“Nationals vent fury at defection,” says the front page
headline of The Australian, the story reporting that the shock departure of Nationals senator Julian
McGauran to the Liberal Party has rocked Coalition unity. Nationals leader Mark
Vaile condemned Senator McGauran’s defection as “a betrayal,” while other party
members have criticised Federal Treasurer Peter Costello for apparently
supporting the move of his longtime friend. This morning, Victorian Nationals
leader Peter Ryan said McGauran would be reviled for the rest of his days for
deserting and that he and other Nationals who had supported Senator McGauran
for 18 years felt betrayed by his resignation.

And the late Kerry Packer,
who famously said he’d rather go to purgatory than listen to Joan Sutherland
sing at the Opera House, will be farewelled next month in a live television
event from the world-famous building’s concert hall. For those of you who want
to attend the taxpayer-funded memorial service, scheduled for 12.30pm on Friday 17 February, don’t fret –
apparently you can call a telephone hotline to register for a place.

Meanwhile, the crisis over Middle Eastern crime engulfing the NSW
Government widened yesterday, reports the paper, when the Police Commissioner Ken Moroney was forced to back down
over his sacking of the commander in charge of rounding up Lebanese “revenge
attackers.” In an embarrassing backflip, Moroney bowed to union pressure and
put Detective Superintendent Dennis Bray back on Strike Force Enoggera, three
days after he had summarily dismissed him.

The SMH

leads with the news that Indonesian prosecutors have suggested some of
the Bali nine could be spared the death sentence – though they’ve left
open the prospect that the ringleaders will be executed by firing
squad. Chief
prosecutor, Made Sudarmawan, asked yesterday that 20-year-old Scott
Rush be
jailed for life, when he could have demanded a firing squad. And he
told the
Denpasar District Court that the nine arrested could be split into two
groups
of drug mules, like Rush, and the ringleaders – Andrew Chan, Myuran
Sukumaran
and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen.

And the paper reports that Sydney Harbour should be closed to commercial and recreational fishing
from today because of the discovery of dangerously high dioxin levels
in fish,
according to an expert panel of scientists. The panel, appointed by the
Primary
Industries Minister, Ian Macdonald, has discovered “significantly
elevated
dioxin levels” in bream throughout the entire harbour. Meanwhile,
Martina Hingis has ended Australia’s bid for an Australian Open
victory, beating Samantha Stosur 6-1,
7-6 (10-8)
. Now, after three years out of the game, Hingis will learn where she stands in
relation to the game’s very best when she meets Kim Clijsters in a blockbuster
quarter-final tomorrow.

“Harbour poisoned,” screams the front
page of The Daily Telegraph, with the news of the commercial fishing ban that will extend from Parramatta
to the Heads. Sources told The Tele yesterday that the dioxin levels in
fin fish caught in the Harbour were so high they were unsafe to eat – and that
pregnant women and their unborn babies are most at risk. And “it was a scene
resembling two kids fighting over a brand new Sherrin footy,” says the Tele,
as
it describes the scenario awaiting a shocked Sydney Swan Nick Davis,
who
arrived home from the team’s off-season jaunt to Los Angeles, to find
not one, but two girlfriends waiting for him in arrivals. It’s just
the latest in the Tele’sdaily serve of gossip gold.

“Trapped and nowhere to run,” says The Age‘s grim front page, reporting that two people found dead in the Victorian bushfires were trapped alive in
their crashed car and had lowered their seats to try to survive the scorching
heat. Police said the two people found dead in the Grampians, an unidentified adult and child,
were most likely alive as fire roared around them.

And Victoria’s
emergency services are mourning the loss of volunteer fire brigade captain
Trevor Day as crews race to contain bushfires ahead of worsening conditions,
reports the Herald Sun. The 42-year-old
Campbell’s Creek CFA member died after he was thrown from a fire tanker that
rolled at Highlands, north of Yea, about 90km north east of Melbourne yesterday
afternoon. At least nine houses in two townships were also destroyed and vast
tracts of the state were burnt out by bushfires that continued to spread out of
control on several fronts last night.

Away from the fires, the Herald
Sun
has a national snapshot of obesity,
reporting that a survey of 300 GPs has revealed that half of all patients are
either overweight or obese. A lack of commitment, motivation and willpower are
to blame, says the paper, according to 43% of the doctors ACNielsen surveyed.

Oh and it’s croc mayhem at the Northern Territory News
today, with news that a three-metre croc killed a pet dog on a beach
yesterday, following a warning to nearby residents that a croc had been
stalking people near by. Police shot at the crocodile to try and kill
it but haven’t managed to take it out just yet.

And Dick Smith has helped create a win for conservationists looking to
stop logging in the north east Tasmanian area of Recherche Bay, with
the land’s owners now having to agree to sell the land to a trust set
up by the entrepreneur. The Mercury
has reported Smith’s donated $100,000 to help buy the land,
which is scheduled to be logged by Gunns Timber in the near future.

“Prosecutor demands life for Bali mule,” says The Courier Mail
today, reporting that Indonesian prosecutors have called for a life
sentence – not the death penalty – for accused Bali Nine member Scott
Rush, who is accused of smuggling in heroin to the country. According
to the paper,
Indonesian prosecutors told the Denpasar District Court the appropriate
sentence for the 20-year-old, given his tender age and his polite and
helpful manner in court, was life behind bars.

And Adelaide’s electricity distributor has come under fire from the
state government for the power shortages that left 50,000 Adelaide
homes without power over the weekend. The Adelaide Advertiser
reports that ETSA’s chief executive Lew Owens admitted the monopoly
electricity distributor had “let South Australia down badly.”

And in Canberra, Nationals leader Mark Vaile has called upon defecting
Nationals Senator Julian McGauran to resign from the parliament,
reports The Canberra Times this morning. Vaile was clearly furious with
the decision, saying: “We can choose our
friends and our colleagues but we can’t choose our family,” as he
called for McGauran’s resignation from the Senate.