The Australian
leads this morning with the latest explosive chapter in the AWB saga: the news that John Howard and Deputy Prime Minister Mark
Vaile asked AWB to keep them fully informed of the wheat exporter’s
trade with Iraq at the same time as the company was paying millions of
dollars in bribes to Saddam Hussein. The paper reports that letters to be tendered to the oil-for-food inquiry this week
“provide the strongest evidence yet that the Prime Minister and Mr Vaile
asked for details of AWB’s dealings with the Iraqi regime.”

And a photo of the victorious Roger Federer throwing his hands up as he wins the
Australian Open final dominates the rest of the Oz’s front page, which
meant the gripping tale of the unseeded Cypriot Baghdatis’s meteoric
rise didn’t exactly finish with a fairytale ending. According to the
paper, what began as a fierce contest ended in a “demolition.”


The SMH
is running with the AWB story, reporting that John Howard has said that
the government worked closely with Australia’s wheat exporter
but knew nothing of bribes paid to former Iraqi dictator Saddam
Hussein. Furious at Labor claims that letters released to an inquiry
implicate the government in the bribery scandal, Mr Howard said it
was his job to promote wheat sales in the lucrative Iraqi
market. The paper also has its eye on the NSW cabinet reshuffle, reporting that Carl Scully may lose responsibility for the contentious water
portfolio. The Premier and Treasurer, Morris Iemma, has already indicated
he will give up the treasurer’s job after he delivers the state
audit early next month.

An alarming picture of police in full riot gear standing amidst broken bottles and tear gas dominates the front of the Daily Tele,
with the report that NSW faces soaring crime and the threat of more
riots unless 3,000 police officers are recruited urgently. A new report
by the NSW Police Association accuses the State Government of using
“smoke and mirrors” to hide the truth about inadequate police
resources. The report has found the state’s
policing level is the nation’s second lowest, with only one officer for
every 440 people.

Big business has lashed out at the Federal Government for
massively underestimating its tax revenue, reports The Age, accusing it of thwarting
the case for tax reform and damaging competitiveness. In a clear swipe at Treasurer Peter Costello, it said it was
time for genuine tax reform rather than the “piecemeal changes and
periodic catch-ups that characterise the current tax debate.”

And the paper is also hot on the heels of the PM’s links with the AWB scandal, reporting that in the Prime Minister’s letter to Mr Lindberg, written after
Iraq threatened to cut wheat imports from Australia, Mr Howard told
him: “In view of the importance of the matter, I suggest the
Government and AWB Ltd remain in close contact in order that we can
jointly attempt to achieve a satisfactory outcome in the longer
term.”

The Herald Sun
runs with the headline “Brave Marcos,” complete with a pic of Baghdatis
poking his tongue out affectionately at the crowd, saying the player
“enchanted Melbourne last night” in a final that “reduced world No.1
Roger Federer to tears.” And in a bizarre story running alongside, the
paper reports that a predatory “male witch” who turned girls into
slaves is likely to be put under virtual house arrest when he’s freed
from jail in a few months.

A $40 million fighter jet which ditched into
the sea 220km southeast of Brisbane after failing to land on aircraft
carrier USS Ronald Reagan is unlikely to be salvaged, reports The Courier-Mail.
The pilot was forced to eject from the US Navy jet off the Australian coast late on Saturday after a night landing “mishap.”
The single-seat F/A-18C twin-engine strike fighter was the first plane
lost from the 97,000-tonne carrier, which spent last week moored at
Brisbane’s Fisherman Islands.

Underneath a photo of weepy Federer holding his trophy aloft on the front page of the Advertiser, runs the headline “Bid to keep MPs at work,”
with a report that independent MP Nick Xenophon is calling for a law
change to prevent State Governments going into recess for long breaks
before an election. With the Rann Government under fire for failing to
sit for 15 weeks
prior to the March 18 election, Xenophon says he’ll introduce a Private
Member’s Bill to limit breaks to no more than ten weeks.

The Mercury‘s front page runs with the peculiar headline “Snake reports
explode across state.” Apparently, Tasmania is in the grip of a statewide “snake explosion,”
with
unprecedented numbers of sightings and rescues from people’s homes.
Snakes have been found in bathrooms, laundries and even living rooms in
suburbs throughout Tasmania. Reptile Rescue, a voluntary organisation
that removes snakes from people’s homes, is experiencing its busiest
summer on record.

“New power bosses to reap $435,000,” reports the West Australian. According to the paper, the Carpenter Labor Government will pay a total of $435,000 a year to
the chairmen of the four new corporations to be created in the split of
Western Power. The four chairmen will replace current Western Power chairman Neil
Hamilton, who received $113,000 for the role last financial year when
the board was scheduled to meet ten times.

And it’s party time in the Northern Territory, with the NT News reporting that police tipped out 150 litres of alcohol and
arrested three people after 350 youths gatecrashed a party in Darwin at
the weekend.
Officers were called to the “out-of-control party” at a house in Humbert St, Leanyer, at 10.50pm on Saturday.
They found 350 people, most under 18, at the house and in the street, yelling and disturbing residents.
Twenty-six officers were needed to calm and disperse the crowd.