Telstra dominates the front page of The
Australian
, with the paper reporting that the telco has tied its future to a $10 billion
investment in a digital network – at the expense of 12,000 jobs and
a
rural phone service. Meanwhile, Howard has shrugged off yesterday’s
massive IR protests, saying most Australians will look back in
bewilderment at union anger once the new laws are in place. Unions yesterday mobilised big
crowds on city streets around the nation, demanding that the Government
abandon its reforms. In Melbourne, police estimated that 150,000 demonstrators flooded
the city and unions claimed total rally numbers in cities and regions exceeded 500,000, although these figures were disputed.

Breaking news in the SMH
that Prime Minister John Howard will make a last-ditch plea
at trade talks to try to stop 25-year-old Australian
Nguyen Tuong Van from being hanged – even though Singapore has said
the decision is final. In other news, a terrorism suspect who police say wanted to die in an attack
was described as schizophrenic in a psychiatric report prepared
less than two months ago. Khaled Sharrouf, 24, was diagnosed as a schizophrenic four years
ago and suffers mental illness that would probably have influenced
his behaviour in making the alleged remarks, according to the
author of one of the reports.

In more IR news, The Age reports that the Australian Christian Lobby has hit out at the government’s
industrial relations overhaul, saying it will force families to
spend less time together and the consequences could be dire. Former commander of Australia’s SAS and special forces Brigadier
Jim Wallace, who is now the executive chairman of the Australian
Christian Lobby, said there was no doubt the government’s plan to
eliminate penalty rates would hurt family life. And over in higher education, Melbourne University has unveiled a radical blueprint, seeking
to become Australia’s first institution to introduce a US-style
degree system while reducing its size by more than 10,000
students. The new course structure would involve students taking a general
three-year degree such as science, arts or commerce and then
specialising in a two or three-year graduate program.

The Daily
Tele
sticks with terror, with the news that the owner of a property
that police believe was used as a terrorist training camp will today
hand over the details of four more men who stayed at his Outback
station. Charles Fairey, the owner of Mulga Creek Station, 80km from Bourke,
said he became suspicious of the four Middle Eastern men since the
arrests of the alleged Sydney cell last week.

‘Workers’ message is loud and clear,’ blares the Herald Sun,
reporting that more than half a million Australians yesterday
rallied against new work laws, as union leaders warned of more strife
and declared government fines would not frighten them. But Prime
Minister John Howard remained unmoved by the show of opposition,
saying “The sky won’t fall in. Weekend barbecues won’t be abolished.
Parents
will still spend Christmas Day with their children.”

Man charged over four bomb hoaxes, reports The
Courier-Mail
, A 47-year-old man who allegedly threatened to
blow up a bus or a train was charged last night with four counts of
making a bomb hoax. And in more Telstra news, the paper focuses on job cuts, reporting that one in four jobs at Telstra are to be axed only
two months after Australia’s telecommunications giant was given the
green light to fully privatise.

Hope rises for Leslie, says The Advertiser, reporting that Indonesian prosecutors yesterday asked for only
a three-month jail sentence for Adelaide model Michelle Leslie, meaning
she could fly back to Australia next week. A Bali court will announce its verdict on her drug charges on Friday,
with Leslie’s Australian lawyer Ross Hill saying she planned to reveal
“the truth” about her ecstasy arrest once she was released.

The Northern Territory News

reports that a territory jail was locked down yesterday as maximum
security prisoners rioted. Inmates in the reception area of Alice
Springs jail’s maximum security
section barricaded doors and set fire to mattresses about 10am. Guards
responded by locking the jail down and rushing to the area,
clearing the prisoners and putting out the fires within an hour.
Eight prisoners involved in the riot were taken to isolation cells.

And in Western Australia, a scheme which allowed a Centrelink office in WA’s north to cancel
welfare payments to local Aboriginals if their children skipped school
has been stopped by the Federal Government despite having the support
of a host of community groups and MPs, reports the West Australian. The office of Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews
confirmed yesterday it had ended the scheme, which boosted school
attendance from 54% to 80% in the two months it
operated at Halls Creek.