The Australian
leads with Caroline
Overington’s latest report
on the AWB saga, with the news that the Howard Government agreed to pay more than $83 million
for two shiploads of Australian wheat on their way to Iraq when war broke out
in 2003, apparently unaware the contract price had been inflated to cover
kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime. AWB convinced the federal Government to
pay an inflated price for the wheat stranded in the Persian Gulf through
its AusAID agency.

There’s also the news of Howard’s
cabinet reshuffle
– Brendan Nelson has been bumped up to Defence, upsetting the Nationals and
threatening a Coalition revolt. Last night, Nationals senators Joyce and Fiona
Nash and Queensland MP Warren Truss warned they reserved the right
to vote against the Howard Government after the shock defection of Nationals
Senate whip Julian McGauran. And Indonesian prosecutors have pressed
ahead with their plans to draw a distinction between the ringleaders and drug
mules in the case against the Bali Nine drug traffickers. Less than an hour after chief prosecutor David Adji recommended that Myuran
Sukumaran, 24, face death, one of the four young drug mules whose body he
allegedly strapped with heroin – 20-year-old Michael Czugaj of Brisbane – learned
he was likely to avoid the firing squad.

At The SMH, John Howard is making assurances that the number of Nationals in the federal
ministry will increase, provided they win more seats at the next election. The
Nationals lost a ministerial position in yesterday’s reshuffle when De-Anne
Kelly was demoted to parliamentary secretary. And the Nationals are furious
with the ministerial snub with at least one, Senator Fiona Nash, signalling she
may not always support the passage of government bills through the Senate. Then there’s the tragic story of
15-month-old Courtney Morris, who drowned in the bath in the time it took
for her mother, Penny Morris to try to boil an egg. Morris told an inquest at
the Glebe Coroner’s Court that despite Courtney being her third baby, she had
never been warned of the dangers of leaving children alone in the bath. As a
result of Courtney’s death, Kidsafe NSW has called for a public awareness
campaign – almost 20% of all accidental drownings of children aged five and under occur
in the bath.

The front cover of The Age features
a picture of 12-year-old Zeke Wilson,
who died yesterday in Victoria’s bush fires. While not all the details are yet clear, it
appears Zeke – who was due to start high school in his home town of Stawell
next week – died with his father Malcolm, 36, when they became trapped in their
car in the Grampians. The pair was just two kilometres from their destination
when smoke surrounded their Mitsubishi Magna.

And then there’s the story of the ex
and her vengeance
against two senior members of Steve Bracks’ right-wing
faction – ACTU assistant secretary Richard Marles and former Bracks adviser
David Feeney. ALP member and former girlfriend of Mr Marles, Roxanne Bennett has accused
the two of improperly using Labor funds to stack party branches. In a statutory
declaration to The Age, Bennett lists a range of slush funds set up to feed
into branch stacking accounts or to buy party memberships.

The Daily Telegraph
has more on Sydney’s “toxic harbour,” reporting that dioxin levels in a part of
Sydney Harbour many kilometres from the waterway’s major pollution sites are up
to ten times higher than World Health Organisation standards. And the same test
results show levels of dioxins in bream caught in the Harbour close to the
polluted sites are up to 100 times the WHO standard. Meanwhile, the Packers
reveal Kerry’s soft side
in an excerpt from a story published today in the Australian Women’s Weekly. Under
a picture of the happy family, Packer’s widow Ros is quoted saying, “I loved
him so much. I just wish he was here.” And daughter Gretel presents the picture
of a very normal family life, saying, “We were a close family, we went to
school, had to do our homework, the dogs slept on the beds and we played with
our father in the swimming pool.”

“Sad salute,” reads the front page of
today’s Herald Sun
, in a tribute to the Victorians who have died in the latest spate of
bushfires. Country Fire Authority Captain Trevor Day, 42, died in a fire tanker
accident near Yea, while Malcolm and Zeke Wilson were trapped by a bushfire and
died trying to shelter in their car. On an entirely different note, there’s
Justine Henin-Hardenne who got “down and dirty”
last night to send number one seed
Lindsay Davenport packing with a 2-6 6-2 6-3 victory. The loss means Davenport
will lose her No. 1 ranking, with either Kim Clijsters or Amelie Mauresmo to
take over at the end of the tournament, while Henin-Hardenne faces a semi-final
showdown with Maria Sharapova.

The Courier-Mail reports that Queensland
has gained an extra voice in Cabinet
after the cabinet reshuffle – but the state has been hit hard by fallout from
the shock Nationals’ defection to the Liberal camp. And in other news, two
rival gardening clubs

have “dug in” over rights to hold this year’s regular Easter garden festival in
South Burnett. Tensions are running so high that solicitors and even the Wondai
Shire mayor have become involved in the split of garden club loyalties.

The Canberra Times reports that John
Howard has dumped Nationals minister De-Anne Kelly in his cabinet reshuffle
while prominent new Liberal MPs Malcolm Turnbull and Andrew Robb have been made
to wait for ministries, with Mr Turnbull appointed Parliamentary Secretary to
the Prime Minister, and Mr Robb Parliamentary Secretary to the Immigration
Minister, Amanda Vanstone. Meanwhile, 119 people will be granted Australian citizenship by John Howard
in a special Australia Day ceremony at Regatta Point in Commonwealth Park
tomorrow.

The Advertiser brings the latest on South
Australia’s energy
problems, reporting that power-provider ETSA failed to properly prepare for the
weekend heatwave which left 500,000 homes without power. The claims come from a
group of company linesmen, who complained to the paper about being used as
scapegoats by management for the long delays in replacing about 225 low-voltage
fuses which failed in the heat of the weekend.

And The West Australian reports on a
crackdown on illegal fishermen. Indonesian fishermen arrested in WA waters will face jail terms of up to ten
years under tough new State Government laws to be introduced in the next
session of Parliament.

The popular Territory sport of cane toad clubbing looks like it’s all but over – unless you’re extremely accurate – with the Northern Territory News
reporting that people face fines of up to $12,000 for killing a cane
toad with a golf club. The RSPCA has told the NT News that although
it’s not illegal to kill a toad with one fell swing of the club, it is
illegal if it takes more than one hit to kill the bugger. Instead, the
acting head of the RSPCA said if you use haemorrhoid cream, which acts
as an anaesthetic and insulates them from the pain, then it probably
would not breach the Animal Welfare Act and would be a legitimate method of pest control. Hmmmm…

And Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz has come out swinging against Greens senator Bob Brown and his party. Abetz told The Mercury:
“I have never sought to work with Senator Bob Brown in a constructive
way because he is in fact an anathema to my political beliefs in a
whole range of areas including drugs policy, including health policy,
including education policy and we as a government do not seek to be
aligned with the Greens, unlike the Labor Party.” Brown was reported to
be disappointed with Abetz’s attitude to the senator’s new role as
Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation minister in John Howard’s new
cabinet.