Opposition Leader Kim Beazley makes it onto the front page
at The Sydney Morning Herald,
thanks to his statement that the US,
Australia and
its allies must now seriously consider pulling their forces out of Iraq,
because their presence is undermining the chances of peace in the country.
Beazley made the comments during an interview on Sydney
radio station 2UE yesterday, saying, “I think that you’ve got to the position
now where the US
and Britain and
us have to think through very carefully the consequences of still being there.”
But the paper reports that Government policy is heading in the opposite direction,
with Defence Minister Robert Hill announcing plans to boost Australia’s
presence in Afghanistan
and considering adding to the 1350 Australian military personnel in and around Iraq.

And then there’s Lleyton Hewitt,
looking resplendent in yellow on the front page, despite a “stricken body.” Hewitt battled
a stomach virus as he took to the court in the first round of the Sydney
International yesterday, defeating American journeyman Vince Spadea in a
gruelling 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 match.

At The Australian, it’s Tropical
Cyclone Clare, which last night roared towards Western Australia’s Pilbara
coast, forcing families into evacuation shelters and closing sea and air ports,
roads and shops, and shutting down the production of more than 150,000
barrels of oil. The category three cyclone was expected to bring winds of up to 195km/h, and
the bureau of meteorology has warned of the potential for a dangerous storm
tide that could cause flooding in low-lying areas of Karratha.

And the paper reports on plans to boost the Australian
presence in Afghanistan

to more than 500 troops, to counter an increase in violence from a resurgent
Taliban. Two Chinook helicopters and 110 special forces soldiers will be
deployed as a front line in the war against terror, as well as aiding
reconstruction efforts. The troops will join the 190 Australian special forces
troops already in the country who have been helping US and NATO forces tackle
al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the border regions.

The Financial Review has more detail on the Robert Gerard
scandal, reporting that the Adelaide businessman was a second choice to fill a Reserve Bank of Australia
board vacancy in 2002, and there were concerns within Treasury about his ties with
the Liberal Party when his name was raised (not online). The Fin found the
details in Treasury documents obtained under a freedom of information request. The
documents prove that Treasurer Peter Costello received no advice from his
department about the dispute between Gerard and the ATO,
but fail to answer how a top Liberal Party donor became a preferred candidate
for the RBA job – after Costello had
rejected more than 15 other possible candidates.

More on Beazley at The Age, with the paper calling the statement “his most comprehensive argument for a possible
withdrawal from Iraq
by all allied soldiers.” And his stance only sharpens the division between Australia’s
two main parties – especially given speculation that the Howard Government is
considering strengthening Australia’s
military presence in Iraq with Black Hawk helicopter units. In tennis news, photogenic
Russian player Maria Sharapova graces the front page, along with the report
that she almost didn’t make it to Melbourne
for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. But now that she’s here,
she’ll give it “her best shot,” Australian Open chief executive Paul McNamee
assures us.

And Japanese whalers have announced that they would consider
calling in police help if Greenpeace action becomes more
aggressive. The deputy director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division of the
Fisheries Agency, Hideki Moronuki said they would also consider asking the
Australian Government to “normalize the situation,” creating a diplomatic
minefield for a Government trying to deal with its biggest trading partner and
a crucial regional ally.

“900 uni cheats busted” screams the Herald Sun, reporting that hundreds of students have been expelled, suspended or punished
at Victorian universities for cheating and academic rorting. The paper’s
investigation found that cheating is rife among university students, with at
least 962 students caught in two years, with “would be lawyers and medical
professional” among them. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, the economics, business
and commerce faculties at Melbourne and Monash universities recorded the
highest number of student cheats.

There’s shark alarm at The Daily Telegraph,
with experts saying it’s only a matter of time before a fatal shark attack
occurs in Sydney, especially given
the axing of funds for aerial shark patrols. Experts are calling for the
reintroduction of shark patrols as hotter than average summers and a plentiful
supply of food leads to a surge in sightings of the man-eaters along the coast.
The paper also brings the explosive news
that Australian actor Alex Dimitriades has been seen cavorting with a “model-like
blonde on the sands of Bondi,” despite maintaining the appearance of a
relationship with his partner of eight years, shoe designer Terry Biviano.

And yet more shark alarm at The Mercury, with the news that a popular Tasmanian beach was closed when a large shark
was spotted just 500m offshore. Swimmers at Bruny
Island beach were told to get out
of the water after the white pointer was spotted feeding on a whale carcass.
About 50 people were at the beach at the time, but it is understood no one on
the beach or swimming was aware of the predator.

In Adelaide,
there’s a crackdown on ecstasy – The Advertiser
reports that people
who traffic and manufacture the drug will face the same jail sentences as those
who trade in heroin under a proposed move by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The
proposal to reclassify ecstasy as a high-level drug has been backed by
Attorney-General Michael Atkinson and Opposition legal affairs spokesman Robert
Lawson. And South Australian motorcyclist Andy
Caldecott

was killed last night in a crash during
the ninth stage of the Dakar Rally. Caldecott, 41, fell from his machine 250km
into the 599km stage and is thought to have died instantly. He was married with
one child.

The Courier-Mail

has some background on 21-year-old shark victim Sarah Whiley, who died
while swimming off North Stradbroke Island on the weekend. The
occupational therapy student is described as “academically gifted and
loved by all who
knew her.” Meanwhile, Queensland’s hospital crisis
has deepened, as the State Government is accused of trying to shift the blame
for a looming doctor shortage on the Medical Board of Queensland – while emergency board
across the state are under threat of closure as early as Monday.


The West Australian

reports that Pilbara residents spent last night
braced for a battering as Tropical Cyclone Clare tore towards the WA coast, bringing
winds of up to 240km/h and raising fears of tidal surging and severe flooding.
Local residents queued for hours to stock up on fuel, batteries, torches and
food before the shops closed by early afternoon in preparation for a lockdown.

The Northern Territory News
reports
that a 13-year-old boy was stung by a deadly box jellyfish while
playing in the shallows at Casaurina Beach.
Phillip Cutting described the attack as feeling like “thousands of
needles were
piercing him,” and was left with welts across his chest and down his
legs.
Cutting was rushed to Royal Darwin Hospital where he was treated for
five hours – proving luckier than the seven-year-old girl who died in
Queensland after a similar attack.

And the shark fear has spread to the ACT and its surrounds: The
Canberra Times
reports that aerial shark patrols will start in Batemans Bay
from this weekend, amid fears that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a
fatal attack on the NSW South Coast.