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ABC Midday Report -

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This program is captioned live. four children may be dead. Fire horror near Sydney - officially investigated. Chinese spy claims are being send Google to number one. Some boggling figures

invade the big smoke. And angry Victorian cattlemen Hello. I'm Ros Childs. Welcome to the Midday Report. And I'm Anita Savage. The local market heading higher. adding a few points. The All Ords around midday The Nikkei is drifting lower. An early rally on the Dow faltered. The dollar going lower. later in the bulletin. And I'll be back with more The Attorney-General has indicated are investigating claims that intelligence agenices of spies operating in Australia. the China has an extensive network The man who first made the claims, Chinese dissident Chen Yonglin, his refugee claim is processed. remains in hiding today, while Chen Yonglin at work This amateur vision shows at the Chinese consulate in Sydney. before he defected from his post monitor Falun Gong practitioners, He says one of his jobs was to being against his conscience. a practice he now describes as to the Immigration Department A full copy of his original letter appealing for political asylum has now been made public. on the rack His conscience is really a police state over representing and he doesn't want to do that. In his letter, rather die than return to China, Chen Yonglin says he would says but the Foreign Affairs Minister discourage Mr Chen the government has tried to or territorial asylum. from seeking political visa is more appropriate. Alexander Downer says a protection for the Department of Immigration, It's much more appropriate with all its experience, determination to make the appropriate

on the basis of the facts presented to it, rather than foreign ministers making impulsive decisions. The Greens have accused the government of trying to play the case down.

the Communist authorities in Beijing. The Opposition now believes Mr Chen should be allowed to stay in Australia. Dithering Downer needs to get on with it and simply issue Mr Chen with a protection visa

so that this matter can be dealt with. Chen Yonglin and fellow defector Hao Fengjun have both claimed that an extensive Chinese spy network is operating in Australia. The government has indicated the nation's intelligence agencies are investigating. It would be naive to believe that they wouldn't be aware of the allegations that are being made and wouldn't act upon them. Despite that, the government remains confident Australia's relationship with China won't be affected. Narda Gilmore, ABC News, Canberra. There has been a spate of suspicious package scares in Canberra this morning. Federal Police say it began with the discovery of a suspicious package at the British High Commission, which was quickly followed

by callouts to the US, Japanese and South Korean embassies. The loading dock at Federal Parliament has also been closed after another envelope containing white powder was found. Previous episodes have all turned out to be false alarms. Rebel Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou has branded mandatory detention a "cruel" and "unnecessary" policy. Mr Georgiou has also publicly disputed John Howard's claim, that the policy has been responsible for reducing the number of asylum seekers to a trickle. Petro Georgiou may be in the minority in the Coalition, but he was among friends in his electorate last night as he took direct aim at mandatory detention. It is a cruel policy. The policy creates damage to the health of children, women and men.

That's one reason, Mr Georgiou says, he's drawn up Private Member's bills which would release long-term detainees into the community. But the Liberal backbencher also disputes the Government's rationale for mandatory detention. I'm not going to alter a policy which, combined with the turning back of boats and the offshore processing, stopped the crisis -

ended the crisis we had with illegal arrivals in 2001. Mr Georgiou pointed out there had been no crisis before the Keating government introduced the policy in the early '90s. After mandatory detention was introduced however, in 1992, it didn't dissuade anybody because no-one was coming and then failed to dissuade anyone because thousands came. John Howard has tried to head off Petro Georgiou by offering to administer mandatory detention more speedily and humanely. Mr Georgiou is yet to have his promised discussions with the Prime Minister. In any event, he says, the Immigration Department has too much power. I do not believe it is acceptable to leave decisions about detentions in the hands of DIMIA officials without additional independent scrutiny and intervention. Mr Georgiou pointed to the Rau and Alvarez affairs to buttress his case.

Jim Middleton, ABC News, Canberra. Fire authorities are warning people to take extra care this winter after another fatal house fire in New South Wales - the second in two days. The latest looks to have claimed the lives of four children at Wyong, north of Sydney. Just yesterday, the bodies of two elderly people were found in a smoke-filled house, in the State's central west. But it's the overnight fire at Wyong and the possible loss of four young lives, that's shattered two families and the rescue authorities who tried to save them. ABC reporter David Spicer is outside the burnt-out home. David, what's the latest on the fire victims?


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Well, behind me we have the ╝White╛ house ╝White╛ house which ╝White╛ house which burnt ╝White╛

Well, behind me we have the house which burnt down,╝White╛

house which burnt down, substa╝White╛ntially was burnt at 2

o'clock this morning. Inside,

tragically are four young bodies.

We've got two 7-year-olds, a

3-year-old and a 1-year-old. Three of

of the boys who died are from one

family and the 7-year-old girl,

she's from another family. But

they can't retrieve the bodies

they can't retrieve the bodies from the burntout hues, because it's

sturally unsound. They fear the

roof might collapse, so it's goog

roof might collapse, so it's goog to take many hours of painstaking

investigation and securing the

investigation and securing the house before they can retrieve the bodies.

And David, what do we know about

the circumstances of this fire?

the circumstances of this fire? We've just heard just a few minutes

ago from the partner of the mother,

and he says that what he

and he says that what he understands happened is that there was a heater

downstairs and one of the young

children put a blanket on top of

children put a blanket on top of the heater and that caught fire and

smoke filled the house. Now this

man that was the partner of the

mother of three of the children, he

said there was no adult in the

said there was no adult in the house at the time. The mother and him

were out at another function. And

he said there was a mix-up, because

they thought that another adult was

supervising. That other adult was

not supervising. So there was no

adult at the time and what happened

was when the fire started the

children panicked and the little

children were standing on the ball

cony calling out for help. They

were too frightened to jump off and

tragically they perished. Three

teenager girls escaped

teenager girls escaped the fire.

They received smoke inhalation

injuries and are being treated in

hospital. There were two families

involved. They're being treated

involved. They're being treated for shock. They were having a

shock. They were having a sleepover following a party a few nights ago.

A terrible event. No adult present

at the time and the result is four

tragic deaths. How are the local

residents bearing up, David?

We've had lots of people pass by

expressing their grief. They were

well-liked family. We were told

that the children had many friends,

the local school is in mourning,

counsellors are at the local school.

That grief was expressed a short

time ago by both friends and

emergency workers. I thought it

couldn't have happened'cause I only

saw her yesterday with the two boys

in the main street of Wyong. I

thought no, it couldn't have been

them. What impact will it have on

the community? A lot, there's a lot

of friends around here that

of friends around here that probably don't know that they're missing and

my daughters this morning when my

neighbour told me, I didn't tell

them because they know the kids

pretty well. Three of our staff

actually we sent home because they

were quite distressed about the

whole thing and we thought it was

best that we do the right thing and

send them home. We're providing

ongoing counselling to them,

ongoing counselling to them, like

all the Emergency Services we're.

all the Emergency Services we're... it's not a good scene. No-one

it's not a good scene. No-one likes doing this, especially with

doing this, especially with children involved. David, it's been a

particularly difficult week for

Emergency Services across NSW,

hasn't it? That's right. As you

said before, we had an elderly

couple dying in the Central West

after a house fire just yesterday

and then on the weekend that

and then on the weekend that tragedy on a homestead near Canamble in

inland NSW where parents died

inland NSW where parents died trying to save their child. Three deaths

there, nine altogether, a very sad

time for emergency workers and

certainly we're yet to establish

what caused this fire, but what caused this fire, but if it

what caused this fire, but if it was fire caused by a blanket on a

fire caused by a blanket on a heater there's a lesson there for

everybody. David Spicer at Wyong in NSW, thank you. In Melbourne, a 38-year-old man has died in a fire at a caravan park, everybody. David Spicer at Wyong in NSW, thank you.

despite frantic efforts to save him. Residents at the Yarra Junction Caravan Park tried to climb through a window in the van to pull the man to safety. But the heat forced them to abandon their rescue attempt. The blaze engulfed the van so quickly that by the time firefighters arrived, they could do little but try to protect other homes. Unfortunately, when people are in the caravan, it's very difficult to get them out

because of the intense heat and the smoke generated

from the caravan fire itself. Police say the fire is not suspicious although they're yet to determine how it started. It was a case of country versus city this morning, with angry cattlemen and women taking their horses to the streets of Melbourne. Around 500 riders are protesting against a decision by the State Government to ban cattle grazing in Victoria's alpine national park. This morning's demonstration started at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before a noisy rally outside Parliament. The protest has attracted some high-profile supporters, including the actor who played 'The Man from Snowy River'. It's more than just a spectacle. It's people standing up for their heritage, for their traditions. It's about livelihood. Little by little, Australia's identity is being lost.

This would be another nail in the coffin. The Victorian Government says it's banning cattle grazing in the high country because the 170-year-old practice is destroying the alpine park and polluting its waterways. There've been fresh warnings about another large earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, that could trigger a repeat of the devastating Boxing Day tsunmai. A strong tremor registering 6.3 on the Richter scale hit the island of Simeulue yesterday, causing people to flee into the streets. Researchers who predicted the earthquake that rocked Nias back in March and claimed 1,300 lives are warning of a big quake with an epicentre near the Mentawi Islands, further south off the Sumatran coast. We are now concerned about a significant increased risk of a large earthquake. This area has not had a large earthquake in excess of 220 years, and therefore is ripe for triggering a future large earthquake. The problem is while they've narrowed down where the quake might hit, they can't say exactly when. When it hits, the jolt is predicted to generate a damaging wave up to 10m high. Israeli troops have launched an airstrike on militants in the Gaza Strip, in apparent retaliation for a missile attack on a Jewish settlement a day earlier. The exchanges are the latest in a series of clashes which are putting new strain on a cease-fire agreed in February. At the same time, Jewish opponents of the Israeli Government's plan to withdraw from Gaza are intensifying their protest campaign. As Middle East correspondent Matt Brown reports, the protesters are getting younger. Teenagers and children are on the front-line of protest in Israel. Dozens have been arrested, protesting against PM Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw Israeli settlers from Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip. Opponents of the Gaza Disengagement Plan say the youngsters have joined the fight to stop the advance of terrorism. We're talking about the lives of these young kids and if they're going out of the streets, I see no problem with it. What they're doing is against the law of their own democratic Israel.

Children as young as 10 have been involved in the protests and detained. It's an abuse of children, it's - by my standards, it's a criminal use of children. Our kids see buses getting blown - what about that impact? At key intersections across the country young Israelis are working to spread the anti-disengagement message. The police must attend even the smallest event and they often outnumber the activists. Young people have started campaigning against the disengagement plan because they believe it strikes against the heart of the idea of a Jewish homeland. The involvement of young people in the recent protests has become the subject of bitter debate amongst Israelis. I think this is really growing out of some kind of a fundamentalist, almost messianic sense of mission. Either the Jews have the right to live and have the right to their own promised land, or not. The disengagement plan is opening wounds that will not easily heal. Matt Brown, ABC News, Jerusalem. South Africa's biggest corruption scandal in a decade is unfolding

and it could go all the way to the top. A businessman with close ties to Deputy President Jacob Zuma has been sent to jail for 15 years for corruption and fraud. Such was the case's importance, Schabir Shaik's sentence was broadcast live on television. Shaik, the court found, tried to secure lucrative government arms contracts through bribes. But critics say

the trail of corruption points to Mr Zuma, a popular politican who is seen as a successor to President Thabo Mbeki. The opposition is demanding Mr Zuma's resignation, as other separate investigations continue into other instances of MP's corrupt practices. The deadly legacy of landmines is again under the spotlight with the UN estimating it will take seven years to clear Afghanistan of the devices. Many countries, including the former Soviet Republic, the US and Britain, supplied the mines for past conflicts, but the victims now are more often than not children. Laden with guns but on a mission of mercy. These are America's ambulances of the sky,

where medics double as marksmen. They've flown into the border region with Pakistan

to help an injured little girl thought to be 8 years old - she's just stepped on a landmine. She's lost so much blood that medics struggle to find a pulse. Her name is Camilla and she's clinging for life.

The air-borne journey has taken 20 minutes. For treatment in Pakistan, she'd have travelled eight hours by land. Two-thirds of Afghans do not have access to health care. Just prep from above the knee on that side down. But in a US field hospital, Camilla is sedated and given a transfusion. She's lost a third of her own blood. Doctors examine her injured leg and decide it can't be saved. Guillotine, yeah.

Probably tomorrow she would have gone to a local national hospital. I think they would have done some form of amputation for her. She wouldn't have gotten blood transfusions, which she needs, and she very well could have died from this. The primary US mission here is to fight its ongoing war against terrorism, but it's constantly confronted by the legacy of past conflicts. The border region where Camilla was injured has been fought over since the Soviet invasion when thousands of landmines were supplied and had paid for by Moscow and Washington. Red rocks now indicate the presence of mines manufactured by 10 different countries, Britain among them. 48 hours after Camilla's first operation, doctors prepare for a second amputation. All this muscle looks pretty clean and I'll make an incision here, an incision here and um, this muscle will fold back over itself and make a nice stump so it will accept a prosthesis so hopefully she can walk. Drugs have dulled the pain, but not her anguish. She's an orphan and says she has no friends. Camilla used to spend her days chasing mountain goats.

In six months time she should be ready for a prosthetic limb. One in eight families in Afghanistan goes through the exact same process. In the meantime, Camilla will be treated at this Afghan hospital. Her main priorities right now - staving off infection and mustering her strength. There was little change in Labour market dynamics last month. The number of people looking for full or part-time work was up slightly to more than 541,000. The unemployment rate remains steady at 5.1%. The Internet search engine, Google, has become the most valuable media company in the United States, even briefly beating the likes of Time-Warner. Just 10 months after it was floated, Google is worth more than $104 billion. Like the search engine that made its name, it hasn't taken Google long to come up with a result. The company provides a way to search the Internet for information. It only floated on the stock market last year and already it's the most highly valued media firm in the world. Google was founded less than seven years ago by two college friends Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The company prides itself on its relaxed approach to bids. Its motto is "do no evil" and it seems to be working. So what's so special about Google? After all, it's just a search engine. The number of new search start-ups that are imitating Google's success is a whole new industry and that's part of the reason why they're valued so robustly, is that there's a lot of promise and expectation in that search industry. Google's heady share price may seem reminiscent of the dot-com bubble five years ago, but despite that you won't find many experts betting against the company. A 500-year-old map, identifying America and depicting the world as a globe for the first time, has sold for a record $1.3 million in London. Measuring just 18cm by 35cm, the map was bought by a London clock company. It was created in 1507 by scholars in France, who used explorers accounts and included the Pacific Ocean, before it was discovered by Europeans. This map was the first time that the word 'America' was put on any map and, in fact, this is called the birth certificate of America because, obviously, some people think it was misnamed, but here it is first recorded. America's name came from an Italian explorer, who'd argued the land discovered by Columbus was a new continent and not part of Asia. We cross now to Anita Savage with an update on the markets.

Well yes and no, Ros. The market

opened a little lower, like Wall

Street then went higher. It has

dipped lower again. The All

Ordinaries down just a touch. The

ASX 100 is down. Banking stocks

have been pushing the market up,

Adelaide Bank in particular is

Adelaide Bank in particular is doing well. Its shares are up more than

2% today at $11.35. Now Adelaide

Bank is Australia's best performing

bank stock in this past year, up

40%. Its shares have been given a

boost after the bank said it has

increased loans by more than a

quarter in the past year. It says

full-year earnings per share will

rise as much as 15%. Commonwealth

Bank is leading the major banks.

Its shares are up 7 c at $38.33.

Its shares are up 7 c at $38.33. On the negative side, Qantas shares

the negative side, Qantas shares are lower today. Investors are closely

watching Singapore Airlines

attempts to get a share of the

lucrative route between Australia

and the United States. At the

moment, Qantas dominates that

route. Its shares are down more

than 1% at $3.29. And Telstra is

still looking for a new chief

executive, are they getting closer?

Telstra is close to naming a new

Telstra is close to naming a new CEO to replacing Ziggy Switkowski. He

is a north American on the short

list in February A decision could

come as soon as tomorrow. Telstra

is trying to complete salary

negotiations. While the

negotiations. While the prospective CEO has not been named. Solomon Trujillo has

Trujillo has been considered. The

new CEO could start 1 July.

new CEO could start 1 July. Telstra shares are 2 c higher today at $5.

shares are 2 c higher today at $5.10. What's going on with

$5.10. What's going on with Woodside Petroleum today? It's all to do

Petroleum today? It's all to do with the North West Shelf project that

involves the production of

involves the production of liquefied natural gas. Woodside Petroleum

natural gas. Woodside Petroleum and its partners have approved a $2

billion expansion. Woodside

billion expansion. Woodside Petroleum shares are up more than

Petroleum shares are up more than 1% at $26.89. A check of the domestic market's A check now of the domestic market's other top movers in the ASX 100 - CSL and retailer Harvey Norman going higher. Iluka Resources and recycler Sims Group heading the other way. Thanks, Anita. To Wall Street, where investors lost interest as they awaited an economic update from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. An early rally on the Dow petered out as a result. The Nasdaq shed seven points. In London, profit warnings and profit-taking weakened the market. In Japan, the Nikkei in retreat. Hong Kong going higher this morning. New Zealand adding five points. In currencies - the Australian dollar falling back across the board. It's now worth US 76.62 cents.

And the euro and pound are going the same way. In commodities - His critics were impressed, but Anthony Mundine has failed to regain the WBA's super middleweight world title, losing to Denmark's Mikkel Kessler in a unanimous points decision last night. Kessler showed no signs of a back injury which delayed his title defence by a month and started strongly. Mundine struck back in the third round but was left reeling and bloodied in the fourth. Another flurry in the ninth round from Mundine gave him some hope of an upset, before the Danish champion stamped his authority on the bout to extend his unbeaten record to 36. I couldn't let him hit me at will. I definitely hit him a few times as well - he knows. But it was a great fight, so I'm glad everyone had their money's worth. Mundine is keen for a rematch leaving his plans for a return to rugby league up in the air. The jurors in the Michael Jackson molestation trial have finished a third full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict. Outside the court, journalists and the singer's supporters are growing increasingly frustrated and angry. North America correspondent Mark Simkin reports from Santa Maria, on a waiting game that's featured the bizarre and surreal.

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Thousands of journalists and scores

of the singer's fans are camped

outside the courthouse waiting for

outside the courthouse waiting for a verdict. Frustration is turning

into aggression. The fans are

abusing the media, accusing the

journalists of being part of a

global conspiracies to bring down

Michael Jackson. We shall not be

moved by all the media. I believe

the media would give a) dog better

coverage than Michael Jackson.

This man has come from Tennessee

and has been here for most of the

trial. The press is very negative.

They don't tell the truth at all.

They're scum. The press is trash.

No-one likes them. Outside the

singer's Neverland Ranch the scenes

are more bizarre. The fans are

trying to top TV crews filming and

are attempting to sabotage live

reports by setting off car alarms.

I think we have to remember that

these people idolise Michael

these people idolise Michael Jackson and we are the people giving the

and we are the people giving the bad news. While the tension is building

outside the court the discussions

are continuing inside it. The

jurors have been deliberating for

three full days and are yet to

three full days and are yet to reach a verdict. For much of his life, American author Ernest Hemingway maintained houses in both Florida and Cuba. While the Key West property is a popular tourist attraction,

it's a different story for his Cuban home. This 19th century estate on the outskirts of Havana was the first home Ernest Hemingway ever bought with his own money.

TRANSLATION: He loved it so much that in 1940 when Paramount Pictures paid him the royalty for the film 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', he buys it for $18,500. Gladys Rodriguez, curator for what is now the Hemingway Museum, took us on a rare tour of the house where the American novelist lived from 1939 to 1960, a period in which he wrote many of his most famous works. But Hemingway's beloved Finca Vigia, as he named it,

is in danger. The ravages of time, neglect and tropical humidity threatening a culture heritage shared by Cuba and the United States. TRANSLATION: This is the room that's in worst shape, where Hemingway used to write.

You can see the humidity has swollen the beams, cracking the floor tiles and the ceiling. The US National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed Finca Vigia on its list of 11 most endangered historic sites - the only one outside the United States. There's plenty worth preserving, from Hemingway's cherished library... the bathroom that gives insights into his obsessions.

On this wall he scribbled his weight almost everyday, with comments like "17 days off diet, five drinking". The house is now closed to the public. Cuba's Culture Ministry having earmarked about $250,000 to start the restoration. And while Cuba says it can do it on its own, it also admits it will be harder and take longer without outside help. The National Trust for Historic Preservation hopes Washington will grant it a special licence to by-pass the US economic embargo on Cuba - so that it can provide more money and expertise. A rare opportunity for cooperation between Hemingway's country of birth and the one he fell in love with, at a time when only water divided the two nations. Time for the weather now. A band of cloud over South Australia is moving into Victoria and NSW. Cloudy, too,on the Queensland coast and in parts of Tasmania. Thick cloud lies over south-west WA. A blocking high is moving to the Tasman, allowing a large complex low pressure system south-west of the Bight to produce patchy rain over South Australia, spreading into Victoria and NSW over the next two days. A front is combining with the low to affect WA.

So, showers, thunderstorms and even hail for south-west WA. Rain bands in northern and eastern South Australia. Patchy rain in parts of Victoria and New South Wales. Showers for coastal Queensland and in Tasmania. The forecasts:

And a final check of the midday markets. That's the news for now. There'll be more at 7 o'clock. I'm Ros Childs. Have a good afternoon. Captions by Captioning and Subtitling International.