It was Nguyen Tuong Van’s last wish: to walk unshackled and
confidently, rosary beads hidden in his grip, to the gallows, saysThe Australian. After a day of tears and
goodbyes, and a night of prayer, the convicted Australian drug-trafficker
Nguyen Tuong Van had accepted his fate and was ready to be hanged at 6am (9am AEST) today in Singapore’s Changi
prison.

“At 9am today, the
first Australian to be executed overseas in 12 years will be HANGED,” blares The Sydney Morning Herald‘s front page
headline, while the
paper’s website tastefully updated the story on the dot of 9am, declaring “Hanged at dawn,” with a commemorative
graphic of Nguyen and his dates of birth and death. Candlelight vigils are being
held around the country this morning, says the paper,
to mark the 25-year-old’s execution at Singapore’s Changi prison at 6am (9am AEDT) after Singaporean Prime Minister
Lee Hsien Loong ruled out a reprieve.

Also making the front page of The Australian, a report that Kerry Stokes’s Seven Network
yesterday blinked first in its $1.1 billion pay-TV claim, settling with the
Australian Football League, one of the parties it has accused of being
part of a massive conspiracy against it. The breakthrough in the case, which is
one of the biggest in Australian corporate history, will have the AFL
removed from the list of 22 defendants Seven is suing for allegedly helping
destroy its fledging C7 pay-TV operation in 2002.

The Daily Telegraph
also focuses heavily on Nguyen’s execution, the paper reporting that
the condemned drug courier’s mother held her son’s hand during their
final
meeting. Melbourne barrister Julian McMahon said Nguyen’s mother, Kim,
yesterday said farewell to her son at Changi prison, where he’s been
since he was arrested in late 2002, carrying almost 400 grams of
heroin.
And a man has been arrested over the brutal attack on 18-year-old Sydney
woman Lauren Huxley. After an intense three-week investigation detectives last
night raided a property in Bargo, where they handcuffed a 36-year-old man and
took him to Campbelltown for questioning. And also making the Tele‘s front page, the sensational news that Australian mega-star couple actor Nicole Kidman and country singer Keith
Urban are officially engaged, according to friends of the pair.

“I could tell you for a long time all the things she said
last night about how they held hands, how she touched his ear and she touched
his cheek and they held hands and prayed and so on,” Melbourne
lawyer Julian McMahon told Radio National, reports The Age – also heavily focused on today’s execution in Singapore. But as the last
days of Nguyen’s life slipped by, public sympathy for him diminished, says the
paper
. A recent Morgan Poll found 47% of Australians believed the Melbourne
man should go to the gallows, compared with 46% who said the death penalty
should not be carried out, while 7% were undecided.

In other news, The Agereports that Victoria’s Bracks Government
is under intense pressure to decriminalise abortion, with a concerted push by
Labor’s rank-and-file to change state laws so that terminations are no longer a
crime.

“Goodbye my son,” says the Herald Sun‘s front page, devoted entirely to the Nguyen story with a
full-page photo of his grief-stricken mother. Otherwise, top billing is given
to the Kidman-Urban engagement news, while a story noting today’s beginning of Australia’s
new industrial relations regime with the government promising an era of
co-operative workplaces tops national news. Queensland Nationals senator
Barnaby Joyce claimed to have “saved” Christmas under the new laws. But Labor
said the rebel MP would be exposed as a Christmas turkey and Prime Minister
John Howard as the new Scrooge.
More of the same at The Advertiser, its
front page declaring “THEY WOULDN’T LET THEM HUG,”
with a story reporting Nguyen’s mother was denied a final embrace with her condemned son as she
and his twin brother said goodbye for the last time. Otherwise, the paper’s
website leads with breaking international news that former media baron Conrad Black has pleaded not guilty to charges that he
and other executives looted his empire of more than $US80 million ($107
million).

The collapse of a $100 million research program to control
feral pests would be a national disaster, reportsThe Canberra Times, exposing
Australia’s livestock industries to increased risk of exotic animal diseases –
including foot and mouth disease – peak farm industry groups said.

TheCourier-Mail
carries a picture of former director of surgery at Bundaberg Hospital Jayant
Patel
on it’s front page, reporting that, a day after the Davies health
commission found him responsible for the deaths of 13 people, he was still
refusing to answer the accusations. Now living in the northwest US state of Oregon,
Dr Patel is unemployed and believed to be financially supported by his wife
Kishoree, also a doctor, says the paper. After leading with Nguyen, Hobart’s Mercuryreports that
Tasmanian Parliament closed for the year with a furious Premier Paul
Lennon storming out of Question Time, after a bitter fight erupted over
the
memory of former premier and Lennon’s predecessor, the late Jim Bacon.
The “bloodbath” started after Opposition infrastructure spokesman Brett
Whiteley asked
a seemingly innocuous question on the state of the Lyell
Highway: “Will you today admit that the Labor
Party have broken a key election promise of 1998 to the Derwent
Valley community? … Further, will
you for goodness sake honour the memory of your previous premier, Mr Bacon, and
honour your promise?”

A box-load of kittens were left to be crushed under the
wheel of a parked car in Darwin this week, reports the Northern Territory News, the four
helpless kittens were found by the car’s owner seconds before she was about to
drive over them. New homes have been found for the kittens.

The West Australian
could win the award for the most low-key treatment of the Nguyen execution
story (next to The Australian), dividing its front page between that and a report that WA Opposition
leader Matt Birney will be hauled before a parliamentary privileges committee
in a move designed to inflict maximum political damage over the way he updated
his financial returns without telling anyone.