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Lateline -

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This Program is Captioned Live.

Tonight, nothing but the truth. Malcolm Turnbull defends his assessment of Coalition climate

A direct action policy where industry was able to freely government was just spending more and more
taxpayers' money to offset it, that would become a very expensive charge on the Budget in the years

Last night on Lateline Malcolm Turnbull also told us the truth. He told us the truth, that
basically this plan won't work. He told us the truth, that it would blow the Budget.

I talk to Malcolm regularly. Malcolm fully supports the Coalition's policy.

Good evening, welcome to Lateline. I'm Tony Jones . In just a few hours time, US President Barack
Obama will deliver a lapped mark speech on the Middle East. It will be his first considered
response to the Arab spring up rising. There has Washington as to whether he should use the speech
to press Israel hard on restarting the peace process. Palestinian representatives are urging Obama
to seize the day.

The continued suppression, oppression of people will not be able to continue indefinitely.
Eventually people will rise up and they will demand their rights. We saw this in Tunisia and Egypt
and are beginning to see it in Libya, Syria and around the Middle East. These are valuable rather
than trying to continue to oppress the Palestinians, she should real oosise we are not going
anywhere and it's time to come to peace with us, rather than try to get rid rather than try to get
rid of us.

One major complication is the new unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas. We will ask Diana Buttu
how that will change the nature of the peace process. First our other headlines. Terror at sea -
newly released newly released Navy footage shows the who are en-December conditions faced by asylum
seekers and rescuers during the Christmas Island boat tragedy. Cranking up the pressure are the US
imposes sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turnbull, WA produce mixed day for Government

Turnbull, WA produce mixed day for Government

Broadcast: 19/05/2011

Reporter: Tom Iggulden

Western Australia's budget contained a nasty surprise for Federal Treasurer Wayne as they increased
mining royalties.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Last night on Lateline, Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull put himself at
odds with Tony Abbott's direct action plan for climate change.

Today, he's refusing to rule out another tilt at the leadership one day, although he says he
supports Tony Abbott.

The Government grabbed the opportunity to attack the Opposition over Mr Turnbull's comments, but it
didn't get things all its own way today.

Western Australia's budget was handed down a few hours ago and it contained a nasty surprise for
the Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Tom Iggulden reports.

TOM IGGULDEN, REPORTER: Malcolm Turnbull's doing the Government's dirty work for it, pointing out
inadequacies in the Coalition's climate change policy.

- where industry was able to freely pollute, if you like, and the Government was just spending more
and more taxpayers' money to offset it, that would become a very expensive charge on the budget.

TOM IGGULDEN: The former Liberal leader's comments have put the Prime Minister back in control of a
debate that's been all Tony Abbott of late.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: He told us the truth, that basically this plan won't work. He told
us the truth, that it would blow the budget.

TOM IGGULDEN: But Tony Abbott's got his own interpretation of Mr Turnbull's remarks.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: I talk to Malcolm regularly. Malcolm fully supports the Coalition's

(To journalists) OK, other questions and other subjects.

TOM IGGULDEN: Mr Turnbull's keenness for an emissions trading scheme put him at odds with Tony
Abbott before they swapped the leadership and since. The question is why he chose to bring it up

TONY ABBOTT: I thought that he gave a very strong performance under a bit of goading and

TOM IGGULDEN: But questions are being asked about whether Mr Turnbull's own ambitions to return to
the leadership were behind the comments.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Every member of the House of Representatives has a field-marshal's baton, or the
leader's baton, in their knapsack, so nobody would ever discount that sort of ambition completely.

TOM IGGULDEN: But at the same time, he expressed confidence that Tony Abbott would take the
Coalition to the next election and win.

WAYNE SWAN, TREASURER: Well I think what Mr Turnbull did last night was repudiate Mr Abbott. He
said it wasn't a market mechanism and Mr Abbott claims it is.

TOM IGGULDEN: But not everything's breaking the Government's way. Tonight it's been drawn into a
fierce financial scrap with Western Australia over mining boom revenues.

CHRISTIAN PORTER, WA TREASURER: The hornet's nest has already stirred and it wasn't us who stirred

TOM IGGULDEN: WA's increasing its royalties on the mining industry by an estimated $2 billion over
the next four years, it says to cover the cost of lost GST revenues.

That $2 billion will be passed on to the Federal Government, which promised mining companies it
would reimburse them for increased state taxes as part of the deal on Julia Gillard's mining tax.

The Federal Opposition says the WA move puts a $2 billion black hole in Wayne Swan's budget, but
the Federal Government's fighting back, threatening to punish Colin Barnett.

MARTIN FERGUSON, RESOURCES MINISTER: The decision of the WA Government will not have any impact on
our objectives in terms of returning the budget to surplus. What it does is reduce our capacity to
actually invest in infrastructure in WA.

TOM IGGULDEN: Lateline's been handed a copy of this federal Treasury note suggesting that the
Commonwealth Government could take back more or even all of WA's increased mining royalties through
the GST sharing system, money that would then be redistributed to other states and leave WA
struggling to repay its ballooning debt.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: The debt'll be well and truly under $20 billion if we get our GST back, which is
what we absolutely expect to happen.

TOM IGGULDEN: Not, it seems, if the Federal Government has anything to do with it.

Tom Iggulden, Lateline.

Defence releases Christmas Is shipwreck videos

Defence releases Christmas Is shipwreck videos

Broadcast: 19/05/2011

Reporter: Andrew O'Connor

The coronial inquest into the Christmas Island shipwreck has heard rescuers talk of towering seas
and mechanical problems.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: The coronial inquest into the Christmas Island boat tragedy has heard how
rescuers battled atrocious weather, towering seas and mechanical problems as they struggled to save
dozens of people from drowning.

Today, the Defence Department released dramatic video of the unfolding disaster.

ABC reporter Andrew O'Connor has the details.

ANDREW O'CONNOR, REPORTER: It was a desperate race against time run at great risk. Small, fast
boats from HMAS Pirie can be seen battling towering seas just metres from the sheer cliffs that
tore apart an asylum seeker boat carrying more than 90 people just minutes before.

As island residents stood on the cliffs throwing life jackets and ropes to people in the water, the
boat crews worked perilously close to shore trying desperately to recover survivors.

Lieutenant Commander Mitchell Livingstone was in command of the Navy patrol boat HMAS Pirie the
morning the asylum seekers' boat foundered. His vessel was sheltering on the other side of the
island when it was ordered to intercept the asylum seekers.

It immediately struck trouble when one of its engines failed. It was quickly restarted, but ran on
reduced power, restricting the speed of his ship.

Lieutenant Commander Livingstone then despatched his ship's two fast, rigid-hull inflatable boats
with the instructions, "Close to the scene as quickly as possible ... make an assessment ... and do
what you can."

They arrived about 10 minutes after the boat hit the cliffs and found dozens of people in heaving
seas strewn with debris. Commander Livingstone told the inquest rescue teams were operating very
close to shore, saying, "They were just metres from the cliff faces."

But the small jet boats then had engine troubles of their own as they ingested debris and kelp as
they desperately tried to locate and retrieve survivors. Commander Livingstone said at one stage
one boat was close to the cliffs on reduced power. "They had people embarked and the waves were
pushing them toward the cliffs."

In all, 41 people were pulled from the water and HMAs Pirie then moved back to the sheltered side
of the island to transfer the asylum seekers they'd recovered. There, the rigid-hull inflatable
boats were used again, this time to ferry the asylum seekers, both living and dead, back to shore.

Andrew O'Connor, Lateline.

Strauss-Kahn resigns to focus on defence

Strauss-Kahn resigns to focus on defence

Broadcast: 19/05/2011


Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund to defend himself
against rape and unlawful imprisonment charges.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who's facing sexual assault charges in New York, has
announced his resignation as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Strauss-Kahn had come under significant pressure to step down since his arrest at the weekend on
charges of attempting to rape a hotel maid.

He's in isolation in a New York jail after being refused bail because the judge felt he was a
flight risk.

In a statement Strauss-Kahn firmly rejected the criminal charges against him, saying he wants to
devote his time to proving his innocence.

A new bail hearing is expected to take place in New York overnight.

US imposes sanctions on Syrian president

US imposes sanctions on Syrian president

Broadcast: 19/05/2011

Reporter: Ben Knight

Syria has condemned US sanctions on president Bashar al-Assad as just part of America's attempt to
impose its will on the region.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Syria has condemned US sanctions imposed on its president, Bashar al-Assad,
saying they're just part of America's attempt to impose its will on the region.

All eyes will now be on Washington to see whether US president Barack Obama will apply even more
pressure when he delivers a major foreign policy speech in a few hours' time.

Middle East correspondent Ben Knight reports.

BEN KNIGHT, REPORTER: On the border with Lebanon, Syrian refugees are telling the stories of the
violence they've left behind.

SYRIAN REFUGEE (voiceover translation): I swear, I swear yesterday and the day before they were
shelling us and snipers were shooting us and they used automatic machine guns.

BEN KNIGHT: For days the sound of heavy gunfire has been heard from across the border in Syria.
Foreign journalists are not allowed into Syria to verify the reports, but the mayor of the town
says there are more than 4,000 refugees here and more are coming in.

Human rights groups say more than 700 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown and many more
injured or arrested.

One of the few foreign journalists to have made it into Syria is Al Jazeera's Dorothy Parvaz, but
even then she was arrested at the airport as soon as she arrived and held in Damascus before being
deported to Iran.

DOROTHY PARVAZ, AL JAZEERA JOURNALIST: I was in a Syrian detention centre for three days, two
nights, and what I heard were just savage beatings.

Mid-morning till late into night at random times you would hear just beatings and screams and
cries. And you want to cover your ears, but someone should hear these people, someone should
understand what they're going through.

BEN KNIGHT: The US has so far held back on imposing sanctions directly on Syria's president Bashar
al-Assad. But today that policy changed.

HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: In response to the continued violence, both the United
States and the EU have imposed sanctions against senior Syrian officials and today we discussed
additional steps that we can take to increase pressure and further isolate the Assad regime.

BEN KNIGHT: But some Middle East experts think the sanctions won't have much impact.

MATTHEW GRAY, ANU CENTRE FOR ARABIC AND ISLAMIC STUDIES: The best I think that we can expect out of
American policy in the coming days is heavy pressure that then translates into changed domestic
dynamics within Syria, if it gives a boost to protestors perhaps.

BEN KNIGHT: The United States has been struggling to present a consistent policy on the uprisings
in the Middle East. Its cautious approach on Syria falls way short of the air strikes on Libya, but
goes well beyond its muted criticism of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

MATTHEW GRAY: I suppose to the protestors it looks like the Americans are being hypocritical or
they're applying double standards or different policies to different countries in the region.

BEN KNIGHT: In a few hours the US president, Barack Obama, will try to change that, making his
first major foreign policy speech on the Middle East since the uprisings began.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president looks forward to giving this speech and sees
it as an opportunity to sort of step back and assess what we've all witnessed, the historic change
we've seen and to talk about how he views it, the change we've seen, as a moment of opportunity.

BEN KNIGHT: But the ground is shifting almost daily in the Middle East. The death of Osama bin
Laden has changed the game once again, especially illustrating how weak the influence of radical
jihadis has been in the so-called Arab spring.

Al Qaeda could not take credit for the revolutions but in his last tape recording, released
overnight, Osama bin Laden praised them.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, FORMER AL-QAEDA LEADER (voiceover translation): The fall of the tyrant means the
fall of humiliation and shame and fear and subjugation and it conjures meanings of freedom and
glory and courage and bravery.

Then the winds of change blew in search of liberation and Tunisia took the initiative, and as fast
as lightning, the knights of Egypt took a beam of light from the free ones of Tunisia to Tahrir
Square, then a great revolution was launched, and what a revolution.

BEN KNIGHT: But that revolution has stalled in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain.

Barack Obama is expected to encourage the push towards democracy, but the days when the United
States tries to establish it by force are long gone.

Ben Knight, Lateline.

Israel must deal with the Arab spring: Buttu

Israel must deal with the Arab spring: Buttu

Broadcast: 19/05/2011

Reporter: Tony Jones

Palestinian lawyer Diana Buttu says if Israel wants peace it needs to start respecting the rights
of Arab peoples.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Here is our guest.

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian lawyer based in the West Bank.

She's a former adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas and to the Palestinian negotiating team.

She joined us just a short time ago from the town of Ramallah.

Diana Buttu, thanks for being there.


TONY JONES: So after the fierce attacks on Syrian demonstrators, president Barack Obama has now
directly targeted senior figures in the regime, starting at the top with president Assad. But does
it really matter what the US does to or with Syria? Will it stop anything?

DIANA BUTTU: Well, I think it's important to keep in mind that the US does not have a very good
track record when it comes to the Middle East because of the double standard that it's imposed
throughout various countries in the Middle East.

For example, with regard to Israel, it has never imposed sanctions on Israel and yet it's doing the
same in Syria.

That said, I think that it's important that these types of messages be sent to leaders to say that
they cannot continue to violate the human rights of their citizens, and in the case of Israel, the
people that they continue to rule over.

So I think that this is an important message. I'm not sure it was going to translate into anything
in the immediate term, but I think in the long term it may.

TONY JONES: Let me ask you this, and leave Israel aside just for a moment, but how is the Syrian
regime and its treatment of these demonstrators, how is that viewed in the Arab world, and
particularly in Palestine?

DIANA BUTTU: Well, I think it's important to put it in its context which is that for many, many,
many years the only thing that these Arab regimes were focused on was that they were focused on
things that were external to them which is why these governments were maintained in power for so
many years.

This is why, for example, that the US was actually supporting such as the Mubarak regime or the
regime in Tunisia. And so the way that they're now being viewed is that people are legitimately
demanding freedom and they want to get their freedom from these regimes, and they're actually
saying, "Look, it's not enough that you focus on the external, it's now time to also focus on the

And in particular I think we cannot leave Israel out of the discussion. In the case of Egypt, what
people were saying is that Egypt's freedom cannot be held hostage to stability for Israel. In other
words, if Israel wants to have a stable Middle East then they have to deal with the question of

And this is something that demonstrators all throughout the Middle East are now saying, is that
they need to start dealing with the region as a whole and deal with the human rights

TONY JONES: It is very complex and of course Israel is not being left out of the equation when it
comes to Syria, because there are tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in Syria.

And last weekend during the day of Nakba, thousands of them stormed the fence on the Syrian-Israeli
border in the Golan Heights, and of course immediately there came accusations that that protest had
been orchestrated by the Syrian regime as a kind of warning to Israel and to the United States.

DIANA BUTTU: I think that that's giving a little bit too much credit to the Assad regime and I
think it's giving too little weight to the fact that Palestinian refugees have been demanding for
63 years that they get their right to return.

Interestingly, when Netanyahu came out immediately after that speech, he said that these
Palestinians were invading Israeli territory and he seemed to have forgotten the irony that
actually it's Israel that's occupying Syrian territory.

So, I think that it gives too much credit to the Assad regime to say that these were people that
were sent over. And I think it really undermines the deep-seated feeling on the part of
Palestinians worldwide that they do want to have the right to return to their homes, and the only
reason that they haven't been able to do so is because they're not Jewish.

So, I think that it's important to keep this in mind when we talk about these actions and Israel's

TONY JONES: It's the first time to my recollection when this kind of storming of the border en
masse has happened, and it of course made many analysts in Israel fearful that this is the sort of
thing that Syria could orchestrate to create much further unrest.

DIANA BUTTU: I'm not so sure that the Syrian government is behind this; in fact we know that it's
not behind this. This was a popular movement that was started on Facebook, it was started well
before Syria started killing its own citizens.

And so this is something that has been home-grown. These are the types of initiatives that have
been taking place for a long period of time. Palestinians have long been marching towards their
checkpoints and demanding that the checkpoints be opened up.

Every year around the Nakba there is a commemoration of Israel's displacement and ethnic cleansing
of Palestinians. So this is not that sort of - something that is new.

What is new about it is that it's coming at a time when there's no longer the "stability" in the
Middle East that Israel was enjoying for many years. That it's now beginning to realise that it
cannot have this kind of stable situation at the expense of millions of Palestinians and at the
expense of hundreds of millions of Arabs around the world.

So that's what the issue is when it comes to Israel and the fear that it's having is that it
doesn't know how to now deal with the Arab spring and the repercussions of the Arab spring.

TONY JONES: I think that's absolutely true, and it's exactly that kind of fear of instability which
has many in Israel - in fact the Israeli prime minister arguing to the United States not to put
pressure on now to restart the peace process because things are too uncertain throughout the
region. What do you say in response to that argument?

DIANA BUTTU: This is exactly the wrong step to be taking is to not to do anything. I think the
United States - and I'm hoping to hear today with president Barack Obama's speech that he's going
to come out with something that is different.

He's going to finally say something against the Israelis to make sure that they finally give rights
to the millions of Palestinians that Israel continues to rule over. It doesn't make sense in this
day and age that we have a regime of apartheid that is in this region and which one group of people
are granted superior rights to another.

I'm not - I'm not hopeful - I'm hopeful that president Obama will come out with something, but I'm
not optimistic because what the Obama administration seems to ignore is the role that Israel has
played in the Arab spring.

It hasn't played a direct role in it, but a lot of these protests are in effect caused by the fact
that there has been - that the rights of so many Arabs has come at the expense of stability for

TONY JONES: Of course everyone is actually waiting to see what Obama actually says during the rest
of today in his time zone in the United States of course.

But there is a fierce argument going on inside the American system, that is Dennis Ross, for
example, a former advisor to president Clinton, is arguing give Israel more time, don't put Israel
under pressure, whereas evidently the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is urging Obama to
set out a detailed series of principles on which the Middle East peace process could proceed.

Who do you think? Who will win that argument?

DIANA BUTTU: Well unfortunately I think that it's going to be Dennis Ross in the end. I mean,
Dennis Ross - I think we have to keep in mind that Dennis Ross was a paid lobbyist for the
pro-Israel lobby before he moved to the State Department and the pro-Israel lobby seems to have a
lot of effect and impact in the United States.

But I also don't necessarily agree with Hillary Clinton's approach.

We already have principles. There are principles of international law and it's merely a question of
making sure that international law is upheld. And what I mean by that is under international law,
no country can take over the country of another nation, and this is precisely what Israel has done.

It's taken over Palestine, it's brought in settlers illegally, it continues to bring in more and
more settlers, even as we speak, and at the same time it's cleansed the nation of its Palestinian
inhabitants - this is what it did in 1948, and continues to do today by denying them the right to

Now, all these issues have been covered under international law and it's really just a question of
getting somebody to actually enforce the law.

And here is where the problem lies: is that the United States doesn't want to be a legal enforcer.
It wants to enforce law around the rest of the world, but when it comes to Israel, it's created an

And I think that if we want to make sense and move forward, the only thing that can be done is to
really begin to get a collection of states to demand that Israel uphold international law and that
it be sanctioned if it fails to uphold international law.

It's a very simple equation, but it's one that seems to elude everybody simply because of the
presence of the pro-Israel lobby and the fact that nations around the world feel that they don't
want to do anything because they're afraid of actually stepping forward and doing something.

TONY JONES: Well meanwhile the Israelis are arguing quite fiercely as well that the new Palestinian
unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas makes a peace deal pretty much impossible from their point
of view.

How can you counter that argument? I mean, they're saying a secular Fatah combined with a religious
Hamas that doesn't believe in Israel's right to exist just means you can't have negotiations.

DIANA BUTTU: It's very interesting. You know, just before the agreement was signed between Fatah
and Hamas, prime minister Netanyahu was reported as saying that he couldn't reach a peace agreement
with Mahmoud Abbas because Mahmoud Abbas was not in control of Gaza and he didn't represent the
Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Now that there's an agreement, he's saying that he can't negotiate - or can't reach an agreement
with Mahmoud Abbas because Hamas is now on the scene.

So it's become very clear to people who are watching that Israel doesn't want to reach an
agreement, and this is why they continue to send in more settlers, this is why they continue to
build more settlements illegally.

For example, if Israel is really believing that there needs to be a peace agreement, why are they
continuing to take more and more and more Palestinian territory, if eventually that territory's
going to go back to Palestine? In other word, they don't believe that that territory's going to go
back to Palestine and they're simply looking for one excuse after the other.

Now, on the issue of recognition, I think it's very important to recognise one essential element,
which is that Israel has never recognised Palestine's right to exist, - never ever. None of the
parties recognise Palestine's right to exist.

And so I think it's erroneous just to be looking at Hamas' and Hamas' political stance rather than
to be looking at the region as a whole. And I think that what we need to do is look for reasons as
to why to reach an agreement rather than excuses so as to not reach an agreement.

TONY JONES: OK, but can you explain for us how this unity agreement between these two disparate
groups - they have been disparate in the past - how it's going to work. I mean, for example is
Fatah going to be in a position to urge or to gain compromises from the much more hardline people
in Hamas?

DIANA BUTTU: Indeed, I think it will and it already has. One thing that is important to keep in
mind is that the government that's going to be formed is going to be a government that is neither a
Hamas government nor a Fatah government.

It's going to be comprised of people who are what is termed technocrats in this region who are not
politically affiliated. It's going to be a group of people that everybody agrees should be the
finance minister or the prime minister, etc., etc.

But on the bigger issue of compromises, what was interesting in - when they signed the national
unity agreement was that the leader of Hamas actually very explicitly came out and said that all
that they are seeking is statehood on the 1967 borders, meaning the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,
and they very explicitly said that.

This was the first time that that individual had said that, but there have been other statements in
the past by Hamas leaders in which they've said that all that they seek is statehood on the West
Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and that recognition will then follow; once Israel recognises
Palestine, then there will be mutual recognition.

But - so they've already come to a sense of concessions. But what needs to happen is that this
government needs to be supported, it needs to be a government that the world recognises, and I
think we can't continue to close our eyes to the fact that Palestinians have diverse political
views and we can't continue to believe that we can choose Palestinian leaders.

Palestinians need to be able to choose their leaders for themselves - that's the essence of

TONY JONES: If by some miracle substantive peace talks were able to be restarted, how would the
unity agreement change the character of those talks? And I suppose I'm asking here: would they be
much tougher from the Palestinian point of view because you now consider yourselves to be
negotiating from a position of greater strength?

DIANA BUTTU: I'm not entirely certain about that. I think having been on the negotiating team and
having seen what the negotiations were like, the position was always a position that was grounded
in international law.

Hamas agreed to that, Fatah agrees to that. And so the only leverage, so to speak, that the
Palestinians will have at the negotiating table, if there ever are negotiations, and I don't think
that there ever will be, is that it now comes to a position where Palestinians are speaking with
one voice.

Now, one voice in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, of course the Palestinian refugees are
excluded from these talks. But I think that that is something that was missing in the past. That in
the past it was simply one political party that was negotiating to the detriment of all of the
other political parties.

But now we have the myriad of political parties that are coming forward or that will come forward
and articulate a very coherent position.

TONY JONES: We're nearly out satellite time. I'll ask you one very quick last question. Are there
any lessons from the Arab spring uprisings that could be brought to bear on the Israel-Palestine
conflict and on the negotiations?

DIANA BUTTU: Most definitely. I think that one thing that we need to realise is that the continued
suppression, oppression of people will not be able to continue indefinitely; eventually people will
rise up and they will demand their rights.

This is something that we saw in Tunisia, we saw in Egypt and we're now beginning to see in Libya
and in Syria and around the Middle East.

So I think that these are very valuable lessons that Israel should learn. Rather than trying to
continue to oppress the Palestinians, they should come to a realisation that we're not going
anywhere and it's time to actually come to peace with us and with our presence, rather than try to
get rid of us.

TONY JONES: Diana Buttu, we'll have to leave you there. We thank you very much for taking the time
to come to come and talk to us tonight.

DIANA BUTTU: My pleasure. Thank you.

Tsunami-hit Japan faces rebuilding

Tsunami-hit Japan faces rebuilding

Broadcast: 19/05/2011

Reporter: Mark Willacy

The only town to not record a single fatality in Japan's tsunami neighbours a community that was
hit by 38-metre waves.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: It's the tale of two towns, one spared by the tsunami, the other devastated
by a wall of water 13 storeys high.

For decades Japanese communities have built breakwaters and seawalls to try to protect themselves
from tsunamis.

But even having what's described as the world's best tsunami defences didn't save the village of
Taro where the tsunami was recorded at its greatest height, an incomprehensible 38 metres.

What's puzzled many though is why a neighbouring community was spared, the only town not to record
a single fatality in the tsunami.

The first of a two-part series on the devastation caused by this disaster, the ABC's North Asia
correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Iwate Prefecture on the tsunami-hit north-east coast of

MARK WILLACY, REPORTER: It's been hidden for centuries in one of the jagged bays along Japan's
misty north coast.

Fundai is a fishing village and like other seaside hamlets it's long been prey to tsunamis slamming
into the coast at supersonic speed.

HIROSHI FUKAWATARI, FUNDAI MAYOR (voiceover translation): We've lost many lives in the past from
big tsunamis. In 1896 and then again in 1993, we thought that can never happen again, so we took
all possible measures to protect people.

MARK WILLACY: And this is Fundai's defence against the surging sea: a 15 metre-high seawall. The
tallest and sturdiest tsunami barrier in Japan.

As these photos from 11 March show, the port outside the barrier was inundated. But the wall
managed to keep the tsunami from smashing into the town - just. In the end, it came within a metre
of flowing into Fundai.

HIROSHI FUKAWATARI (voiceover translation): This is the only village which the seawall completely
protected. No-one was killed. If we didn't have the seawall, this community would have been wiped

MARK WILLACY: From on top of the seawall you can see how Fundai was saved from the waves on March
11. On one side, the wrecked port, on the other the community of 3,000.

Aisa Towa wishes the wall had been here decades earlier, when the 1933 tsunami swept hundreds of
Fundai residents to their deaths, including the then seven-year-old's parents.

AISHA TOWA, FUNDAI RESIDENT (voiceover translation): I remember losing my parents. My sister and I
looked out to sea and we just kept crying. Now that memory of losing my parents is mixed up with
this tsunami and I still cry.

MARK WILLACY: When the people of Fundai began building this seawall back in the 1960s, neighbouring
communities scoffed at them, describing it as the "useless Great Wall".

Those other communities believed they'd be safe behind their 10 metre-high barriers. Today, while
Fundai is intact behind this wall, those other towns and villages no longer exist.

But sometimes not even a great wall is enough. This is Taro, in the city of Miyako, where nearly a
thousand people are dead or missing, despite the fact it was protected by four 10 metre-high walls.

MASANORI YAMAMOTO, MIYAKO CITY MAYOR (voiceover translation): This town is famous as a model for
tsunami preparedness. Many people from Japan and overseas would come here to look at our walls. But
then our town disappeared in an instant, so I feel very sad.

MARK WILLACY: Several years ago this town was even the focus of a national news report about how to
protect communities from tsunamis. These days it features in news reports and online videos for the
opposite reason.

This is the tsunami slamming into Miyako City, sweeping or smashing almost everything before it.
This video was taken from mayor Yamamoto's office, which survived the waves.

As for his house ...

So this is what's left of your house?

This is the first time mayor Yamamoto has returned to his home since it was pulverised by the

HIROSHI FUKAWATARI (voiceover translation): I can't believe it. In just an instant, the home you
are born and raised in can be destroyed like this.

MARK WILLACY: Even if this wall had been twice as high, it still wouldn't have saved this town,
because this is the spot where the tsunami was at its most fearsome height. It's hard to believe,
but when it hit here it was 38 metres high. That's nearly four times the height of this seawall.

Ruriko Araya was playing this piece as the magnitude nine earthquake struck. The high school music
teacher is being hailed as one of the heroes of March 11, rushing her students up a nearby hill as
the tsunami rolled in. While she had faith in the seawall, she took no chances.

RURIKO ARAYA, MUSIC TEACHER (voiceover translation): This area has been hit by tsunamis many times,
and when the last one hit there was much debate about shifting the town. I hope now people will
live on higher ground.

MARK WILLACY: And that's now the debate dozens of villages and towns along Japan's tsunami-ravaged
coast must have: whether to rebuild in the rubble or move to higher ground away from the coast.
Either way, it will be a painful and costly decision.

Mark Willacy, Lateline.

Now to the weather, showers with a risk of a morning storm for Perth, showers in Brisbane, partly
cloudy in Melbourne and Adelaide, early fog and frost for Canberra, mainly fine in Hobart, mostly
sunny in Sydney and Darwin. That's all from us. If you would like to look back at tonight's
interview with dieb depieb or view any stories or transcript, you can visit our website. I'll see
you next week. Until then, goodnight.