans born in the '70s and '80s whose youth was marked by
camps in the countryside, little Russian dolls, illegal emigration and frustration.

The picture she paints of Cuba is not pretty - the continuation of communist youth rituals,
declining living standards and regular attacks on freedom of expression.

In a contribution under the headline Architecture of the Emergency she outlines how almost an
entire building was torn to pieces by people stealing construction materials.

EXTRACT FROM GENERATION Y BLOG: Like ants, the poorest in the area swarmed on the old factory and
pulled it apart.

MICHAEL VINCENT: All this:

EXTRACT FROM GENERATION Y BLOG: On an island where finding cement and concrete blocks is like
trying to get a pinch of lunar dust.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Cuban authorities often condemn internal critics as US-backed traitors. They've
accused Ms Sanchez of being a "professional dissident" at the service of the "anti-Cuban propaganda
machine."

Amnesty International issued a statement of support today, saying the Cuban authorities often
routinely deny exit visas and bar those from leaving their country who, like Yoani Sanchez, express
critical views of the government.

It continued: "restricting freedom of movement by denying an exit visa to Yoani Sanchez constitutes
an unnecessary punitive measure for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and
association."

Amnesty says in May the Cuban authorities denied Ms Sanchez permission to fly to Madrid to accept
an award for digital journalism.

But it's not as if she hasn't travelled before. Yoani Sanchez moved to live in Switzerland with her
family for two years until 2004 when she chose to return to Cuba.

It's just that now she's gained an international following the government of Raul Castro has
decided she should no longer be allowed to leave.

Ironically her blog is allowed to be read internationally but Cubans are blocked from reading it at
home.

ELEANOR HALL: Michael Vincent reporting.