The Australian
runs with the story that the national rail regulator has warned against
the $8 billion merger of Australia’s two biggest freight companies,
saying they have already abused a near-monopoly to lift the cost of
carrying goods across the country. And in other news, the Australian Federal Police warned Lebanese
authorities that Sydney fugitive Saleh Jamal was preparing to become a
suicide bomber before he was captured in Beirut last year.

“Held seven years by mistake: it gets worse,” thunders The Sydney Morning Herald, with a report that someone may have been wrongfully held in immigration detention for
seven years – almost 10 times as long as Cornelia Rau – according to an
investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Another
detainee was held for up to six years, another between three and four
years, and a further twelve were held for up to three years. The Immigration Department would not reveal how many of
the 220 cases being investigated involved Australians. In all, the
cases add up to 75 years of detention, although further investigations
may reveal some of the detainees were held lawfully.

More than 200 students have
been suspended for using, possessing or threatening to use a gun, a
knife or another weapon in the state’s public schools, reports The Daily Telegraph. Physical violence caused 2398 students to be suspended in the first six months this year, figures show.

The
Age
leads with news that the federal government is pulling out all stops to make sure its
controversial anti-terror laws are rushed through parliament next
week. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says the government may resort
to using retired judges to oversee some of the toughest measures in
the package, like preventative detention and control orders, in
order to ease concerns the laws may be unconstitutional. And bird flu speculation just refuses to go away, with the paper reporting that Australia must consider locally producing mass supplies of
generic drugs to prepare for an avian flu pandemic, according to Australian
National University (ANU) researchers.

The Herald Sun goes local, with news that millionaire
businessman and accused drug dealer Tony Mokbel has been charged over a
suspected ecstasy smuggling bid. The former property and fashion
entrepreneur was arrested in a raid by Australian Federal Police
officers yesterday morning.

In South Australia, embattled Health Minister
Lea Stevens today faces renewed intense speculation about her
political future, reports The Advertiser.
Continuing health problems on Monday and again yesterday forced Stevens
– constantly under attack from the Opposition on a range of
issues in the state’s health system – back to Adelaide early from a
country visit. Rumours were rife in the public sector yesterday there
would be an announcement tomorrow about Stevens’ future.
Meanwhile, a raid on future budget surpluses and public
service pay rises will fund the $6.36 billion Beattie Government plan
to fix Queensland’s ailing health system and revive its own political
fortunes, reports The Courier Mail.

The
Canberra Times

continues to report on the coronial inquiry into the ACT’s January 2003
bushfires – the critical issue of warnings to
the community was raised again on the last day, with questions arising
on the role of both the NSW Rural Fire Service and the ACT Emergency
Services Bureau in advising Canberra residents about the McIntyre’s Hut
fire during the crisis.

The
West Australian
reports that the State Government yesterday rejected claims by doctors and nurses
that the hospital system was in a shambles, saying it was uneconomic to
ensure that sharp rises in the number of emergency patients could be
accommodated without forcing operations to be delayed. As evidence emerged it took just 39 extra patients to send WA’s three
biggest hospitals into meltdown on Sunday, Health Minister Jim McGinty
denied the system was stretched too thinly on a daily basis.

“TEENS TAKE LAW INTO THEIR OWN HANDS,” reports the Northern Territory News,
profiling a teenager who said that juveniles are carrying weapons
because of threats of violence against them from adults. And in
Tasmania, The
Mercury
leads with “WHALE TRAGEDY,” reporting that up
to 60 long-fin pilot whales died in a tragic mass stranding on
Tasmania’s south-east coast yesterday. Rescuers are working
frantically to save 11 whales that survived the beaching at
Marion Bay, near Copping.