Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Pulped Fiction: The Big Afternoon Nap At The Vicarage

(With apologies to Raymond and all his fans but none at all to Agatha and hers)

It is difficult to know where to begin this story, but I have fixed my choice on a certain Wednesday at luncheon at the Vicarage. It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid-October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the foothills.

I had just finished carving some boiled beef (remarkably tough by the way) and on resuming my seat I remarked, in a spirit most unbecoming to my cloth, that anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe would be doing the world a large service. I was wearing my powder blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it.

My wife said in a sympathetic voice: 'Has he been very trying?'

I grunted. Mary, who is in service at the Vicarage as a stepping-stone to better things and higher wages, set the greens on the table with a bang and proceeded to thrust a dish of singularly moist and unpleasant dumplings under my nose. Then she lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and slowly raised them again, like a theatre curtain.

'It is a pity that I am such a shocking housekeeper,' said my wife, with a tinge of genuine regret in her voice. Then she turned her body slowly and lithely, without turning her feet. She fell straight back into my arms. I had to catch her or let her crack her head on the tessellated floor.

My wife's name is Griselda - a highly suitable name for a parson's wife. But there the suitability ends. 'You're cute,' she giggled. 'I'm cute too.'

I have always been of the opinion that a clergyman should be unmarried.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Mr 59 0.44%

ABC Online reports that famously bent Banana Bender Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen is having another go at prizing open the cash drawer of the Queensland till, so that he can get his grubby little fingers in:

Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen has confirmed that the former Queensland premier Sir Joh will, for a second time, seek compensation for legal expenses from Fitzgerald Inquiry.

In October the Beattie government sought Crown Law advice and rejected his claim for almost $340 million in compensation.

Sir Joh is now seeking an ex gratia payment of $1.5 million for legal fees relating to the Fitzgerald Inquiry and the perjury trial that followed.

I think the Beattie government should show a bit of generosity at this stage. They could do a quick whip-round of parliament and hand the collection over in a brown paper bag without setting too many troublesome legal precedents. It's an idea that would probably enjoy a lot of bipartisan support - even the brown paper bag bit.

Update: AM have finally put their transcript up, which includes some information on the precedent under which Sir Joh is seeking his ex-gratia payment:

Family friend and advisor Geoff Moss insists a 1986 Cabinet decision allows for such a payment.

GEOFF MOSS: This is not a big sum of money, $1.5 million legal costs, stretching back since 1987, especially when most of the matters dealt with were Queensland Government business.

LOUISE WILLIS: How desperate is Sir Joh to see some of this money?

GEOFF MOSS: Sir Joh wants his name cleared. You see, Sir Joh has never been convicted, and quite frankly he's an innocent victim of injustice and I believe Sir Joh should keep fighting until he gets his name cleared.

LOUISE WILLIS: But that's not how others see it. Queensland's acting Premier Terry Mackenroth says Sir Joh's legal precedent is flawed.

TERRY MACKENROTH: It was actually the Cabinet decision taken in 1986 so that the Cabinet ministers of that time could take defamation actions against Labor politicians who spoke about them in the media.

LOUISE WILLIS: So does that apply?

TERRY MACKENROTH: I don't think that it's relevant at all.