Defending judges. There once was a time when Attorneys-General saw one of their major roles as being the protection of the reputation of judges. With the current bunch of these ministerial office holders in state governments, it often is not the case. Rather than being defenders of the system, A-Gs regularly become public attackers of it on matters such as sentencing. The most recent to turn from judge defender to judge attacker is the Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls and today there is an interesting summary in The Age by Paul Austin outlining how the Victorian Chief Justice Marilyn Warren found it necessary to teach him some manners.

And the first word is? Queensland. It has slowly seeped into my consciousness just how big Queenslanders are about using the word Queensland. Most mornings when I do my little summary of what’s in the papers for Crikey, half the stories I list start with it. Quite peculiar as there is no corresponding state patriotism evident in the newspapers from the other capital cities. Why is it so?

Lobbying for burial regulation continues. The lobbying efforts of the major undertakers to protect their exorbitantly expensive operations from competition continues. The theme in the effort at the weekend was the same as the one I referred to a couple of weeks ago when I first noticed the campaign to extinguish competition was under way. Brisbane’s Sunday Mail had a story where a funeral director complained that the absence of government regulation of privately run mortuaries had created an uneven playing field. Some funeral directors were paying $30,000 or more for purpose-built facilities while other business owners were able to store corpses in refrigerated sheds. How terribly unfair. I wonder if the dead actually worry.

The most popular report of the spies. On the 20th anniversary of German reunification, details of life in the communist East continue to be revealed. The latest disclosure being  most read reports — of West German intelligence agents operating behind the Iron Curtain — which contained information such as  this: “What would happen if the desert became communist? Nothing for a while, and then there would be a sand shortage.” Or this: “Did East Germans originate from apes? Impossible. Apes could never have survived on just two bananas a year.”

West German spies, it appears according to recently released intelligence files, diligently collected and recorded jokes to gain insights into the public mood and to amuse their masters in Bonn. Der Spiegel this week has given a few examples.

“Why does West Germany have a higher standard of living than we do? Because communists can’t get work permits there.”

“The Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 spawned a new proverb, for example: If the farmer falls off his tractor, he must be close to a reactor.”

Chernobyl, incidentally, wasn’t an accident, another joke went: “It was just a Soviet program to X-ray its population.”

Not that telling jokes in East Germany — a country where the Stasi had 91,000 employees and a network of about 189,000 civilian informants to spy on the East German population of 17 million — was risk free. Der Spiegel points out that there were cases of people who were jailed, which gave rise to this one:

“There are people who tell jokes. There are people who collect jokes and tell jokes. And there are people who collect people who tell jokes.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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