IN THE BROADSHEETS
The anti-terrorism laws dominate national debate, but the situation about this real and immediate threat announced by John Howard on Wednesday appears to becoming murkier by the moment. The Age lead reports that the PM says we should not expect arrests within days just because urgent terror legislation was rushed through Parliament, in a story that goes on to report the Federal Police as saying that it was not investigating a specific threat, a specific date or a specific target. (Huh? Well what was the rush, if not panic, all about? Didn't The Australian tell us yesterday that the government "was forced" to make this change. Do see Richard Ackland's column on this - TDB will have more comment on it in the later edition. Peter Hartcher is also worth a look.) Meanwhile, the Herald reports Howard has been accused of jeopardising a year-long operation by state and federal police targeting terrorist suspects in Sydney and Melbourne. (This is beginning to pick up the all too familiar whiff of a political stunt.) On the wider debate about the legislation, the Herald reports that backbenchers have forced the Federal Government to soften its anti-terrorism bill to include more safeguards in its preventive detention measures. (That'd be the bill Kim Beazley wanted to lock his party into passing. Thanks Kim.) The SMH also reports that anger and distrust over the urgent change in anti-terrorism laws cast a long shadow over the biggest celebration in the Islamic calendar; and The Age reports that the sedition offences in the Government's sweeping anti-terrorism bill will be reviewed in the new year following sustained criticism that they could hit the media and even artistic expression. (If all of this makes you depressed, have a look at Tony Fitzgerald's column for The Australian - it will lift the spirits and may even make you want to do something about all of this. More in the later edition)
The Australian leads on the of the escape of one of the most significant al-Qa'ida members ever captured in Southeast Asia from a maximum-security US airbase (Bagram) in Afghanistan, describing it as a massive setback in the fight against terrorism in the region. It also reports that John Howard has been accused of missing the opportunity to deregulate the labour market and instead introducing a complex set of new rules that make life more difficult for businesses; that a former chairman of the Australian Wheat Board says it is hard to believe that his successors at the monopoly wheat exporter didn't realise overpriced transport contracts they paid under the corrupt oil-for-food program were being used to channel money to Saddam Hussein; that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials failed to investigate two warnings that the AWB was funding the Iraqi regime under the UN oil-for-food program; and that consumers responded to the shock of petrol prices rising to $1.40 a litre in September by cutting out luxuries such as cosmetics, perfumes and sports equipment.
The Herald (which got beaten on its own patch by the Tele on a great Sydney tunnel story, see State papers below) reports that the State Government has two strong grounds on which to mount a High Court challenge to the new federal workplace laws, according to industrial law expert Ron McCallum; that Australians are missing out on prescription drugs and follow-up medical tests because of high out-of-pocket charges; that one juror frustrated the attempts of the jury in the Bruce Burrell trial to agree upon a verdict, another juror has claimed; and that more people are using cocaine than ever before, and those taking the drug are taking it more often, according to research released today that highlights how easy it is for users to get the drug.
The Age reports that unionists could be jailed merely for doing the "bread and butter" tasks of defending working people's rights under the controversial new workplace regime, the nation's top union leader has warned; that the Singapore Government yesterday appeared to guarantee Nguyen Tuong Van would hang; and that Telstra has slashed its graduate recruitment scheme and up to 100 people - the entire 2006 intake - who were offered jobs this year are being told their positions are redundant.
The Age: Tony Parkinson says the wheat board has a lot of explaining to do about the kickbacks paid in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal and that it owes taxpayers an apology; John Cain casts doubt on the government's claim that it was unaware of allegations of abuse against David Hicks and says an inquiry is needed; and Paul Austin outlines the opposition to Premier Steve Bracks' "third wave" of economic reform from the left of the ALP.
The Australian: Michael Costello says the industrial relation's legislation is highly regulatory and divisive class warfare, enshrining the power of bosses over workers; Nick Xenophon says the harm minimisation approach has created a nation that is off its face on drugs; Dennis Shanahan praises John Howard's response to terrorism, see item above; Tony Fitzgerald on reinvigorating Australian democracy, see item above.
The SMH: Peter Hartcher says the government had not justified the need for draconian anti-terrorism laws and that its arguments so far amount to trust me - from a government that cannot be trusted; Osama Saeed urges the West to support the establishment of an Islamic "economic caliphate", if it is sincere about the development of the Muslim world; Ian Kiernan opposes the proposed Sydney desalinisation plant and says water recycling is a better option; and Richard Ackland, see item one above.
Telstra is keeping up the pressure on the Federal Government with The Age reporting that one of Sol Trujillo's chief advisers Phil Burgess as saying the telco is heading for a "train wreck" if the Government persists in squeezing the company's future profitability with planned regulations. The paper also reports that Qantas has hit back at an Emirates request to authorities for permission to double its flight numbers to and from Australia, claiming the fast-growing Middle-Eastern airline does not operate on commercial terms; and that Macquarie Airports haspulled out of the bidding for Budapest airport after seemingly taking fright at the prospect of union action undermining the sale process and at the high prices its competitors are prepared to pay.
The Australian reports that hopes of a settlement in the price war at the fiercely competitive discount end of the suburban mall remain finely balanced after Miller's Retail put its entire discount business up for sale; that fund managers have been given a lecture and a textbook on how to get their sums right, in new guidelines designed to correct unit mis-pricing that has embarrassed some of the country's biggest financial institutions; and that while the collapse of such corporate titans as Enron and WorldCom cost investors hundreds of billions of dollars, it has spawned a worldwide growth in corporate governance services that is riding a new wave of shareholder activism.
The Herald's lead reports that Kerry and James Packer's Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd will soon add another internet venture to its portfolio after the Tasmanian Government announced yesterday that it intends to license the controversial betting exchange operator Betfair. It also reports that Westpac shares hit a new high yesterday following the bank's $2.82 billion record profit result and its share buyback announcement; and that the judge hearing the Seven Network's $1.1 billion damages claim against its media and telecommunications rivals over football rights yesterday urged mediation, pointing out the case's "vast" expense and the potential detriment to witnesses.
Stephen Batholomeusz surveys the field after the entry of Betfair and says put your money on the newcomer; and Bryan Frith wonders whether the Takeovers Panel will persist with its punitive orders against Glencore.
The Daily Telegraph: Secret Cabinet documents containing the State Government's negotiating position on the Cross City Tunnel were leaked to the tollway consortium before the contract was signed; The Government late yesterday launched "the toughest laws possible" to fight terror while making a concession to opponents.
The Herald-Sun: The state's sickest and most vulnerable children will be hit with a fee of up to $1560 a year for life-saving food - a Bracks' Government department has drawn up an extraordinary revenue hit list for tube-fed nutrition; Home-grown terrorist cells in Sydney and Melbourne have been stockpiling explosives and other material for attacks in the two cities.
The Courier-Mail: Home-grown terrorist cells in Sydney and Melbourne have been stockpiling explosives and other material for attacks in the two cities; Security upgrades at Queensland's 55 regional airports are in disarray, with not a single guard yet trained by the Federal Government to screen passengers and their luggage.
The Advertiser: Home-grown terrorist cells in Sydney and Melbourne have been stockpiling explosives and other material for attacks in the two cities; Police are investigating the conduct of several former state government ministers which could lead to political corruption charges.
The West Australian: Two associates of a notorious Perth street gang who were allegedly at the scene of a bloody nightclub shooting walked free from the Supreme Court yesterday after the Corruption and Crime Commission failed to properly enforce its much-vaunted powers; Thousands of WA children are on waiting lists, some for more than a year, to get vital remedial therapy to help their speech, hearing and learning.
The Mercury: The Tasmanian racing industry will be up to $40 million a year better off by 2009-2010 as a result of Tasmania licensing Betfair Australia; The decision to license Betfair produced a predictably hostile reaction from interstate.
Ricky Ponting's march past some of Australian cricket's greatest batsmen might have continued apace, but the West Indies' unheralded quicks revealed some soft spots in their opposition on the first day of a summer of opportunity for a handful of his team mates; Lee Freedman has become the first trainer since Lou Robertson in 1935 to win the Cox Plate (Makybe Diva), Victoria Derby (Benicio) Melbourne Cup (Makybe Diva) and the Oaks (Serenade Rose); Parramatta forward Nathan Hindmarsh has revealed he would have risked further damage to his injured knee by playing for the Eels if they had made the grand final after delaying his planned comeback in this weekend's Tri-Nations Test against Great Britain.