“DFAT in Iraq for wheat bribes,” reports The Oz. Senior Australian government officials
travelled with AWB employees in Iraq at the time the monopoly wheat
exporter was paying tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks to the
regime of Saddam Hussein. And a member of John Howard’s cabinet – then agriculture minister
Warren Truss – was receiving regular confidential reports on an
investigation into the incentives AWB was offering buyers in countries
such as Iraq.

Meanwhile, back on the Gerard affair, “Costello seeks new scapegoat at tax office.” Peter Costello’s most senior adviser regularly
phoned Taxation Commissioner Michael Carmody to carry out checks on
individuals and companies but was denied crucial information on Reserve
Bank candidate Robert Gerard. In an attempt to shift the blame for Mr Gerard’s appointment to Mr
Carmody, the Treasurer said his chief of staff, Philip Gaetjens, often
phoned the Tax Commissioner to talk “about people and companies.”

“Drop tunnel toll, says Iemma” reports the SMH. The operators of Sydney’s controversial Cross City Tunnel should
permanently reduce the motorway toll to get “more goodwill with
motorists,” NSW Premier Morris Iemma says. The $680 million road caused the government a headache when it
agreed, as part of a deal with the tunnel’s private operator
CrossCity Motorway, to close off existing free routes.

In The Age it’s natural rather than man-made disasters wreaking havoc. One man has died and several others are injured after a spate of
accidents last night as heavy rain and flash flooding lashed
Melbourne, says the paper.
Melbourne recorded 33 millimetres of rain since 9am
yesterday – more than half the December average of 59
millimetres. Meanwhile, in an early Christmas present for mortgage
holders, the Reserve Bank has kept interest rates on hold for the ninth
consecutive month.

The Daily Tele picks up on Costello and Howard’s “sham marriage.” The leaders yesterday stuck out what they
hoped were the last embarrassments of the Gerard affair. The Prime Minister yesterday sat with his Treasurer in Parliament as
Labor launched an unsuccessful censure motion against Mr Costello.
Despite this attempted show of solidarity, Liberal sources said tension between the two increased during the controversy.

In Melbourne, a dispute about smoking allegedly started a
deadly chain of events that left a taxi driver accused of using his cab
to mow down and kill a teenage passenger, says the Herald Sun. Surrounded by family, Xavier Salmon, 17, was taken off life support 10
hours after a maxi-cab allegedly ploughed into him and a friend as they
headed to a party.
It is claimed there was friction between taxi driver Rajbinder Singh
Shahi and some of his nine passengers during the trip from the city to
Port Melbourne.

“Ray gives up his desk job,” reports the Courier-Mail. A Current Affair will have a new host next year – Today’s
Tracy Grimshaw will take the seat next month as Ray Martin becomes
senior network correspondent for all Channel 9 news programs, including
60 Minutes. The move sets off a row of falling dominos, with Channel 7 newsreader
and ballroom dancer Chris Bath the favourite to replace Grimshaw as Today co-host.

Town planning news in the Canberra Times with City
Hill to remain untouched by development and London Circuit to be
widened to take most of the traffic through Civic, under key
recommendations in a confidential report leaked to the paper. In the 51-page report to the ACT Government on revitalising Civic, the
Canberra Central Task Force says Vernon Circle, which surrounds City
Hill, will become an urban circle and will no longer carry most of the
traffic through Civic.

“MY LOVE FOR SADDAM’S MAN. First interview: Former MP breaks silence” inThe Advertiser. Former South Australian Liberal MP Dr Bernice
Pfitzner has revealed she married Saddam Hussein’s ex-bodyguard because
she loved him, denying it was a marriage of convenience. Dr Pfitzner, 67, said the 30-year age difference between her and Oday
Adnan Al Tekriti was not important. Their friendship grew into
understanding and then love.

“Hell drives,” leads Tasmania’s Mercury, reporting that Hobart bus drivers are so afraid of
schoolchildren on some routes they are physically ill before they set
off, a leaked report reveals. It says some drivers do not wear seat belts because they are concerned
that, if they are attacked, they will not be able to get up or defend
themselves.

Australia’s consumer watchdog will investigate misuse of the Western Australia’s
controversial Buy WA First scheme after warning yesterday that some
companies might be breaching the Trade Practices Act by wrongly
attaching the loyalty logo to products, says The West. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel
said the watchdog would investigate claims that some manufacturers and
retailers were using the logo on goods that did not qualify as WA
products.

As the Falconio case draws to a close, the jury should make allowances for the
“terrifying experience” Joanne Lees suffered at Barrow Creek and the
effect it might have had on her memory, a Darwin court heard yesterday. In his closing address to the Supreme Court,
prosecutor Rex Wild, QC, said there was “no doubt” Ms Lees was telling
the truth, reports the NT News.