The Australian Wheat Board controversy just won’t go away, with the
opening day of the inquiry into the scandal hearing evidence that the
controversy reaches all the way up to the Prime Minister’s department.
Today’s Age
reports that former AWB chief executive Murray Rogers told the inquiry
that the Prime Minister’s staff travelled to Canberra to discuss
contracts that involved massive kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

And it would be the first time for a while that a Western Australian
story has taken up a third of the front page of The Age, but WA Premier Geoff Gallop’s
sudden resignation yesterday was completely unexpected. At 10am
yesterday Gallop told his staff that he was resigning his position due
to his ongoing battle with depression, and by mid-afternoon it was all
over the country. Gallop’s announcement has re-ignited the issue of
depression amongst politicians, especially following the former NSW
opposition leader’s attempted suicide last year.

And for something slightly lighter, well-known Australian cartoonist Bill ‘Weg’ Green
has helped police catch the man who robbed him after providing police
with a detailed caricature of the alleged thief. Police attending the
scene of the crime took Weg’s drawing and were surprised to find it
matched – almost exactly – a man who had been captured for another
theft near by.

It’s all Gallop and AWB on the front of today’s Australian.
And political columnist Mike Steketee gives Gallop a rousing send-off,
arguing that the Premier could not have left at a higher point in his
political career, but finishes by musing that “Gallop’s personal
tragedy is that he apparently stopped believing in himself.”

And a new Newspoll has the Howard Government rebounding from the IR
“mauling” it received late last year, with the coalition taking a
strong four-point lead
in the two party preferred vote. The coalition jumped four points on
primary vote, while Labor slipped from 39 to 37 points in the first
poll of the new year.

And The Oz also reports the important news that soft drinks may
actually help improve your memory, with 50g of sugar found to improve memory retention by up to 20%. Scientist say the findings could lead the fight in helping cure the problem of old age memory loss and dementia.

And some tennis news on the front of the Sydney Morning Herald,
as Venus Williams bowed out to 18-year-old Bulgarian Tszvetana
Pironkova on the first day of the Australian Open in Melbourne
yesterday. Slightly luckier was her sister, Serena, who beat
China’s Li Na in three sets last night, although it’s yet to be seen if
she has the “fire” to reclaim the title.

And it looks likely that Defence Minister Robert Hill
will soon be vacating his portfolio in favour of a lucrative foreign
posting – probably as Australia’s ambassador to the United Nations – as
government sources claim that his departure is almost imminent. And
it’s expected that Howard will choose his National Press Club address
to announce a cabinet reshuffle, with Defence Force insiders saying the
likely replacement will be either Tony Abbott or Nick Minchin.

While NSW Opposition leader Peter Debnam has called for police to be tougher on Middle Eastern youths,
saying that there are not enough Middle Eastern people in jail – a
reference to last year’s Cronulla riots. He said police should lock up
200 Middle Eastern thugs, which has angered NSW Premier Morris Iemma,
who has accused Debnam of playing the race card.

“Depression’s tragic riddle,” leads the Daily Telegraph
this morning, reporting the standard story on Gallop’s departure. “You
meet him without any outward sign, you wouldn’t have known,” NSW
Premier Morris Iemma told the paper yesterday. While the paper
also reports that an Australian has been lost for five days after he
disappeared when climbing a mountain in Argentina.
Sydney man Luis de Carlos disappeared after he and a friend encountered
heavy fog and strong winds a few days ago. His companion was rescued,
but Mr de Calos is still missing.

“Cops swap,” says the Herald Sun
this morning, as they report that the Victorian Government has
announced that it will provide extra police to the outer suburbs of
Melbourne and the city’s major growth areas, while lower growth areas
around middle-Melbourne are likely to miss out on an increase in police
numbers. And now that Shane’s out of the picture, rumours are
flying around about who Simone Warne
is knocking about with. Both Simone and St Kilda footy star Aaron
Hamill have denied they’re seeing each other, with Hamill preparing for
this year’s footy season and Warne doing the publicity circuit for this
year’s Dancing with the Stars.

What do you call a health system that
can’t cope with a car accident outside a hospital? A sick joke, says The
Courier-Mail

with the story of a woman who crashed a minute from the Caboolture
Hospital emergency department but was forced to wait 44-minutes while
she
was transferred to Redcliffe Hospital for treatment for serious head
and chest injuries. The fatal
accident – in which a 97-year-old woman was killed, and a 77-year-old
seriously
injured and airlifted to Royal Brisbane
Hospital – occurred on the first day of the Beattie Government’s
contingency
plan for Caboolture. But after weeks of denials, the State Government
admitted
yesterday that emergency services at Caboolture were effectively closed
as a
result of a statewide doctor shortage.

At The Advertiser they’re reporting that basketball management in South Australia has been forced to quit to prevent the sport’s total collapse.
Treasury Kevin Foley yesterday gave the board of the Basketball Association of
SA an ultimatum to quit by 11am today or face
insolvency – and the board didn’t wait until the morning, telling Foley almost
immediately that it had accepted his tough terms. And a scrub fire came dangerously close to homes south of Adelaide
yesterday, as firefighters tackled the flames in mid-30C heat. The fire was
eventually contained by up to 300 firefighters, who battled for more than six hours.

With their front page dedicated to the
resignation of WA Premier Geoff Gallop, The West Australian reports that Energy Minister Alan Carpenter and Health Minister Jim McGinty have
emerged as the leading candidates to become WA’s next premier. Treasurer Eric
Ripper will remain Acting Premier until the ALP caucus meets on 2 February to
elect a new leader and premier.

And in the Northern Territory News,
the top end is preparing to batten down the hatches as it prepares for
the brunt of a cyclone and an earthquake. Yesterday strong winds
battered the Territory, while elsewhere in Darwin scientists from
around the world held an international conference on tropical storms.

And in the Canberra Times,
Australian Defence expert Clive Williams has put forward his theory
that Osama Bin Laden has already died – probably from internal organ
failure, and probably sometime last year in Pakistan. The information
supposedly came from a credible Indian intelligence officer, but, as
the paper says, the information is almost impossible to confirm or
deny.

“Tragedy hits miracle love,” screams
The Mercury, with the story of another tragic car accident. The paper tells how a road
crash shattered widower Kenneth Grant’s dream of a “blissful retirement by the
sea” with his new wife Hilary. The couple will still retire to Dover, but
while Grant remains at the couple’s home, his wife will spend the rest of her
life in hospital after an accident on the Southern Outlet in 2004.