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Perverts in the shrubbery

Paul Walter is a longtime Webdiarist, self-described as middle-aged, who completed a Bachelor of Arts degree a couple of years ago as a mature age student. He has been masquerading here for the last two days as “Paul Walker” because of some email and password problems, which have now been resolved. However, his style was inimitable, so we knew who he was … Anyway, earlier today Paul made some comments about the brouhaha over Bill Henson’s allegedly pornographic photographs. I invited him to contribute a thread starter, and to my amazed delight he responded very promptly thus:

Don't know about a "small piece", but here are a few thoughts issuing forth at random concerning the time travellers’ return to the dark ages, also inspired by a visit to the Friends of SBS website an hour ago.

So, here it is. I think it's your debut piece for Webdiary, Paul - but whether or not it is, thank you. 

Perverts in the shrubbery
by Paul Walter

We shall dedicate the following to the now-sleeping Roland Barthes of "Mythologies" fame, as his famous tract continues its fifty-ish-ith anniversary.

At SBS, the writer discovered more concerning the perplexing stubborn ongoing refusal of the government to abide by election promises and remove deliberately intrusive advertising from SBS (has any one else been taken aback by the absolute lack of comment concerning ABC and SBS financing and independence over the last few months ... or the severity and rapidity of the decline of Fairfax and Murdoch?). So the theory that Rudd has spoken out of induced ignorance and resulting priggishness is strengthened, although the alternative theory relating to the damping down of a new front just opened by Devine in the Culture Wars on behalf of political allies encircled Stalingrad style still has much appeal. Now, I will add following thoughts.

The ALP is happy to inherit a dumbed down media surviving on prurience as factuality and where real issues are excluded, same as it is happy to inherit Howard's ASIO and weakened corporate law or IR provisions, for example.

For instance, the nerve shattering silence, except in terms of neo liberal boosterism concerning what the privatisation of NSW electricity is really about (Carr, "Vanuatu" Keating consultancies only mentioned in passing, etc ) – just one example. Thank heaven for Ian MacDougall’s exploration of this elsewhere. Richard Tonkin’s posts also constitute a long-term example posts of the forgotten art of broad sheet journalism, dealing with hard issues of equity, power and reality-shaping, ignored like the plague by mainstream press and media controlled by the likes of Ron Walker and Shaun Brown.

One sees Fairfax online following Murdoch subterranean of the gutter, now expending much space to urgent problems like the colour scheme of Myf Warhurst's knickers or the rampaging behaviours of female state school teachers vis à vis their male students.

In this sort of fevered environment, where "morals" are defined in terms of sexual behaviour exclusively, rather than through, say, financial corruption or moral sanctimoniousness, the Mirandas become rails runners for opinion dominance. And faux outrage over dubious artworks is just another obvious mode for distraction from real world issues.


I hear someone claiming that this writer is thus downgrading pedophilia as an issue?

No, just the opposite.

Of course it is not a minor issue. Therefore, it should not be cynically exploited as a culture wars stalking horse for other hidden agendas of political control through its (ab)use in the manipulating of the emotions and the offending the sensibilities of those with genuine concerns or who have been the real victims of abuse.

Look, this antic has provoked some intelligent comment in the op ed pages of the Age and SMH in response; for more involved investigation a visit is commended.

Back here, the Mirandas will have problems of contradiction as to their targets in what otherwise could have been a righteous war against commodification/reification of youth, as well as the separate problem of child sexual exploitation. But Dahvine painstakingly avoided mention of the lucrative field of endeavour in prurience worked intensely and daily throughout the media and press that also employs her, with her focus on a typical isolated soft "out sider" rightist target; the abstracted/abstract artist intellectual who is offside to "our" society by being more interested in examining its values than unthinkingly upholding them. Such an individual likely has intellectual concerns against prurience and such an attack is therefore likely libellous as well as misleading.

The one exception was Devine's helpful attack on Dolly magazine for its unconditional promoting of anal intercourse as a desired (de rigueur, if you like) behaviour option for thirteen year old girls, regardless of the health and pain/discomfort factors for participating fashionistas.

But even here, we ask are we examining an unexamined system and its underlying imperatives, or indulging in de facto legitimisation of that system by creating an impression that Dolly is just an isolated atypical example of component failure rather than the system exemplar?


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OK Bill

Ok Bill, clearly we posted at the same time. So are you happy with my answer to your repeated question concerning young bovines? If not, tough. But on that score I am right.

Now this from you:

And while on your Whitehousian holier than thou trip, you might consider keeping your teeny examples within the bounds of honesty. The photographs in question here are not ones of any thirteen year old girl being sexually abused. And of course were they that, then they would depict an adolescent being abused. And that is how they would be accurately described. That's rational objectiviity for you.

That is your response to this from me:

I think if a photograph came into my possession of a thirteen year old girl being sexually abused, I would call that photo child pornography, but clearly you would call it teen pornography. I suspect others here and the parents would call it child pornography. But you will of course see yourself as being right, and the rest of us wrong.

You see,  You are so sure you are right aren't you. A thirteen year old is to you an adolescent and not a child. Your terminology is correct, mine is wrong and then I am accused of dishonesty for merely trying to illustrate to you a situation in which a thirteen year old girl would by most, in my opinion be referred to not as an adolescent but as a child. Your point about the Henson photos not fitting that illustration is irrelevant and simply an attempt to distort what I write.

And you wonder why I prefer to work on the Scot's dinner than on that lengthy spray at me all in similar vein. Well I too know when rational and objective discussion is possible and when it is not. And with you I deem it to be not. At least not on this issue. So we're quits on that in my opinion.

Now have you sorted out the heifer calves from the herd?

Oh dear, Kathy

Oh boy, is my face red. And how will I ever impress those little teeny-boppers I lust after with a complexion like this?

Maybe I should stand in a corner and contemplate my own psyche. Looks like I must have changed the names in an unconscious effort to protect the innocent, or the guilty, or to implicate the innocent bystander, or something or other.

I beg your pardon.

Richard: In Bill's defence, I should have picked that up too, Kathy. What kind of flowers? Roses, was it?

No difference?

Jenny, Kathy , Anthony, etc.

Re your various comment about "children" under sixteen, seventeen whatever, that's reasonable in the strict sense.

But Bill Avent's point about there being a world of difference between a physically and emotionally mature fifteen year old beginning to explore the adult aspects of life and a four year abused for pornographic purposes is surely just as reasonable?

Much of the hysteria that goes on in the tabloids at the moment goes with the arbitrary and misleading conflation of adolescent sexuality (eg the risible nonsense involving sexually mature and active males being "penetrated" by somehow villainous female teachers ) with the most gross of genuinely paedophiliac antics involving prepubescent actual children.

Lets have a little commonsense in these discourses, there IS a real difference and it might help if some real world attempt was made to differentiate between the two.

It's like conflating a nudge in the back of the shoulder to being done over by a pack of bikies outside a pub within the category of assault.

Technically reasonable to conflate the two at one level, but at extremes the conflation of one with the other can achieve ridiculous absurdity and when the resulting absurdity is detected, a weakening for the cause of "child" protection as applicable to "children" in the actual sense.

OK Eliot, I'll admit it.

I'll admit that I'm a dupe of hysterical Hansonite remnants from Queensland who are aligned with far-right trogs from the Telegraph and the SMH who really are attempting to bring about a proto-Stalinist inspired albeit new right counter-revolutionary state in which restrictions on artistic freedom of expression are simply the thin edge of the wedge after which we intend to establish a regime in which individual freedoms will be curtailed in the interests of the common good but in which ideas of what constitutes the common good must really reflect either the values of the Hillsong Church or those of a feminist nunnery located somewhere in the Hunter Valley.  We are planning your future and it is is one of mud bricks, bad wine, root vegetables, intermittent electicity supplies and solitary pleasures.  Public voice will depend on your conformity to a rigorous set of unpleasant aesthetic practices, communal dining with people you loathe and your competence at chanting feminist catechisms.  An ability to interpret the symbolic meaning of indigenous art to Chinese tour groups would be an advantage as would unending public declarations of your devotion to Kim il Kevin.


Anthony Nolan: "I never before have felt contempt for the Australian arts community but I do now."

So, the campaign is working, then?

Frankly my dear

Jenny Hume, I don't give a (expletive deleted, in light of your delicate sensibilities) whether you find what I said to Kathy offensive or not. Were I insecure enough, and small minded enough, I could find her snide innuendo accusing me of empathy with drooling deviant lechers offensive enough to elicit a childish whinge. I'm not that much into whinging, though. And what I said to her was meant seriously. People unable to coherently explain the reasons why they hold the opinions to which they adhere, who must instead resort to emotive misuse of language, distortion of the truth and sleazy attacks on whoever disagrees with them, may sometimes be well advised to turn their attention to their own psyches and try to become aware of what really drives them.

But hey, Kathy's kind of offensiveness is OK with you, because she agrees with your opinions; whereas mine is reprehensible because with me you disagree. Likewise in the case of Anthony Nolan. He may use such words as fuck and dick without raising a murmur from you; yet when someone with whom you disagree says arse, while not even talking directly to you, you find that worthy of your indignation. Time, I reckon, for someone around here to take a bit of a long hard look at her impartiality problem.

On age of maturity: some gathering of pompous asses in a big room full of expensive furniture, all going um, ahh, er and Mistah Spikkuh, and Mistah Spikkuh making his living by bellowing out Aww-duh! every few minutes, may legislate all they want; they will not overturn the laws of nature. It is the laws of nature which determine the age at which maturity is reached. And the legislation determining a person designated "child" to be anyone under the arbitrary age of sixteen, or eighteen or whatever it is, doubtless follows the preamble: For the purposes of the Act. Legislation detail usually does, anyway. This is the legislators' way of clarifying what their law means whilst acknowledging that they can't actually legislate a word to mean what it doesn't mean in general usage. And I am certainly not about to limit my understanding of words to that governing one small item of legislation passed in one small insignificant corner of the arse end of the world. I prefer to talk about reality, in its own terms.

I repeat: Would you call a heifer a calf? If not, why would you call an adolescent human a child? Only to support your illogical argument that a photograph featuring a nude adolescent is equivalent to child pornography, as far as I can tell.

Ask any thirteen year old whether he or she is a child. With perhaps a trace of exasperation at your ignorance of such matters, or perhaps with a hint of pride at having transcended childhood, he or she will respond: "No, I'm a teenager!" See? There it is in the words themselves: thirTEEN and TEENager.

Human beings go through stages of development. The stages are infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The time at which transition from one stage to another take place is not governed by such artificial human constructs as dates; they are governed by nature. Pedophiles target children. There it is in the word again: Pedo or Paedo stands for child. Not adolescent. Some pedophiles even seem to target infants, according to recent news, because according to published reports some of the images found in possession of arrested pedophiles depicted sexual abuse of babies. It gets yuckier and yuckier. Puts nude photos of a teenage girl in the shade, don't you think? I don't know how we can talk about the two things in the same breath. Yet here we have people insisting on equating the two things one with the other. How mad is that?

Sexual congress between adults and underage teenagers is also aberrant, abhorrent and illegal; but surely not so repugnant as to be lumped together with pedophilia. As for sex between consenting adolescents, I don't think that should be illegal at all. I know one pair of sixteen year olds who are married, with child; and they are doing very well, thank you. Excellent people, and excellent parents. Last time I saw their baby it was getting around on the floor on all fours. ALL FOURS! Shock, Horror! And shame on me for not even being revolted! I seem to remember taking a photo of that kid with no clothes on. Oh, the trauma she must now face in later life! Please don't tell Hetty Johnson!

I generally skip the writings of someone who has already admitted that he can see no difference between Henson's works and pictures of a pedophile sodomising a child. Contributions from such a poster are unlikely to contain anything of value to me. So I won't thank you for referring me to his latest effort. Having read it I find it to be just more rhetoric totally devoid of appeal to reason. It is no more than a pedagogical tract couched in pseudo-academic, didactic prose, presumably as a substitute for the authority it lacks. This is the way things are because this is how I say they are seems to be his line of argument. This sort of thing might bamboozle the uncritical reader, and please those already locked in to his line of what passes in their minds for argument, but it just bores me.

The bit of it I do quite like is where he manages, I suppose by accident, to support the side of the argument he sets out to oppose: "I see Henson's photographs in the context of a struggle to bring a decent democracy into existence. One in which no-one is robbed of their capacity for agential public participation through work and activities associated with confident self assertion as citizens."

With this, I wholeheartedly agree. Every citizen, say I, including the girl who participated in the creation of Henson's work, should be left alone to participate as he or she sees fit.

As for the "victory", what victory? All the would-be victors have done is to stir up a bit of a hornet's nest and than walk away, leaving a mess and perhaps a damaged adolescent behind them, for other people to try to repair. As I understand it, the decision to allow viewing of Henson's work by appointment only was one taken by the gallery's management. Obviously they don't want their gallery trampled through by hordes of yobboes and ill-informed gawkers who have never bought a work of art in their lives, and never will. The yobboes and the gawkers would never have been aware of the exhibition's existence were it not for the publicity created by the reactionary wowser brigade.

And on your much admired Hetty Johnson, I repeat, how many children has she ever actually protected from harm? She manages to get a lot of publicity, but has she ever achieved anything beyond that? You tell me. I just don't know. I do know that there are children in Mt. Isa, which is in her state, suffering from incurable lead poisoning. News is that the company and the government have known about excessive ambient lead levels in the town for yonks, and done their utmost to keep it secret, while children were being poisoned. What has Hetty Johnson had to say about that? Nothing, that I've heard of.

I'll take a quiet achiever over a nutter with a bee in her bonnet any day.

Rural lesson for Bill

Now Bill , before I do vacate this thread I think you need a little rural lesson: You wrote:

I repeat: Would you call a heifer a calf? If not, why would you call an adolescent human a child? Only to support your illogical argument that a photograph featuring a nude adolescent is equivalent to child pornography, as far as I can tell.

Would I call a heifer a calf.? Yes I would, if it was both a heifer and a calf as opposed to a bull calf. So let us sort this out further shall we.

1. When is calf not a heifer? Answer: When it is a male calf.

2. When is a heifer not a calf? 

If you attend any saleyard you will hear all young bovines referred to as calves. Either heifer calves or bull/steer calves. A cow will continue to feed her calf for as long as it pushes at her to suckle. Farmers wean calves at around nine months to give the cow a rest before the next calf is born. It is not unknown however for cows to be suckling almost fully grown heifer calves which are themselves pregnant.

A heifer calf ceases to be both a calf and a heifer the day it gives birth to its first calf, and thereafter has the lofty title of cow.

Frankly my dear: I think you are heading into very deep water when you try to draw any sort of analogy between children/adolescents and heifer calves. If you would like to pursue your rural education I can offer you free tuition on our spread in the north west.

Oh and by the way, I have never said those photos were child pornography. 

Now unless you want some further rural tips, I am out of here.

Quite a spray

Frankly Bill that is quite a spray. If I were to respond to all of it the Scot here will get no dinner, or breakfast or lunch for the next week. And in any case it does not seem to me that you are approaching the issues in a rational way or objective way.  Much of the criticism you aim at me, if true, is just as true for those on the other side of the discussion. So I will just let it all pass in the knowledge that there are others here beside myself that would not agree with a word of it.  

For a teeny example I think if a photograph came into my possession of a thirteen year old girl being sexually abused, I would call that photo child pornography, but clearly you would call it teen pornography. I suspect others here and the parents would call it child pornography. But you will of course see yourself as being right, and the rest of us wrong.

And you can swear all you like along with the rest of the blokes if that is what gives you a sense of release and manhood. I would not use crude words myself in a comment or post to anyone on the net. And no, you are not alone in their use. I believe that a person who values decency seeks to limit indecency in all aspects of life, including the written and spoken languages.  Do we really want to see a society where young children go around talking like that Williams woman in Underbelly? TV  producers these days seem to think that a drama is not worth watching if every second word does not start with F. Wildside years ago started that trend. No wonder the kids tell others to F off with such ease these days. Lower standards of decency and you will inevitably lower standards of respect.

I see Kathy has put you right on one score. Over and Out.

Oh dear, Bill.

I believe what Jenny said was: "Frankly I find that remark to Angela to be quite offensive."

 As you were, Bill.

Henson and the long war on children.

 Childhood, that period of protected developmental learning which now ends at 16 years, is one of the triumphs of modernity.  From Caroline Chisholm and the Factory Acts onwards it has been a long struggle on behalf of humanists, scientists and other enlightened beings to establish and maintain boundaries around particular human needs for protection during our childhood.  Failure to meet those childhood needs - which are readily understood by reasonable people to be needs for fundamental physical, emotional and psychological security - produces traumatised adults who must struggle to find their place in a liberal democracy where a capacity for individual agency is the hallmark of citizenship. 

Psychological trauma, which can result from childhood neglect as much as outright abuse  not excluding sexual abuse, robs both the individuals so harmed and our democracy of fully fledged agential citizens.  There is nothing quite like deep seated fear, which is an entirely typical response to childhood trauma, to prevent people from enjoying the benefits of a life of public participation. 

I suggest that Henson and his supporters, including those most vociferously from the arts community, are profoundly ignorant of both political philsophy and developmental psychology.   I never before have felt contempt for the Australian arts community but I do now.  For some outspoken members who have placed their special rights for 'freedom of expression' as artists above and beyond consideration of the wider issue of the needs of children, I now experience a deep loathing. 

I see Henson's photographs in the context of a struggle to bring a decent democracy into existence.  One in which no-one is robbed of their capacity for agential public participation through work and activities associated with confident self assertion as citizens.  I see these photographs very much in the same light as war propaganda  in which the enemy is presented as without dignity, without reciprocal human rights, as sub-human and fit only for the bayonet or the bomb. In Henson's case, the subjects are presented as fit for the prurient sexual interest of the wealthy ruling classes.

We could argue  the ins-and-outs of Henson's aesthetic approach. His work has not been banned but it has been restricted by the public clamor to "by appointment only" viewing at the Oxley Gallery.  This is a victory.  In a wider context I see Henson's photographs as precisely what Pierre Passolini was raging against in his banned fim - Salo - in which there is a scene where three children are seated in what appears to be a tub of faeces and are force fed the substance in which they are immersed by three men in suits - a banker, an industrialist and a priest. 

So you need to make up your minds as to whose side are you on?  The side that wants to maintain and sustain a democracy in which all are equally free to participate in and enjoy life or the side the is content to sustain pre-modern forms of exploitaion and abuse of those who yet lack the power and authority to assert their rights?

This is what is at stake.  Nothing less.

Taking sides

You might be surprised, Anthony, to find we are all on your "side" as far as the protection of children is concerned. Where we differ is in our perception of threat and harm.

The legal definition of "child' is meaningless in any context other than
the legal one. Parents aren't children.

Still arguing with children

Jenny Hume: "Bill Avent, if puberty is the line between adolescence and being a child then you are on some shaky ground in regard to some thirteen year olds."

Do you maintain, then, that there is no line, even a fuzzy one, between childhood and adolescence? Nature herself would disagree with you on that. You can't legislate to make kids remain kids until you give them permission to grow up. We don't call a heifer a calf, do we? Or a filly a foal?

As I have said before, in some societies thirteen is considered marriageable age. Not here, of course; but people everywhere change from immaturity to maturity at pretty much the same age. A thirteen year old who has not yet reached puberty must be a rare thing indeed.

In one artificial sense everyone is someone's child as long as his or her parents are alive. But when people are old enough to become parents themselves they are, in the real sense of the word, no longer children, surely. Adolescents are at the cusp of adulthood. Henson says it is a painful and confusing period in people's lives, and he is interested in conveying his take on that to other people, for their consideration. Why should he not be allowed to?

The photos in question are to my mind too artificially posed, and somehow at the same time distastefully voyeuristic; so they don't appeal much to my tastes. Nevertheless, I am prepared to accept that the artist is trying to illustrate something, and that his work appeals to many. Who am I, and who are you, to deny him the right to present his work to the public? And who are we to deny those who appreciate his work the right to see it and consider whether or not they want to buy it?

Hetty Johnson justifies her interference in things she knows nothing about on the grounds that the photos are child pornography. Since there is no pre-pubescent person involved, this is clearly nonsense. Her true motives are open to speculation. I suspect a sort of Hansonite agenda on her part, and her need to see headlines with her name in them, which she seeks to achieve by stirring up hysteria among the unthinking classes. Then again, there could be a deeper psychological process at work in her.

I don't suppose agreement was ever expected on either side of the argument. It is not your agreement I am looking for; but to understand the basis of you and your fellow travellers' disagreement. Your bending of terms and logic to justify your call for the banning of of things admittedly distasteful to many, but ultimately quite harmless, doesn't help me to understand where you are coming from at all.

I am still wondering how a set of photographs on some wall somewhere places your own children in danger. How can that be so? Since there seems to be no answer to that question, I am left to suspect that your objection to the photographs might have more to do with what I wrote earlier on the Rorschach tests than it does to objective reality. People are looking at works of art, and seeing dirty pictures. The problem is theirs, not one belonging to the artist or to those art aficionados who admire his work.

Angela, you can be a hoot when you get wound up, can't you?

Have you been taking pages out of Hetty's book? (If I don't fall into line with her and your inane take on the world I must be a dirty old man, must I?)

No, I don't use the words "young adult" to describe people in puberty. Adults are adults. Look the word up. I would expect an adolescent to maybe be confused about the meaning of such things, and on occasion to be too obtuse to understand what he or she might read. Now I am beginning to wonder how mature are you are…

I, the art world and the legal system must all be out of touch with "society’s acceptable definitions and expectations", according to you. Don't worry, we have sympathy, but not much empathy, for those who see nudity and say "Eek — No clothes on! Revolting! It must be eye candy for pedos!"

Some people seem to me to be unhealthily preoccupied with deviant sex, and unable to resist the urge to demonstrate their preoccupation. I suggest you go back to the ink-blot test joke, and try to understand it. Take Hetty and Kevin with you.

Not too hard to understand

Bill Avent,  I would describe any young person under the age of 16 as a child. And I doubt that few would challenge me anywhere in this country n that score. Anthony Nolan has written above the best piece to date on this whole issue. So I suggest you read that and think about it all in a bit more depth. And whether you are happy or not with the notion, legally a 13 year old is still a child, as is a 16 year old.

Whether 13 year old children are married in other cultures is irrelevant. Some cultures have a long way to come.

I am still wondering how a set of photographs on some wall somewhere places your own children in danger.

Since my own children are grown up I have not in fact said that they do. I have argued that they are inappropriate depiction for public display of a child.

What I did say was that the mothers here know where the threats to their children lie. Clearly I should have left out the their as you have drawn a conclusion from that about me personally that I was not in fact seeking to make. The point I was trying to make was that mothers are only too aware of the dangers to children generally in terms of risk of abuse these days, and so it is not surprising that they are in the majority here in their viewpoint against those photos. The photos pose a risk in that they reduce a child to nothing more than a sexual object in the name of art. And we all know the path that can take a society down.  And BTW I am not saying fathers are not concerned or aware.

Smut art Anthony calls it and I agree. Now I wonder why they have limited viewing of the photos to be by appointment only?

Speaks volumes. But too late. They are on the internet and no doubt on the paedophiles sites by now. I assume from your position you would have no objection to a 13 year old daughter of yours posing for a photographer in that way with her face clearly shown, and plastered over the internet. If not, why not?

Some people seem to me to be unhealthily preoccupied with deviant sex, and unable to resist the urge to demonstrate their preoccupation. I suggest you go back to the ink-blot test joke, and try to understand it. I suggest you go back to the ink-blot test joke, and try to understand it. Take Hetty and Kevin with you.

Frankly I find that remark to Angela to be quite offensive. And as for Hetty Johnson, are you trying to say that she does not have the protection of children at heart? Children are being abused in the most terrible way and seemingly in ever increasing numbers these days. I take my hat off to the Hetty Johnsons of this world.  

Get your facts straight.

I usually don't bother with people who are happy to not let the facts get in the way of a good argument but on this point it is significant to note that the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 provides the following definition:

child, except in Chapter 13, means a person who is under the age of 16 years.

More Kronks needed in the fashion art industry

Hi Bill, so if 30% of our population begins puberty at age 10 does that mean that they are no longer children? How confusing for those using such as a definition. Are 10 year olds sexually attractive if they are starting puberty? Is it OK to portray 10 year old girls in puberty naked on all fours just as one sees out of harder porn shots of adults or as Mr "artist" Henson has photographed children? Well, Bill, if not then why not? Isn't puberty the defining point?

Do you, Bill, have empathy with those who find early pubescent persons attractive of whatever age? It seems Henson is aware of this group himself and perhaps empathises with them.

And Bill do you think a 10 year old girl at full puberty has the same judgmental abilities as a 16 year old just starting puberty? Should they be as legally responsible under the Crimes Act? Why not, if puberty is the definition of "not a child"?

If an 18 year old has not gone through puberty (perhaps due to a medical gland problem) does that mean they are not adult by definition in our society? Not at all. But those who wish to define maturity of adulthood by puberty would disagree.

Do you not think our society has chosen age rather than physical development for standardisation and decision making maturity rather than ability to turn on old men by their sexual development stage as the definition of adult for any particular reason?

Are you one of those special people who use the term "young adult" when describing those in puberty no matter what their chronological age?

Interesting ideas you have had, Bill.

I guess that is why we have laws regarding age of consent and child pornography. Some people are WAY out of touch with society’s acceptable definitions and expectations. It seems the art world is a different sphere as far as what is decent and what is a child and what is porn go.

Certainly these laws can change with such changes in society and we may indeed go back to post renaissance or even right back to Greek Roman society where any child has to accept their penetration by those more powerful. Or ancient societies now echoed in religious rites regarding 13 year olds, but luckily those days have passed when anyone really considers a 13year old an adult? Yet there are still some pushing for the age to go down, for dirty old wrinkly adults to have legal access to the youngest of pubescent children for their sexual pleasure. And penetration with the lens, as Anthony described, is the first step.


PS Nicely put, Kathy, as usual.

PPS Jenny, so nice to see such a compassionate and honourable side in WD persons, I touch my hat (a broad feathered item by Patti).

PPPS For those confused, young adult is someone just over 18. You can feel it, but the reality is not always there on either side.

Young adults, in NSW are persons over 18 years and can legally drink alcohol, buy cigarettes, sign up for legal contracts, have a bank account primary authority have gay sex and be drafted.

Perversely one can legally have sex and a baby at 16 (or 14 if your boyfriend is less than two years over your age – naughty Justin, if in NSW you broke the law – or likewise 10 yrs in Victoria) and sign and get your own Medicare card and live independently and drive a car.

Perhaps it is time for our laws to be aligned as far as responsibilities go. I would have thought having children and driving cars to be more responsible actions than buying cigs and alcohol. Moving the age up would also keep adult responsibilities in the adult world. Sure, not for all, just as smoking etc isn't but it would help. Especially if there is no car to park in :) until 18.Less pressure on girls at school too. the studies have supported an older age would result in later first sex, maybe even more choosing when rather than feeling pressured.

Many US States have these laws of adult responsibility for personal action aligned better with 18 as the age for all. Some even have 21 (too old I think).Then there is no sexual discrimination either, as far as gay sex and that discrimination is wrong. And if one has to be 18 to get one's clothes off and work in a brothel or for a porno photographer, whether for art or just profit, there would be less confusion even for those who think such is art ........and wonder why it sells so well ... duhhhhh.

Confusion confusion, and just to add to confusion it seems the art world of fashion is too full of those kinds running the show who are sexually confused and now demand male models who look like females (after demanding females to look like adolescent males for so long) if the current Paris cat (yes cat) walk is anything to go by. Might as well watch Manga "males”.


My son, like my sister, is in the modelling world so I have observed this from a personal interest. The carry on and sexual favour pressure is to be heard of to be believed from all kinds with all kinds of incentives.

Little wonder there is gender identity confusion when images that bombard from early youth are so sexually ambiguous and to be definite about such as a parent is considered not post modern. Anyone hear that tragic mother story on RN about the mother who groomed her boy to be proud of being gay from when she decided he was, at about 4 years’ old, and is now president of the parents of gays? Tragic and depraved. It's a tough enough lifestyle choice as an adult without a mother like that choosing it for you at 4. Perhaps Kronk modelling would have made him a real man who just likes quiche.

Richard: I am troubled by some of the editing I’ve had to do on this topic of late. Any insinuations that any male contributors have improper motivations for doing so are uncalled for and are not being published. That goes for you too, Kathy.

The green light syndrome

Jenny Hume: "Interesting Bill Avent: So a thirteen year old is not a child. Then why worry about paedophiles who target 13 year olds, boys and girls? Old enough by then to take themselves it would seem to you."

That presupposes some demonstrable link between an image of a thirteen year old of either sex and some subsequent action or actions by a paedophile.

I'm not aware that any evidence of any such link has been presented during the entire current moral panic, quite frankly.

Calls to demonstrate such a link are nearly always either completely ignored during moral panics like this or met with a general retreat across the whole line into vague, nervous statements about "values" and ' declining standards".

Though, of course, only certain "values" and "standards" are meant by this, and not others.

Intuitive, impassioned expressions of the "righteous" standards are typically qualified with terminal observations like "And nothing will change my mind" and "Over my grand daughter's dead body" and "Disgusting!" and "Prithee sir, what shall I have your eyes out, you damned scoundrel?!"

Or else we are referred to some hypothesised future event which "will" or "might" stem from the image.

You know, Hetty's "green light for paedophiles" for example.

After which paedophiles will flock to art galleries before running home to molest their grand-daughters or sisters or whatever.

As opposed to the present situation where they molest their grand-daughters or sisters before going to the art gallery. Or instead of going to the art gallery. Or in spite of having been earlier to an art gallery. Or the footy.

That all helps sustain the presumption of the link between the purported cause and its supposed effect, but relegates the critical demonstration of the effect to an unspecified, future time. Which can be of course be indefinitely postponed.

Not very helpful from an empirical standpoint, but great for worry warts.

Alternatively, we could ask the thirteen year olds themselves or their parents and guardians whether they had a problem with the images.

Unless, of course, if they say they don't have a problem, in which case "what they think" is "irrelevant" and subordinate to some over-riding "principle" outlined by Hetty Johnston. Or other autodidact.

I'm shattered

Scott, your record for rightness stands unbroken, while mine lies in pieces.

But, hey, don't say that common word for buttocks any more, OK, or we'll all be deemed to be eleven.

In pieces Scott?

Your rightness in pieces Scott? Oh dear, never mind. When next up there I will patch it and you up.

Bill Avent, if puberty is the line between adolescence and being a child then you are on some shaky ground in regard to some thirteen year olds.

And there are not too many I know who would not see all thirteen year olds, whether pre or post as still children. And remember child endowment, payable until age 16? Under the law they are most definitely still children.

But it seems we must agree to disagree on this whole matter.

Rightness in pieces?

Not according to Bill; factually incorrect of course but I'll take anything I can get including your tender ministrations, Jenny. As to blokes' use of language, it's our job, and I seem to remember Kathy proving a point. It's only a form of rhetoric.

Not especially interesting, just a fact

Milk, Jenny Hume? I don't know much about that, except that I don't think it should have specks in it. Milk seems wildly off-topic to me. So do fans and umbrellas. You'll have to explain to me some time what Old enough by then to take themselves it would seem to you (me) is supposed to mean.

"Posters here" comprise too small a sample to be significant. You'll need to conduct a much wider survey than that, to make your gender divide point worth making.

Pedophiles, according to my dictionary, are adults who are sexually attracted to children. If you don't know what children are, I'll leave you to look that one up. How on earth you can imagine that nude photographs of some girl in early adolescence somehow pose a threat to your children I will never know.

The definition of a child, not by "some men" but by the English speaking world in general, is different from the definition of an adolescent. And there is nothing debatable about it. Biologically, the one you have been calling a child is not a child at all. And emotionally, at her age she is much more vulnerable to the mindless and inaccurate slur cast her way by the prime minister than a child would be. "Let kids be kids?" Let kids grow up, Kevin; and have the sense not to make them feel guilty or dirty for doing so.

Somewhere in this thread we have reference to a "pre-pubescent thirteen year old", of all things. Here we have a prime example of emotive language transparently employed to lead debate away from reality. And you reckon it's me who needs to be a bit more objective?

The central question here is whether or not the photographs at the centre of all this are tantamount to child pornography. If you want to claim that they are, you need to claim that a thirteen year old person is a child. In other words, that post-pubescent means the same as pre-pubescent. This is exactly what you and others have been doing here. If you wish to contend that pubescent but underage girls should not be allowed to be photographed naked, then say so, and leave the word "child" out of it.

As I travel around the country...

Kathy Farrelly: "No, the prime minister's comments were heartfelt.  He has a child who  is only fourteen, after all."

Perhaps Bill Henson should get his models a nanny, then?

Of worms and giggles

Albatross, no worms, thank you. We of the inland kingfisher tribe prefer snakes and lizards and the odd mouse or two. Witchetty grubs are a special delicacy.

We're pretty protective of our children, too: let no goanna or big bad wolf come within laughing distance of our trees. And we eat rock spiders for breakfast. But we have no objection to our kids having their photo taken. That Hetty Johnson, though, and her mob, who like to make as much noise as a kookaburra and just love to have their photo taken, and want us all to give them some money — have any of them, for all the noise they make, ever actually protected a child? They refused point blank to make any noise about the horrors that were happening to kids in those detention centres.

Here's a bit of useless information for you: kookaburra families steal each other's kids. They entice them away from their home territory with bits of stuff to eat, and adopt them. They like to amass a big family, by hook or by crook. All that cackle they make as the sun goes down is to check on each other and make sure all their family members made it home safe and sound.

Scott, I have been looking in from time to time. The whole Henson affair is what gave me a bit of a giggle. But I can't say I find the current trend towards censorship all that funny, when I think about it. It reminds me of the period when plods were raiding bookshops and carrying off crates full of books they hadn't the intelligence to even begin to understand. History seems to be repeating itself. And that, to me, is the disturbing thing about all this.

No, I don't think I've been scanning, picking out the good bits here. I read the whole thing, skimming only the boring off-topic bits about who said what to whom in contravention of WD ethics, and how very dare they.

I found the pro-censorship lobby attempting to bend the truth to support their argument. I found adolescents repeatedly referred to as children (how dishonest is that?); and I found the age of consent put forward as meaning the age at which a person is deemed competent to agree to have her photo taken (how silly is that?). I found people supporting the views of that Divine Bucket Woman, who reckons a police state will be a necessary good thing if those more enlightened than she fail to dumb themselves down to her pathetic level.

In this thread I even found an attempt to divide reaction to Henson's photographs along gender lines. And someone who claims to see no difference between one twelve year old being sodomised by a pedophile and another being consensually photographed nude. All in all I just couldn't help but respond to some of the stuff I was reading here.

I followed your link to see the album cover. My bet is that the model is closer to thirty than she is to thirteen. A bit of research might determine the matter one way or the other. It must be on record somewhere, who she is, how old she is, and when the photo was taken. The artwork on the album cover would be copyright and credited to its creator, I expect; and that would provide a starting point. But the bet will have to be better than the one you offer, for me to go to the trouble to do the research. I haven't the slightest desire to see you bare your arse on John Street, wherever that might be. Unless I were allowed to take photographs…?

Chat room

Apologies everyone else.

All I was referring to, Bill, was your apparent misinterpretation of my rhetoric, suggestive of hurried reading. In the (unlikely, it's now the best part of forty years) event that I'm proven wrong, do yourself a favour re the photograph. Not a pretty sight.

The age of the model? We'll leave it there.

"Blind Faith" cover model was 11

See here.

It took exactly one Google to find ... 

Don't we look stupid

Thanks for that, David, never occured to me to look there.

I've always wondered about the artistic intent.

Bill,  ahmm. At least I'm spared the embarrassment.

When a child is not a child

Interesting Bill Avent: So a thirteen year old is not a child. Then why worry about paedophiles who target 13 year olds, boys and girls? Old enough by then to take themselves it would seem to you.

Perhaps you should read a bit more objectively instead of skimming the dust off the top of the milk in order to deem it polluted. Reminds me of the tanker driver who used to do just that when we were dairying. Any speck was enough to have him leave 500 gallons in the vat to send down the drain.  

And yes Bill, it is almost 100% the female posters here who see a problem with those photos. But what would mothers know about where the threats to their children are most likely to lie.

Oh yes, and we females here opposing the photos were accused of hurting only the child, if only by inference. Seems defintion of a child to some men is debateable, or more accurately, convenient.

But it has all been said. You jumped in a bit too late.

Bring on the change in the law, and yes censorship.  

BTW: It is also interesting to see how it is always the male posters who introduce bad language and crudities to threads.  Seems some boys never cease to be children. Play on boys, don't let me interrupt. 

Umbrella up and fan off so don't bother.

A worm for Billaburra

Billaburra: "If the publicity-seeking hysterics really want to protect children, let them wake up to themselves and pull their heads in."

Earlier I asked Anthony a question based on the above: what would the 12 year old subject prefer? It is easy to forgive him for not replying for the answer is obvious, at least to a reasonable soul.

It would appear (paradoxically) the publicity-seeking hysterics have done their cause, and (particularly) the subject of their cause, little good and probably harm when none existed in the first place.

When emotion overrides reason the consequences are quite often unfortunate.

Good to see you flapping about Billaburra, trust your belly is full of worms and wriggly things and life is good.

Disturbance has its place

Kathy, would I hang them in my lounge-room? I don't think I have enough vacant wall space to do that, judging by the size of those crates the plods carried out of the gallery. And I don't think I could afford them anyway. And they don't appeal to me; so no, is the answer to that question.

I shall instead adorn my wall with Leuinig's cartoon about the art world, which was "formed when a vacuum exploded after colliding with a cosmic silence that was expanding backwards into itself."

But my preference for Leunig over Henson is not because the latter's works are disturbing. I think there is a place for disturbance in art. Give me disturbance over complacency any day.

According to Henson and his supporters, he is intent on exploring through his chosen medium such things as the vulnerability of youth, and the potentially painful transition from childhood to adulthood. This seems to me to be a valid area of exploration. To each his own. If some people don't like to look at the results, let them not look at them. I'm sure there are academic treatises dealing with that same aspect of the human condition. Some people prefer the impact that comes with a graphic image, and like to exercise their own interpretive skills. They don't mind being disturbed.

Others fail to see the wood for the trees. They see nakedness as prurience; and since the subject is young, equate it with child pornography, and get all hysterical. There is a fair bit of hysterical nonsense right here on this thread. As for Rudd's comment, I think that was more politically expedient than heartfelt. He was playing to the lowest common denominator gallery, in my opinion; and his words were quite inappropriate and potentially damaging.

Few thirteen year olds are prepubescent; and the one subject to this silly kerfuffle is not. They are, however, vulnerable and impressionable; and all this hysterical nonsense has done her more harm than anything else that has happened to her this year, I'll bet. If the publicity-seeking hysterics really want to protect children, let them wake up to themselves and pull their heads in.

Up with such mass hysterical nonsense I simply can no longer put

Nakedness is not pornography. If there are people out there who think it should be classified as such, that is their prerogative — and their serious problem. They should be seeking help to overcome their problem, not seeking to impose it on the community at large.

And adolescents are not children. "Age of Consent" is synonymous with marriageable age. The idea that it has something to do with one's ability to consent to one's photo being taken is simply ludicrous. And indeed, marriageable age in many societies is as low as thirteen

Any photograph of any person, man, woman or child, must come with some kind of sexual connotation. Some children are boys, and some girls: none are gender neutral. As for pedophiles, they are probably sexually aroused when they walk past a school playground. Normal, decent people are neither aroused nor offended when they see a photo of a child, either clad or unclad. What the world needs is a classification for the people who see pornography and reprehensibility where there is none.

The ink blot joke has meaning. The Rorschach test is designed to reveal psychotic reaction in the person tested. They see not what they are looking at, but what is in their own minds. The mad reaction of some people to the Henson photos seems to me to reveal something similar. So does someone's reaction to the picture on the Blind Faith album cover. A child? The model is in her mid twenties. Flat chested? Not unless Dolly Parton is your norm. And the thing she holds is an aeroplane, not a phallic symbol. Both art and reality, it seems, lie in the eye of the beholder.

The Henson photographs, prima facie, may be of an adolescent girl, or a young woman posed and photographed to look like an adolescent. Either way, they seem to me to be a little tacky. But the only thing revolting about them is the prime minister's comments. How is a thirteen year old girl, proud of her contribution to a work of art, going to react to that? With no clothes on, she looks revolting?

It seems to me that it is not children the wowsers among us are intent on protecting here, but their own immaturity.

Hey man where you bin?

Hey man where you bin? Bill, hate to say it but you've provided me with a giggle.

'Fess up now, you've been scanning, picking out the good bits haven't you? No short cuts here mate, sometimes they turn out to be long way round. Go back to the second of my posts to mention the Blind Faith album and you'll see what I mean. With regard to the model, if she's 25 I'll bare my arse in John St. (the local main drag).

I've just shown my wife the album; she doesn't share all my tastes in music and has never taken any notice 'til now. Her opinion? 11 to 13 maybe. Look at the skin tone, conformity and the nipples. (No Bill, not like that!)

Maybe you know more than me.

Disturbing stuff

No, the prime minister's comments were heartfelt.  He has a child who  is only fourteen, after all.I felt the same ,as a parent of a 12 year old girl.

 "Nakedness is not pornography."

Agreed, Bill. However, what  thirteen year old  child would pose naked on all fours? It's highly suggestive. And a naked pre pubescent thirteeen year old girl delicately shielding her vulva? Come on!

Honestly, would you hang such pictures in your loungeroom? I find them quite disturbing, actually.

I am a lover of art, but only from an aesthetic point of view. I recently purchased 14 pieces of exquisite art from autistic artist Donna Williams. Those pieces hang in my loungeroom. They touch my heart, they stir my soul, they soothe me. For me it is like looking at the changing faces of the ocean.

And, Bill Henson's photographs.. What feelings do they evoke? 

I for one, do not purchase art in order to feel disturbed. And, really  if we are honest, who does?

Fiona: On my study wall above my desk, Kathy, I have a lithograph of the copstone at Stonehenge. It's by an artist whose name (I blush to say) I can't remember, but she is/was allegedly a witch. White or black, who knows? Anyway, the work is eerie, unnerving ... disturbing. And I love it.

Hetty Johnston's coming to town

"Queensland child protection advocate Hetty Johnston is moving south to tackle Sin City head on.

Following her defeat over Bill Henson's artworks, the founder of the Brisbane-based Bravehearts group yesterday signalled her plan to base herself in Sydney for at least two months."

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why 
Hetty Johnston's coming to town

She's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice
Hetty Johnston's coming to town 

She knows with whom you're sleeping
She knows when you're awake
She knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

PG, Close your eyes, protect her privacy, you are safe

Ah, Anthony, elite smut, slut, smug, lots of possibilities for that game of change the letter. Funny how "the Board"(or rather the dominant echelon there) finds the photos of naked 13 year old has no sexual connotation. Despite the reviewers and interviewers with Mr Henson noting otherwise without contradiction from the child -naked photographer. I guess sex sells but also smells. As they said "Henson got off". Elite, delite.

Actually I hear makers of The Full Monty are now appealing their M classification and demanding PG as they were posing for art too and their breasts are only a little larger than the 13 year old girls.

So what parental guidance does one give? "Close your eyes darling at this photo, and protect her privacy ... It is sad but this poor little girl's mother sold her body to the photographer so he can do naked shots and make lots of money ... No, I know it isn't right and decent but there aren't always right and decent people making decisions are there darling? No, don't look scared, not all mummies, in fact none I can imagine knowing, do that and certainly not me. Yes, you are safe ... I know, it is sad, very very sad."

I guess it could be a lesson template. Good always can come from bad can't it?


Answering Scott Dunmore's question...

Hi Scott. Sorry, I did not so much forget your question as think that it was rhetorical.  What outcome do I think would be satisfactory?  Well, the current one in which the photographs will be available for viewing "by appointment" is entirely satisfactory because it puts the images in the category of elite smut, where they belong.

Not entirely honest

but I don't mind Anthony, I'm not going to pursue it. You've told me enough.

Art in class

We think the opposite on many things, Angela Ryan, but I agree with you on this one.

The Bill Henson affair shouldn't just stop here – it’s the ideal opportunity to have a sensible and valuable debate over the whole matter of child protection, what works, what doesn’t, and how we move into the future. And that needs to include a lot of professionals who work with children, shrinks , psychologists etc – not just the police and politicians who have been handed control and quite frankly, just keep stuffing the whole thing up.

A few kids may have been saved by the porn busts of the past few days – if those charged are guilty – but for all the sensationalism and sermonising by authorities it gives a false impression that they are going a long way to solving the huge problem of the abuse of children.

They aren't and they can't because they lack the resources. In fact, politicians should be removed from the entire debate.

As for those strips over the kids in the pics – I thought the most offensive thing was to show those pics and the kid's faces giving them a real porn look. They should have been forbidden from ever showing the girl's face at any time until the matter was resolved.

Richard: As you would know, Michael, I have problems with the fuzzed and blackboxed "nude pics" of High School Musical starlet Vanessa Hudgens just before the release of the second movie. It reeked of being a business decision.

I've just had a chance to spend time talking to the lass who starred in the Spy Kids films, (who has grown up into a beautiful and heartful young adult. Alexa wrote a note to my daughter that she always follows her heart, I know that you wouldn't find her being thus compromised.

Black boxes and circles have an implication of something "too hot to publish" and sell a lot of copy. Probably tickets too!

End of sermon, and I'm going to bed.

Close to 100% mothers here

The pictures had already been shown, full naked body and face of the child, and then the strips appear over the body, even on TV news last night after they were considered unlikely to result in successful prosecution under the law as it currently stands, which is not surprising given how weak the law is.   

One could ask why the sudden attempt at cover up? Widespread public concern? Most likely or else enough people in decision making roles in the TV channels have their own doubts still about how appropriate these pictures are.  

If the WD mothers posting here in any way reflect the reaction of mothers generally in the community, then the vote against by mothers is close to 100%. How the father vote measures up I will leave up to them to calculate for the simple reason I do not know how many are fathers and how many are not.

Out of interest I asked every one I know what they really thought and they are pretty representative of the community and I have yet to have one, father, mother or single say they thought the images acceptable, or that they would agree to their young daughter posing in that manner for public exhibition. And that group included an artist/photographer. I know others and out of interest will ask them next time I see them too.  

Clearly the law has to be changed to prohibit the photographing or painting for  purposes of exhibition, either in art galleries or on the internet, of  naked under age girls and I hope Iemma's outrage will lead him to do that very quickly. I for one will be writing to voice my concern and ask him to do just that.  Others here concerned might like to do the same.  And I would be surprised it any changes drew much opposition. We will see no doubt.

Now to those here who wish to disagree with me I simply say in advance:  Noted, simply because neither you nor I is likely to change our opinion. Each is entitled to that.

Glasses maketh the ego

Anthony old chap, I suspect my selective vision glasses will go nicely with my peril sensitive sunglasses.They come in handy often. Some call the use of such accessories the ego, or self personality. I suppose I agree but what can you do?

In context I appreciate and understand your viewpoint and understand how you feel, thank you for responding. And I will forgive you for not answering my provocative and unnecessary questions. Do you have a pair of peril sensitive sun glasses by chance?

Anthony, allow me to apologize pre-emptively for choosing my selective vision glasses, rather than the peril sensitive ones, to assit me in consideration of the following:

High art or not Henson's photographs contribute to a culture of exploitation of children in which the difference between his photographs and those produced by a psychotically deranged sadistic criminal is a matter of degree not kind.

Kant would be smiling at this somewhat analytical proposition, however I suspect the guts of your what you write comes down to difference, contribute, exploitation, degree not kind. Would you agree?

It would appear our current laws also agree with you in respect to the images in question. The degree in which they are offensive in minimal, most probably wont harm the viewers, nor have harmed the subject.

The term degree infers boundaries, does it not? And it would appear the law agrees that these images are within boundaries acceptable to the community in general.

The other filth is of a degree that is totally unacceptable and sits way outside the behavioral boundaries of what we would call sane and reasonable human beings. For obvious reasons the law prohibits (but can't stop) such behaviour.

In short there is a difference; the difference being they contributefar less to the physical and emotional degradation of the subjects and viewers.

It would appear, as far as you're concerned, any degreewhatsoever is not good, nor is it acceptable. You may well be right but you may also be wearing your set of selective vision glasses?

You claim that these argueably benign images contribute to the culture of abuse etc. The police officer cum art gallery owner infers this is not the case, and has had first hand experience. The "culture" does not operate in art galleries, nor at gallery websites. The "culture" is underground and secretive.

In short the MO of someone looking at a Bill Henson is quite different to the MO of those in the "culture".

Yet by claiming what do, you sort of make anyone who looks at these images feel like they are abusing the child; maybe that's what you want. But is this good for the 12 year old subject or good for you?

And do you think the subject in question would rather people such as yourself make a fuss about it; or simply be quiet?

Yep, some things just make you angry; others make you weep; it's a matter of degree I suppose; but what can you do.

BTW would you like to borrow my rose coloured glasses; they are my favourites but feel free.

I don't think so...

It was pretty obvious that the matter always would be stood down at the DPP level.  Notwithstanding that, I don't think anyone here has been led by the nose by a 'hard right' scare campaign and in any event would never want to surrender the issue of child protection to the right.  Our noses were turned away and up by the stench of Henson's abusive images just as yours will eventually be by the smell coming out of the DPPs office.

So coy?

And you, Anthony, have yet to respond to my question.

Go for it

Richard: "Perhaps also, Eliot, compensation from the NSW police?"

They were acting on a complaint, but there might be some grounds for compensation from them. But why let the the high profile witch-hunters off easy?

Vindicated. Henson should now sue slanderers

"Photographer Bill Henson and the Sydney gallery which displayed his controversial pictures of naked children last month will not be prosecuted after police accepted there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

Police today said they made the decision following advice from NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery."

Bill Henson should get a a good defamation lawyer now, and go to work on Johnston, Rudd and all the other fools.

Richard:  Perhaps also, Eliot, compensation from the NSW police?

Bring it on for the sake of the kids and my bank account

Hi Eliot, I would welcome a court debate about whether his work has sexual context or not as there would be a dearth of expert witnesses who have called his work various terms along that line.

Sometimes it needs a court case to clarify the legal interpretation of legislation.

So sue me

Oh come on Eliot, don't be a drama queen (better get your lawyer onto that bit of slander Eliot).

Rudd expressed his personal opinion of the photographs.That they were "extremely revolting". There is nothing defaming in that. In fact, he still stands by that opinion.

It's a matter of opinion, not slander.

Fiona: Listen, all you bush lawyers: technically "slander" is spoken defamation, "libel" is written defamation - and under the uniform law that now applies in Australia the word "defamation" covers the lot.

Now, pax everyone.

Selective vision...

Oh Justin, I wish I had a pair of the selective vision glasses that you wear.  Here is what I wrote with the sentence you pounced on in bold:

 It is the relationship of power and authority that defines what is obscene in this instance. I see no difference between Henson's work and photos of some maggot buggering a 12 year old.  One is less explicit than the other but the references are to the same thing - powerless children arraigned for the merciless pleasure of exploitative and degrading adults.  High art or not Henson's photographs contribute to a culture of exploitation of children in which the difference between his photographs and those produced by a psychotically deranged sadistic criminal is a matter of degree not kind.

Context, OK? It means everything!

Adult art in kiddie bodies is PG. Perverted and Gross

Just before we get too excited about what was cleared by the Board, they were dealing with the first of the complaints which was the media producing the photos and how they did it, was it sexualised coverage....

[ABC extracts]

"Most of the photographs were censored by the news organisations, with black bars obscuring the models' breasts and genitals in all but one. The fifth was out of focus..."

"They were presented on news media websites with context around them of perhaps reporting about the issue itself or there was other information on the page," she said.

"It's like looking at a whole media website and the photo was just a small part of that image at the one time.

"The board does not find that the images have been sexualised in the way they've been reproduced on these media website because of the context that they relate to reporting about this matter and also because any nudity in the photos has been obscured."

The board did not consider the original Henson photographs."

And then as others have said:

"The Classification Board has given the photograph of a naked 13-year-old girl that sparked the furore a PG rating.

It cleared another Bill Henson image of a naked girl earlier this week, as well as four partly censored versions used by news websites..."

I really cannot think of any naked teen girls in the kids m nor such held by naked adults being PG rated. PG movies but what the heck.

I spoke to a friend on the board recently (not since this ruling). If anyone else, or any journalists, have contacts in the board who are willing to speak on the record it may in the public interest to do so.

PS Lucky Nick, another celebrity sex prosecution avoided, yet one would expect him to rise to the challenge after his thesis.

PPS Art teachers in NSW have said that such controversy and news attention make it likely Henson will be in the HSC as his work is already in the syllabus. They also told a child's class that all this was censorship and silencing of free speech and art is different to the rest of the issues and should not be subject to the sames rules. Any argument or discussion to the negative was not allowed. (? free speech?)

That about summarizes the art world view I guess.

Two of the children in that class were abused, I happen to know unfortunately. I do not know what they were thinking as their teacher considered art invincible from any child protection laws.

Funny society we live in. Or is it just some funny priorities in both the art world and the Censorship Board?

Vive l'art child porn, the new industry endorsed by so many.

When it comes to leadership...

Michael de Angelos: "Yet police said they would be laying charges."

 This on ABC Radio this morning...

The Law Society says it is not surprised that the investigation into Mr Henson is likely to be dropped.

Law Society president Hugh Macken says a prosecution against Mr Henson would have been unlikely to succeed.

"If Henson is not charged it's because his photos are not child porn," he said.

"That is they do not offend the Crimes Act because they do not show children in a sexual context."


Along witrh this...

 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is standing by his assessment of photographer Bill Henson's images of children, in spite of news that the Classification Board has given them a mild rating.

Mr Rudd described images to be shown at a Sydney exhibition of Henson's work as "absolutely revolting".

The exhibition was cancelled and some of the images seized by police pending possible obscenity charges.

Major daily newspapers are reporting New South Wales police will learn today that prosectors will recommend not to proceed with the charges.

Mr Rudd has told Channel Nine it is not his business to interfere with the legal process.

"My reaction was very clear cut," he said.

"I've been asked many times since then 'have I changed my view' ... I have not changed my view one bit," he said.

"I also said when it comes to the independent processes of the law, they are completely separate from what any individual or politician may think, feel or respond to, by way of their own individual judgments."

And so it ends

At least for the Bill Henson and Oxley Gallery, this matter is at end and has collapsed, according to David Marr, as the censor declares "Henson photo not porn". From a board headed by Donald McDonald who was appointed by John Howard.

Yet police said they would be laying charges. This confirms what I have been saying: the NSW law as regards to this matter is a complete mess and needs to be rewritten. Hopefully this time without the dirty hands of a Carr style Premier who sees every opportunity as a vote winning exercise regardless of the consequences.

What are the chances of that happening under the hopeless Morris Iemma who gave his view on Henson's work having never viewed the images? And an even more reactionary Attorney General?


NSW Govt will fall

Michael de Angelos: "What are the chances of that happening under the hopeless Morris Iemma who gave his view on Henson's work having never viewed the images? And an even more reactionary Attorney General? Zilch."

Never mind. Iemma probably won't last the distance to the next election. I'm tipping that the only NSW Labor politician with a hide thick enough to do it will be Premier by then:  Michael Cost-Lotta.

So you had best ask him.

Can't see because of the shrubbery

There are just too many people to blame for the situation that has arisen with the Oxley gallery and the Henson images and the news today of so many arrests should put it into some sort of perspective.

I keep repeating myself hoarse but it's come to this jumbled state of affairs for two reasons – politicians have made hasty and badly worded laws after being pressured by shock jocks and tabloid headlines – they are the true cowards in this matter as their motives are not pure.

In addition, various police forces continue to exaggerate aspects of a real problem and play the media for mugs who repeat what they say as fact. without investigating as they would have 30 years ago.

They promote the concept that every person arrested as into today's announcement are all the same in their accused crime.

The government claims it has given an extra $46M for the AFP to pursue this crime and the AFP say they have had 300 officers working for 6 months on the matter. No complaints there.

But why isn't the government putting ten times that money into preventing the hundreds of cases of child abuse that are actually happening every day in this country and why haven't they increased the social workers needed to at least the number of AFP officers working on a case which appears to be a crime of repeated downloads in the hundreds of the same offensive material.

Society has to be practical here if it is genuine in preventing the abuse of children unless it really is just a matter of the general public thriving on the sensation of certain cases.

Today’s arrests are bound to have so many variations of a crime, and because of the media barrage of reporting which from I can see is virtually the same in every single outlet from newspapers to television, which means we are seeing a police press release rewritten over and over again with slight variations, unless you are a retired busybody like me who has a weird hobby of hanging out in court rooms, the real stories will not emerge except in the actual court.

And as the majority of them will be possibly not be concluded for up to 12 months – even when some plead guilty, the majority of Aussies will not even remember the matter by then. A dozen other sensations will have come and gone to divert them.

Throw in the Henson / Oxley Gallery matter which is clearly being delayed because the police and the DPP cannot yet work out if someone is to be charged – which should be the most obvious indication to the densest amongst us that the law is completely stuffed and can't be understood by those who are supposed to implement it.

And when all this dies down in 6 months the only thing remaining will be the ongoing daily cases of dozens of abused children that go unreported or reported and ignored but the general public will believe that all is OK with the world because Bill Henson was or wasn't charged.

By that time Paris Hilton will have fallen down some stairs or some other such inane matter will have filled the airways.

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