Friday, October 16, 2009

Golliwogs in trouble again

Golliwogs were originally an American invention but were never popular there. They WERE from the beginning based on the appearance of Africans. For generations, however, they have been a popular soft toy for children in Britain and in Australia, where American race tensions were absent. The "global village" of TV, films and the internet has however brought American sensitivites to the rest of the word and a treasured feature of British and Australian childhood is under threat. I had a golliwog myself when I was a little kid. All is not lost, however, Anne (the lady in my life) recently found what she sees as a "pretty" golliwog (one dressed as a little girl) in a shop somewhere in Brisbane and has bought one as a gift for an expected baby. So that baby will grow up with fond memories of her golliwog too

They were popular toys for generations of children but now golliwogs have become casualties of the Hey, Hey It's Saturday blackface controversy - banished to the back of some shops to keep them out of the public eye. Melbourne toy store Dafel, which has sold dolls and bears for more than 70 years, relocated golliwogs from its window display to deeper inside the shop where the soft, cloth toys are less visible to passing shoppers.

Sources said the golliwogs were moved the morning after a singing troupe's controversial performance on the second Hey, Hey reunion show. The troupe's Red Faces send-up of Michael Jackson sparked international outrage when guest star Harry Connick Jr condemned their performance.

Some toy shop owners claimed that before the controversy golliwogs were enjoying a new popularity with children, the Herald Sun reports. "In multi-cultural Melbourne, our little customers should be allowed to walk in and select a doll of any colour or any race of their choice," said Diarne Revelle of Golliwog's Toy Store in Brighton. "Kids aren't racist and they don't relate to their dolls as being black or white, to them they are their little friends and that's it. "We are imposing adult sensibilities on childish desire and fancy. Kids aren't racists - golliwogs to them are bright, friendly toys, dolls, scallywags."

Golliwogs have gone in and out of flavour over the decades but are increasingly being seen in both specialist doll and toy shops. Various stories trace their origins, but the most widely accepted is that they were based on a hero in a book in the 1890s, featuring a little golliwog character who travelled far and wide with his friends, the Dutch Dolls.

"They are one of our top sellers when we stock them," said Alan Williams, owner of Boast Decor at Southgate. He said denying kids golliwog dolls because of "political sensibilities" would be a step backwards for mutli-culturalism. "Children should not be bothered by issues surrounding the colour of the toys they want to play with," Mr Williams said. "Allowing children to play with dolls differently coloured to themselves carries an equally powerful argument that it helps promote racial harmony."

Staff at Dafel, a specialist doll store in Melbourne's The Block Arcade, declined to comment. The Block Arcade's centre manager Don Parsons yesterday denied telling Dafel to change its front display.


Australians say it is OK to spank your kids

TOUGHEN up, kids of Australia: you live in a country where more than 90 per cent of people are happy to see you smacked, according to polling nationwide. The naughty corner is out and spanking is in for thousands of parents who overwhelmingly support a swift whack round the rear when children misbehave. The discipline debate raged today after a nine-year-old girl told her classmates in Year 3 at Yea Primary School her mum had hit her with a wooden spoon.

Mother Claire Davidson was then reported to police by a school support worker. "I was told it was assault with a weapon to hit her with a wooden spoon on the bum," Ms Davidson said. Ms Davidson said she grew up with a wooden spoon in the house and admitted she and her partner, Joe Oravec, used it – sparingly - on daughter Anna. "We only use the wooden spoon and that is only when she is being naughty and we give her fair chance to rectify the situation and we talk her through it," she said. "I give her three warnings and then it is spoon time."

Readers across the country backed Ms Davidson: 93 per cent of those who voted in a national online poll supported smacking, and backed up their votes with a torrent of comments. “ …parents should be allowed to give the do-gooders of this world a darned good thrashing for their meddling in parental relationships and misguidance of family matters outside their bureaucratic understanding,” wrote Stardust on

Reader Kat said “a quick smack on the bum never did any child harm”. “We grew up to respect our parents and knew how far we could go. You only have to look around at the shopping centres to see children who should be dealt with there and then but the parents don't dare - and the children know it. So we have unruly kids making life a misery for all until they grow up and move out to become full-time thugs.”

But others were appalled by the practice. “Why should an adult have the right to hit someone that is smaller than them? There are other ways to discipline children without laying a hand on them,” wrote Terri-Louise Fryar of Stockholm, Sweden.

Others blamed physical punishment for violent behaviour later in life. “I'm tipping most of the thugs who go 'round bashing others in Melbourne's CBD were also hit with objects as kids. School employees are mandated to report incidents such as this so Ms Davidson needs to get over herself,” wrote Riles.


Australian immigration policies 'a marketing tool for smugglers', says United Nations official

The "boat people" had been stopped stone dead by the policies of the previous conservative government so it can be done

The United Nations refugee agency says changes to Australia's immigration policies have given people smugglers a new marketing tool.

The agency's regional representative, Richard Towle, says there has been a large increase in boats heading to Australia. "I think the 32 boats to date is significantly more than last year, but I do think we need to keep this in a sense of balance and perspective - the statistics are not peculiar to Australia, we've seen very large numbers and very sharp increases across the world," he said.

"I think perceptions of policy can certainly play a role in people smuggling. They have a product that they need to market, and to show that Australia is a place where refugees can get fair and effective refugee protection is something that is understood. "But I think we need to be careful about apologising for that. If Australia is renowned as a country that does the right thing, that offers fair and effective protection for those who need it, and requires those who don't need it to leave the territory, then I don't think any apology is needed." [Except to the Australian people, who are overwhelmingly against illegal immigration!]

Mr Towle has confirmed Australia could be asked to offer asylum to more than 250 Sri Lankan men, women and children whose boat was intercepted by Indonesian authorities this week. The UNHCR says it is ready, if asked, to assist the Sri Lankans and help resettle them if they are deemed to be genuine refugees.

But Mr Towle stopped short of urging Australia to take the Sri Lankans. "As and when we find them to be refugees, if we get to that, then we'll approach our good resettlement country partners, including Australia, to see if they can help find solutions," he said.



Three current articles below

The beginning of the end?

The press are becoming less hysterical and more outspoken about challenges to "global warming". The video accessed below is from the Left-leaning Melbourne "Age" and while it's hardly ground breaking, it's not your typical doom and gloom story. Click HERE

Going fission: Is nuclear power the only way to meet Australia's future energy needs and cut carbon emissions?

Another surprisingly realistic article from "The Age" below. The "Age" is usually just a Leftist rag

THE 500 environmentalists who last month tried to shut down Hazelwood, Victoria's second-biggest power station, have inadvertently illuminated a distinctly Australian problem.

If asked, most Australians would profess to wanting to lower greenhouse gas emissions, now among the highest per person in the world. They would also want to retain living standards, supported by an economy that has slipped largely unscathed through the global financial crisis. And most would want this without resorting to a largely greenhouse-free energy source that has gained favour in many other advanced or growing economies: nuclear power.

The Rudd Government (and most of the states) walk a strange tightrope: they admit generating 80 per cent of the country's electricity with coal creates huge environmental problems but, unlike most other countries, have pinned hopes of future energy supply on unproven technologies to clean up coal, which, incidentally, is also our biggest export earner. The Federal Government's favourite option, carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), has not worked on a large scale and, even if it proves feasible, might be decades away. Says Professor Mark Diesendorf of the University of NSW's Institute of Environmental Studies: ''If it works, and if it is not as expensive as some of the overseas estimates suggest, you are looking at somewhere between 2025 and 2030 before CCS could start really making a difference.''

Three years ago Victoria was applauding a planned clean-coal power station for the Latrobe Valley, which Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said would make it a world leader in clean-coal technology. But last month the project was converted into a ''dual gas'' station. Carbon capture was scrapped. At the earliest, the plant will begin to produce power in 2013. The company responsible, HRL Technologies, says carbon-capture technology will be retro-fitted ''when commercially viable''.

CSIRO scientist Dr Lincoln Paterson, who is researching carbon dioxide storage, says all the elements of the technology exist, but have yet to be tied into a power station. A demonstration project at Loy Yang B is capturing carbon from flue gases. And in a demonstration near Port Campbell last year, 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide was removed from one underground ''reservoir'' and piped into another two kilometres away. ''If cost was not a factor you could do it today … but the reality is you can't ignore cost. Cost is a critical element of the practicality,'' Paterson says.

Against this backdrop, Australia, a uranium exporter, has about 39 per cent of the world's most easily accessible uranium (but political restrictions mean it supplies 19 per cent of the world's demand). The Federal Government even admits that nuclear power helps reduce greenhouse emissions - but refuses to consider using it. ''Nuclear power globally is part of the climate change solution,'' says federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson. ''The Government accepts that and we are committed to the development of the uranium mining industry with all the associated safeguards. Australia, unlike a lot of those other nations, is energy rich, hence our focus on the immediate energy options. Here there is no requirement on us as a nation to go down the nuclear path. ''It is the view of the Australian community that we should pursue all energy options other than nuclear.''

While no proposal to explore nuclear energy has been prepared or is under consideration for cabinet, senior Government figures are speculating about what Australia's options might be if renewable energy technologies and carbon capture don't deliver sufficient cuts in emissions and adequate energy supply.

The Government expects Australia's population to almost double to 35 million by 2049. Even with efficiencies, that is going to mean a big increase in electricity demand.

Professor John Price, of Monash University's mechanical engineering department, says: ''We are reaching a point where there are no choices available to us. What are we going to do in 10 years' time? We are going to have electric cars. We are going to have desalination plants in every capital city. These are huge new demands that are not yet on our electricity system. ''Nuclear energy requires carbon dioxide production during mining and construction, but after that it's really zero.''

Proponents of nuclear power say it is the only way to provide baseload power for a growing economy and meet climate change targets. But in July three high-profile supporters gave up the cause. Hugh Morgan, Ron Walker and Robert de Crespigny applied to deregister their company, Australian Nuclear Energy, in recognition of the Government's hostility. It had been set up in the last years of the Howard government, as the prime minister appointed former Telstra chief Dr Ziggy Switkowski to head an inquiry, which came down in favour of a domestic nuclear power industry.

Morgan says he believes Australia has left itself vulnerable to a future energy supply disaster by placing its hopes in unproven carbon capture and renewables: ''If you need high-voltage electricity to maintain any significant industry in the country you need regular baseload power that they can rely on in 20 or 30 years. That is the umbilical cord to everyone else's industrial investments.''

He says 450 new nuclear plants are planned or under construction globally, which will double the existing number of plants. But he fears even if Australia wanted to start building, because of global demand it would be way behind in the queue.

There is one Labor identity who has spoken out in support of an Australian nuclear industry. National secretary of the Australian Workers' Union Paul Howes says most of the opposition to nuclear power is seemingly from older people influenced by the Cold War nuclear disarmament movement. ''People are worried about nuclear waste, but they are only now beginning to consider the environmental costs of coal,'' says Howes. ''There are new generation reactors being developed which will largely eliminate radioactive waste. They say nuclear is more expensive, but it becomes cheaper than coal when we add a carbon price as well as the costs of carbon capture.''

Indeed, energy production has social costs that the independent Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering tried to quantify this year that are not included in any wholesale price. These include effects on human health, climate and crops. ''Combining greenhouse and health damage costs for Australia gives representative total external costs of $19 a megawatt hour for natural gas, $42 a megawatt hour for black coal and $52 a megawatt hour for brown coal,'' the academy says. These ''external costs'' were found to be much lower for renewable and nuclear energy: from $1.50 for wind power, $5 for solar photovoltaic and up to $7 a megawatt hour for nuclear energy.

IT IS a sparkling, blue-skied day above the hills of Toora, near Wilsons Promontory. From a distance the green ridges seem to have been colonised by a troupe of baton twirlers, as the blades of the wind farm respond to a rising south-westerly. It is about 100 metres to the tops of the blades, prompting critics to lament the industrialisation of the landscape.

Still, wind is the most practical of renewable sources right now, clean and cheap. Victoria has approved wind farms up to 2000 megawatt capacity (one megawatt equals 1 million watts, roughly enough to power 400 homes a year), with another 2500 megawatts in prospect, but since it is an intermittent resource, wind delivers only a third of its nominated capacity.

If fully deployed, Victoria's water desalination plant will consume 92 megawatts. To compensate, AGL will build a wind farm of more than 300 megawatt capacity. With more than 150 turbines, Macarthur will dwarf Toora's 12 turbines, but wind energy is only ever a top-up to baseload power. In Europe, particularly Germany, Denmark and Spain, experience has made energy authorities reinforce wind energy with baseload coal or nuclear up to 90 per cent of their potential.

Martin Ferguson adds that solar photovoltaic energy - which converts sunlight directly to electricity - is not a renewable energy answer.

Solar thermal energy may hold more potential. A German company, Solar Millennium AG, has built several solar thermal plants in southern Spain that, by storing heat during the day, can run at full power for 7½ hours after sunset. ''Now that we have thermal storage it is no longer true that solar energy is not a baseload electricity source,'' says Diesendorf.

Solar Millennium is looking to Australia for expansion through the Federal Government's Solar Flagship program, but its existing plants are, at 50 megawatts, less than one-thirtieth the capacity of Hazelwood. The solar cause also suffered a huge setback last month when Australia's leading solar energy developer, Solar Systems, which was to build a 154-megawatt power station in Mildura, went into liquidation. The persistent doubt is that renewables may not economically deliver sufficient capacity to replace existing power stations.

Nuclear power, which does provide baseload power stations of similar capacity to coal, continues to be deeply opposed by many Australians. A poll conducted this year by the Uranium Information Centre found the 40 to 55 years age group most trenchantly opposed to nuclear power. This is the generation that grew up in the shadow of the Cold War; that experienced the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s; that witnessed Chernobyl and the breakdown of the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania, overlaid with cultural influences including films such as the apocalyptic Dr Strangelove and the nuclear industry conspiracies The China Syndrome and Silkwood.

In the face of climate change, younger people are less resistant.

However, the climate change threat has not diminished opposition from veteran anti-nuclear campaigner La Trobe University professor Joseph Camilleri. ''I don't think we have anywhere near a fully fledged, widely accepted, long-term system of waste disposal. Until and unless that comes through … to be thinking of a substantial expansion of the industry is foolhardy,'' he says.

Equally pertinent, he says, is that while nuclear power, in theory, may help counter climate change, in practice it is problematic. The reality is the sizeable expansion of nuclear energy would take place in parts of Asia and Latin America, which may not meet the operational and waste-handling challenges. There would be serious questions about ''the technical, regulatory and other requirements, and whether on grounds of safety, waste disposal and proliferation they would be able to meet the standard that we currently accept in most parts of the industrialised West'', Camilleri says.

But so-called fourth-generation nuclear reactors, which yield much more power with less nuclear fuel, actually consume large amounts of their own dangerous waste. Some have already been successfully tested in pilot plants.

Neverthless, Mark Wakeham, director of Environment Victoria's anti-Hazelwood campaign, says political and practical obstacles such as the long construction time for nuclear plants, stand in the way. ''It takes decades and we don't have decades,'' Wakeham says. ''Every proposed nuclear power plant in the last two decades internationally has delivered over budget and has been significantly delayed. Our view is it's inherently problematic. It's a very large consumer of water so there's very few locations that you could actually site a nuclear power station in Victoria. Basically it would need to be near Port Phillip Bay or Western Port Bay, and if you reckon it's hard to get a wind farm constructed in Victoria at the moment, try building a nuclear power station.''

Monash University's Price, who has worked as an engineer in the UK nuclear power industry, says that the public perception in Australia is at odds with reality. ''[Nuclear energy] is a great deal cheaper than wind power and solar power, though is more expensive than brown coal,'' Price says. ''There have been very few large accidents. In fact, only Chernobyl stands out, and that is not a reactor system that would have been approved in the West. The other reactor systems have all had terrific records.''

Although the Federal Government remains resolutely anti-nuclear, it has an agency that is quite the reverse. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) runs Australia's only nuclear plant at Lucas Heights in Sydney's outer south-west, the 20-megawatt OPAL reactor, a joint German-Argentinian design that opened last year. (Lucas Heights was founded in 1958 in the early stages of the Cold War by the Menzies government with a 10-megawatt reactor, which was mainly used for nuclear medicine.)

HEAD of ANSTO Ziggy Switkowski believes that in its opposition to nuclear power Australia is alone among developed countries committed to deep greenhouse reductions. ''Australia stands alone in claiming that we are different, that we have a whole range of alternatives that in combination will get us to our target. It is ambitious but the numbers just don't work,'' he says. ''[We must] provide for the next generation of baseload electricity generation with clean energy. The only way to do that is with nuclear power. There is no other alternative. ''If we accept we want to move to a carbon-free economy by 2050, while there will be contributions from solar, wind and geothermal, the largest driver of that transition globally will be nuclear power. I don't think the case can be made that Australia is different, because we are not.''

CSIRO's Lincoln Paterson says he is no advocate for the nuclear industry, but even accounting for the Chernobyl tragedy, nuclear is relatively low risk considering 6000 or so people die annually from coal mining in China. ''There is a risk with nuclear, but there's a pretty horrendous risk if we do nothing,'' Paterson says. ''I've flown in and out of Bangladesh and there are 160 million people within 10 metres of sea level, and you start wondering what's going to happen to them. ''Wind by itself can't do it. Carbon capture and storage by itself can't do it. Nuclear by itself can't do it. It's going to require all of those technologies to make a contribution, and that's going to depend on where you are in the world and what the particular attributes of your country are.''

It is, Camilleri says, one of the most serious challenges humanity has faced in the past several hundred years, calling for extraordinary political and technical responses. And we are not there yet.


Sun goes down on solar-powered Australian schools

I suppose we have to be thankful for small mercies but the amount of taxpayer funds already spent on Greenie tokenism that will achieve precisely nothing is a disgrace. Typical of uncaring Leftist waste of other people's money, though

THE Rudd government's $480 million "national solar schools" program was quietly suspended yesterday afternoon via a notice posted on the popular scheme's website. "The National Solar Schools Program has been suspended to any new claims in 2009-10. This suspension takes effect as of 3:00pm 15 October 2009," the notice said.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who did not formally announce the program's closure, said 1300 schools had been approved under the program last year and 500 had already been approved this financial year, with another 700 "still in the pipeline for assessment". Those 700 would be funded if eligible, and additional money made available if required. [Plenty of money for Greenie causes] But no more applications will now be considered until next financial year.

Announcing the program in July 2008, Mr Garrett said "the Rudd Labor government wants every Australian school -- primary, secondary, public and private -- to have the opportunity to become a 'solar school' and the commencement of this half-a-billion dollar program delivers on our election commitment." "... Industry too will benefit from the program from the $480 million federal funding injection, creating increased demand for large solar power systems for school roofs," Mr Garrett said at the time.

The suspension is the latest in a series of changes and cuts to government solar programs, including the introduction of a means test on the household solar panel rebate and the ending of the remote solar program.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said it was "amazing that this government can waste $16billion on unwanted school halls but suspend a key solar program that every school appears to want".

The program has already hit implementation hurdles with NSW's centralised tendering process meaning no school had installed panels more than a year after the program started, and many schools running into problems hooking their panels into the power grid.

Mr Garrett's spokesman said the Department of the Environment would contact every school registered under the program as well as those with applications on hand to advise of the suspension until next year. Under the program schools were eligible for up to $50,000 to install solar power systems, or energy efficiency spending on items such as lighting, fans or awnings. Rainwater tanks, small wind turbines, small hydro power generators and skylights were also eligible.


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