Power of nature plus September wrap-up

I posted yesterday about the South Australian superstorm and outage. See also No, Renewable Energy Didn’t Cause South Australia’s Blackout.

An industry expert, who preferred we didn’t give his name because he wasn’t authorised to speak on the matter, was even more blunt. He actually laughed when we asked if renewable energy was to blame for the blackout.

“The transmission network was taken down by a violent storm. No generation technology can transmit power without the transmission network. You could replace all sources of generation, but if 22 transmission lines are knocked down, it can’t transmit,” he told HuffPost Australia.

“When people attack renewable energy, sometimes there is an element of truth. In this instance it is flat out wrong, there’s no ambiguity whatsoever. It’s so clear what the cause was. It doesn’t matter what was generating the power, it’s not even relevant. The transmission lines can’t transmit anything if they’ve fallen down.”

Two more pics:



Amazing stuff!

Blog stats for September 2016

This blog has averaged 42 visits a day in September, best since April 2016. Most visited in the month have been:

  1. Home page / Archives 673 views in September
  2. All my posts 29
  3. Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV 23
  4. Tom Thumb Lagoon 21
  5. What do you know about the Indus civilisation? 16
  6. Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong 14
  7. Ziggy’s House of Nomms 12
  8. 14 September 1989 and related memories 11
  9. Wollongong High: more on the centenary 10
  10. The swimmer 8
  11. Sorry, John Howard, but you’re not great on TV… 8
  12. How indigenous are you? 7
  13. Five (of many) decent Australians… 7
  14. My former workplace in the news today 7
  15. About 7
  16. Just a simple 70-something old patriot, me… 7
  17. 1957 or MCMLVII 7
  18. Wollongong High’s centenary, my family history, WW1 7
  19. Swamped by revenants? 7
  20. Shakespeare and footy tipping 7

South Australian superstorm and outage

Yesterday a superstorm led to a total power failure in the entire state of South Australia. Think about that:



See SA power outage: how did it happen?  One element some have raised is the fact that South Australia relies more than other states at the moment on renewable energy.

Key points:

  • South Australia has the highest rate of renewable energy in Australia
  • The ‘one in a 50 year’ weather event ‘couldn’t have been prevented or foreseen’
  • SA to be an example for other states and territories when planning for significant weather events

So, maybe not.

Earlier this week, the Grattan Institute released a report detailing the pressure high uptake in renewables had put on the state’s wholesale power prices, and how it was being viewed as a test case for the rest of the nation.

But the report’s author, Tony Wood, said the blackout was as a result of a particularly violent storm and it was usual for a system to shut down to protect itself from further damage.

“My understanding, at least at the moment, is there’s no evidence to suggest these two issues are related,” Mr Wood said….

Mr Wood said the investigation into exactly what happened would help other states and territories plan for significant weather events hitting power infrastructure, even though South Australia’s network was quite different.

“South Australia itself is a more concentrated grid city network than say, for example, Queensland which is more strung out.

“You could imagine a situation in which a city in Queensland, such as Townsville and Cairns could have been affected by a similar freak storm, which took out all the power in that city, it doesn’t necessarily mean that would cascade through all the way down to Brisbane.

“These systems are designed with a lot of redundancy, a lot of protected systems. At the end of the day, the main issue is to ensure the safety of people and the safety of the system is protected by the system itself automatically shutting down.”

We haven’t heard the last of this though.

7884738-3x2-700x467 Image of South Australian storm by Erik Brokken — on ABC News

More 1950s Shire nostalgia

Yes, of course I saw The Debate yesterday…

Meanwhile, I see New Scientist is currently offering this:

Wistful thinking? Why nostalgia can be good

Endless movie remakes. Throwback Thursdays on social media. Politicians who seem to want to turn back the clock to a vaunted era. While nostalgia seems harmless, and perhaps a bit mawkish, it turns out to be a powerful motivator of all that is good and bad in humanity. Find out how nostalgic you are through our special test, and understand the influence of wistfulness on our lives…

Looking at a couple more photos from the Sutherland collection (see the previous post), I saw this shopfront in Kirrawee in 1955:


Hey, I don’t remember that! However, note what appears to be a pasted over phone number LU 1970. That’s the Beverly Hills office of D W Sproule and this, DWS Building Service, was at the time my father’s business.


See my post Random Friday memory 13 – Humber Super Snipe. I don’t recall that Kirrawee office at all, but I studiously avoided much interest in my father’s businesses for years. It may however explain how we came to be living in Avery Avenue Kirrawee from 1956-1958. By 1959 we were in Jannali.

See Random Friday memory 30: spotting the Pardalote and Random Friday memory 24: riding the red rattler.

Now I mentioned Jannali, and another photo in the Sutherland collection brought back an almost completely faded memory from 1956: the goods train derailment of April 1956. Here is Jannali Station:


And the story:


I would have been one of those bussing it to Hurstville from Sutherland at that time. I am pretty sure I went, probably with my grandfather Christison who lived near the Jannali-Sutherland line, to have a look.

Someone who later worked at Jannali Station posted this:

The real peculiarity about Jannali Station was, (and still is) if any passenger did want to go from one platform to another, they had to exit the railway property area and walk through the council footpaths and parks, and then over a road bridge to the other side. (a very long detour) No railway steps to walk over as a short cut. Us rail workers had the convenience of the “boardwalk” across the railway tracks, but it was with a lot of caution. A lot of trains coming from Sutherland going top speed of about 70kmh (non stop) used to come tearing through the cutting and appear “out of nowhere” I witnessed a couple of close calls which were too close for comfort.

I was then in Second Year (Year 8) at Sydney Boys High:  More “Neil’s Decades” –8: 1956 — 1 and 1957 or MCMLVII. So my final nostalgic photo concerns what I would see every morning at Central’s Eddy Avenue, thanks to this blog.


In 1955, being then just 4 feet 8 inches tall, I remember lying on those tram tracks to prove to a friend that the gauge was 4’8.5’’, the standard railway gauge. He thought tram-tracks were narrower.

1950s Sutherland: sheer nostalgia 60 years on

Do go to the source, Picture Sutherland Shire, for (currently) 465 images.

Yesterday I wrote: “We spent much of 1953-4 looking for Russian spies in the bush in West Sutherland, being excited further that they were building Australia’s first (and still only) nuclear reactor just across the Woronora at Lucas Heights.”


And here is Sutherland Shire Council Chambers in 1954, the year of the Royal Visit:


Note which flag flies highest. We were still “British Subjects” in those days.

At Federation in 1901, ‘British subject’ was the sole civic status noted in the Australian Constitution. The Australasian Federal Convention of 1897–98 was unable to agree on a definition of the term ‘citizen’ and wanted to preserve British nationality in Australia. An administrative concept of citizenship arose from the need to distinguish between British subjects who were permanent residents and those who were merely visitors. This was necessary for the Commonwealth to exercise its powers over immigration and deportation. Motivated by the nationalism of Arthur Calwell, the Minister for Immigration 1945–49, this administrative concept was formalised in the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948. In 1958 the Act was amended so that naturalisation could only be revoked if obtained by fraud. This prevented a naturalised person being stripped of citizenship and deported.

Throughout the 1960s, Australian citizens were still required to declare their nationality as British. The term ‘Australian nationality’ had no official recognition or meaning until the Act was amended in 1969 and renamed the Citizenship Act. This followed a growing sense of Australian nationalism and the declining importance for Australians of the British Empire. In 1973 the Act was renamed the Australian Citizenship Act. It was not until 1984 that Australian citizens ceased to be British subjects.

Next to Council Chambers was the Library. In 1954 I was a frequent borrower. The children’s books were in the room to the right of the front door.


And local shops that I would often have been in. The car could even be our Standard Vanguard, if this photo was taken around 1953. We had graduated to a Vanguard Spacemaster by 1954.


Not exactly crowded is Sutherland’s main street, is it? I suspect too by the light that this is summer.

Sorry, John Howard, but you’re not great on TV…

Which is not to say that I didn’t actually enjoy the two-part series Howard on Menzies: Building Modern Australia.


Former PMs Howard and Hawke in Howard on Menzies

Holly Byrnes introduces the series thus:

Filmed over 15 months, Mr Howard leads interviews with 30 political and business luminaries, including former Labor PM Bob Hawke, author Clive James and News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch.

In promotional material for the series, to premiere on Sunday, September 21, Howard said: “having been interviewed all my life, it was a fascinating and entirely new experience to be interviewing others. Exciting and enjoyable.”…

Pointing to the divide which still remains between former parliamentary combatants, Paul Keating is described as the “glaring omission” from the cast of interviewees, which producer Simon Nasht, a former Canberra press gallery journalist, says was ultimately mutual.

“Neither party (Keating or Howard) seemed keen, I guess because it would not have been a discussion, more two immovable points of view. Some prime ministers on opposite sides of the fence get along and others don’t,” Mr Nasht said.

It was Keating’s belief the Menzies era was “the golden age when Australia stagnated, when they [Liberal Government at the time] put the country in neutral.”

A sympathetic historian, Gregory Melleuish (Wollongong University) counters:

This program is a work of historical and political revisionism. Its target is the view, expressed most forcefully by Paul Keating, that the 1950s was a time when Australia remained locked in the past in a self-induced stupor, brought about by a failure to recognise that the time of the British Empire was over.

Keating’s rhetoric is both anachronistic and an expression of a sectarian view of the world that was long dead by the 1990s. There can be no doubt that Australia became modern between 1949 and 1966, the year Menzies retired as prime minister.

Much opinion however does seem to dismiss the program as propaganda.

However, Howard acknowledged Mr Menzies was far from a forward-thinking Liberal.

“He was an economic protectionist, but all politicians of that era were,” says Howard. “They believed in government; I think the Liberals wanted to be smaller, when you put it that way, and Labor wanted to be larger.”

Vision of FX Holdens rolling off the production line from Broadmeadows in Victoria and workers building the Snowy Mountains hydroelectricity scheme, as well as general footage of a bustling, working population thanks in part to mass immigration, suggests otherwise.

These, however, were all Labor initiatives.

As Hawke tells Howard: “He had a situation in the post-world war era, where the world was prepared to pay anything for what we grew and, later, what we dug up. So it wasn’t the most challenging period; I think in a sense like Gough Whitlam, I don’t think Menzies personally had a great interest in economics as such.”

Rupert Murdoch concurs: “We were critical at the time and I think we were right. He was very much the status quo, central planning, wage controls. He wasn’t much for change.”

Still Howard isn’t to be dissuaded from his argument: “But it seemed to work well, didn’t it?”

Even so, and even given that John Howard is not God’s gift as an interviewer, I did enjoy the two programs. Partly this was sheer nostalgia: my schooling and university almost all took place in the Menzies years – Kindergarten in 1949 and following. We spent much of 1953-4 looking for Russian spies in the bush in West Sutherland, being excited further that they were building Australia’s first (and still only) nuclear reactor just across the Woronora at Lucas Heights.

In April 15, 1953, Australia entered the nuclear science arena, when the Atomic Energy Act came into effect.


1958: Menzies at opening of the Lucas Heights reactor

I recall too the moaning from my father’s office in Jannali about the Menzies Credit Squeeze of late 1960-1961. That was rather well covered in the program. For that and other reasons my father’s businesses had failed by 1963. Not all was golden in the golden age.

Which brings me to nostalgia, I do nostalgia. The Menzies program gave me some good hefty doses of it. It is worth noting though that nostalgia isn’t always our friend. The Revenant of Oz positively wallows in it, as this latest story shows:

While [The Had a Gutful Party] says on its website that its number one priority is to “bring about the necessary changes for fair and equal treatment of all Australians”, Senator [Revenant] made it clear that didn’t extend to marriage equality.

“I agree that everyone has the right to peace and harmony, but the gays and lesbians are now wanting to change my way of thinking, who I am,” she said.

“I come from a time when there was no discussion about gay marriage. That’s my background, that’s what I’ve grown up with.

“You want to take something away from the majority of society that we’ve grown up with. Why do you want to take the word marriage?”

Senator [Revenant] said she “associated with the gays and I’ve even worked with gays” but not all of them wanted to get married. She believes the gay and lesbian community should be content with civil ceremonies.

She said she didn’t care that other Western countries were allowing same-sex marriage, but also suggested that could be a way for Australian gay and lesbian people to get what they want.

“If you feel so strongly about it, I’m sure you can move to that country and then you can have that marriage,” she said.

You can almost hear the chalk on blackboard voice, can’t you? Stop hurting my head, or piss off, all you people that weren’t bothering us when I was five years old!  Nostalgia isn’t always a friend.

OK, another right-wing ex-politician, this time British: Michael Portillo. I became quite a fan of Great Continental Railway Journeys on SBS, and am now savouring Great American Railroad Journeys. I love this from The Guardian:

I have a small apology to make. A little over a year ago, confronted by a new series of Great Continental Railway Journeys, I wrote a piece confessing that I couldn’t stand its presenter. Michael Portillo, I said, seemed slimy and ill at ease on camera. I said he looked lacquered, that he dressed like an early 1990s gameshow contestant. The show itself was great, but I argued that this was despite Portillo, not because of him.

But now I’m here to apologise. I’ve been watching Portillo’s new series Great American Railroad Journeys – essentially his Great Railway Journeys show with a different guidebook – and, as much as it pains me to admit this, I got it wrong. Portillo is actually a weirdly compelling host. In fact, there might not be a presenter as gleefully unselfconscious working today…

Rather more colourful on TV than John Howard.