INTRO: But first up... Heavy rain and flooding have swept across four states in just over a week. The Northern Territory was soaked first... with rain cutting off rail lines and filling up dry rivers. The rains then moved to Queensland where floodwaters have isolated towns and swamped houses. Farms look more like creeks and even snakes are trying to find dry ground. Over the weekend.. Melbourne also became a sea of white with hail pelting cars and buildings. City streets were flooded and trams had to stop running... The top of New South Wales was also drenched... with one town getting its rainfall for the month in just one day! The crazy weather has caused damage to homes and property but there could be some benefits for areas affected by drought. So what's behind it? Well... partly to blame is a weather system called a monsoon. Here's Kirsty to explain.
KIRSTY BENNETT, REPORTER: The footy's back on... the windscreen wipers are in over-drive . . . it doesn't really look like central Australia.
Alice Springs is in the heart of the desert... but the town had more than a year's worth of rain in just a few days..
It was a similar story in the bottom part of Queensland where even whole towns were surrounded by floodwaters.
So what's behind these weird, wet conditions?
RADIO MAN:"Now it's time for the BTN weather with Kirsty Bennett"
KIRSTY BENNETT, REPORTER: All this wet weather is being caused by a system called a monsoon. A monsoon is a type of wind which moves from the northern hemisphere across the ocean to the south. It also brings with it a lot of moisture which causes the heavy rain and thunderstorms.
Right now... the top end of Australia is in monsoon season. It runs from the beginning of December to the end of April.
Monsoons usually only hit places like Darwin and the Cape York Peninsula.
But this year, a monsoon went for a bit of a trip down south.
It caused the kind of rainfall normally only seen every ten years. It cut off roads in Alice Springs and even swamped a rail line.
The Ghan was stranded in the red centre and passengers had to sleep on board before catching flights or buses to Darwin the next morning.
GHAN PASSENGER: We're pensioners you know it's rather disappointing but you can't control the weather.
KIRSTY BENNETT, REPORTER: The Todd River in Alice is usually bone dry but one person died after being swept away by floodwater
In places like Charleville in Queensland... a river broke its banks and forced people to leave their homes and move to drier ground.
But despite the damage some people reckon there could be some benefits from the downpour.
The floodwater could bring the biggest boost to rivers feeding the Murray Darling Basin since the drought started a decade ago.
ALLEN BIRT, CANE GROWER : It certainly saves on irrigation costs and any saving there is probably that can be spent elsewhere on the farming operation.
But it's still too early to work out how much of that water will make it further downstream ...and help farmers, towns and the environment.
When rivers and lakes fill up it's great news for the creatures that live nearby!
Scientists reckon frogs are thriving in the wet conditions and are laying their eggs in the warm water.
So with the monsoon season still with us... there's time for more stormy clouds to be circling above!
Presenter: Good luck to the kids in those areas...
Reporter: Nathan Bazley
Moving overseas now... and in other parts of the world they've been hit by another type of devastation. Two earthquakes in two months... it's a scary start to 2010 for the countries of Haiti and Chile. The latest was the Chile quake.
Buildings and roads crumbled and it caused devastating tsunamis. However this disaster didn't kill anywhere near as many people as the Haiti quake a month ago, despite being far more powerful. Why? Let's look at what factor made the difference between the two earthquakes. NATHAN BAZLEY, REPORTING: It seems so unfair.
One earthquake hits the island of Haiti. An estimated 250,000 people are killed and many more injured.
A month later another earthquake, 500 times more powerful, hits the country of Chile, on the South American coast.
But despite the severity of the quake, it looks as though the toll from this disaster may only reach as high as 500.
Is it unfair? Or are there reasons behind the huge difference?
Let's take a closer look.
This is the moment the Chilian earthquake hit.
It only lasted around a minute, but during that time it released so much energy, it even changed the earth's rotation very slightly.
That energy also triggered a tsunami that swept across the whole pacific, but hit Chile like a ton of bricks.
Whole towns were wiped out, buildings ended up in the sea and boats took their place on land.
Families have also been separated in the chaos.
But despite all this horror, Chile fared a lot better than Haiti only a month earlier. So why the difference?
First let's look at the size of each quake.
Quakes are measured on the Richter scale, which can give you a rough idea of how much damage they can do.
As the number increases by one, the energy released by the quake multiplies by thirty.
The Haiti earthquake measured in at 7, whereas the Chile Earthquake weighed in at 8.8.
It might not sound like a huge difference on the Richter scale, but that corresponds to a huge increase in energy and therefore possible damage.
But despite that, the opposite happened.
Because when it comes to the difference between the two quakes, scientists say it all comes down one main thing - money.
NATHAN: Making sure a city is as safe as possible in the event of an earthquake takes a lot of money. Builders have to pay for extra reinforcing like this steel, to help hold a building together when it sways.
The more reinforcing you have, the stronger your building and the less likely it is to collapse.
Because Chile is situated in a ring of the world that experiences heaps of earthquakes, they've spent a lot of money making sure builders make their buildings extra strong and have rules in place to make sure they stay that way.
But Haiti is a much poorer country and they have very few rules there on how buildings should be built.
Weak building materials are used and houses are often built badly.
All of this leads to destruction if the area suffers a quake.
And that's exactly what happened in Haiti.
Of course, no city can be 100 percent safe in the event of a quake. But if the country has enough money to enforce some basic standards, many more people have a chance of surviving.
And as international aid pours into both Haiti and Chile to help rebuild, hopefully those lessons will make a similar event much less unfair in the future.
Presenter: And we have a bunch of class activities and info about earthquakes on our website...
Ok time for a quiz ...
When were plastic banknotes introduced?
Reporter: Catherine Ellis
INTRO: It was the $10 note and we were the first in the world to have plastic ones... The invention of plastic products like bags, bottles and containers has been super convenient...because they're waterproof, strong and reusable. Unfortunately... it's also created big problems for the environment. But there is a way to "build a bridge and get over it". Confused? Catherine explains what can happen if you do the right thing and recycle CATHERINE ELLIS, REPORTER: They say, "one person’s trash, is another ones treasure" and that's certainly the case here.
It's where your plastic trash gets converted into what guys like Scott consider treasure.
It starts here the plastic gets churned up through a shredder.
Any unwanted bits get filtered out and then it's heated at 300 degrees so it turns into this molten plastic!
It's then squeezed through tiny holes like spaghetti and chopped up into this, piles of treasure!
The plastic beads can then be turned into all sorts of stuff like garden pots and water pipes.
Some of these beads are taken just a few hundred metres away, where the owner of this factory, Andrew, converts the treasure into planks.
CATHERINE: So Andrew how does all this work? ANDREW: Well as you saw at the other factory we start off with granules and we start over here, it gets blown through these big pipes, into the machine. The machine is like a big hot pipe and it melts all the plastic together and mixes in all the wood and other additives once that's happened it's perfect it's like play dough.
Then in this machine, a series of propellers push the hot play dough out under really high pressure in this case into a square plank.
CATHERINE: What sort of shapes can you have? ANDREW: Pretty much any shape you like but the square shapes and the rectangular shapes that are used in building are the most common. CATHERINE: What about stars or diamonds? ANDREW: We do a bow-tie. CATHERINE: Oh wow what's that used for? ANDREW: ah bollards and fencing it gets used for dunnage so they stack stuff on top of it on ships.
After it's shaped the plank goes through an eight metre long cooling bath and then it's chopped up and ready to go.
And the plastic planks can be used to build all sorts of stuff - including this bridge! It was made out of the plastic planks from Andrew's factory.
ANDREW: This product gets used for just about everything Catherine from deckings to board walks, hand rails, stairs, even vegetable gardens.
And there are added benefits, for example termites don't like munching on it.
ANDREW: Basically it doesn't rot, ah we don't have to chop down a tree and you don't need to treat it - a lot of timbers you need to treat which is harmful for the environment.
In South Australia there's already an incentive to recycle plastic. You can get ten cents back on every plastic drink bottle you take to a recycling centre.
Other states are thinking about following, but even if you don't get paid for your plastic rubbish you can still help turn it from trash into treasure!
It's coming down to the pointy end of the season in the A-league... and Melbourne Victory have pointed themselves towards the championship.
The Victory played the second leg of their semi final against Sydney FC... and managed to grab a deciding goal courtesy of Archie Thompson in extra-time to secure a home final.
In the race to be there with them... Wellington Pheonix and the Newcastle Jets played out a one-all draw in normal time... but pushed ahead two goals in the extra period to move ahead...
They'll now face Sydney FC for the last spot in the grand final.
To tennis now... and Aussie teenager Bernard Tomic has produced an impressive display to help Australia push past Taiwan in the Davis Cup.
Tomic dropped only four games to give the country the opening rubber.
From there, Peter Luczak and doubles players Paul Hanley and Carsten Ball took out their rubbers, to give Australia a 5-0 whitewash.
Close the Gap
Reporter: Catherine Ellis
INTRO: Who would have thought turning a couple of wooden blocks into quirky little characters would do anything for anyone... but it has! A couple of young artists came up with the idea to help raise money for a very serious issue - the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Here's Catherine with the story of the Schaffas... CATHERINE ELLIS, REPORTER: Meet the Schaffas!
There's Tammy, who went to the hair dresser and asked for 'something with a spark', but they thought she said 'national park!'
Freckles who was near a witches house of treats when it exploded, permanently embedding a giant freckle on his head.
Pierre the trojan warrior who slept in and missed his horse,
Beardy McBeardington, Robert Foley, and champion racer Vito Schaffani.
Hannibals War Elephant invaded northern Italy, but that's just one of the terrible things he's done!
These bizarre creatures and their crazy stories have been created by artists across the globe.
It was Sam and his buddy Chris who came up with the idea.
But what on earth for?
Well it all began with Chris making a present for Sam out of random bits he found at home, but the pair kept making the little characters... and eventually the Schaffa was born!
CHRIS: It's basically a few little bits that you can get at Bunnings, chucked together, I pulled the first one off the bottom of a couch or something like that, so it was just miscellaneous pieces.
They decided to invite other artists to join them in creating a Schaffa exhibition.
Word of mouth grew and artists from around the world began submitting their designs - although not all the schaffas made it back to Australia.
SAM: One couldn't make it back because of customs.
CHRIS: It looked like a bomb!
SAM: It looked like a bomb.
CHRIS: he sent it from the middle of the USA so I'm pretty sure it ended up in customs somewhere.
Then the big night arrived and the little guys were sold off.
The idea of the exhibition was to raise money, which went to the Close the Gap campaign.
The Close the Gap campaign was launched in 2007 by Olympic champions Kathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe with the aim of achieving Indigenous health equality within 25 years.
You see there's a big gap, Indigenous Australians live about 17 years less than most of us.
They have a much higher rate of preventable illnesses, like heart disease and diabetes.
And twice as many Indigenous Australian babies die before their second birthday, compared with other Australian babies.
Sam and Chris chose this cause because they wanted to support a problem in our own back yard.
And preparation is now underway for Schaffa Two!
CHRIS: Hopefully this time we can get Indigenous artists as well and strengthen those links.
These bizarre blank objects have been making their way across the globe as far and wide as the United States, London, Brazil and Turkey.
Designers, illustrators, toy makers, wood workers and even journalists are being given free rein to add, subtract, paint or destroy these objects and in their own way contribute to the growing Schaffa universe.
Presenter: Some pretty creative thinking there!
OK . . . let's have our last quiz for today...
What does AC stand for on a power adapter?
Answer: Alternating Current
That's the type of power that comes out of the power points in your house... an adapter converts it to DC for things like battery chargers & laptops.
And lately you might have heard those words in a different context...
Reporter: Kirsty Bennett
INTRO: Australian rockers ACDC have been touring around the world recently... playing a stack of sold out shows. They've been around for about thirty years and their following seems to be growing stronger. Kirsty checked out one of their concerts to find out what's made ACDC one of the country's most successful acts.
KIRSTY BENNETT, REPORTER: The lead singer is aged in his sixties, and the lead guitarist in his fifties, but ACDC still know how to rack up a crowd. So far, they've sold 150 million albums worldwide and is one of the five top selling bands in American music history. So have you heard of them before? Well if not don't worry. They shot to stardom a long time ago - way before you were born! Let's track back to the 1970s when the band first got together.
It started off with two brothers - guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young - who moved to Australia from Scotland. They picked up the name ACDC from the back of their sister's sewing machine before going on the search to find other musos. While the group has changed members over the years, Angus' dress sense hasn't. He still wears his school uniform on stage which his sister convinced him to do when the band started!
Fans have been flocking to ovals and stadiums around the world for the group's comeback tour. With 130 roadies and more than 90 containers, it's one massive show! No wonder the group needs oxygen masks backstage!
BRIAN JOHNSON, ACDC SINGER: Because some of the gigs we have been doing are about 100 degrees on stage you know and there's no air in the place so you've usually got to head back and take a couple of gulps.
In Australia, tickets sold out in three hours!
KIRSTY: About 40-thousand people are cramming into the oval behind me and that's not all of the die-hard fans. For those who weren't lucky enough to get tickets this is the next best place to be.
BOY: Well it's better being in there but you still get to hear lots too.
The funny thing is, the crowd is made up of fans of all ages.
BOY 2: I play my guitar I play all their songs and everything
GIRL: I like it when Angus does the duck walk.
KIRSTY: Why are you such a big ACDC fan?
GIRL 2: Because my dad is, I was brought up listening to the music and I know every word.
KIRSTY: Why do you think they're so popular around kids your age?
GIRL 3: I guess because most parents love them so the kids follow their parents and cos they're such good artists.
BOY 3: Even though they're old they're still pretty good.
DAD: I grew up with them and I'd like my son to grow up with them too it's just an opportunity to be able to take my son to see someone that I loved when I was a kid.
KIRSTY: Is it weird liking the same music as your parents?
BOY 4: Not really it's good music so.
Some people reckon that the band's style of rock'n'roll is what has helped it last over so many years.
GARY VAN EGMOND, ACDC PROMOTER: I think they've crossed a whole new audience now of three generations of people. It's the 15 year old, the father, and the grandfather, and the female audience has increased enormously.
While high voltage rock n roll is ACDC's trademark, this music genre wasn't created by them. The strong back beat and catchy melody of rock'n'roll was made popular by people like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. It may not look too tough now, but back then this music was seen as rebellious. Kids played it just to annoy their parents! Well it looks as if ACDC has made it to the top and are showing no signs of coming back down!
Presenter: Hope she remembered to take ear plugs.
And that's it for today's show!
Don't forget you can see out any of today's stories on our website... at abc.net.au/btn.
And you can get across all the big stories with News on 3... at 5 to 7 weeknights on ABC3.
I'll see you next time!