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An underground fire is preventing

rescuers entering a New Zealand mine where 29 workers

since an explosion two days ago. where 29 workers have been trapped

There's been no contact with the miners, including two Australians,

since the blast cut power and blew

out ventilation fans on

Mining company CEO says there is out ventilation fans on Friday. The

combustion of material in the mine, Mining company CEO says there is some

although they're not sure how

it is. The Federal Treasurer Wayne although they're not sure how serious

Swan says he wants to help Australia's credit unions and

building societies compete with the

big four banks. The Government will

increasing competition reveal a series of measures aimed at

sector sometime next month. And the increasing competition in the banking

Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, will

take his plan for an inquiry into

take his plan for an inquiry into the

sector to shadow cabinet tomorrow.

NATO leaders have agreed timetable for handing over control NATO leaders have agreed to a

security in Afghanistan to Afghan timetable for handing over control of

forces by the end of 2014. But the

NATO Secretary General says the

alliance will continue to provide

military and development support

after that. And Catholic groups are defending the Pope's defending the Pope's reported

comments that the use of condoms is comments that the use of

acceptable "in certain cases". In a acceptable "in certain cases". In

forthcoming book, Pope Benedict is


reduce the risk of HIV infection quoted as saying that they could quoted as saying that they

among gay prostitutes. But Catholic

groups say the comments do not


a major shift in the Vatican's groups say the comments do not signal

a major shift in the Vatican's stance

on contraceptives. Our next full

bulletin is tonight at on contraceptives. Our next full news This Program Is Captioned Live. On Landline today - After years of drought, back in the Murray-Darling Basin there's no doubt that having water has made farming easier, water reform any less contentious. but it hasn't made the politics of struggle to convince farmers Authorities in Queensland sacrificed for coal seam gas riches. their land and water won't be for the industry. It's not my job to be a flag waver that we get the balance right. My job is to ensure self-sufficiency in beef? And what price Indonesia's plan for The target date was 2010, Australian cattle rose dramatically but instead imports of from 517,000 three years ago, of 770,000 last year. to a record high Welcome to the show. Hello. I'm Anne Kruger. Our last for 2010. Jakarta correspondent, Matt Brown, That special report from the ABC's a little later. But first, after years of drought Basin is being debated the future of the Murray-Darling across much of eastern Australia. after record rains that could make a difference And there are signs is finally put forward to whatever plan in the Basin. for the future of irrigation with so much water about, For one thing, fewer farmers might feel the need

water entitlements to sell their permanent to the Federal Government. And if they do, at what price? Chris Clark reports. Victorian side of the Murray River The Gunbower Forest on the internationally recognised wetland is an hadn't been properly wet which until recently

for nearly a decade. of River Red Gum, It's just under 20,000 hectares open forest and woodland. have produced good flows Solid winter and spring rains and its Victorian tributaries. down the Murray River rivers in the north-east What we saw is all of those large to the Murray system. contribute huge flows And as a result of that, in terms of flows at Torrumbarry water levels - 50,000 megalitres per day. we peaked at about an overbank flow So this water is actually from the Murray River itself? Correct. We got overbank flows

there's probably something like and we think under water. 5 or 6,000 hectares of the forest that happened? So when was the last time In 2000. for the forest, waiting for a drink. So it's been 10 long years Damian Wells is CEO Management Authority of the North Central Catchment monitor and maintain river health whose job it is to manage, in this part of Victoria. an over-the-bank flood There's no doubt that nothing beats the overall ecological response in terms of all the other natural cues because it links up with

the stream and the floodplain and the connectivity between

is a very important relationship, mindful of however, what we really need to be of those overbank flows is that the flooding frequency under river regulation. is more or less halved from the Gunbower Forest, About 50 kilometres is enjoying the wet season too. Brendan Martin extremely good, The last six months they've been

they've been wet. for probably the last 10 years. We've had more rain than we've had from the beginning of the year It's a huge reversal was on Landline when Brendan Martin had forced him to change the way talking about how the drought the farm was managed. a lot more feed, It means we've had to buy in the ability to grow it, cause we haven't had and that also means as far as feed price, we're at the whim of the market pretty much. we've lost control of our feed base, with wet weather and irrigation, In less than 12 months, represents a turnaround the reality today of 180 degrees. Brendan, obviously with water around a lot of feed this year too. you've been able to grow of our spring rain Yeah, we have. We've made the most with irrigation. by having a start in the Autumn where we could put it on the Autumn Water got to a price and we've grown a lot of feed. How much have you got here? There's about 1,000 dry tonne here. Enough for how long - blade of grass on the place? if there wasn't another

Oh, about 12 months. there's no doubt After years of drought Murray-Darling Basin that having water back in the has made farming easier, but it hasn't made the politics of water reform any less contentious. A lot of the anger and initial frustration with where we're headed is we need water, where is the best place to get it? This is the way it looked from our side of the fence - We'll take it from the irrigators. I have not come here to talk at you.

That's not the reason I'm here.

My objective here today is - I get lots of opportunities to talk. I want to spend today getting down as much as possible your views. The Federal Water Minister, Tony Burke, has come to Renmark, the heart of South Australia's riverland. From this area I don't think you're gonna have an argument that there doesn't need to be river reform. I think it's just how it's conducted. Some of it will be done through buyback but we will only buy from people who've put their water on the market. and as much as possible, you want to find ways to be able to get there through infrastructure improvements. When you can do that, whether it's infrastructure on farm, centralised irrigation, or being smarter about how we manage our environmental assets, those are the situations where you can deliver the environmental health of the river system, without actually having a hit on productivity. We had 100mm of water, of rainfall here last week and that was captured in these bays. John Bonetti has been farming near Griffith, in the Riverina, for 50 years, and he won't be selling any of his water to the Federal Government. The green shoots of his latest rice crop are just emerging. He believes there will be less water for sale now the drought's broken. I'm sure that most of the water that was readily for sale would've been bought, and from now on it will be probably - I don't know about willing sellers, will probably be forced sellers that will have to sell their water from now on.

There will be still water out there, but I think in less quantities than what it has been in the past. And John Bonetti won't be putting his hand out for Federal Government money

to make his farm more water efficient.

He's already spent $1.5 million drip irrigating his vines and estimates that his water efficiency has improved by about 30%. I'm going to argue that we've already contributed, and surely in the interest of food security, why wouldn't they list the fact that we can grow the same amount of food with 30% less water? Haven't I already made a contribution? Mark Hill grows processing tomatoes in northern Victoria. The Federal Government so far spent only a fraction of the $5.8 billion set aside for upgrading irrigation infrastructure. Part of it is being spent here. We're laying out a new field for tomatoes. It's subsurface drip irrigation. This all come about by way of the on-farm efficiency grants. Through the Federal Government? Through the Federal Government, yeah, that's right. So we're doing a 100 hectare field, all subsurface drip irrigation. Doing a 100 hectares of subsurface irrigation for tomatoes will cost upwards of half a million dollars. Growers get a grant to pay for the works, and give up some of their water out of the efficiency saving. In this particular case we've given up 100 megalitres of water. We'll probably save over a couple of hundred megs, they'll take that, so to my mind it's a win/win situation. Um... they're getting water savings, We're getting a more efficient system. The Federal Government's been widely criticised for the slow rollout of infrastructure money. We've got a large amount of infrastructure money available. It's $5.8 billion. And there's been some pressure on me

to try to get that money out the door quickly. I've been more cautious than that. While it's a significant amount of money, I want to make sure it is spent very wisely, 'cause we get one hit at making sure that we do spend that infrastructure money carefully. But however the money is finally spent, there are also limits to efficiency savings.

This is where Mark Hill's tomatoes end up. Cedenco's processing plant at Echuca. Most critical thing we need is water. It's the major ingredient for growing tomatoes. Without a good water supply we basically won't continue to operate. And it's where you can start to appreciate the knock-on effects if irrigation allocations in this part of the Murray-Darling Basin are cut substantially. We do about 200,000 tonnes of tomatoes through this plant. We make tomato paste and diced tomato. We supply most of the major manufacturers of retail products in Australia, apart from Heinz. And we have about 40 people full-time and about another 66 people during the season. These days nearly all processing tomatoes are grown on drip irrigation. Currently we contract 220,000 tonnes this coming season of which about 90% is grown on subsurface drip irrigation, so there's a little bit more room to improve, but there's not much more we can do from an efficiency point of view. So here, improving efficiency won't cover irrigation cuts of 30%, as flagged by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Jason Fritsch runs Cedenco's field operations. All I can say with certainty is that a 30 to 40% cut of water in this valley

will have a major impact, not only on the processing tomato industry,

but a lot of other irrigation industries. Whatever the final level of cuts, clearly the more efficient the system, the smaller those cuts might be. Right at the moment we're in a situation where there is significant over-allocation. Volume is not the only issue in the health of the Basin. But at the moment, it is a critical issue. Do you have any sense at the moment of how much can be saved

through efficiencies across the entire basin? No, I don't, and there are some areas where that question will always vary. It's not just that I don't know the number, I suspect the number as a magic number will never exist, simply because your efficiencies on farm don't only go to your physical infrastructure, to your farming methods, they also go to the varieties of what you've chosen to grow. While farmers are being asked to do more with less, so too are those in charge of managing environmental assets. The Gunbower Forest is an important bird breeding habitat. One of the really important objectives in terms of watering the Gunbower Forest, is a bird breeding objective. The probes we've installed will enable us to monitor water levels. If water levels drop quickly in a flood event, that can actually trigger birds to abandon their nests, and that's something we want to manage against. So instead of relying on the less frequent overbank flows to flood the Gumbower Forest, there are plans to build a new weir which will allow a section of the forest to be flooded when flows are much lower. Instead of relying on a big flood in the Murray River to come from that direction,

you will be bringing water from another place? Correct, this will be a very water efficient way to achieve our ecological goals, with relatively modest River Murray flows we can run this channel and achieve about a 6,000 hectare inundation in the forest. Efficient environmental flows could be an important part of the final equation. My impression is we've only scratched the surface on what might be able to be done in environmental management.

There can be some wetlands, for example, which were never used historically to being constantly under water, and where with engineering methods and pumps you can actually get a situation where you get a much more natural flow without requiring the same levels of volume. And where that's possible, do you say it goes to the irrigation side of the ledger? They go to the health of the Basin, and therefore that takes some of the pressure off what would otherwise come from irrigators. The Gunbower Forest is getting a decent drink for the first time in a decade. And if the planned engineering works go ahead, the birds might be nesting here a little more often. Damien Wells from the local Catchment Authority sees the environmental needs as part of the whole. What we've got to recognise is that we are living in a regulated system. The important thing is that we have the ecological integrity of the system maintained, and I think that can be done with a mix of those obviously natural events -

which will occur, but also needs to be - very importantly supplemented with structures. Irrigating forests and irrigating crops. There's only one Murray-Darling Basin, and it must do both. Back at the beginning of the year

Landline reported on the extraordinary impact the booming coal seam gas industry was having on rural Queensland. The Federal and State Governments have since signed off on multi-billion dollar export projects that would take the industry to a new level of investment and production. So much so, the Reserve Bank factored them into its recent decision to raise interest rates. Yet farmers and green groups are dismayed by what they see is the indecent haste of this latest resource bonanza, and what that might mean long-term

for the value of farmland and the quality of water. pause Today Queensland gets a whole new industry, this means jobs for a generation. we've sitting on underground water aquifers here

that must be protected at all costs. This is about bringing home the bacon to Queensland. If something's not done,

we just don't know what the end game is going to be. We really have to keep the bastards honest. As well as creating thousands of jobs and generating billions in investment, the exploitation of Queensland's coal seam gas reserves has sparked fierce debate about the environmental risks. The underground water aquifer with the Great Artesian Basin is extremely important to the whole of Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales. This is major resource and asset that Australia owns. There's one thing, there will be no life west of the Great Divide, if we have a real muck-up with the Great Artesian Basin. For farmers the two big questions are - what effect will drilling into coal seams have

on underground aquifers? And how will the large amounts of salt and water coming up with the gas be safely disposed of? No one knows what goes on underground in the detail that we need for this industry to go forward. The few scientists that are around that do have a reasonable understanding of the underground systems

are saying, you know - they're really ringing the alarm bells. Dalby grain grower, Wayne Newton, is involved in the debate because gas companies and farmers work the same land. He says it's proving an unequal relationship. And at the moment the whole thing seems to be slewed in favour of the resource companies, and not very much concern about the natural resources, the Great Artesian Basin, and probably more importantly to us, the communities that live in inland Australia. While Wayne Newton's been asking the hard questions about coal seam gas for years, it's only in the last six months that anti-gas groups have gained momentum.

There've been rallies out in gas country. Why would they want to put gas wells here? It's ridiculous! And the city. Shame on you, Queensland Gas! The issue's been taken up by federal politicians.

The environmental expert advising us saying that

watertables may drop by more than 15m. And it's even brought farmers and green groups together. Sometimes these issues make strange bedfellows, but the reality is we'll accept and welcome anyone who's looking at the same agenda as we are, and that is one of sustainable land management practice. I think we've got common interests here. What we've got at stake is the preservation of good agricultural land, of our underground water systems which are in dire peril. Wayne Newton says the Cecil Plains protest was a turning point. When a group of totally mild-mannered, easygoing rural farmers get that upset that they want them out that sort of a campaign, people suddenly sit up and say - hey there's something going on here.

There are nearly 4,000 coal seam gas wells in Queensland, supplying 30% of the state's electricity and 70% of its gas needs. Two major coal seam gas projects in Queensland. In October the industry was supercharged

by the Federal Government's approval

of two CSG export proposals. An investment surge that could result in 40,000 wells operating by 2020. Certainly the scale is something that will test us. Queensland is a pretty big state. Whilst 40,000 is a big number, there's a lot of territory to cover. But we still don't know what the overall cumulative impact will be when we start talking about 40,000 wells just in south-east Queensland alone.

Three weeks ago, UK energy giant BG Group became the first company to detail its export project to be built at Curtis Island, near Gladstone.

Over the next four years, we will build the world's first liquefied natural gas plant to use coal seam gas as a feed stock. In doing so, we will create a new industry for Queensland. The cost, a staggering $15 billion. We estimate that the project will increase economic activity in Queensland by 32 billion Australian dollars over the project's first decade, or 2.6 billion a year. We also expect to pay about $1 billion a year in federal taxes. And a further 300 million or so, each year, in royalties to the Queensland Government. Two indications of just how important this one project is sat either side of Catherine Tanna. It will further enhance the reputation of the region as one of the great powerhouses of the Australian economy. This represents an economic opportunity not just for Queensland and the local community, but for Australia as a nation. Hot on the heels of that news, Origin Energy announced it had Queensland Government approval for its $35 billion export joint venture with US firm, ConocoPhillips. This is a massive project. It is a project that will bring 6,000 jobs to Gladstone, central Queensland and the south-west of our state. But while the politicians and energy executives revel in each new announcement -

and there are two more set to come, farmers and green groups are worried. Just last month, banned chemicals were detected in eight of Origin's exploration wells. And this month, Arrow Energy reported chemicals had contaminated one well. The unfortunate reality of those contamination scares often brings to bear the relevance of what we've been requesting. It turned out to be not an inappropriate or illegal use

of fracking chemicals. There appears to be other reasons for detecting those minute traces of benzene. There's so many unanswered questions in all of this that the Queensland Government - instead of rushing in a mad sort of fever to get this industry off the ground,

should've been taking the time to work out all the answers, and they haven't done so. Throw in reports of leaking gas wells and reliable bores dropping suddenly or going salty, and farmers are spooked. Government and resource companies are investigating but it's taking too long to get a response, and really, no one knows yet what is going on there. The main objection is that it's an unproven technology and that the State Government and Federal Government now have allowed an uncontrolled experiment to be conducted out there on the Darling Downs and elsewhere in Queensland. Even local government worries shortcuts are being taken. It's that four-letter word - jobs, jobs and jobs. It's not all about that. There's a few other four-letter words there too, called food. They gotta be fair dinkum about this, because you're playing with the future of our food and fibre, and that's extremely important for our agriculture sector. Queensland's Premier insists the 1,200 Federal and State Government regulations will protect the environment. We are taking concerns about this industry very, very seriously. That's why we're exposing them to the highest number of environmental conditions ever applied to any industry ever started here in Queensland. While claiming scientists know enough to predict the impact of gas drilling,

Queensland's Mines Minister says there's a certain amount of learning as you go in this game. At some stage, with the invention of the motor car, someone had to take it out of the garage for the test drive, to prove it up. That's just not good enough for Queensland's farm lobby group which has become so frustrated by the Government's attitude, it has resigned from a consultative committee and called for a moratorium on further development. Draw a line in the sand right now of the 3,500 operational wells that we have, of all the exploration works, of all the pumping works, the gathering lines the whole lot,

until we know and fully understand just what some of these impacts are. Because if we don't understand that, these industries are on our land for a very short time. We've described them as hit and run, because they are on the landscape for less than a generation. And yet us as landholders will be left with the legacy once they leave, and we don't know what that legacy is yet? I don't believe the moratorium is necessary, whilst we've got such a robust process in place to ensure environmental responsibility and sustainability of these industries. Farmers and green groups worry decisions are being rushed because governments have much to gain. It's been an issue of ours for some time. The reality is the referee of this game is also the sole largest beneficiary of the game. At heart of every decision I take is my judgment about what is sustainable, what is in the best interests of Queensland - economically, socially and environmentally. And that view is not just mine, it's shared by many if not all of my colleagues who sit round the Cabinet table. So you're not tempted by the bucks? No. Farmers say they're being asked to take on trust government assurances, that everything will be alright. If we don't get that balance right, then one industry will ultimately fail, and right now we can already see through the contamination scares

the landscape competition scares that we've had, and the possible impacts on issues like ground water, it doesn't take a genius to work out which industry can fail pretty quickly. While the energy companies plan their next phase,

so are the anti-gas groups. Let them take, you know, farmers to the Land Court. They can't take 1,000 farmers to the Land Court. And if they do, the people of Queensland are gonna have some pretty serious questions to ask about that. It will be the most significant social movement this country has seen since the days of the Franklin Dam.

It was a changing of the guard at the National Farmers Federation last week. Jock Laurie from New South Wales is the new President, replacing David Crombie. When Mr Crombie started his four year term in 2006, he said on Landline that water was one of the most critical issues facing Australian farmers. When I spoke with him earlier today, he hadn't changed that view but admitted water policy was moving at glacial speed. Yes, it is and I think it's moving at glacial speed because it's so important, Kerry. I mean we've just come out of a major drought in the Murray-Darling basin,

but I mean what we're dealing with now is a Murray-Darling Basin Plan or a draft plan, and what we're fighting for I think is worth fighting for, and that is balance. The plan lacks balance, but you know, there are wars have been fought over water, but we're very confident we're going to come out the other side on this, because food production is important. But also, so is the environment, so are healthy rivers, so are healthy towns, so the balance is what we want to achieve. And we also want to achieve certainty for all water users. To actually put some stiffening in behind a water license. What does it mean? It's a property right. So we just want to get clear on those sorts of issues. But isn't it a fact, Mr Crombie, that no matter what the NFF does, no matter what producers or communities plead this is in fact a dispute between agriculture and the environment, and in the current political climate, agriculture will be the loser? We'd rather not see it as agriculture versus the environment. I mean the best people to deliver on the environment are agriculturalists. Farmers occupy 65% of the continent and really the best way to deliver on environmental outcomes is to engage in sustainable partnerships with farmers. So I mean to characterise the water debate as agriculture versus farming - sorry agriculture versus the environment is really not the way to look at it. I think both can be achieved. I think we can get a win/win. So relating to water and other issues, Mr Crombie, would you concede that these days more and more obstacles are being put in front of farmers especially by the urban green lobby? Where is that headed? Look, I just think we're living in a more complex society.

I mean there's expectations all round. I mean when you look at consumers making meal decisions they don't only look at the product they look at quality of the product, they look at where it comes from, they look at the integrity the ethics of the production system, they look at carbon footprints. These are issues just that weren't around 10 years ago.

So we're dealing with more of these issues, but I think the really important thing is that in agriculture that we explain what we do, we tell our stories, because we have the best agricultural system in the world in Australia. We're efficient, we produce products of incredible variability and we produce them year-round. I mean, you know, we really take our food for granted in Australia. Our agricultural system is one of the best. And I believe that we can achieve what we're looking for in terms of food production in Australia on a sustainable basis and at the same time, deliver the environmental outcomes that are sensible for the long term. Foreign investment, Mr Crombie, now - What's the NFF policy on the takeover of our agribusiness by foreign interests? Foreign investment is actually able to control an industry.

That's where we really need to have close scrutiny and totally open transparency. We'd favour a register of foreign investment, we'd like to see transparency. Particularly where that investment actually controls an industry or has the potential to do so. But I think what we're really seeing Kerry, we're seeing the great opportunities that are open to Australian agriculture, increased population in Asia, increased purchasing power in Asia, which is going to create great opportunities for Australian agriculture and there's a lot of investment that's really identified those opportunities. Obviously we'd like to see it funded locally, but if it's funded externally, that's fine. Provided it doesn't control or dominate or monopolise any particular industry. Mr Crombie, one of your favourite topics over the years

has been the Australian dollar, the rising dollar. Should farmers or indeed could farmers be protected from this erosion of their income? Well, look, for every 1% rise in the dollar, it costs Australian agriculture something like $200 million in total production.

So I mean a rising dollar is certainly not the friend of Australian agriculture. Because Australian agriculture is basically an exporter. We export 65% of our production.

But look, I think that a free and open economy is the best way to go. I don't think we want to shut off our economy. I don't think we want to try and control exchange rates. I really think that we need to just move with it and it's tough, but you know, I just don't think I don't think the option of closing the economy

or trying to manipulate the exchange rate is the answer. Here's a question about how tough it is to be a farmer. 20 to 25 years ago, steers were getting about $1.80, wheat was more or less the same price it is today although it does vary from season to season, but national debt is absolutely booming. Is it just too tough to be a farmer these days? Yeah, and I mean this is a continuum, Kerry. Real prices just in so many areas don't increase. Real costs do. And the only way to stay in business is by improved productivity.

Now, in Australia, in agriculture, the agricultural sector has achieved the best productivity gains of any sector other than perhaps the IT sector. 2.8% per annum. That comes in on the back of very strong research. Now, my concern and the concern at National Farmers Federation is that we've taken our foot off the pedal on research. We need to be really increasing our research efforts to give farmers the tools to produce more effectively and more efficiently. Now, it's a big call, but if you look across the economy,

everybody is calling for efficiency.

I mean, you know, computer prices are coming down in real terms. Motor car prices are coming down in real terms. Efficiency is the name of the game and in agriculture the way to deliver that efficiency is to have good research and development that

gives farmers the tools to do things better.

David Crombie, I know you actually do get the proverbial on your boots from time to time. Are you going back to your property to pump out a few more steers for $1.80 or are there other things on your mind? (Laughs) Yeah, well, Kerry, um, look, I don't even think in terms of retirement. I think in terms of doing different things. I'm going to be doing a whole lot of different things. I'm not really sure yet. I've only just stepped out of the of the chair at the National Farmers Federation. I am certainly going to have some involvement

with an organisation called Foodbank which I think is an excellent organisation. We receive donated food, we distribute it to 300 charities and we're actually supplying meals to 70,000 Queenslanders a week. I'm going to be involved in Foodbank and I'm going to have a few other interests as well. David Crombie, thanks for your time on Landline and good luck. Thank you very much, Kerry. Now that rising dollar referred to by David Crombie is making it especially tough for the beef industry and for grains but you know something - it can't be too tough, after all, why would foreign investors be interested in our agribusiness if they couldn't see a very profitable future. So let's start the action with a price check in Chicago, where prices bounced strongly after a very ordinary start to the week. Corn and wheat prices were down overall, but lifted Thursday on the back of export news. That's a new contract for soybeans

with China doing its best to cool demand without apparent success and action was similar in local markets, down early, but recovering later in the week. Meanwhile trading was choppy on spot markets, with some relief about the warmer weather, but concern too about possible further rain Let's stay on the farm and check cotton and sugar and both commodities had extraordinary weeks. After jumping on a toboggan early in the week the cotton price rebounded in style.

It's still down for the week, but the bounce was considerable. But commentators are wary, suggesting cotton might be a classic dead cat bounce. And the sugar price is all about the weather,

too much rain in both Australia and India

looking set to cut available volume. The march contract came back after a slow start, another commodity which finished down, but on an upward trend. Now to wool,

where the market steadied somewhat after a couple of cracker weeks. In fact there's little doubt a lot of wool was passed in last week at prices that would have been very acceptable just a fortnight ago. And delving deep into the figures it's worth noting that the wool measuring 16.5 to 18 microns has lifted 40% or about 500 cents, since the start of the season. Here's how wool has moved in recent times. You can see how it came off that disastrous low base in the '90s

went close to 1,200 cents before sliding and now it looks headed back to that figure again. Last week, the eastern market indicator closed at 1,031 cents. As usual China topped the buyers list. To livestock now - and the seasonal peak in lamb throughput is with us and this has flattened the price somewhat. In contrast restockers are pushing sheep prices north. So the lamb indicator is more or less steady, but check that mutton price - another pointer to a renewed interest in sheep from a wool perspective. Now pigs are in demand as well - for the obvious festive reasons. both indicators have lifted two cents a kilo. Last week pig farmers in Australia voted to stop using sow stalls by 2017. As with any major change there will be a cost. Here's an estimate of the financial impact on the pig industry.

That's a very difficult decision because it's going to cost the industry potentially $100 million or more. So clearly very expensive,

but if it's going to happen anyway, because consumers want that to happen then that's something the industry's got to face up to. Doesn't sound much if you say it quickly. Finally to the cattle game - and wet paddocks continue to create havoc with supply. Numbers are down, because cattle can't be mustered. plus there's the incentive for producers to re-build herds after years of drought. So all categories lifted. I'm told numbers are so scarce in some areas, meatworks are actually reducing shifts. This left the eastern young cattle indicator at $3.72, up six cents for the week and up 66 cents since November of last year. To live export prices now. Reports from the north indicate trade is slow, but steady. Permits remain the biggest issue. So Darwin prices are much the same as last week. A few boats were loaded in recent days. Including a shipment of breeders to Malaysia. The importance of the live trade to the beef industry in Australia cannot be underestimated.

It underpins a massive part of the economy across northern Australia. Its influence on property prices in particular is critical. At the other end, our major market of Indonesia, there's a national commitment to becoming self-sufficient and reducing the reliance on imports - both on the hoof and in the carton. So the allowable weight of cattle has been set at a maximum of 350 kilos and the actual number imported has also been cut. The ABC's correspondent in Indonesia, Matt Brown, has been investigating the impact this policy will have on the local beef industry.

Indonesia declared five years ago that it wants to be self-sufficient in beef. It's a goal many in the industry here support. Self-sufficient is my dream, my government's dream. So I want to see my dream is we can build up our industry. The target date was 2010,

but instead, imports of Australian cattle rose dramatically, from 517,000 three years ago to a record high of 770,000 last year. It was a boon for cattle farmers in Australia's Top End. But it also fed a backlash. Because of the explosion probably or the very rapid rise in the imports of cattle in the last three years, it's become a very noticeable increase. And I think perhaps some parts of it got a little bit out of control. Many of the imports were steers ready for slaughter. So this year, to protect the industry, the government's enforced a ban on importing cattle weighing more than 350kg. If you bring in the heavier cattle for trade, immediately trading the cattle as soon as they arrive then go to quarantine and sell them in the market, it will disrupt the market, especially when the traders buy the trading cattle at the low price in Australia, while the price in Indonesia still up here, they will be selling their cattle here. Joyce Gunawan argues the protection means there will also be more work for those in the cattle game. We employ people from the surrounding villages around the feed lots. So with a capacity of 11,000 here, we employ about 200 to 300 people for the feed lots as well as for the feed mill. They're not the only ones with a big stake in the future of beef in Indonesia. Most cattle operations here are small,

vulnerable to market volatility. A year ago, Bunoon's business was in the doldrums but now it's booming. During the annual Muslim holiday of Eid-Ul-Adha last week he was flat out on the phone taking orders and he's one of many who are grateful for the government's protection. TRANSLATOR: If they didn't limit the imports it would create instability

and local farmers would go bankrupt. They'd lose their businesses, because they could not compete with the price of imported cattle. While not wealthy, the smalltimers have strength in numbers. There's more 4 million of them and they can't easily be ignored.

TRANSLATOR: The government must deal with these people, because we're talking about people living in the villages and there are problems like poverty and the difficulties that flow from it. As imports were cut local farmers got their wish and prices went up. But that's been a double edged sword, because it hit importers hard. The government's also slashed import permit numbers. Feedlotter Handi Tanusaputra says the process is haphazard and unpredictable and the supply chain is in disarray. Yeah, they are screaming and complaining you can imagine how to do business without planning. Handi Tanusaputra built his feedlot in the mountains south of Jakarta over decades. He's weathered plenty of tough times and he says the new limits are up there with the worst of them.

I've been working in this business for more than 30 years. We have more facility and then more workers and more people, but now I have to think and plan to decrease everything. The Indonesian Government argues the import shortfall can be made up by tapping in to the local herd. After all there's supposed to be 12 million head of cattle in Indonesia. But no-one's ever done a proper count. It hurts us, of course. If the government continues this regulation, it will be much, much harder for us for next year. Especially to pay back our investment to the bank. Do you think everyone can survive? Not sure. I'm not sure. At an abattoir in nearby Bogor the shortfall is clear and so is the knockon effect.

We've seen a direct increase in price of probably 10 to 12% of the cost of cattle

since the rule's been enforced, probably since June. And that's going up again.

Dick Slaney manages this abattoir for the Australian pastoral giant Elders. He says the restrictions have made fresh chilled meat a good deal more expensive than chilled box beef imported from Australia. For our business here, it's much more difficult, because we're in the formal market

so we're straight into the face of imported beef. We're coming in with cattle at a $5 carcass weight kind of cost up against a processor in Australia that's probably paying $2.80 to $3 carcass rate. While the debate rages about import restrictions and self-sufficiency there is another challenge for the beef industry. At wet markets around the country, customers prefer chicken or fish and only a few are keen on beef.

It's tough and it's not juicy, it's not juicy, it's not delicious. Isya Iriani works for an Australian industry funded project. She says most red meat here is sold the day after slaughter.

It isn't aged and customers assume it must be cooked a long time and turned into classics like rendang. But her wok-wielding team is trying to show beef can also be quick and easy. We try to educate people that even from that fresh meat, if you process it in the right way, like how you cut it,

you can always cook it in practical way, in more practical way and then children would love to eat it. While demand may yet rise, Indonesia aims to slash imports down to just 10% of the nation's needs by 2004. It's banking on its farmers rising to the challenge and making up the difference. But they face at least four major hurdles. First, the small players just aren't as efficient as the larger more intensive operations. Second, even at the bigger feed lots growth rates are still an issue. Your chopper needs new blades. Uhhuh. You can't expect a cow to chew through that.

Animal nutritionist Catherine Marriott works for Meat and Livestock Australia to boost productivity with Indonesian partners. When I first started coming to Indonesia I had the lowest weight gain per head per day was probably 0.8 kg per day. The average was probably 1 to 1.1 kilos a day. We've managed as a team, the Indonesians and the Australians, to lift the average weight gain to 1.4 kg a day.

Steady girls. However, for now, weight gains are still well below those achieved in Australia. The third challenge is managing cattle in the feed lots to safeguard productivity. Because in Indonesia it's very hot and when they get sick with diarrhoea like this one, they become dehydrated so then they can't fight the bacterial infection that's coming. The farmers here are still learning that there's a direct link between better animal welfare and handling and better beef production. Both in terms of quality and quantity. Last but not least, the national herd isn't built for the sort of productivity achieved in Australia. The Indonesian Government's offering subsidies to boost breeding, but it's not easy. We spend a lot of time, we learn about how to do this fattening and then when we change to breeding that's really new for us. For now, it's a matter of taking stock of what Jakarta's beef plan means for the industry. I think they've got a constituency to look after. That's their first line and we often say our industry's gonna die

if you continue along like that. We've got five million farmers to look after. The government's unlikely to change its policy until after a census due by August next year.

TRANSLATOR: Unless the income of our people increases

and drastically bumps up consumption in this current program we don't expect more cattle coming in. We want the domestic farms to grow as much as we've hoped. Having said that, there is some flexibility, the government's already allowed in tens of thousands of cattle above its import quota. Do you think Indonesia will achieve self-sufficiency? Yes, I'm sure, but with some conditions. How long do you think it will take? Not 2014, maybe need more than 10 years. More than 10 years? Yeah. Depend on how big and support from government, from all the people involved in this industry.

As spring fades and we head into summer, it's always worth looking ahead with the weather bureau. I spoke earlier with Clinton Rackich from the bureau in Sydney and first up I asked Clinton to look back at spring and rainfall records all over the country. That's right, it's been an exceptional period through spring for Australia, the wettest on record for the August to October period for the whole continent. Very high rainfall totals through central Australia and in northern Australia and I know northern Australia's normally at the end of its dry season, but this has really been -

characterises the year without a dry season for northern Australia. There's been continual rainfall through much of northern Australia but even the agricultural areas in the Murray-Darling basin and in eastern Australia have had very high rainfall totals. Lockhart in the Riverina exceeded its record for October, of 235mm and Bellenden Ker for Queensland one of the wettest spots in Australia anyway broke Australia's October record of 1,313mm recorded in this October. So exceptionally high rainfall totals for this season.

Clinton, one doesn't often hear the word too much rain in relation to farming, but that's certainly been the case.

Dare I mention the words climate change? No. Not necessarily for this event. So this is a product of La Nina. We've been explaining how it's been developing through the period from late Autumn right through winter and spring and it's a moderate to strong event, this event. That's the reason we've been getting these very high rainfall totals. We've been forecasting high rainfall totals since late Autumn, because of the Pacific and the way it's in the La Nina phase. You mentioned La Nina, which of course brings us to the southern oscillation index. What's the SOI doing at present? Yeah, just like the rainfall

the southern oscillation index has recorded record high values. So for October it recorded equal highest value of plus 18 and we're forecasting that to continue in very positive territory as La Nina persists through until at least Autumn when it may start to decay. And at the same time the bureau is forecasting a major increase in cyclone activity? Yeah, that's right. With the warmer than average sea surface temperatures expected around the continent, with La Nina, we're also expecting higher than average tropical cyclone incidents and we're forecasting a number of around 20 to 22 cyclones for the whole season. And that compares to the historical average of only 12. So it's a very large increase we're expecting this year. So looks like more rain ahead. Let's have a broader look at what farmers and graziers might expect this coming summer. Let's start at the top in northern Australia, heading down the coast. With the La Nina event continuing, as I said, there will be enhanced probabilities for rainfall through Queensland and New South Wales. It's the centre of action for events usually anyway, gradiating down towards Victoria and Tasmania with closer to average rainfall. Much of the continent expecting above average total, even extending through to south-west WA, which has been the reverse of much of the continent and has actually recorded its driest year to date and driest August/October period on record, so the reverse of what's happening in the rest of the country. South-west WA has really missed out, but they're expecting a wetter than average summer even though the total there are usually dryer climates logically. Clinton Rackich, again, thank you very much for your time on Landline. Thanks, Kerry. Now a quick check where the SOI stands at present. There's the chart and you can see it remains positive. The 30 day moving average is plus 14, suggesting more and more of the la nina style conditions. Now to rainfall for the past week and all I can say is this map will tell the story. Check those big falls in Queensland and the drenching rain down into New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Even the Territory had widespread heavy falls. Once again, the south-west corner of the continent missed out on anything substantial.

Numbers now - Richmond at the top of central Queensland had 69mm. Dubbo in New South Wales had 57. 35 was the reading at Castlemaine in Victoria. The Tasmanian town of Llewellyn had 40. Burra in South Australia's mid-north recorded 24mm. Rabbit Flat in central Australia scored 71. While Kalumburu in Western Australia had 31mm. And that's the Landline check on rainfall.

That's just about it for us for this year. We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who's supported the show during the course of 2010 - our 20th season on air. And we look forward to returning in the new year for our 21st. Of course you'll get a chance over the summer to catch up on stories you might've missed this year in our popular Best of Landline series. From all of us here, have a safe and happy Christmas. And all the best for the new year. And we'll leave you with one of the rising stars of the Australian country music scene, Jasmine Ray.

Hey Landliners. This is Jasmine Rae, from the set of of my Hunky Country Boys video clip, wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. # I don't need no pretty pick up No flash in the pan # Rock star business card spray on tans # Don't need no money maker if he can't make noise

# I want a sturdy dirty working hunky country boy # I don't want no Valentino putting on a big show # Thinking he can have me with the first hello # Trying to get me giddy with a champagne voice # I want a sturdy dirty working hunky country boy # Country boy

# I'm ready to ride # I've kissed you in my dreams Now I've only got to find you # Turn it up and make some noise

# All you sturdy dirty working hunky country boys # I want a whip cracking bare backing buckle good time # A head spinning heart winning rodeo smile # Rope me in I'm ready for the real McCoy

# I want a sturdy dirty working hunky country boy This Program Is Captioned Live. On Landline today, after years of drought, (Guitar plays) # Torn up jeans # Beat up hat # Working in his boots # Man I like 'em like that # No mumma's boy is going to understand

# How to love me like a real man # So come on # Country boy # I'm ready to ride # I've kissed you in my dreams Now I've only got to find you # Turn it up and make some noise # All you sturdy dirty working hunky country boys # I'm ready to ride # I've kissed you in my dreams # Now I've only got to find you # Turn it up and make some noise # All you sturdy dirty working # Look so good it's hurting # Cinderella searching # Hunky country boys # Country boy # Cinderella's burning hunky country boys