“Angry US slams Iraq bribe denials,” says The Australian‘s lead story, reporting
that the chairman of a powerful US Senate committee is demanding Australian
ambassador to Washington Dennis Richardson explain the Howard Government’s role
in the Iraqi wheat affair, saying he is “deeply troubled” by an
apparent attempt to cover up the scandal. Republican senator Norm Coleman, who is chairing the
Senate’s inquiry into “illegal, under-the-table” payments to Saddam
Hussein’s regime, also wrote to former Washington
ambassador Michael Thawley, criticising him for making “emphatic
denials” about AWB’s role.

It’s time for the truth, says the paper’s editorial:
“We know that AWB funnelled $300 million in illicit payments to Iraq.
This makes it perhaps the biggest business donor to one of the 20th century’s
most wretched regimes… We need to know exactly what the Howard Government knew
about AWB involvement in Iraq.”

Meanwhile, one of Australia’s oldest blue-chip companies, BHP
Billiton, has been accused of deliberately violating UN sanctions against
Saddam Hussein’s regime despite a direct warning from the Department of Foreign
Affairs, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Yesterday’s
revelation that BHP Billiton was sanctions
busting in Iraq
along with AWB came as counsel assisting the Cole inquiry into the oil-for-food
scandal, John Agius SC, was questioning a senior executive from the wheat
exporter, AWB, Michael Long.

Just over three days after he allegedly fatally stabbed the
sisters who lived next door to him in west Melbourne
suburb Altona North, William John Watkins lay dead on a remote stretch of
highway near Karratha, reportsThe Oz. The 38-year-old convicted
rapist was shot dead by policeman Shane Gray, in an altercation after Watkins
had driven off from a nearby service station without paying for $80.06 worth of
fuel. He had driven more than 5,000km across three states in three days, knowing
that police would be seeking him over the murder of sisters Colleen and Laura
Irwin.

And two 14-year-old girls have been charged with the murder
of a disabled Sydney taxi driver
who was fatally bashed in the city’s south-west, reportsThe Sydney Morning Herald. The girls, from Liverpool
and Canley Heights,
will appear in Lidcombe Children’s Court today. Hormozi was attacked by
passengers who stole his taxi before hitting a parked car and dumping the cab
in nearby Bonnyrigg.

New Zealand police yesterday arrested the 28-year-old man
being held on a warrant seeking his extradition to Norfolk Island for the murder
of Janelle Patton, almost four years ago, reportsThe SMH. If the warrant is granted,
that man may face trial before a jury of 12 drawn from fewer than 2,000 eligible
citizens of Norfolk – the first
time the islanders will have sat in judgement on a murder case in more than 150
years.

The AWB scandal just gets juicier, with The Age running with the story that the chairman
of a key US senate committee investigating the UN oil-for-food scandal asking
Australia’s former ambassador to the US to explain why he “unequivocally
dismissed” allegations of AWB kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

And the paper details William John Watkins’ prior convictions, including
rape, after he was shot dead in WA by police over a minor dispute about unpaid petrol after
being named in Victoria as the prime suspect in the brutal stabbing murder of
his neighbours, two sisters in Melbourne’s west.

William John Watkins, 38, of Altona North, was yesterday named by Victoria
Police as wanted in connection with the murders of his neighbours, Colleen
Irwin, 23, and her sister, Laura, 21, on Friday night. Only a driveway and
paling fence separated the women’s house in Millers
Road from Watkins’ ground-floor flat.

“Hypocrites,” shouts The Daily Telegraph‘s front page, the
paper reporting
that “controversial” Magistrate Pat O’Shane yesterday “showed that the
judiciary
was just as vulnerable to bad manners as the rest of society.” O’Shane
“aimed a
volley of offensive remarks” at a former senior constable whose lawyers
had “argued politely that he would not get a fair hearing
from Ms O’Shane,” says the Tele. O’Shane
told the stunned court: “He thinks that because he makes a complaint against me
that I am going to be biased? He can go to another court! Do I care? No I
don’t. Mr Wardell can be assured that he is not so important in my life.”

The Herald Sun reports, under the headline “Death of a Monster,” that Watkins, an estranged father of two who stood about 190cm and was about
120kg, was a “violent rapist and thug who exploded in rage after alcohol
binges.” He was last jailed in July 2000 for bashing a blind pensioner
as she lay helpless in her bed in January 1998. Two months before that, he had
been jailed for raping a woman in her own home in November 1999.

And in more murder tales coming out of Victoria,
the paper reports that the estranged wife of a millionaire
Melbourne businessman found dead in his garage last month has been
charged with his murder.
Homicide squad detectives questioned Diane Griffey after
she was arrested yesterday.

And The Advertiserleads
with the AWB scandal, reporting that “furious” American legislators are
demanding tough
penalties on Australian wheat growers for secret payments of $300
million to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime. And in SA news, the paper
reports that almost half of all South Australian criminals sentenced to
jail have their penalties fully suspended, figures show. Opposition justice spokesman Robert Lawson said Australian Bureau of
Statistics figures showed SA had the highest proportion of
fully-suspended sentences, at 48%.

The health crisis has begun to erode Premier Peter Beattie’s
authority over his party, reports the Courier-Mail. Labor MPs are
questioning the way the crucial issue has been handled. Beattie yesterday moved
to put down a potential caucus revolt on the issue by giving himself a greater
personal involvement in fixing the problems facing public hospitals. But in
doing so he has risked internal brawling on another front by parachuting his
preferred successor Anna Bligh into the Treasurer’s job at least 12 months
ahead of schedule.

“Now it’s up to $241m,” is the headline splashed across the front page of The West Australian, with the paper reporting that the State Government has been officially put on notice that it faces a
$200 million-plus blowout in the cost of the Perth to Mandurah rail
project after fresh claims were lodged by the lead contractors.

But best headline of the day has to once again be awarded to the NT News for “KAMIKAZE CROCS.” Drivers on remote roads may be used to trying to
avoid kangaroos on the roads, but in this case, a crocodile Rangers
have warned visitors to Kakadu to be wary of kamikaze crocodiles in
light of the incident.
has launched itself from a flooded culvert
drain at a passing vehicle. “The croc just launched itself into the
air with all four feet off the
ground,” Kakadu’s crocodile expert Garry Lindner said. “Unfortunately
the driver had no time to react and the animal died on impact,” Mr
Lindner said. He said it was the latest in a series of reports from
drivers who have been confronted by ‘kamikaze’ crocodiles.

And leading news in Tassie, The Mercuryreports that a deadly tumour ravaging the Tasmanian
devil population is passed on through biting. Research
has confirmed that the malignant tumour, known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease,
is infectious and passed between animals during fights. The discovery may save
the Tasmanian marsupial, which is in danger of extinction from the virulent
disease.

Peter Fray

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