US PUSH for OUR CLEAN GAS EXPORTS, reports The Australian. White House officials are working to clear the
final barriers to the sale of billions of dollars worth of Australian
gas to the US by the end of the decade. Speaking ahead of crucial talks in Sydney this week on climate change
and energy markets, a senior Bush administration official said the US
Government was keen to see Australian liquefied natural gas gain direct
access to US customers for the first time.

And another day, another shark terror story. Police believe as many as three bull sharks
were responsible for a fatal attack on a Brisbane woman, with at least
one shark chasing rescuers as they dragged her mauled body to the shore, says the paper. Witnesses said the shark continued to savage Sarah Kate Whiley, 21,
after she lost both arms in the vicious attack just 20m offshore at a
beach on North Stradbroke Island.

The SMH reports that soldiers’ powers are to be extended. They will have their powers to shoot to kill on domestic
soil extended to threats in the air and attacks against
infrastructure under a widening of the Federal Government’s
capacity to “call out” the Australian Defence Force. The powers, which are likely to receive Labor’s support, also
extend the army’s capacity to perform offshore hostage recovery
operations during maritime terrorism attacks.

Stories of “freeway funding lost interstate” in The Age today, with
Victoria set to lose a hefty slice of the $540 million in federal
road funding pledged for the Scoresby freeway project. Federal
Transport Minister Warren Truss has revealed plans to
spend the money on projects across the nation “according to need,”
arguing Victoria would otherwise get more than its fair share. It’s
the first time the Howard Government has confirmed
Victoria will not get the full amount pledged last election,
because the money was contingent on building a toll-free road.

Meanwhile, a growing number of indigenous families are living in makeshift
shelters, says the paper.
A funding crisis in indigenous housing has been blamed for
driving more Aboriginal people to live in tin sheds, humpies,
caravans or temporary camps in gullies.

NO WHINING ALLOWED, says the Daily Tele this morning, with the story that proposed new liquor
licensing laws will mean any noise complaints relating to pubs or clubs
will take into account who was there first – the licensed
establishment or the resident who is complaining. Under the State Government’s proposed new Liquor Bill 2005,
complaints about licensed premises will no longer be heard by the
independent Liquor Administration Board.

An election year in Victoria, and theHerald Sunreports
that the Bracks Government is on track to spend more than $80 million
selling itself to voters. A staggering $11 million was spent bombarding
us with TV, radio and newspaper ads in just 51 days to November 27 last
year, documents leaked to the Herald Sun reveal.

Canberra’s most recent intake of migrants and refugees was the largest
in 14 years, but the city still attracts a smaller share of new
Australians than it did two decades ago, reports theCanberra Times.
More than 1200 people from 84 countries made the national capital their
new home during 2004-05, the largest numbers coming from Britain,
China, India and New Zealand. About 40% were skilled migrants, 33%
arrived under the family reunion program and 14% were refugees.

In the Courier-Mail,
CHEAPER INTERNET for BUSH is headlining, with news that country
Queenslanders will have access to
cheaper and faster broadband Internet connections after energy retailer
Ergon confirmed it will compete with Telstra in the broadband market.
Ergon Energy said yesterday that its telecommunication arm, Nexium
Telecommunications, had struck a deal which will see an Internet
service provider deliver broadband connections.

Down south and the Tasmanian Government has grossly
over-stated the money Betfair would bring to Tasmania by up to $25
million a year, says international bank Morgan Stanley, reports The Mercury. Premier Paul Lennon had overestimated the assumptions underpinning the financial returns by more than double, it said.

CRIMINALS MUST PAY, says The Advertiser today.
Convicted criminals would be forced to pay for
the cost of their trials and those acquitted would be reimbursed under
the chief prosecutor’s vision for a revamped justice system. Director
of Public Prosecutions Stephen Pallaras, QC, has challenged
the state’s legal minds to “think outside the square” in redesigning
the system for the 21st century. In an exclusive interview with the
paper, he outlined a series of innovations which he said had been
“bouncing around in my head for a while.”

According to The West, fat cats are flourishing under Gallop. The number of senior fat cats earning more than $103,000 in the
Premier’s key policy and advice agency has more than doubled in the
past year and jumped a massive 600 per cent since the Gallop Government
took office. The Department of Premier and Cabinet’s latest annual report reveals 41
staff now earn more than $103,694, up from 16 in the 2003/04 financial
year.

And while the Falconio trial is over, it looks like some are searching
for a Chamberlain-style enigma. Animal blood was mixed with Peter
Falconio’s before it was tested for DNA, a new book about the case
claims, reports the NT News. And investigating police officers missed a second pool of blood on the
opposite side of the road which was later found by an Aboriginal
tracker.