Even after the legislation’s passed, the IR debate keeps unfolding –
and the Treasurer’s annus horribilis continues. Peter Costello has
rejected the advice of his own department that minimum wages for the
nation’s 1.6 million low-skilled workers will increase more slowly
under the new industrial relations system as he fends off charges of
misleading parliament, says The Oz.

And in scientific news, a stem cell research ban may be lifted, says the paper.
Scientists will be able clone human stem cells for scientific research
under controversial recommendations for new laws that will entrench
ethical divisions in parliament. Scientists yesterday welcomed a review
of Australia’s stem-cell research and cloning legislation by former
Federal Court judge John Lockhart, who recommends legalising
“therapeutic cloning” and the creation of a national stem-cell bank as
part of a relaxation of current research laws.

Looks like John
Howard is out of touch with his constituency, at least in Sydney, with
three out of every four voters disagreeing with the Prime
Minister’s claim there is no underlying racism in Australia, says the SMH. The surprising results of the paper’s Herald Poll came as the
Premier, Morris Iemma, declared the beaches safe and the racial
violence hitting Sydney quashed. “As of this morning, the
intelligence and the security assessments are such that people are
encouraged to return to normal business,” Mr Iemma said
yesterday.

And
ex-pat Rolf Harris has been busy painting the Queen. At first he was
worried that she was looking “like a pork butcher from Norwich. It
didn’t look like the
Queen at all.” But in the end, he managed to achieve a good likeness.
The 75-year-old Australian artist and entertainer – the Queen’s
surprise choice to paint her official 80th birthday portrait –
unveiled the painting at Buckingham Palace yesterday, says the paper, admitting:
“It was a bit stressful when I couldn’t get the likeness right.
Without a good likeness you are dead in the water.”

There
was once talk of getting the troops out of Iraq by Christmas but their
deployment could now be further extended. But Foreign Minister
Alexander Downer says morale among Australian
troops in Iraq remains high as they face the possibility of having
their deployment extended, reports The Age. Mr Downer has visited the 450-member Al Muthanna Task Group in
southern Iraq and has also held talks with the government in
Baghdad. Prime Minister John Howard this month gave the clearest
indication yet of an extended mission for Australian troops in
southern Iraq, saying it was likely they would stay beyond next
May.

More Cronulla fallout, with the Daily Tele
reporting how police yesterday raided the
homes of a string of suspected white supremacists, arresting a security
guard and seizing a cache of guns, knives, arrows and other weapons.
The operation came as white supremacists across Australia and
internationally attempted to rally people into a race war via a series
of videos glorifying the Cronulla riots.

In the ACT, police, Canberra’s two main hospitals, Mental Health ACT and the
ambulance service have laid out a framework for how to best look after
people with mental illnesses in the territory, says The Canberra Times. ACT Chief Police Officer Audrey Fagan, Mental Health ACT director of
clinical services Peggy Brown, Calvary chief executive officer Deborah
Cole, Canberra Hospital deputy general manager Mark Bassett, and ACT
Ambulance chief officer Ken Paulsen signed a memorandum of
understanding at ACT Policing’s Belconnen headquarters yesterday
morning.

Along with the Daily Tele, the Courier-Mail
reports how the daughter of former Australian rugby union captain Phil
Kearns is recovering well after he ran over her in his 4WD while
reversing two months ago. With yellow floaties on her arms and a smile
on
her face, Andie Kearns looked as happy as any other child as she
splashed about at Wet n’ Wild water park yesterday. According to her
father, the 21-month-old toddler is almost back to normal – and so is
their family. In other happy sports news, the Herald Sun talks of how, as Brad Hodge completed his double
century yesterday, his wife, Meg, was in Melbourne urging her husband
on from in front of the TV screen.

Just in time for the holidays, the Tiser reports on a petrol shortage. South Australia is regularly at risk of being
just three days from running out of petrol because of minimum storage
levels at the Birkenhead depot, the RAA has warned. The motoring group is demanding the State Government intervene to
prevent a fuel shortage crisis, saying the state narrowly avoided
serious shortages twice in the past three months.

Good news in The Mercury, where a Tasmanian skipper and his first mate have
survived 11 terrifying days in a storm-battered life raft with no food
or water after their yacht sank off Vietnam. Mark Wasley Smith and New Zealander Steven John Freeman recounted
yesterday how they desperately clung to their life raft as storms
flipped it over and over for days on end. And there’s another miracle escape in the NT News with a five-year-old girl having a miraculous escape after she was hit by a speeding car on a notorious stretch of road.

“Tunnel set to delay Mandurah rail start,” reports The West.The
Mandurah train line might not be operating by its April 2007
deadline because of delays in digging the tunnel under William Street,
the Public Transport Authority has admitted for the first time. The
problems with construction of the tunnel, which is already three to
seven weeks behind schedule, have forced the PTA to draw up plans based
on a revised timetable for other aspects of the project.

Peter Fray

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