The AWB oil-for-food scandal still dominates The Age‘s headlines, the paper’s lead
story reporting that the Australian ambassador in Washington has urged a key US Congressional
committee not to go ahead with a planned investigation into allegations that
AWB had paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime. “Sources have told The Age” that late in 2004, then
ambassador Michael Thawley met Senator Norm Coleman, chairman of the Senate
Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations, saying the allegations against AWB
were part of a campaign by American wheat interests to discredit AWB.

Staying with the theme of corruption, the paper reports that the integrity of Victoria’s Police is in question with two of its members being
investigated, after one confessed to stealing $40,000 out of the back of a
broken down car on the Mornington Peninsula. And in Geelong,
councillors have admitted receiving thousands of dollars in election support from influential businessmen
– after earlier denying it – following an Age investigation.

But who cares about corruption when a giant floating
running track on the Yarra will be the centrepiece of the baton’s spectacular
arrival at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, as reported in the Herald Sun? The 1km track (there’s
a great artist’s impression accompanying the story) stretching from the Princes
Bridge to the Swan
St Bridge is part
of a river procession leading to the MCG on 15 March.

And the Cole inquiry continues to paint an intriguing picture of the part DFAT played in the AWB oil-for-food scandal, with the The Australian
this morning reporting that the company’s general manager of
international sales and marketing, Michael Long, yesterday told the
inquiry that AWB had sought government approval to talk with trucking
company Alia. Long told the inquiry AWB had been granted approval by
the Department of Foreign Affairs to talk to a Jordanian trucking
company – Alia, which was a front company for Saddam Hussein’s regime –
although Long admitted DFAT didn’t know the name of the company at the
time.

And another scalp for ACCC head Graham Samuel,
after the competition regulator found supermarket giant Safeway guilty
of price fixing in its bread market, where it would “cut off bakeries
who supplied cheaper bread,” fining the supermarket chain $8.9 million.
The Federal Court yesterday ruled that Safeway had engaged in the
anti-competitive behaviour after almost ten years in court fighting the
ACCC’s charges. Federal Court judge Alan Goldberg said he believes the
fine was the biggest penalty in Australian history for price fixing.

And our Prime Minister has come out in defence of public civility – read: “Howard doesn’t like it when we talk dirty,”
especially around him. Howard put his support behind NSW Chief Justice
Jim Spigelman, who derided Australians for a lack of manners and
boorish behaviour, and has come out swinging against swearing on
television. “We have seen a marked deterioration with manners. It’s
time the television networks had a curb on the use of vulgarisms on
television,” the Prime Minister said.

“Poll shows most support ID card,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald
this morning, after a recent Newspoll of 1,200 people showed that 53% of
Australians support the idea of a national identity card, with only 31%
of people opposed to the idea. The support was the highest amongst
those who were over 50 (63%), while Labor supporters held a slight
majority (52%) of support over Coalition voters. Attorney-General
Philip Ruddock is expected to release the terms of reference for an
inquiry into a proposed ID card some time this week.

And the North Sydney Council last night voted to turn off 249 parking meters
over the weekend in the city centre in an effort to lure shoppers back
into the area. The council will go without $17,000 that the meters
generate every Saturday, although two hour time restrictions will remain.

And the Oscar nominations were announced overnight, and it’s not
looking good for the Aussies – but who really cares about some
tokenistic Australian achievement, right? Well, Heath Ledger
has been nominated for his part in Brokeback Mountain, where, as almost
everybody almost already knows, he plays a gay cowboy, although he has
almost no chance of winning considering he’s up against the mighty
Philip Seymour Hoffman for his role in Capote; Joaquin Phoenix, for
Walk the Line; and David Strathairn, for Good Night, and Good Luck.
Anyway, for all the other nominations check out the link right here.

In South Australia,
the Liberal Party is getting back to basics, The Advertiserreports that it has pledged boys would be put into single-sex classes in
public high schools as part of a radical “men’s policy.” In the lead-up to next
month’s state election, the Opposition has vowed to introduce boys-only state
school classes for the “crucial” Years 8, 9 and 10 in the core subjects of
English, maths and science. Boys-only classes would include longer and more
frequent “activity breaks” and a more appealing curriculum.

Meanwhile, Tasmania,
ever bucking the national trend, has shrugged off a slump in international
visitors to Australia
as major markets including Japan
shun the mainland reportsThe Mercury. The plummeting visitor
numbers
have tourism heavyweights worried, but not the new head of Tourism Tasmania,
Felicia Mariani, who says the state is performing well against a slight decline in
overall international visitor numbers interstate.

“Left on a road to die,” leads the Daily Telegraph
this morning, after the “sickening and callous” murder of a disabled
taxi driver in Sydney’s west yesterday. Three people were on the run
last night after Youbert Hormozi – who was paralysed from the waist
down from a stroke – was taken from his cab, beaten, run over and then
left for dead on the side of the road. The cab was not fitted with a
security camera and the authorities are still searching for the
culprits.

And the young Greek Cypriot who captured the hearts of Melbourne and its Greek
community yesterday touched down in Sydney. Up and coming tennis player
Marcos Baghdatis
has now touched down in Sydney, but appears to just want to be left
alone after days of partying and not much sleep. “Barely sleeping since
the final on Sunday night, the Cypriot star said he spent time with
fans and sponsors in Melbourne and was now too tired to continue.”

“‘Hands-on’ health plan by Beattie,” reports the Courier Mail
this morning, as the Queensland Premier decides he’s going to have a
more hands on approach to fixing the state’s heath system. Beattie said
he will work closely with Health Minister Stephen Robertson, but more
details are expected to be announced tomorrow, with one possibility
being for Beattie to hand off his Treasury.

It was a “Horror night on our roads” in the Territory, as the Northern Territory News
reports that seven tourists were injured after a minibus rolled about
150km northeast of Tennant Creek. No-one was killed, although the
tourists did leave the scene with scratches and bruises, but one was
transferred back to a Northern Territory hospital.

And the Canberra Times
reports that the nation’s capital will be the most vulnerable city in
Australia to terrorist attack because of flaws in the ACT Government’s
anti-terrorism laws, after Australia’s head of police Mick Keelty noted
he was worried about how prepared Canberra was for a terror attack.

Peter Fray

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