Monthly Archives: October 2009

Stop the closure of Casualty at Balmain Hospital

The people of Balmain and surrounding districts and councillors from the Leichhardt Municipal Council have been lobbying the New South Wales State Government (under the stewardess of Nathan Rees at the moment) to reverse a decision to close the Balmain Casualty from 10 pm to 8 am.  Previously, the service was 24/7 but the State Government decided to close this valuable service at times when the community most needs it: when no doctors’ surgeries are open. Go figure.

Despite meetings and many Balmainites writing to the Health Minister, the State Government will not budge on this despite the fact that the closure adds pressure to an already over-extended outpatients unit at RPA, the closest major hospital.

The public meeting held in Balmain on 4 June this year opposed the closure because:

  • many older people with chronic illnesses and low income earners who depend on the casualty ward at Balmain Hospital late at night have difficulty getting to RPA
  • the changing demographic in Balmain is an increase in older people and parents with young children
  • added pressure on the emergency facility at RPA
  • high cost of transporting patients from Balmain to RPA.

If you want to add your voice of opposition to the closure, contact our local state government member Verity Firth at, Carmel Tebbutt, Health Minister at, and/or The Premier, Nathan Rees at

They tell me if they get lots of emails and letters, they get rather nervous and it can make a difference. If you think this stuff matters, send the emails.

Also let the other side know what we want should they win the next election: Barry O’Farrell on


Jacarandas in Balmain 2009

Balmain Watch House with Jacaranda tree in bloom, 31 October 2009

Balmain Watch House with Jacaranda in bloom

Darling Street Balmain 31 October 2009 with jacaranda in full bloom

Darling Street Balmain with Jacaranda tree

A carpret of Jacaranda blooms, 31 October 2009

Jacaranda blooms on grass

Jacarandas in bloom

Fallen Jacaranda leaves on grass

A soft carpet of Jacaranda leaves at the Balmain Watch House

It’s that time of year in Australia when the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom. The flowers fall to form carpets of mauve which are quite beautiful (though don’t park your car under one).

At the old Balmain Watch House on Darling Street, the blanket of mauve of the jacaranda flowers on the grass was simply gorgeous – purple and green mixing together.

Nature sure knew what she was doing.

Compassionate policy for asylum seekers please

Humane government policy for refugees

Humane care of refugees

John Howard and his merry band of mean-minded ministers were voted out of government in 2007 by the Australia people for a number of reasons – one being the policy of putting people seeking asylum from persecution in their own countries – men, women and children – behind barbed wire, often for years while their claims for asylum were being assessed.

In 2009, what has changed with our new government? Voted in on the belief that the Rudd Labor Government would introduce more compassionate policies in a number of areas including the treatment of asylum seekers, does any one else feel a sense of deja vu? I am not alone in feeling great disappointment that our Labor Federal Government is sounding a lot like the last bunch that we turfed out.

I don’t think it was naive to think that those on the left of politics are more humane, more caring, more concerned about people who are disadvantaged, those who need a helping hand, that our politicians – rather than peddling fear and hatred – would stand up to such uncaring and often ill-informed attitudes.

In the 1970s, Prime Minister Fraser (Liberal Party) managed a humane policy towards the Vietnamese refugees when the Australian population was fearful and wary. No mention of the evils of people smugglers (who also helped Vietnamese people make the perilous journey), just the message that a civilized society such as ours can act with honour and decency. And he did. And we agreed with him. Today we can look back with pride.

David Marr, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday (29 October), makes the point that Kevin Rudd’s election promise to have no children in detention has been broken. As David says, the Human Rights Commissioners Catherine Branson QC and Graeme Innes visiting Christmas Island found 53 children, 36 of whom were without families, that is, ‘children who had made their own way to the island on their own’. On his own visit recently, he ‘found children everywhere’. Yes Chris Evans, the Minister for Immigration is adamant that ‘there are no children detained in … any … detention centre’. Somewhere there is a disconnect.

And then there are 78 Sri Lankans on the Australian customs ship, Oceanic Viking. Understandably, the refugees are reluctant to get off the ship in Indonesia and perhaps, given they are already on an Australian ship, the Indonesians feel no compulsion to take them on to their shores. However, the Rudd Government is equally reluctant to bring them to Australia to process their asylum claims.

Mr Rudd, bring them to Australia and process their claims as fast as possible. Yes, we can do things in a dignified way – in a caring and compassionate way. There are many Australians like me who realise that most of the people who come by boats are genuine refugees. We want a compassionate government, a government with strength and courage to do the right thing. We can, yes, we really can do this.

If you want to email members of our Federal Government to have your say, go to Parliament of Australia website for the complete list of House of Representative members and list of Senators.

Add lemons to your eco-friendly cleaning

Vinegar, Bi-Carb Soda, Lemon

Add lemon to eco-friendly cleaning products

I’ve written about the benefits of vinegar and bi-carb soda as safe, effective, green cleaning products but let’s not forget the lemon.

Lemons can easily be added to your eco-friendly cleaning products as lemons are an effective de-greaser and whitener. The fresh citrus smell of a lemon will take away any bad odours around the house. It’s the reason why many expensive and less eco-friendly cleaning products in a supermarket are lemon scented.

Here are six ways to clean with lemons.

  1. For kitchen bench stains, rub with lemon, allow to sit for a minute (not too long – it’s powerful stuff) then wipe over with bi-carb soda. Then wash off with warm water.
  2. If you are cooking with lemon juice, use the discarded lemon to wipe over your cutting boards. Leave overnight and wash. The lemon disinfects and whitens at the same time and it won’t harm the environment. Bi-carb soda rubbed on the cutting board has the same effect. While the bi-carb is on the board, spray with vinegar. The mixture will bubble, then wash clean with hot water.
  3. A mixture of half lemon juice and water makes a great cleaner for windows and mirrors. And add a cup of lemon juice to your dishwasher during the rinse cycle to cut greate and add sparkle to your glassware.
  4. Grind lemon rinds in the garbage disposal to freshen and disinfect.
  5. Pour hot water with a little lemon down a drain for the same effect.
  6. Get rid of mildew and mold from tiles with a mixture of lemon juice and salt. A bit of elbow grease may be needed as well. Consider this part of your exercise routine.

Vinegar, bi-carb and lemons – all accessible, safe cleaning products that are not only as effective as manufactured cleaners, but are better for the environment and easier on the pocket.

Climate change procrastination

Rainwater tank

Rainwater tanks can help protect water supply

As one of the most important issues of our time, you would think I would have at least several posts by now on this matter because it matters so much. But it’s such a complex issue that it is easier to write about the practical environmental tips that we can do at the micro level to help save our planet and to write other stuff like how to make Anzac biscuits.

Unfortunately, I’m not the only one with inertia on the climate change issue. While scientists have been documenting significant evidence about man-made environmental changes that are buggering up the planet, politicians and others (and we should include the CEOs of multinationals that have a greater GDP than many countries) are suffering from head-in-sand syndrome.

I am not alone in feeling that our own state government in New South Wales in Australia is not serious about the problem. Take water, for example. The government is building a desalination plant to guarantee water supply but at what cost? Hugely expensive to build and run, some marine biologists argue that it will also add to environmental damage with the massive increase of salt levels in the ocean around the plant. That sounds like a lose-lose scenario to me. The desal plant will also eat up vast quantities of electricity which may still be produced by coal fired electricity plants while the government charges the people of New South Wales ever increasing amounts of money to access the water. Where is the plan for the future sustainability of the environment in the state?

It’s time for governments to seriously think about mobilising the good intentions of their constituents and come up with environmental sustainable plans that embrace eco-friendly infrastructure for delivery of water and power and include micro-level systems where households can contribute to their own water retention and electricity generation. The technology is available right now – it is only the will of governments that is missing. A costly desalination plant that few people I know want is just not good enough. We all need to become more proficient at generating our own power needs and water requirements, even if it means that some levels of government might have to go. And that is the crux of the issue – the introduction of such measures may be the start of their own demise.

Let’s not forget the farming issues around water in Australia, the terrible problems of drought and famine in developing countries but these are other stories for another time.

Check out some of the links below. If you know a business or government agency who is helping with eco-firendly household level electricity generation or water retention and recycling, leave a comment and I’ll add the website link.

Related links

Energy matters

Domestic waste water matters

Household water storage matters

Grey water recycling matters

Examples of Local Council initiatives

The stuff of life

I believe a lot of it [life] is all about pushing a rock up a hill and endlessly watching the fucking thing roll down again.

Hey, I laughed when I read that quote from Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. It’s somewhat black but hey, it resonates. Sometimes I think the rock is a bloody great bolder twice my size, at other times it’s a bit more managable. But if we think the rock won’t roll down out of control from time to time, we’re kidding ourselves.

Terry Gilliam also said in the same interview for the Sydney Morning Herald, October 24-25 2009, that ‘the only way we keep death away from us is to keep giggling’. ‘Death’, he said, ‘really hates laughter, it just has no sense of humour at all’. Same for that rock.

Anzac biscuit recipe

Traditional Aussie Anzac biscuits

Traditional Aussie Anzac biscuits

Anzac biscuits are very Australian.  ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought in the First World War, and it is believed that Anzac biscuits were first made for food parcels sent to the troops on the front line – but this may be an urban myth.

Not only very easy to make, they are divine.

Ingredients you will need

  • One cup of rolled oats (regular sized oats, uncooked)
  • One cup of plain flour
  • 3/4 cup of dessicated coconut
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter or substitute
  • 2 tablespoons of golden syrup (no substituting please)
  • 3 tablespoons of boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon bi-carb soda

What to do

Preheat oven to 150 – 170 degrees C depending on whether you have a slow or fast oven.

Combine all the dry ingredients: the sifted flour, rolled oats, coconut and brown sugar and mix together.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and golden syrup without burning the butter until the butter is melted. Add the hot water and stir. Remove from  heat and add the bi-carb. Watch it fizz (this is the exciting part).

Pour the liquid immediately into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. With a tablespoon, make balls of mixture and place on a baking tray which has been lined with non-stick baking paper. Make sure they are not too close together as they spread during cooking.

Cook in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes or until the biscuits are golden. Keep a watch as they cook because they can go from golden to burnt very quickly.

Allow to cool by keeping small children and dogs at bay. If you manage to keep any for more than a day, keep in a well-sealed container preferably with a lock on it!

Here’s a tip

Bi-carb soda is an essential ingredient for Anzac biscuits, but it is also an amazing, safe cleaning agent. Read about some of the ways that you can use bi-carb soda and help protect our environment.

Baking soda for cleaning

Bi-carb soda is economical, environmentally friendly and quite exceptional

Bi-carb soda is economical, environmentally friendly and quite exceptional

Baking soda, bi-carbonate soda, bi-carb soda – whatever you call it – is an environmentally friendly cleaning product and so much more!

We all know it’s used in baking. Anzac biscuits just wouldn’t be Anzac biscuits without bi-carb. But bi-carb soda also cleans just about anything, deoderises the house and things in the house, and is wonderful for keeping skin soft and feeling silky smooth if you put it in a bath in which you are in.

Six top uses for baking soda

  • Sprinkle carpets with it, leave for about 15 minutes and vacuum to take all residual smells out of the house.
  • Put some baking soda in a dish in the fridge and it will absorb food all those competing odours.
  • Smelly shoes will be as fresh as new after a sprinkle of bi-carb in the shoes – best if left for a couple of days before wearing again.
  • Mix bi-carb with a little water and use to clean bathroom and kitchen tiles to remove dirt and grease. Also cleans kitchen benches and just about anything – it’s safe, cheap and works!
  • Remove tea stains from cups with a sprinkle of baking soda in cups and a good wipe.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables with a sprinkle of bi-carb in the water to remove any residual pesticides, drain then rinse in fresh water.
  • Add half a cup of baking soda to your bath to restore your skin to a smooth, silky softness (make sure you are in it, of course).

Baking soda is a non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaner that is inexpensive. We don’t need all the manufactured expensive cleaners that clog up supermarket shelves and our environment so get with the program and get some bi-carb happening in your house.

Drinks at the Opera House

Friends from Canada at the Opera House in Sydney

Friends from Canada at the Opera House in Sydney

Showing some Canadian friends some of the more wonderful things to do in Sydney has to include Circular Quay and the Opera House. For me, it is the heart of this great city so it wasn’t a difficult decision to decide to have drinks and dinner near the Opera House.

The photo was taken at the Opera Bar at dusk on 21 October 2009. Kristeen on the left, Blair on the right, with Bill and me enjoying a drink or two before dinner at one of the restaurants along the Opera Quays.

What better way to get to the Opera Bar? By Sydney ferries to Circular Quay of course.

Our Canadian friends live in Vernon British Columbia – a place Bill and I visit each year to explore some of the best ski mountains that Canada has to offer. Check out Ski Biz to see Vernon and read about some of the surrounding ski mountains.