The Abbott/O’Connor/Donnolly/Kensell saga rolls on in all the papers today. According toThe Australian, the latest father figure in the soap opera, 47-year-old film-set painter William (“Bill”) Kensell, lives in Manly in Abbott’s electorate of Warringah. The Telegraphreveals that Daniel O’Connor “flew halfway around the world to spend Easter with his new family” (the Abbotts) in Sydney, but was forced to “change his plans after discovering Tony Abbott was not his father.” And Malcolm Farr in TheTele asks: “Why do so many women despise Tony Abbott?” Instead of being “a figure deserving some compassion,” Farr says Abbott has been “vilified by women.”

Meanwhile The Agereports that the Howard Government has broken all political advertising campaign records, “clocking up at least $693 million since taking power in 1996”. The story claims that in the lead up to the October election the Government spent at least $95 million on advertising – while the ad spend is not expected to exceed $12 million in the first half of this year.

In other money matters, The Australianreports that Australia’s top barristers are increasingly reluctant to join the bench. That’s because, even though state and federal judges command salaries of up to $330,000, top commercial silks can earn $1million-plus. The Australianalso reports that up to 80 people in Australia have trained or had close links with terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, “but most will probably never face prosecution”, because the relevant laws only came into force in July 2002. And in The Australian’s opinion pages, William Maley, former chairman of the Refugee Council, writes that the latest reforms to immigration detention suggest that “at last some common sense is finding its way into refugee policy”. But he notes that where refugee policy is concerned, “the devil will be in the detail”.

Grave concerns have also been raised about the rising costs in the funeral industry, reports the SMH. Following revelations that the cost of funerals trebled between 1992 and 2002, pensioners and the NSW Democrats are pushing for DIY funerals saying, “most people could put together a team to lift a body, put [it] in a box, put [it] in the ground, or deliver it to a crematorium.”

The SMHalso reports that tobacco giant Philip Morris has won federal government support for its plan to produce “less harmful cigarettes”, saying it’s one of the “solutions” to help smokers who can’t or won’t quit. And the SMH‘s CBD column speculates on the time management skills of “Super Jamie” Packer. How does the serial board member find the time to serve on so many boards? Especially now he’s been named chairman of the soon-to-be-floated Seek.

And The Economistreports that Oxford University is planning to set up a journalism institute – not to cash in on the popularity of “media studies” but as a “high-minded plan to use the university’s clout to improve standards in British journalism.”

Peter Fray

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