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The Daily Briefing 16/12/2005

By Wayne Sanderson
Created 16/12/2005 - 08:25



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Your round-up [1] from today's newspapers plus the best writing, analysis, critical thinking and humour from around the world.

In today's TDB:
1    National, Opinion, Business round-up [1]



National, Opinion, Business round-up


It's a taxing morning for the papers, which all report that the Federal Government is "under pressure" to deliver tax cuts, none with more gusto than The Australian of course, which reports that business leaders are demanding the Howard Government use its massive budget surplus for structural tax reform [3] instead of another round of "half-hearted" tax cuts. (It would certainly be news if business leaders were not demanding such things.) The Age reports that another round of income tax cuts [4] is at the top of the Federal Government's agenda for next year after confirmation that it is on track to amass more than $40 billion in surpluses on the back of soaring tax collections. Michelle Grattan [5] looks at the tensions between Peter Costello and Malcolm Turnbull and says if there is to be tax reform, it should come after public debate and not simply be delivered from on high in the Budget. The Australian reports that $200m in wrongly collected tax will be repaid [6] to more than 200,000 individuals and businesses after a huge bungle by the Australian Taxation Office.

The Herald is again suffering the impact of strike action, so fewer links from that source, although it does report that hundreds of striking editorial staff at Fairfax newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald have been ordered back to work [7] by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and will consider their position today.

The Age reports that the Senate's RU486 inquiry has turned to the question at what stage in a pregnancy does the embryo have rights of its own [8] distinct from the mother's right over her body?; that members of an alleged Melbourne terrorist group considered launching bomb attacks [9] to pressure the Federal Government "in pursuit of jihad Australia", a prosecutor said; that the army will undergo its most radical shake-up since World War II [10] with a $1.5 billion reorganisation built around nine heavily equipped "battlegroups" able to fight wars and carry out major peacekeeping operations at short notice anywhere in the world; that the proportion of Australians in custody has increased by 25 per cent [11] over the past decade, according to figures released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics; and that Justice Brian Martin yesterday urged Bradley John Murdoch to reveal where he buried Peter Falconio's body [12] — then sentenced him to at least 28 years' jail for the murder.

The Australian reports that scientist Barry Marshall, whose research on stomach ulcers won him a Nobel prize, is claiming up to $US8 million ($10.5 million) in unpaid royalties [13] for a detection device produced by a US company; that South Australia's deadly listeria crisis has exposed a rift in state Government ranks [14], with one senior minister suggesting that a "zero tolerance" policy on food contamination may be "too rigorous" on meat producers; that Arabic community members say they have been targeted in a spate of race attacks [15] that have reportedly included women having their veils torn off; and that Cronulla's beaches might be divided into sections [16] to remove some of the tensions that erupted into mob violence this week; and that prosecutors are considering criminal charges [17] against a high-profile lawyer, a former senior police officer and a now-disgraced adviser to the Victorian police commissioner over misappropriation of funds allegations involving a Melbourne millionaire.

And in yet another example of how The Australian goes about its work, it reports that "Australia can no longer rely on its remoteness from the world's trouble spots to keep it safe, particularly when confronted by terrorists willing to use weapons of mass destruction [18]". (No attribution in that lead paragraph - it's from the Defence Department's update, and departments do tend to talk up their case for resources; and no questioning of the claim - the actual chances of it happening, quotes from experts about the difficulty of terrorists actually delivering a WMD attack on Australia. Zilch. Government fear-mongering reported as holy writ, without a hint of scepticism. And they call it journalism. Bah humbug!)

A woman has been found alive after 63 days under the rubble of Pakistan's earthquake [19]; and we were sad to learn that Jess and Marty have split [20], or at least we might have been if we had the slightest idea who Jess and Marty were, and why we should care.

But there is good news in the papers, as John Howard declares that Australia is still 'Godzown' country [21] - "It's still the greatest place on earth - PM".


The Age: Richard Larkins [22] (Monash University vice-chancellor) argues the Government is singling the universities out for special legislation that is ideologically driven, while ignoring the major issues like funding; Natasha Cica [23] sees in recent events and legislation a failure of leadership, and wonders how long it will be before those who care about such things do something about it; Renata Alexander [24] (family law barrister) says forcing joint parenting and shared custody upon parents who are in conflict and unco-operative can be harmful to children; and Paul Austin [25] says the Bracks Government is "the home of world-class performances" when it comes to spin and self-promotion.

The Australian: Michael Costello [26] takes up the case of David Hicks, even though he says this is not easy, making the obvious point that he should be treated according to rule of law because that is one of the things the war on terror is meant to be about; Paul Dibb [27] thinks there are some good things in yesterday's defence announcement, but takes another shot at the yet to be deployed amphibious ships, and worries it will produce a one-shot ADF; Keith Windschuttle [28] ties himself in logical knots as he argues that the Cronulla riot was a multicultural riot, not a race riot; and Frank Devine [29] thinks John Howard is lucky to have such useless enemies.

The SMH: Richard Ackland [30] looks at John Howard's history on race issues and says "is it any wonder, for a man who has spoken out of both sides of his mouth for 30 years on race, that he wouldn't detect just the tiniest hint of racism in the land he leads, and moreover not lift a finger to do anything about it?"; David Miller [31] (Daily Telegraph) remembers the Munich Olympic Games after seeing the movie "Munich" and says revenge as an ideology is as doomed; Nick Squires [32] (Daily Telegraph) trots out a few familiar lines about Australia after Cronulla and Falconio; and Richard Larkins, see Age above.


The Australians lead reports the Australian Stock Exchange will spin off its role as market supervisor into a subsidiary company and spend an extra $10.4 million to lift the poor strike rate on prosecutions [33] for insider trading as it races to keep pace with the booming share market. The paper also reports that the takeover battle for Patrick Corp is about to get personal, with the company set to sue Toll Holdings chief Paul Little and director Mark Rowsthorn over allegations of misleading and deceptive conduct [34] at their joint venture rail business Pacific National; and that Telecom New Zealand has warned of falling valuations across the industry [35], as it starts a long-awaited formal process to review its struggling Australian business AAPT.

The Fairfax papers report that Macquarie Bank has delivered a slap in the face to directors of the London Stock Exchange by reiterating a takeover bid they derided a week ago [36]; that Peter Costello has slashed more than $6.5 billion from the valuation [37] of the Government's 51 per cent stake in Telstra; that the shortlist of bidders for the Myer department stores has expanded [38] because Ironbridge Capital is back in contention after joining forces with two other private equity groups in advance of presentations today and Monday by Myer managing director Dawn Robertson; and that the World Trade Organisation is trying to forge a global agreement this week to remove all tariffs and quotas [39] on products from the world's 50 least-developed countries in the hope this will clear the way to wider agreements on trade reform.

Bryan Frith [40] says welter of claims and counter-claims make it difficult to sort out just who's behaving badly in the spat between Toll and its takeover target, Patrick Corp, over their 50-50 owned rail joint venture, Pacific National, but he thinks it Patricks; and Stephen Bartholomeusz [41] thinks the contrast between the outcome of the floats of Goodman Fielder, SP AusNet and Spark Infrastructure is telling - who would have thought that Goodman would be the one to be most highly sought after?


The Daily Telegraph [42]: Joanne Lees has revealed how her dreams of spending the rest of her life with her boyfriend were shattered when he was murdered on a lonely Outback highway; Schapelle Corby's mother yesterday denied that photographs of her daughter relaxing at a party with friends implied the former beauty student had anything to do with drugs.

The Herald-Sun [43]: Commonwealth Games fans will have to wait up to an hour to enter the MCG under the toughest counter-terror measures imposed in Australia. Security checks will be similar to those at international airports; Joanne Lees' grief at losing her soul mate Peter Falconio was summed up in five words in a Darwin courtroom yesterday. "It is lonely being me," she said.

The Courier-Mail [44]: Organised criminals are sending millions of dollars worth of stolen Queensland property to interstate and overseas buyers; An off-duty police officer has been caught three times over the alcohol limit driving home from his work Christmas party – in a paddy wagon.

The Advertiser [45]: The family of a man killed by food poisoning while he was a patient at the Royal Adelaide Hospital was told he would be "coming home" just days before his death; The relocation of an army battalion to South Australia will provide more economic and employment benefits than the $6 billion air warfare destroyer contract.

The West Australian [46]: The man who will reap hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars in compensation for injuries he received while lying drunk on a road yesterday defended his payout, saying the tow-truck driver who ran over him should have seen him; West Australians are turning their backs on the needy this Christmas despite living in an economic boom time expected to result in a record spending spree on festive gifts, food and drink.

The Mercury [47]: Brian Harradine says Howard Government can't hide behind the Telstra board over a backflip on its guarantee on jobs for Tasmania; Education Minister Paula Wriedt's new Essential Learnings report cards were attacked as nonsensical yesterday -- by a candidate from her own political party.


Outspoken South Africa captain Graeme Smith says he is trying to stay out of the sledging controversy engulfing the first Test [48] against Australia at the WACA starting today, but admits there will be "heated moments"; Former world 100m record holder Tim Montgomery has announced his retirement [49], one day after receiving a two-year doping ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport; America's welterweight boxing champion Zab Judah has issued Kostya Tszyu an insult-laden invitation [50] for a re-match of their controversial 2001 world-title bout; A relaxed and rejuvenated Ian Thorpe will start his sprint campaign [51] in earnest in Sydney today at a star-studded NSW swimming championships, with his manager believing his charge has greater desire than ever.

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