Health reform dominates The Oz’s front page this morning, with
the story “Abbott’s plan to repair hospitals” reporting that health
experts are being recruited by the
Howard Government to help drive a national reform agenda that could see
the Commonwealth redraw funding agreements with the states and take
greater control of the nation’s public hospitals. “The current arrangement where the federal
Government helps to fund the public hospital system but has no role in
running the system is clearly unsatisfactory,” Abbott has said.

And according to the latest Newspoll survey, voters are warming to John Howard’s industrial
relations changes
, with the latest polling showing a shift in public
sentiment after months of anger over the new laws. Most Australians still believe the new workplace laws will be bad for
the economy, not create jobs and make them personally worse off – but
the gap has closed since October. 43% of people believe the new
laws will be bad for the economy, a rise from 40% in October.

“Shadow of doubt over Nazi claims,” reports the SMH, featuring a story
on 25-year-old Andrew Sanders, who was arrested on Sunday during the
police blitz on beachside suburbs. He and the four men arrested with
him in Ramsgate had been
linked to white supremacist groups. But the judge ruled that the cache
of weapons found in his bedroom weren’t enough to deny him bail and
most of them could be attributed to his interest in “urban caving.”
Sanders must continue living with his mother and
not leave home without her; not communicate with the other men
arrested; report to police daily; and his mother was to post $1,000
bail. Sanders was described by his solicitor Gibson as at worst
“maybe a bit stupid.”

And in breaking news, it’s been revealed that the head of the federal government’s new Fair Pay Commission was
a director of a company that went broke, owing workers more than
$700,000, according to a report. There were also concerns that the company of which economist Ian
Harper was a director may have breached corporations law.

“GO HOME TO YOUR MOTHER,” reads the Daily Tele,
putting the boot into Sanders, reporting that the alleged white
supremacist found with a vast array of weapons just hours after he was
stopped by police in a riot zone with a 25-litre drum of petrol,
helmets and knives was granted bail in a Sydney court yesterday.
Sanders was sent home on the condition he doesn’t “leave his mother’s
side in public.”

The Age is all over the Harper story, too, reporting that the ABC’s AM program today reported that Professor
Harper, chosen by the government in October to head the Fair Pay
Commission, was a director of the Australian Derivatives Exchange
(ADX). ADX was a futures exchange that went into administration after
just a few months of trading, amid concerns that it may have traded
while insolvent. The paper says the news raises further questions about key government
appointments in the wake of the fiasco that saw Adelaide
businessman Robert Gerard resign from his position on the Reserve
Bank board.

Commuters in Victoria who give away their
train, tram and bus tickets to other passengers face $524 fines under
harsh new laws, reports the Herald Sun. The crackdown is aimed at kind-hearted commuters who hand their used –
but still valid – tickets to strangers because they no longer need them.

Mental health costs are soaring, according to The Courier-Mail, with the paper reporting that drugs to treat depression are costing
Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme almost $500 million a year:
up almost 50% in the past five years, new figures show.
They also show a 10th of GP visits in 2003-04 were for mental health-related problems.

And health is the focus on the front page of the Addy, with the paper leading with a report that half of South Australia’s population lives in regions
with alarming health inequalities, leading to higher rates of obesity,
cancer and early death, a health report reveals.

The Mercury
is focusing on the
beleaguered Spirit of Tassie, reporting that extra voyages will enable
Spirit of Tasmania III to meet its passenger targets despite making a
loss in the coming year. TT-Line Minister Bryan Green said eight extra
sailings next year would
see the Sydney ferry reach its aim of doubling passenger numbers. It
follows a multi-million-dollar bailout of the service by the state
earlier this year.

The health system is under siege in Western Australia too, with the West reporting that West Australians are suffering some of their longest waits for
ambulances in ten years, with fresh figures revealing that response
times, including emergency cases, have blown out. And the NT News leads with another drink driving story, only this time, the culprit was eight months pregnant.
The teenager’s blood alcohol level was almost four times the legal limit.