Since I am about to go to the US I might as well post this here before I goPC rules blamed for Santa shortage
DISILLUSIONED by a growing list of rules imposed by recruiting agencies and shopping centres to guard against litigation, men who have brought smiles to the faces of thousands of young West Australians for decades are reluctantly deciding to call it quits.
They can't hand out lollies, they can't pat children on the head because of religious beliefs, they can't put children on their laps unless they get permission from parents and they can't have photographs taken with youngsters unless their hands are in full view.
So frightened have some Santas become of being sued that they are demanding extra helpers to act as witnesses just in case a complaint is made.
Santas are even being told not to go around saying 'Ho, ho, ho' because they may frighten children.
One Santa told The Sunday Times he walked through a shopping centre in silence because he was worried he'd be sacked if he appeared too jolly.
Political leaders Matt Birney and Brendon Grylls (Nationals) said the plight of Santas highlighted a worrying trend around the world of political correctness gone mad.
Labor Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said it was important society struck the right balance between political correctness and what some people saw as acceptable behaviour.
For Athol Marsh, who has donned the red-and-white suit for 41 years, and John Gomez, who has played Santa for a decade, the pressure ofbeing politically correct has become too much and they say this will be their last year playing the jolly man.
Many other Santas will follow them into retirement, while some of their former colleagues have been hanging up their boots since the rules began evolving a few years ago.
"Kids want to have a real Santa, not a grouchy fake who can't wait to knock off and get out of costume," Mr Marsh said.
"The ones who did the job because they loved doing it and wanted to keep a child's dream alive are no longer working because of the stupid rules and a lot are thinking, as I am, that this will be the last year.
"There are still Santas in stores, but the heart has gone out of them.
"The rules are getting ridiculous.
"How can you stop a child running up to you and leaping into your arms? Do you just drop them and say: 'Sorry, against the rules'?
"Kids run and cuddle Santa because they love the guy in the red suit."
Mr Gomez said the day was coming when Santas would no longer be a part of the Christmas spirit.
He feared Santas in shopping centres and public areas would be shielded behind glass screens, away from children.
"It used to be a fun job. I used to look forward to it every year, but not any more," he said.
"The fear of litigation hangs over you because you might have grabbed a kid the wrong way or helped a kid in the wrong way.
"Santa can't even be portrayed as a fat, jolly old fellow any more because it's not politically correct.
"Once upon a time you'd walk through the mall saying 'Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas', but now you say nothing."
The Sunday Times has been told that shopping centres and other venues are battling to find enough Santas.
Perth-based Westaff, which employs Santas every year, is still 10 short with only three weeks until Christmas.
A Westaff spokeswoman said Santa recruits were given a list of rules to follow at an annual training session in Perth.
Some rules had been introduced to protect the Santas and shopping centres from possible litigation, she said. Santas also required a police clearance.