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Labor government backs witch-hunting of photographer Bill Henson [May. 31st, 2008|10:51 am]
Bob Bain
[Current Mood |bitchybitchy]

Analysis of the Bill Henson saga from The World Socialist Web Site (pdf format)

By Richard Phillips
26 May 2008

In a major assault on basic democratic rights, Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his New South Wales state counterpart have backed the police seizure of photographs by internationally-acclaimed Australian artist/photographer Bill Henson from a Sydney art gallery.


Police raided the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery twice, on May 22, just before an exhibition of Henson’s work was about to open, and the following day took possession of 20 photographs and associated promotional material. Members of the NSW police Child Protection, Sex Crimes and Child Exploitation Internet squads were involved.

Henson and the gallery owners are now being threatened with prosecution under the federal Crimes Act and state child pornography laws. If charges are laid, they will constitute a gross violation of freedom of artistic expression, and must be vigorously opposed by artists, students and all working people. Henson’s photographs, with their ethereal and sensitive depiction of young adolescents—sometimes naked—are not remotely pornographic.


The vendetta against Henson was initiated last week by right-wing Sydney Morning Herald columnist Miranda Devine who, in response to a review of Henson’s exhibition being published in the same edition of the paper, wrote a piece attempting to link Henson to the sexualisation of children. Devine was well aware of the response this would produce—and it was not long in coming. Sydney’s radio shock-jocks and Hetty Johnson from Braveheart, a child sexual assault advocacy group, leapt into the fray. Their campaign was given legs, however, by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma, who both went out of their way to endorse it. Neither had seen the exhibition.

Less than 24 hours after the initial raid, Rudd appeared on the Nine Network’s morning television program denouncing Henson’s photographs as “absolutely revolting”. “I really have a problem with this,” he declared. “Whatever the artistic view of the merits of that sort of stuff—frankly, I don’t think there are any—just allow kids to be kids.”

Iemma, who was in China, made a special call from that country to attack Henson’s work. “I find it offensive and disgusting,” he said. “I don’t understand why parents would agree to allow their kids to be photographed like this.”

Not to be outdone, federal Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson declared that the photographs violated “Australian values” and that pictures of naked children were pornographic and it was “time for us to take a stand”.

A few hours after these remarks, police released an official statement indicating that charges would be laid and that Victorian state police would be interviewing one of the girls photographed and the parents of other children who appear in Henson’s photographs.

On Friday the Daily Telegraph, Murdoch’s Sydney tabloid, editorialised that the police seizure of the photographs was a “victory for decency”. On Sunday, former antiwar rock musician and now federal Labor Arts Minister Peter Garrett declared that while artists had the “right to challenge and confront audiences they also have a responsibility to operate within the law.” In other words, the police, politicians and the courts should dictate what artists can or cannot produce.



Operate within the law ???

Since when have pornographic outlets in the Eastern States of Australia operated within the laws of the State of New South Wales - LAWS introduced by both the Federal Labor Government and the State Government of New South Wales in 1995 and intended to be UNIFORM from State to State and nationally. I hope you understand Mr Garrett that you are the government. You make the laws. The police should be obligated to ENFORCE consistently and without prejudice all the laws of the State of New South Wales.

I have correspondence signed on behalf of the Minister for Police which states that they do - but that is a BIG FAT LIE !l

Why not "get a brain" and introduce laws that make sense. Perhaps your years in rock bands has addled your brain !