Finance Minister Nick Minchin broke yesterday from the usual reluctance
to discuss the federal budget to outline a proposal to remove the 15% tax on superannuation contributions, reports The Oz this morning. He has flagged sweeping
cuts to the tax on superannuation that would boost the nation’s
retirement savings by more than $3billion a year.

The dumping of longtime junior minister Ian
Macdonald from the front bench has left the way clear for more changes
in John Howard’s ministerial reshuffle this week, says the paper. Senator Macdonald, Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation,
was told by the prime minister on Thursday that, at the age of 60 and
with no prospect of joining the cabinet, it was time for him to step
aside.

And with all this talk of a reshuffle, only one person looks secure
– John Howard is insisting on generational change in his ministry
as he plans a sweeping reshuffle that colleagues interpret as a
sign he will stay on as leader, according to The SMH. The reshuffle will be far more extensive than previously thought
and could see the Communications Minister, NSW Senator Helen
Coonan, promoted to deputy Senate leader.

With Kay Patterson and Ian Macdonald the only certs at the moment, Howard would be sensible to spill a
little more blood, “now that he’s in the mood,” says Michelle Grattan in The Age. So far, his ministerial departures are all
senators, two from cabinet. This complicates things, potentially
leaving the Government underdone in the Senate.

Thanks to a flaming hot weekend, bushfires are burning across four states this morning, including
in Victoria where homes have been lost and fires have swept across
thousands of hectares in 40-plus degrees conditions, says The Age. Police and fire crews in Victoria are searching burnt out areas
in the Grampians, after unconfirmed reports the state’s bushfires
may have claimed a life.

“Animal hospital set for casualty reflux,” says the Hez,
reporting that while Victoria’s bushfires have yet to claim any human
lives, thousands of animals have been caught in the roaring flames.
Their charred corpses litter the forest floor.
But there are lucky ones who escape and even luckier ones who fall into
the loving arms of Colleen Wood.
The Rawson mother of three expects her home to be turned into an
animal casualty ward in coming days, as firefighters start to retrieve
the native bushfire victims.

“RTA’s secret M4 toll hike” says the Daily Tele.
MOTORISTS on the M4 would
be hit with a new toll and lose the state-funded cashback scheme under
secret plans by the NSW State Government’s roads agency to pay for an
extension. The M4 Motorway is due to become toll-free in 2010 when
Macquarie Bank hands the road back to the State Government, but The Daily Telegraph can today reveal advanced plans to charge motorists $2 in each direction from that date.

More health woes in Queensland, where Caboolture Mayor Joy Leishman wants
Queenslanders to wear and display yellow ribbons as a protest against
the closure of emergency services at Caboolture Hospital, says The Courier-Mail. With more than 20 Queensland hospitals closing or reducing services
because of the chronic doctor shortage, Cr Leishman said doctors would
not work for the state’s ailing public hospital system unless its work
reputation improved.

Property plummet for the nation’s capital. The release of 2500 apartments in Canberra later this year will send
the ACT property market, already reeling from depressed prices and
slower sales, into further decline.
This is the view of respected analysts Access Economics in their five-year business outlook, issued yesterday, reports The Canberra Times.

“OUTRAGE,” is The Advertiser‘s punchy headline. Widespread fury has erupted after at least
50,000 people were left without power over the weekend by an energy
system unable to cope with extreme heat. Facing public anger at power cuts lasting up to 48 hours, ETSA was
yesterday forced to apologise for the failures that put the ill and
elderly at risk during the worst heatwave in 66 years.


Equally dramatic is The Mercury
and its “weekend of horror” story. Three people are dead, one missing
feared drowned and several seriously injured after a horror weekend in
Tasmania. The state’s road toll stands at five after the deaths of two
people in two separate crashes.

In WA, Premier-elect Alan Carpenter confirmed yesterday that tax cuts were on
the agenda for this year’s Budget but, like Treasurer Eric Ripper, said
their size and application depended on continued strong revenues and
tight expenditure control, reports The West. “There is room for movement, there is room for tax relief, to what
extent we need to come to a final position and we haven’t yet,” Mr
Carpenter told The West Australian in a wide-ranging interview.

And cane toads are getting closer in the NT News.
Put your cane toad fences up the dreaded pests have invaded our
suburbs. Palmerston residents have started fighting off cane toads near
their houses.