“PM smashes union power,” trumpets the front page of The Australian
this morning, as they report that Howard’s proposed industrial
relations changes, released yesterday, will have “extraordinary powers”
to ban strike actions, and that it will be easier for employers to
extract damages from militant unionist.
While in other Howard reform news, The Oz uses Australia’s FOI
laws to extract some Education Department documents that hint that
Brendan Nelson’s proposed scrapping of voluntary student unionism could
force disadvantaged students out of universities. And the Immigration Department has given up looking for 11 asylum
seekers who escaped from the Woomera Detention Centre after a highly
publicised breakout that was orchestrated by refugee activists in 2002.

Howard’s IR reforms share the spotlight with the news that one of the
biggest earthquakes in a century has hit Kashmir and that the death
toll could reach up to 30,000 people, with The Age reporting at least
18,000 confirmed dead and another 41,000 injured as international aid
comes streaming into Pakistan. While the paper’s Commonwealth Games Reporter breaks the news that
authorities may use a special $1 million communications network in the
case of a terrorist attack on the games next year. And Opposition Leader Kim Beazley has rolled out a plan that would see
the government fork out the cost of someone’s tertiary degree if they
decided to join the defence, immigration or intelligence sections of
the federal government.

The Sydney Morning Herald
reports Howard has promised, and we use the
term loosely, that penalty rates and overtime will be protected in his
current IR overhaul that encourages employees to nut-out individual
contracts with their bosses. And in Australia’s gay capital, the Sydney Mardi Gras is once again
facing a financial crisis after fundraising ticket sales have proven
disappointing for this year’s festival and there’s news that the
traditionally month-long festival may have to be scaled down. And if you’re having trouble sleeping, then take a chilli before
retiring for the night, as the paper reports that diets high in chilli
may help people sleep and make them feel fresher when they get up in
the morning.

The Daily Telegraph goes the personal angle on the IR changes and
leads with “Your work deal” and is pleased to report that Parramatta
waitress Betty is happy that her penalty rates will not be washed away
by Howard’s reforms. And a machete and axe wielding brawl at a caravan park on the Central
Coast has left an English gypsy dead and another man injured.

The Herald Sun fills its front page with “Earthquake terror,” but
deeper inside tweaks its IR reporting to lead with Howard’s claim that
if workers were unhappy with an individual contract being offered to
them then they could always go and look for another job, because,
according to Howard, we live in a “workers’ market.” And there’s a big kerfuffle over Victoria’s ‘big cat,’ after a hunter
claims he shot the reported puma and then took off its tail before
throwing the rest of the cat’s body in the river. Many doubt the claim
and can’t believe that a puma exists in the Victorian highlands.

The Courier-Mail
reports that new Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce is
preparing to cross the floor and vote with Labor and Family First
Senator Stephen Fielding to get rid of Peter Costello’s proposed
business merger reforms to remove the competition watchdog, the ACCC,
from the process. The Advertiser reports that an under-16 footy team were taken on a
“booze-and-sex-soaked end-of-season road trip,” and reports that the
fathers attempted to hire strippers for the kids and showed them
pornography. Watch your drinks, warns the Northern Territory News, as patrons are
being told to watch out for drink-spikers after a 20-year-old woman
collapsed on the weekend from a suspected drugging. While over the weekend the paper reported that a 2.5m saltwater croc
walked into the ERA’s Ranger uranium mine and hung around until
emergency workers were able to get him out

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Peter Fray
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