In a somewhat ambiguous headline, The Australiandeclares
“Costello trips on tax again.” The article then clarifies: leadership
aspirant Peter Costello stumbled politically yesterday as he
was forced to defend his appointment to the Reserve Bank board of a
major Liberal Party donor who was under investigation for an alleged
$150 million tax evasion scheme. The Treasurer refused to deny Adelaide
businessman Robert Gerard’s
claim that Mr Costello told him he knew there was an “issue with the
tax office” but it would not stop his nomination to the board of the
central bank in March 2003.

And apparently Singapore Airlines ditched merger talks with Qantas late last year
because it believed it could land a devastating blow on Australia’s
national carrier by flying the Pacific route, says the paper. Former deputy prime minister John Anderson made the allegation ahead of
a visit to Canberra today by Qantas boss Geoff Dixon to lobby
politicians to protect his airline’s most lucrative aviation route from
greater competition.

On death row, Nguyen in “very high spirits,” reports the SMH. Nguyen Tuong Van’s strength and peace ahead of his execution was
helping his mother and others prepare to let go, a close friend
said today. Kelly Ng, who has spent time with Nguyen on death row in
Singapore, said she was stunned at just how composed her old school
friend was in the face of death.

And an outbreak of a gastrointestinal bug on a luxury cruise liner
with more than 180 Australians on board has been contained, according to P&O, says the paper. During the Norovirus outbreak, a total of 58 passengers on the
Diamond Princess had fallen ill and were asked to stay in their
cabins. However, only six people were currently ill and confined to
their rooms.

Another day, another Australian with an overseas drug charge. “Australian held in Mauritius over heroin haul,” reports The Age. An expatriate Australian teacher arrested here last week for
drug trafficking will remain in jail indefinitely until authorities
complete their investigation, Mauritius police said today. At a preliminary court hearing yesterday, Susan Dalziel, 52, was
ordered held in custody until a probe into her case is finished.

Meanwhile, a Melbourne hospital has begun testing patients and medical
staff after a student nurse was diagnosed with the lung disease
tuberculosis (TB), according to the paper. Forty patients and staff at the Austin hospital, in Heidelberg,
face an anxious wait to learn whether they have been infected, it
was reported today.

Nguyen Tuong Van will be allowed to order a
takeaway meal – to the value of $8 – as a last grim treat before he is
hanged on Friday, reports the Herald Sun. A strict price was put on a prisoner’s final meal,
former Changi warders said. “The prisoner’s last meal could be anything, but it had a specific
price – and that was up to $S10,” said a death row officer who retired
about three years ago. And Jelena Dokic’s tennis exile is over. Dokic, 22,
will return to Australia on Saturday, intent on rebuilding a shattered
career away from her dominating father Damir.

“Triple-O deadzones,” leads the Daily Tele, with a report that ambulances and police are
failing to attend emergencies in Sydney’s newest suburbs because the
maps they use have not kept pace with the city sprawl. Residents of new-release suburbs near Campbelltown, Camden and
Greystanes have been left off the map, leaving communities to fend for
themselves in emergencies.
The Courier-Mailpicks
up on the theme with “Thin blue line can’t answer call.” Records
obtained under Freedom of Information laws show people in one
police district wait more than an hour-and-a-half for assistance. Only
half of all reports are attended to within half an hour. NSW police
respond to routine calls within 15 minutes under a benchmarking system
that Queensland has resisted, says the paper.

Canberra’s top public servant, the chief executive of the Chief
Minister’s Department, Mike Harris, is on a salary package of $324,091,
according to a breakdown of the 150 senior ACT Public Service
executives, reports The Canberra Times but it’s still “peanuts in the private sector.”

Adelaide is battling Perth to host the
Socceroos in one of only two matches they will play in Australia before
next year’s World Cup finals in Germany. The Advertisersays it wants readers’ vote of confidence to lure Harry Kewell, Mark
Viduka, coach “Aussie” Guus Hiddink and South Australians John Aloisi
and Tony Vidmar to Adelaide in March.

Yesterday Tasmania’s anti-terror laws yesterday met a new hurdle, says The Mercury. The State Government was forced to delay their introduction to
Parliament because of last-minute changes to corresponding terrorism
legislation in Canberra.

The WA Aboriginal Legal Service has threatened to launch a legal
challenge against a controversial no-school, no-welfare scheme for
Aboriginals in WA’s north if the Federal Government decides to
reinstate it, reports The West.
And in Darwin, where Bradley John Murdoch took the stand at his murder trial for the first time yesterday, he
denied any involvement in the disappearance of British backpacker Peter
Falconio, telling the jury he did not go to Barrow Creek on the evening
July 14, 2001, and had nothing to do with Mr Falconio’s disappearance,
reports the NT News.