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Friday March 22, 2002

First published 1831 No. 51,335

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THE FORM LIFTOUT

Easter Show guide

METRO LIFTOUT

Lib fundraiser tips bucket on Heffernan

Michelle Grattan Chief Political Correspondent

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James and me? We're like that, mate

The disgraced Liberal senator Bill Heffernan has been told that many company donors to the party want him to quit the Senate. The chairman of the Liberals' Millennium Forum, Michael Yabsley, says in a blistering letter that he has received calls from many corporate sponsors and donors about the senator's behaviour. ``There is an overwhelming view that you should resign from the Senate,'' says the letter, sent yesterday. However, the letter drew a angry reaction last night from the NSW party, with the state director, Scott Morrison, saying it had not been authorised by the party, of which the forum was a part, or by other forum members. Mr Yabsley wrote that Senator Heffernan's allegation against Justice Michael Kirby ``is one of dozens of reckless and malicious allegations you have made since your election in 1996''. ``In making such allegations you have ruthlessly exploited your proximity to high office and used this as a shield to protect yourself. Your obscene preoccupation with the private lives of others ­ your colleagues, their staff, business leaders, party members and many others ­ says far more about you than it does about them.'' Mr Yabsley says Senator Heffernan's record in parliamentary and party debate ``speaks for

Driver speaks `I never had a problem with Kirby' Page 6 Michelle Grattan, Richard Ackland Page 13

itself'', adding: ``Your contribution beyond personal slurs and attacks has been negligible. You have turned malice and innuendo into an art form.'' The Millennium Forum, launched in 1999, has raised $5 million to $6 million for the Liberals. The Prime Minister, John Howard, heads a list of political speakers at fundraising functions. The NSW Liberal Party will be especially anxious to keep corporate donors on side as it approaches next year's state election. The Heffernan affair will be hanging over this weekend's Liberal state council. The former federal Liberal director Andrew Robb is standing for the top post of finance director, an appointment made by the executive. There is pressure in the NSW party for Senator Heffernan, a former state president, to be replaced as the Prime Minister's nominee on the executive. Mr Howard, who dismissed him this week as parliamentary secretary, has made no comment on this. Mr Yabsley's letter, which was copied to Mr Howard, the NSW president, Chris McDiven, and to

Mr Morrison, says: ``There is an old saying, `What goes around comes around', and your demise is evidence of that. The only surprise is that this did not happen long ago in view of the extent of unfounded allegations you have made over many years.'' Mr Yabsley said last night that a number of corporate representatives had likened the situation to a corporate governance requirement. ``If they had been affected as a company director by a situation as serious, they wouldn't expect to have a feather to fly with. ``They bring a corporate overlay on a political situation ­ and I think it is a reasonable comparison.'' Mr Morrison said the letter was a ``personal view of Michael's''and that his use of the Millennium Forum letterhead was ``inappropriate''. The party had had no cancellations from the corporate sector for a dinner tomorrow night, which would be attended by corporate representatives as well as party members. Liberal party sources said that Mr Yabsley and Senator Heffernan had ``a history'' of differences. Asked in London about the naming in Parliament of his former driver as the source of the fake Comcar document that Senator Heffernan used, Mr Howard said the man had been a very good driver but had not been in that job since September 1999. ``Beyond that, I know nothing about those other matters, and I don't intend to comment on them.''

``We're fairly thick-skinned'' . . . Lachlan Murdoch talks of work, dad, children and how the One.Tel debacle brought him and his fellow mini-mogul, James Packer, even closer. Photo: Robert Pearce

Cosima Marriner

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A failed billion-dollar investment can tear even the best of friends apart. But the News Corp deputy chief operating officer, Lachlan Murdoch, says that the One.Tel debacle has only brought him and the Publishing & Broadcasting chairman, James Packer, closer. As the liquidator's hearing

into the failed phone company got under way this week, the heir apparent to the News Corp empire denied that the collapse had strained his friendship with Mr Packer. ``If anything it probably strengthened it. If anything it made us stronger in a lot of ways.'' In a rare and candid interview yesterday, the

30-year-old Mr Murdoch also spoke of his family, the future and his ties to Australia. Although born in London, educated in the United States and a frequent world traveller, he said Sydney was his home. ``It's where the heart is. Sarah is from Sydney and I consider myself from Sydney. It's home. It never won't be home.'' In a reflective mood in the

News Ltd Australian headquarters, Mr Murdoch said that he and his supermodel wife, Sarah O'Hare, were looking forward to having children. But he added: ``We'll have to spend some more time together first.'' Having recently added News Corp's 33 television stations in the US to his responsibilities ­

which already include News's Australian newspapers and its entire US print operations ­ Mr Murdoch said he had a ``high level of contact'' with his father, the News chief, Rupert Murdoch. What does he admire most in his father? ``His energy levels. He's 71 years old and he's nonContinued Page 2 One.Tel hearing ­ Page 2 Business interview ­ Page 21

The clerk from hell: she had the boss killed and stole a fortune

Sarah Crichton

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US push to chase terrorists melting into the Indonesian island maze

Gay Alcorn Herald Correspondent in Washington

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INSIDE

PM partial to a drop of Grange

Grange Hermitage is a popular present for the Prime Minister. The register of MPs' interests tabled in Parliament yesterday shows Mr Howard has received and kept several bottles of the premium red but is saving them to serve to special guests. Page 5

Cried with her colleagues at the burial . . . Sneza Suteski.

Stabbed by hitman when he fought back . . . Richard Piech.

Sneza Suteski needed her boss out of the way so she could finish defrauding the Kogarah car dealership of almost $300,000. She hired a drug dealer to give him ``a little touch up'' but when Richard Piech survived two blows with a hammer and fought back, the attacker lashed out with a knife, fatally stabbing the 51-yearold company accountant. Yesterday a Supreme Court jury found her guilty of murdering him on December 20, 1999 ­ not knowing she had also defrauded a previous employer. When Newmans Motor Group hired Suteski as a clerk, they checked with her last employer, the courier firm DHL, which gave no indication she had been let go after stealing $100,000. Only after Suteski's arrest did Murray and Christine Newman learn that the 21-year-old from Hurstville, who cried with colleagues at Mr Piech's burial, had struck a confidentiality agreement with DHL. Suteski's parents, they were told, sold a property in their daughter's name to repay the money, in return for discretion. Only weeks before Mr Piech

was murdered outside his Carlton unit, the firm was subjected to an arson attack that damaged computer records, company invoices and the L-Z personnel files of staff. Police were still investigating the fire, but Mr Newman felt it was an inside job. Then came threatening Christmas cards, including one that told him there was a plot waiting for him at a local cemetery. The Newmans sold the business. ``If only we'd known. She'd never have been hired, Rick would still be alive and all the incredible waste and wreckage to people's lives ­ her family, our staff, our family ­ wouldn't have occurred,'' Mr Newman said. Mr Piech was the only child of Polish immigrants. His 78-yearold mother, who lost her husband to cancer six months before the murder, wept as the verdict was handed down. Afterwards she said: ``I never wanted revenge; I only wanted justice. She has ruined her own life.'' The court was told Suteski had a gambling problem. A colleague said she had described losing $10,000 in one night. None of the $285,780.56 she stole has been recovered. But

police have records of her withdrawing sums from ATMs at clubs with poker machines. Records tendered in court show she stole $98,700 after Mr Piech was murdered. Suteski pleaded guilty to the fraud but not guilty to murder. The defence counsel, Paul Byrne SC, conceded his client had arranged the hit but said it had gone horribly wrong. However, the hitman told the court that when he asked how Suteski wanted Mr Piech hurt, she replied: ``Bash him, stab him, kill him . . . I don't give a f--- what you do to him as long as he doesn't show up for work.'' The Crown prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, QC, argued the hit was meant to inflict grievous bodily harm and was within the scope of what Suteski had ordered. Mr Byrne said the hitman's evidence was unreliable. The 22-year-old, whose name is suppressed, was given a discounted sentence for helping the prosecution case after pleading guilty to the murder. He is appealing against his jail term of a minimum 15 years. Suteski was remanded in custody for a pre-sentence hearing on May 3.

Not so fast on the draw

Indonesia has no shortage of violent Islamic extremists, some of whom openly acknowledge past contact with Osama bin Laden's alQaeda. Time to send in the United States special forces and open a new front in the war on terrorism? Not exactly. It would quickly draw the US and its allies like Australia into a moral swamp where the general covering of mud and blood would make it hard to tell who was a terrorist. Hamish McDonald analysis Page 9

The United States believes that dozens, possibly hundreds, of alQaeda fighters have slipped out of Afghanistan into Indonesia, increasingly seen as a crucial country in the war on terrorism. The Pentagon is reportedly pressing for its troops to enter Indonesia to help the military fight terrorists, but is being frustrated by the Government's reluctance to accept US help and by political hurdles in Washington. A Pentagon spokesman, Brigadier-General John Rosa, told a briefing that the US was following the trail of al-Qaeda operatives in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. ``I don't want to be specific and tell you how or what we found. But as you might expect, that is a vast, vast array of islands. Are there easy places to hide there? You betcha.'' The White House yesterday tried to play down a report in USA Today that the Pentagon was pushing for forces to go into Indonesia, long identified as one of the 50 or 60 countries in which al-Qaeda operates. The paper quoted intelligence

officials as saying that some of the group's operatives were believed to have slipped into Indonesia by air, but dozens more had travelled in fishing boats from Arabian Sea ports. Other reports said the US believed that as many as 400 alQaeda and Taliban fighters might have escaped from Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan into Pakistan, and then headed for Indonesia or Malaysia. US, British and Japanese war-

ships are patrolling off Pakistan to catch fleeing terrorists, but US officials acknowledge that Indonesian authorities have little chance of sealing off the country's vast coastline. Last week, President George Bush said the US ``encourages and expects governments everywhere'' to help remove ``terrorist parasites''. Asked whether the US would send troops into countries such as Indonesia and Somalia uninvited, he said: ``We will take actions necessary to protect American people.'' The US has no intention of forcing its troops on Indonesia, but it is frustrated with what it sees as the lack of political will by President Megawati Sukarnoputri to join the anti-terrorism campaign. Ms Megawati is fearful of cooperating too closely with the US campaign for fear of angering militant Muslims. In contrast, more than 600 US troops are in the Philippines helping eliminate the militant Abu Sayyaf group, considered far less dangerous than groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia. The Bush Administration also faces obstacles in Congress, which banned military cooperation with Indonesia after human rights abuses by its troops in East Timor.

Doctors' insurer faces collapse

The main medical malpractice insurer is on the brink of a collapse that would leave 90 per cent of NSW doctors without cover for their private practice work. Page 3

WEATHER Details Page 18

Sydney city Shower or two 17°-23° Tomorrow fine 18°-25° Liverpool Shower or two 16°-24° Tomorrow fine 17°-28° Richmond/Penrith Showers 16°-24° Tomorrow fine 16°-28° Newcastle Shower or two 19°-24° Tomorrow fine 19°-26° Wollongong Showers, SE winds 16°-23° Tomorrow fine 16°-25° Canberra Fine, partly cloudy 9°-22° Tomorrow fine 9°-23°

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