Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

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?


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

It's just a Jew on the cross - image provokes prize walkout

Anthony Nolan: "Art is not private. Art is a public endeavour."

So, you'd support Dr Christopher Allen against artist Adam Cullen then:

THE nation's top prize for religious art is again embroiled in controversy after one of its judges resigned in protest over the inclusion of a crucifixion painted by the artist Adam Cullen.

The Sydney academic Dr Christopher Allen has resigned from the judging panel for the Blake Prize for Religious Art over his vehement objections to Cullen's work.

The triptych shows Christ on the cross and the inscription "only woman bleed", a line inspired by a song by the shock-rocker Alice Cooper.
Cullen said the organisers contacted him yesterday and told him Dr Allen had resigned in protest over the work's selection for consideration for the $20,000 prize.

"It's just a Jew on the cross," said Cullen, who won the Archibald Prize in 2000. "All the other entries would be of a Jew on two bits of wood. It's a very left-wing, almost pseudo-femme, artwork. How can he be offended?"

Elvis the Pelvis

On the general topic of cultural products and human behaviors, a new study published today suggests there's no evidence to suggest that music will make someone act in a certain way.

But the study in Australasian Psychiatry does suggest a link between a person's mood and the music they're listening to.

The study's author, the University of Queensland's Dr Felicity Baker was interviewed on ABC 702 this morning.


DAVID MARK: Well Heavy Metal for instance get's a lot of bad press. What does listening to Heavy Metal suggest?

FELICITY BAKER: Again, there's no causal relationship. But it's things like violence and conduct behaviours such as vandalism and just various forms of violence.

(Sound of Rap music)

DAVID MARK: Another sort of music that get's a lot of press is Rap music and Hip Hop. What does that suggest?

FELICITY BAKER: Similar things. For example, in a lot of Rap music the themes are often violent themes but also there's a lot of misogynistic type of themes and physically abusing women.

A mountain of trouble

I couldn't agree with you more Jenny.  There is a mountain of trouble in our community: undiagnosed borderline women who act out their distress and have catastrophic relationship after relationship with (usually) men of similar ilk.  And they all have trauma in their backgrounds.  The children of revolving door relationships are the most at risk of witnessing violence, sexual predation or being the victims of violence.  In the absence of almost any affordable psychiatric care and management the undiagnosed and untreated self medicate in order to relieve their suffering (ice, dope, alcohol, speed).  The kids don't just witness this, they live it.  In some suburbs of Sydney there is no alternative.  There is no other life. Truly tragic.  Into this mixture add patriarchal privilege and the whole is set to maximum social flammability.

If one hasn't seen it first hand then it really is hard to grasp the reality.  I am sure John hasn't met some of the types of grandfathers who would and do abuse their grandchildren, who do drugs, who are barely human in real terms.  But they are there alright.

Society's underbelly

Anthony, yes, it depends on whether you are out there amidst it all. If not the fractured underbelly of our society may not be so apparent. The breakdown of so many families has not been a good thing. Through employing people from the socio economic underclass over many years I sure got to see the underbelly of our society and the terrible legacy of broken homes and family breakdown. And yes, the state of support services and mental health services is just appalling.

Families with a drug addicted person in their midst really have nowhere to go to get help. There are only two options - shut the person out of your life and wait for the inevitable phone call to tell you the worst, or mortgage your life to that person in a futile attempt to help them survive their addiction. You can spend years trying to keep them alive, at dreadful cost to the whole extended family. Or you can just walk away. Terrible options, both of them.

Very depressing. But cheers anyway.

Nothing to mourn at all.

Thank you Jenny Humefor vigilance in not letting a thing slip by on this thread! 

And now John Pratt...the piece you hyperlinked is a senior journo mourning lost innocence.  What he is really mourning, of course, is his own lost innocence as he grasps the fact that predatory masculine behaviour is so deeply entrenched that many men are treated as suspects without ever having done a thing to warrant the suspicion.

Tough luck mate is what I think.

Had he written a piece on the lost, indeed shattered innocence of the abused child I would have been delighted.  But no, what we get is more dreary commentary from someone who expects to go unquestioned anywhere, anytime with all of the privilege that patriarchal authority extends to men.

Anyone who works with kids must pass a working with children check and for good reason.  Those who prey on children are infamously subtle, calculating, guileful and patient.  They insinuate themselves into the company of vulnerable children usually by associating with vulnerable women.  And they wait their opportunity.

So a bit of public suspicion about the motives of men who are happy to be with children is a small price to pay for creating a culture in which it is no longer assumed that all men are safe until proven otherwise because when the proof is available the damage has been done.

In my view men need to step up to the mark with other men in setting the boundaries around what is acceptable in relation to conduct towards children.

Here is a story: more than a decade ago, in a back creek valley on the mid-north coast of NSW, a guy moved into the home of a single mum with three young children.  Over time word drifted up the coast that this character's conduct towards the children of another woman with whom he had been previously been living was unacceptably sexualised.  He was, one day, invited to a barbecue for the local bush fire brigade - at which he was the only guest.  He was told, quietly, that he wasn't wanted in the valley and he left before the sun set on him.  No harm done.  No threats made.  Just 17 men looking at him while the brigade boss and two others talked to him away from the group.

It is time men behaved as such instead of whingeing about how hard it all is to be a man. Especially in relation to children.

Being aware of risks, but not paranoid

Anthony, I think people like John overreact a bit. In most functional families there is no risk that honest affection displayed between parents, grandparents and children should be seen as unhealthy or suspect. Most people know where the boundaries should be in terms of children who are both related and not related. And the boundaries one sets differ depending on the age of the child. There is no need for paranoia.

I think things have got harder for some men with so many broken families, with kids now growing up in homes with adults with whom they have no blood relationship. That can be more risky for both child and adult alike. Ties of blood, while they can give opportunity to any pervert in the family, do allow for greater levels of trust and comfort in parent/child/relative interactions.

But without those ties one has to be a bit more circumspect. I recall having to in fact set the boundary for a young step boy in our family when he turned 13. I felt his need for physical affection from me was becoming a problem and I quietly edged him back to a more appropriate place in terms of his relationship with me. He reacted with a cry of rejection but he soon got over it. So as much as we have to be aware of how adults relate to children we also have to be aware that some children, particularly from dysfunctional homes can be very needy, and can in fact unwittingly place themselves at risk at vulnerable and confusing times such as onset of puberty - and can put the new adult in their life in a rather difficult position in the process.

Of course these days kids are exposed to so many different sexualiized messages. My eight year old great niece was not backward in quizzing her grandfather about sex and before he could reply, voicing her opinion of it to him - all too disgusting, she said. So they get the messagese sent without the understanding that maturity brings to the knowledge - great - just great.

John, I do not think there is any risk of anyone fooling me, preacher or otherwise. Good values are taught, they just don't happen. They are learnt from parents from the example set and through teaching. The Christian religion has been the foundation of value teaching by parents for hundreds of years. The excesses in enforcement we saw in the past in the name of the church were excesses devised by man, not God.

Do you really think you get a better society born out of materialism and secularism? I certainly don't and I think the evidence is there for all of us to see. I believe a return to the basic principles and values of Christianity by all in society would create a much more peaceful and happy society. I see a big difference in the values and behaviours of those children of my friends who grew up in a religious home to those that did not. And I know which families seem happier and more mutually supportive of each other, and they are far less materialistic too.

If I have any complaint about the baby boomers that David Davis is so down on, it is that so many of them threw God out of the home and replaced Him with indulgence of every possible kind.

Michael de Angelos suggested elsewhere that the Howard government led people to run up a mountain of debt. Well, I don't think you can blame any government for that. You have to look at what the values are that drive a basically affluent society into running up unsustainable debt.

Men need to step up to the mark

Anthony, no idea what you mean about men stepping up to the mark. Which mark and who made it?

I am a 61 year old grandfather with two sons and six grandchildren. Three boys and three girls. Besides my wife I have not had many women in my life and very few young girls. I have an interest in photography, I now feel guilty when I take a shot which might include young girls. I feel sensitive when I cuddle my granddaughters. I remember a more innocent society about forty years ago when the thought of pedophilia didn't enter into my photography or my dealings with young girls. That is the innocence that I miss. It seems we are paying a very high price for a few deviants in our society - we are being dominated by the lowest denominator.

Instead of looking for the best in everyone we meet we look for the worst.

Richard:  That's the way things are heading, John.. but I refuse to accept that we need to thus destroy our faith in human nature ... there must be a better way!

Innocence of the unguilty

I don't have the innocence of a child, but I have the innocence of the unguilty. It was being questioned by strangers, then by me. If every man has to explain himself when he is with children, if he has to have a police check to volunteer his time, if he has to deal with suspicious looks because he has taken his niece to the park, if his daughter's friends aren't allowed to sleep over, then we have become a society that is prepared to sacrifice some trust for its vigilance.

The protection of children from sexual predators must be paramount, but there are costs. Among them is the price good men pay for the deeds of a few.

That price is the wearying knowledge that even if self-examination reveals nothing sinister, other people's perceptions of you might not be free of suspicion.

Good men are paying the price for the deeds of a few, and society is the worse for it. It is another example of letting our fears overrule our commonsense.

We all pay for a lot of things

John, we all pay for a lot of things because of the few who will push the boundaries and those who will abuse if given the opportunity.

The Hensons of this world in taking the sort of photos he did do not lift trust in the community, quite the opposite.

Parents are rightly wary of strangers these days given the way perverts can go around and secretly snap shots up the dresses of unsuspecting young girls. Advances in technology do create new risks and result in the need for higher vigilance. One can only be appalled at the number of people who actually, by virtue of their accessing certain sites, get their kicks out of such stuff.

Sadly however, it is not strangers who are the most common abusers of children, it is people known to them.  And acquaintance gives opportunity so no matter how well you know someone, you can never be sure. Given the long term damage abuse does to a child, parents should rightly be vigilant, both male and female parents.

Similarly people have to avoid situations as much as possible in which they may be falsely accused. Kids do tell lies at times, if it suits their purpose. And we have this new rather nasty and growing trend of abuse of parents by their kids. No doubt even the most loving of fathers could be wrongfully accused by a disaffected teenager. 

Loss of religious values, respect and discipline in the home and in society, loss of civility - you see it here quite often and worse on other sites - all factors pointing to a society with a lot of ills. Foul language in the home,  increasing explicit sex message to increasingly young children in the media, aided by corporate greed, materialism the new God, drug and acohol abuse on the rise - all part of it. 

Civilizations have rotted from within in the past - it can and will happen again.

The father, the son and the housekeeper

Ireland's high profile Catholic priest Father Michael Cleary fooled an entire nation with a secret that was revealed only after his death. He had a wife, and they had a son. With exclusive access to friends and family, including frank interviews with his son Ross, this compelling film examines his life. Father Cleary was a national mega star to the Irish people – a singer and radio personality who loved football and horseracing. He was also a compassionate parish priest who worked tirelessly for the poor and marginalised. When his secret life was exposed the country experienced a betrayal of national proportions. His family was shattered. The Father, The Son & The Housekeeper is the hilarious and tragic story of a remarkable man in rapidly changing times.

Jenny, last night I watched a very revealing film on the ABC's Compass program. It said a lot about religious values. You mention a loss of religious values, I believe that there is no such thing. We have been conned by religious leaders who preach values and very rarely live up to them.

We like to think there are religious values but really they are our own values. It made me sick to watch this priest who deceived his church, his family and denied his own son. At the same time he preached celibacy from the pulpit.

To make matters worse it turned out that the priest's bishop was also having sex and had a child. They are all hypocrites with no values. Don't let them fool you, Jenny.

Unsuspecting innocents

John Pratt, your Innocence of the unguilty reminds me of an anecdote from a caller to the ABC's Australia Talks a while back, when they were discussing the subject.

The caller was accompanying his kids through the shopping centre carpark when he was overheard by a busybody saying "Just don't tell your mum, OK?" He didn't say, but I suspect he may have treated his kids to an unscheduled snack at McDonalds.

Suspicions aroused, the busybody trailed him and the kids to their car, noted its rego number, and called the police. Soon after they arrived home came loud knocking on the door, followed by pointed questions. You gotta laugh.

Watch the plug get pulled on the witch hunt now.

"The son of federal Labor MP Janelle Saffin has been charged with possessing child pornography."

Watch the plug get pulled on the witch hunt now.


Not sure what you mean, Eliot.

It's the son alleged to have the offending material, not the mother.

sad stuff indeed

Interesting with the incident, here in Adelaide, that Eliot mentions. On the teev news it came out that the victim had been associated with some sort of pedophilic form, going back to the Snowtown murderers. The lad himself has since been scanned for brain damage after copping a fractured skull with a hammer after trying to protect his mum from an attack by his father.

Lucky buggers we are, compared to the poor sorts of blighters "on the other side of the tracks" in this case.

Indeed Paul.

Yes, I read about that  poor young bloke, Paul. So, so sad...

We certainly are very lucky, Paul. What a terrible childhood that young bloke had. And only nineteen, too.


Gruesome stuff, Kathy. Frightening the stuff a person reads in the papers some of the time.

How often I have thought how lucky my brother and I were to have parents, particularly our mum, like  we did.

pedophile murdered in vigilante attack

A convicted pedophile represented everyone who had ever abused the young Adelaide man who strangled him and stomped on his head in a primal rage, a court was told today.

Timothy Hemi Schaefer, 19, went to the home of Jeffrey Edwin Payne, 56, in Adelaide in April 2007, called him a "pedo", punched him and stabbed him in the leg.

Drunk and taunting his victim, Schaefer followed Mr Payne across parklands before strangling and stabbing him and stomping on his head, the South Australian Supreme Court has heard after Schaefer pleaded guilty to murder.

Henson's lesson...

Hi Bill Avent, Henson's lesson is that he is not absolutely free from critique;  he cannot do what he wants with whomever he chooses as a subject nor is he free to represent his subjects in ways that suit him without expectation of critical public response.  Art is not private.  Art is a public endeavour. 

His comfort zone is considerably shrunk to certain precincts.  Outside of those areas his face is now associated with being a high class child pornographer.  That is the lesson and I wouldn't underestimate the impact of that on his mind state.

Money, power and ... naivety? I don't think so

Say the word "censorship", and you have all these aged (once) undergrads kicking against it.

What a marketer's dream.

As I've been told, the owners of the Roslyn Oxley gallery are not only rich people, or very rich people, but among the super-rich of Sydney. I have been told, but have forgotten, the name of their very iconic house in Sydney.

Of course, if this were true – and I do not know that it is, although it came from a close relative – it should not alter the debate at all.

But I would suggest that it alters the suggestion of "naivete" in their advertising. These are business people. Smart and highly successful. They know what they are doing. They knew the knee-jerk "anti-censorship" brigade who would come rushing out to defend them, no matter what, because they had branded their product "art gallery" – they didn't have to spend a penny in their own defence. The predictable crowd would bring all the affirmative publicity to them. Now, that doesn't take "smarts", does it? And, the money rolls in.

But, it's a long way from assuming that they are "naive".

That's the word that I would use for their supporters.

When under the thumb of hypocrisy, kick

F Kendall, those "aged (once) undergrads" of yours who are "kicking against it" are probably the ones who remember once having to live under its thumb.

They probably remember the hypocrisy that accompanied it everywhere it went. They remember how they managed to have it dumped it in the garbage where it has always belonged.  Now they see the lid being lifted from the garbage can by a new generation of Big Brothers; and they smell the hypocrisy wafting out with those would-be controllers of our every thought, with their nonsensical efforts to equate what they are trying to do with child protection.

You talk of naívety. And knee-jerk reactions. If, as you seem to suggest, the people who own the gallery (rich little devils, envy envy hate hate) benefited financially from all the silly hoo-ha, then who is naive? Why, the hysterical reactionaries who were suckered in to respond with jerky knees, of course.

Anthony Nolan, what is "ethical competence", exactly? Or even approximately, will do, because such things are unlikely to have any exact meaning. Sounds like just another new-speak buzz-word designed to divorce our minds from real meaning.

Like the call for artistic expression to be seen as equivalent to child abuse and exploitation. Say it often enough, and loudly enough, and the unthinking among us may be persuaded to accept it as real.

What is this lesson that Henson is supposed to have had? Looks to me like he taught the censorship brigade a lesson. Or he could have, if people like Hetty Johnson, Bill Heffernan, Paul Sheehan, Miranda Devine et al were able to learn.

an end to the debate...I don't think so

So Professor Nelson thinks that a Film and Literature Review Board Classification will "put an end to the debate about the exploitation of children and artistic freedom in Australia."  He wishes! 

Without ethical competence, and so far I've seen little to zero evidence of that among Australia's arts community, somewhere, sometime and probably not so far in the future an Australian artist will decide that it is ok to use, manipulate and otherwise abuse other children in their pursuit of artistic freedom of expression and a nice little earner.  I'm waiting.  So is the law, other victims, every copper who ever dealt with a child sex case and those citizens who place child safety and welfare above artistic freedom of expression.

On this issue I'm happy to line up with Hetty Johnson, Bill Heffernan, Paul Sheehan, Miranda Devine and whoever else opposes child abuse and exploitation. And that, my darlings, is a critically informed left position. My guess is that it is a majoriy position. 

Henson has had his lesson. Next?

Kid's Pix

I was inspecting some ancient photographic equipment today that is to be auctioned tomorrow – old cameras that use film (whatever that is) including a magnificent gold embossed Leica that carries Nazi symbols on its' lens cover.

But amongst the lots were bundles of old photo magazines – the type for professionals. One caught my eye. An Aussie book about portrait photography with advice and such. One section was about photographing babies and young kids. There were quite a few illustrations that were not much different to Polixeni Papapetrou's work.

I can't help feeling that this subject has now become self-perpetuating – photos appear followed by outrage and on and on it goes.

I also look at pics of me as a child. I can't really relate to the person in those pics, even up to teenage years. It's a moment captured in time never to be repeated. It's really like a snap of someone else (and, in a way, it is). Obviously that would be different if they were taken under terms of abuse.

My, you have been busy

Just for you Kathy.

Field & Stream

Marilyn Shepherd: "Why he would want his photos of his little girl in a M rated magazine in the first place is beyond comprehension. It's not a kids' magazine, is it?"

Exactly. So, why worry?

Well that's alright then

So Mr Nelson still doesn''t understand the point. He used his little girl to try and prove some dubious political point and then ranted that we were losers for daring to suggest he was exploiting his little girl.

Why he would want his photos of his little girl in a M rated magazine in the first place is beyond comprehension. It's not a kids' magazine, is it?

Classification Board clears Olympia image with an M Rating

"The father of the young girl who posed naked on the cover of an art magazine has welcomed the Classification Board's decision to approve the image as appropriate for publication."

It was given an M rating.

What next for the hysterics? The new Barbie Doll, I suppose?

Fiona: Heavens to betsy, to think that I was ahead of you with this news, Eliot. The new Barbie looks a distinct possibility to me, and while on this topic, when's Anne Geddes going to be subjected to classification?

A victory for common sense

On the 1 o'clock news:

The family of the girl who appeared in a nude photo on the cover of an art magazine has welcomed the image's approval by the Classification Board.

The July edition of Art Monthly magazine featured a 2003 photo of six-year-old Olympia Nelson taken by her Melbourne photographer mother, Pollixeni Papapetrou.

Yesterday the board approved the image of Olympia, who is now 11.

Olympia's father, art critic Robert Nelson, has welcomed the decision to approve the image.

He says the ruling should put an end to the debate debate about the exploitation of children and artistic freedom in Australia.

The Classification Board reviewed the edition and gave it an unrestricted (M) rating.

This means it can be published but discretion is advised for readers under the age of 15.

The way the mind works is interesting: my reaction to the image in this link with the black square was quite different to the uncensored one...

swivelling eyeballs

Fiona, I think the cover photo pixillation was a dirty trick by the press and media to sensationalise the story and turn it into a cheap beat up. The original reveals there is nothing to pixillate (all demurely hidden in the shadow ) so why did they do it?

They wilfully created a false impression of there being something in the photo that needed to be hidden. If that's not despicable, and doesn't show the lack of trustworthiness of tabloid press and media in our country, I don't know what will!

Fiona: I agree with you on both counts, Paul - indeed, my comment was intended to suggest the former, at least.

Retrograde step indeed

He says the ruling should put an end to the debate about the exploitation of children and artistic freedom in Australia

So that is what Mr Nelson wants is it? No debate about the exploitation of children and artists to set the boundaries. Surprise surprise.

Well, the Catholic church would no doubt welcome the first bit.

They really don't get it, these artists - well, some of them anyway.

No one gets it but the philistines?

No, Jenny, not a retrograde step. Just a blow in the cause of a return to sanity.

Anyone here remember sanity?

Talking about schools...

Parents of a south Brisbane town have been labelled "irresponsible" by Queensland's Police Minister over their decision to keep children away from school in protest of the relocation of convicted pedophile Dennis Ferguson to a property near their homes.

Complete hysteria, really.

Michael...there is something wrong...

In particular there is something wrong with your persistence, here and on other threads, about the injustice committed by those who make allegations that they were sexually abused as children by people who are/were in some way in public life. 

It is the case, I am sure, that false allegations are made.

I am equally sure that it is also the case that offenders frequently escape justice for the following reasons:

* the victim is so terrified by threats made by perpetrators that they desist, over an entire lifetime, from making a complaint;

* the rules of evidence are so shaped that the prosecution task of getting what is known as "disclosure" is extremely difficult - to the extent that even 'proven' cases remain unprosecuted;

* children who are sexual assault victims frequently disassociate which means that they do not have clear memories of the event(s);  memories clarify with age which in part explains why disclosure comes at a later age.

I have no idea whether John Marsden was a paedophile... but I do know that the laws of libel in NSW are such that printing or stating the truth can be deemed libellous if it is held that such statements have been injurious to the reputation of the person about whom they have been made.

I have no idea whether Bob Collins was a paedophile...but I do know that for the police in two territories to find enough evidence to bring charges in both (NT and ACT) suggests a suspicious pattern of behaviour.

Your consistent argument appears to be that no-one who is ever accused is ever guilty and that anyone who ever makes such an accusation is mad...after money...or part of some extraordinary political plot.  These, of course, are arguments that used to be consistently made against women who brought sex assault charges against men. 

But don't take my word for it mate...take a look at the most informative and balanced site on the subject of child sex abuse, run by Jim Hopper, where all of the issues are canvassed with clarity and decency...



...including the effects of child sex abuse on the children...for whom you seem to have nary a care.

An invitation to accuse

The extraordinary situation whereby one can make a claim for criminal compensation in alleged abuse cases surely must be re-examined. It's a charter for false accusations that can be made against a person up to even 40 years after the alleged incident took place.

People may recall the defamation case in which the late John Marsden was finally vindicated in a vicious slur by Channel 7 who refused to back down. He was awarded $6M damages – the largest ever made but anyone who knew the man has no doubt it led to his early death.

As it dragged on over the years Marsden's health deteriorated – a man who is as tough as any I've ever known, one who could be infuriating but never deserved the treatment he received. As the stress finally got to him his teeth began rotting and falling out. Then cancer struck and he died suddenly in Istanbul whilst on holiday.

Those who knew Marsden were always aware of his activities and fondness for "rough trade". He never hid his desires but he never showed the slightest interest in anyone under aged. After his death various columnists still attacked the man over his personal life.

At the time of his death Marsden was acting on a matter for me – always the control freak he still insisted on responding to emails directed to other solicitors in his firm – from a hospital bed – often asking for forgiveness for his foggy thinking as morphine was being injected to ease the pain from cancer eating away his stomach. Sometimes he mixed up replies to clients – I got an answer meant for a manager of a garden centre. I knew he couldn't last long

But meanwhile his main accuser got off scot free despite being proven as a complete liar and despite being housed and paid large sums of living expenses by Ch 7. These compensation laws are just the new version of the blackmailer's charter – when homosexuals could be easily blackmailed while their activities remained illegal.

The late MP Bob Collins also died of cancer – which newspapers declared suicide without a shred of proof, after also being accused of similar offences to Marsden. Nothing was ever proved as he never faced a court. But his accusers were still compensated. He was also on the receiving end of a vicious media campaign after his death by journalists who took an accusers word over Collin's word. That is opinion – not fact or proof.

Give someone the right timing and a good study of any person's life – say a campaigning journalist or a politician and they could easily accuse them of assaulting them 25 years ago. It would be his word against theirs and the fact he may be married with children and no hint of an outside secret life – it would just make the story that more sensational.

This happened to the NSW MP BOB Debus shortly before the last state election. It backfired badly but only because the accuser had a record of giving false information – which didn't deter Bill Heffernan who fed the claims to parliament just as he fed the ill-fated and politically driven campaign against Justice Michael Kirby.

You then begin to wonder just how many innocent people are being accused and convicted .

Now we are seeing yet another accusation being made against an apparent TV star going back 40 years. The media thrives on this stuff – the Daily Telegraph (how long would this newspaper last without sex scandals ?) pushes these cases in a disgraceful manner.

Their website this morning carried a profile photo illustrating their tale – with a bearded man confronting a young man – since inexplicably changed to a non-bearded man and then to just a young figure on the edge of the El Alamein fountain in Kings Cross.

But to be able to claim compensation for any matter so many years after the event is a disgrace. It's lead to the jailing of dozens of innocent people in the UK in a huge North Wale's children's home case with most subsequently being released on appeal and themselves compensated for wrongful incarceration (with 2 suiciding) Extraordinarily, what they received is less than the so-called victims received who were still allowed to keep their original compensation when it is clear in some cases they had blatantly lied. No action is even taken against them for their lies (nor ever against a policeman who lies in attempts to secure a conviction).

These laws have to be rewritten where compensation can only be claimed within a certain time frame (as in my case where I missed out on compensation for a crippling knee injury under NSW legislation – courtesy of Bob Carr who gave insurance companies a free kick).

Reporting on these matters should be completely restricted to the bare bones of a matter – just as the victims name is suppressed, so should the alleged perpetuator's name. If the current matter didn't involve an "internationally known TV identity" the chances are the media wouldn't be that interested.

The possibility of any sort of sense happening in laws though are slim under the quite awful current NSW AG John Hatzistergos who would love to go much tougher than Carr ever did.

Bob Carr had a sort of excuse for his legal illiteracy – he was just a journalist passing through politics to be a banker. Hatzistergos, as a trained barrister has no excuse but has Carr's propensity to ignore legal niceties as he did this Friday on a report that NSW jails are overflowing under new restrictive bail laws.

Hatzistergos claimed that crime was down because of those currently banged up (a statistical lie) which ignores the small fact that everyone – in jail or out and yet to face a court is considered "innocent unless proven guilty".

The media and politicians who cravenly use sex to further their careers can be dangerous. They are the ones who promote the Pervert Behind Every Bush theory as do over-zealous police as we can currently witness with the worldwide media sensation (courtesy of imaginative police press releases) about the House Of Horrors on Jersey where it was claimed perhaps dozens of children's bodies were buried. After a coconut shell was finally produced the matter is simply fading into a non-event.

Time not really the issue

Michael, unfortunately many abuse victims are only now being heard - the culture of denial of their complaints at the time having consigned them to a painful silence often for decades, while their perpetrators went about their own lives in peace.

A person abused in childhood in my opinion should have the right to action at a time that he or she is able to cope with the stress of same. And often they have to wrestle with more than just the abuse as the offender is all too often a family member.

Time does not heal the damage so time should not be limited in terms of when an abused person can seek justice and/or compensation.

The issue of false allegations I think is a separate one. That is always going to be a problem. It need not be decades old and lives can be destroyed as you say by any false allegation, any time. That is why teachers and those in many organizations have to be vigilant as far as possible.

Abuse can affect a person's capacity to hold down a job, can lead to drug addiction and other issues. People should be able to seek compensation for what the abuse has cost them in terms of a fruitful and happy life.

I think it appalling once a priest is convicted that the victim is not compensated in some way. There should be some way of measuring what that compensation should be depending on the circumstances of each case. Any organization will fight against large payouts. That may not make it right, but supposing for instance a church was bankrupted by one victim when there were other victims who were also deserving of compensation. I am sure there are many small churches that also have victims out there. Not all are as rich as the RC church.

Evidence over time can be corrupted and I have a problem with this recalled memory stuff. But I do not think the time factor itself should be an issue.

The Nazi hunters certainly did not believe it should.

shot in the dark

I concur with your points, Michael.

However,  I would like to add that the type and level of compensation of damages seems out of whack and both in leniency and severity.  Sometimes it seems someone gets hundreds of thousands of dollars because someone looked sidewise at them and yet for other things that have left people damaged in perpetuity - virtually nothing.

Perhaps I have it wrong - am too lazy to undergo much research tonight of all nights either, but am also put in mind of the insurance rip-offs of early in the century, where rising damages levels had reinsurers going berserk with premiums increases, so that sporting organisations, swimming clubs, parks etc found themselves having to close down.

Are damages awards so high that it becomes impossible for people like Pell to deal honestly with issues like rogue priest behaviour, for fear of having their organisations bankrupted?

On the other hand, how else but through implementation of a heavy damages regime, will individuals and companies eventually "get the point" as to duty of care and work place safety, etc?

And in some cases, maybe a billion dollars couldn't compensate a victim.

What would be fair compensation for some of the more unfortunate victims of crime writing to WD, alone?


Did anyone ever get the consent of the octopussy or did they end up having calamari for lunch?

Poor octopussy, I bet no one cares.


p's and q's (in a pod )

Kathy, I don't think you've realised what you've let yourself in for, in becoming Chief of the Sherlock Holmes Microscopic police.

Besides, it was actually embarking on (three or) four (five?) play, not oral sex.

Struttin' my stuff

Anthony Nolan: "...the point of engaging in democratic debate is not to flaunt one's credentials but to read for and accept convincing arguments when one sees them. "

How was I flaunting my credentials when I explicitly (oooh sorry, was that a naughty word?) stated that I was not prepared to make assessments about other people's psychopathological status? (Tempting and all though that might be.)

I make no claim whatsoever about possessing the "Olympian heights" (nice touch, though, that, given the girl's name), nor do I have any pride to be tweaked.

Au contraire, though I have the funny feeling that you might, given your outrage about being called "an enemy of freedom and a philistine". After all, you've only labelled them (note that I've been careful about my vowels) as narcissists.

More pornography ignored


Many in the arts community need to get their heads ot of their rectums and see what real work is.


Could Paul Walter expand on what he meant by this comment about octopi?


F Kendall, I can elaborate no more, lest today's Cephalopod becomes tomorow's Calamari.

However , to have things squid pro quo, will give you a (blue) ring later. Which is no more than you might expect from someone as ambidextrous as me.


You lucky sod, I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king

Scott, listen while you  can!

If you were an octopus, it would be your right tentacle.

Are you sure you are ready for such a sacrifice?

You have no idea of the inner turmoils and conflicts, the persecutions, ostracisms, and the final"outings" that go with this. Sheer heartbreak, young fellow...sheer heartbreak!!!

A trashy rag.

A picture of an octopus "eating out" is certainly not my idea of art, Paul.

And yes, I have seen that erotic (??) but pornographic pic.

Shameful that the parents of the (then) six year old child would allow her photograph to be in such a smut filled magazine.What an association.

Certainly  says much about responsible parenting to me!

Anthony, I thank you for enlightening me. For without your input I never would have realized what a trashy rag that Art Monthly really is.

the point of democratic debate...

Well alright Fiona ... nice professional qualifications and all but the point of engaging in democratic debate is not to flaunt one's credentials but to read for and accept convincing arguments when one sees them.  So far I've seen and heard nothing that convinces me that my position in relation to Henson's photos is wrong. 

To recap that position, in summary:  Henson's photos are representative of a paedophilic impulse that objectifies the subject for the pleasure of the master (usually male) gaze. It is the sort of critique that feminists made of the dominant masculine artistic representation of women about twenty to thirty years ago.  Henson, cunning in his way and also lacking the courage to press on with his masculinist privilege, has turned his attention to children rather than women.  Children who, as a class of people, are generally unable to mount a coherent defensive response like feminist women did. He is a cowardly artist who exploits his privilege for a quid while peddling his depraved vision of children for the smutty pleasure of degenerate ruling classes and the professional bourgeoisie.  The only difference I can locate between his work and that of a sordid pornographer is that his work is hung on gallery walls and is therefore legitimate.  Nonsense.

 As to the matter of narcissism - Christopher Lasch wrote The Culture of Narcissism without being a clinically qualified psychologist and at the time it was and may indeed remain an influential book.  Therese Brennan wrote History After Lacan, another influential book, in which the issue of human subjectivity is treated carefully and she concludes that narcissism is the dominant form of subjectivity in modernity and it is associated with both political liberalism and the rise of industrial capitalism. Therese wasn't   a psychologist either.

There is an entire discipline area known as historical psychology, fascinating to me, in which issues about subjectivity and the material conditions that give rsie to particular forms of subjectivity, including intersubjecivity, are explored by people who straddle the divide been science and history. Old fashioned as it is, I think that this practice of wide understanding and knowledge, as opposed to narrow professional credentialism, is admirable.

It is my view that narcissism is the dominant type of subjective deformity; it is of and for our times.  It is also my view, reinforced by recent events around Henson, that many artists are profoundly narcissistic because they privilege their right to freedom of expression over and above the welfare of their subjects. 

And, to boot,  I think it fair comment  whether or not you agree with me from the Olympian heights of your Doctoral qualifications.  Make an argument and you'll be taken seriously.  Show me credentials and I'll tweak your pride.


Anthony Nolan, your latest adds to our discussion, but I think you draw a long bow in singling out a small group of artists, or more correctly perhaps, confusing artists with alienated technicians of the sort  who put out the huge ad with the girl in a mini skirt up to her crotch, that adorns a huge wall on my bus route to town.  These are not artists trying to make a statement about social relations or civilisation, merely dislocated slickers trying to direct the eye to a brand name. But the artists are discoursing, or conscious of the languages of discourse ie, using the same terminology as yourself and for similar reasons, as concerning speaker position, etc.

Maybe artists follow the dominant reifying rend in a narcissitic culture? It would be problematic to decribe a small subcategory of artists as any worse than the megalos and borderlines that run mass media and press?

For that matter, how sick are overtly narcissistic  females like Jackie O, say or on a different level, control freaks like Miranda  Devine and Janet Albrechtsen?

Which has me puzzled at Kathy's comment railing against the octopus(sy) photo, when so much else that's weird and wonderful is also churned out through so-called "legitimate" channels our morbid culture. That's  if she is complaining about this photo, that no doubt has existed but is nowhere at the mo on the internet, let alone conventional media outlets; being "pornographic".

If she is complaining about it from the point of view of it (merely) involving a child we still need to know if the kid was actually harmed in some way, otherwise this is getting trivial unless we know it was being used for porn rather than, as an artistic subject!!

And the kid looked in rude good health to me on tv recently.

So why the double standard?

Off on a tangent... Again!

Paul: Which has me puzzled at Kathy's  comment railing against the octopus(sy) photo, when so much else that's weird and wonderful is also churned out through so-called "legitimate" channels our morbid culture. That's  if she is complaining about this photo, that no doubt has existed but is nowhere at the mo on the internet, let alone conventional media outlets; being "pornographic"

 Not quite sure what you are getting at Paul. Let's stick to the subject at hand, eh?

 But, yes, I did google the pic on the internet, it's there for all to see.

 My beef is that an innocent little girl's pic should be tarnished by appearing  in a magazine  together with a picture of an octopus performing oral sex on a woman.

And yes, the pic is porographic

It has no artistic merit at all in my opinion.

(This sort of crap has been done to death in  porno movies.)

Certainly does the credibility of the parents no good.

thanks for the vote of support...

Thanks Jenny for your confidence regarding the matter.

As to faith in artists and their capacity to set ethical limits...oh, I don't think so!  I tried but failed to purchase a copy of Art Monthly and had no idea of the content other than what was described in the SMH letter.

There was a time when artists did legitimately overthrow worn out hypocrisy ... the Dadaists  and others after them responded to the horrors of the industrialised slaughter of WWI, the depravity of capitalism and other social ills.

At the moment  there seems to be an entrenched romanticism amongst artists which convinces them they must be seen to be iconoclastic and rebellious in order to be taken seriously. So they push the boundaries of social acceptability without understanding that advertising and capitalism have already violated all social norms in the name of profit.  As Marx wrote of capitalism, it is a mode of production in which "all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned".

So our dear artistes clamour and struggle for attention, all the while thinking that they are part of a movement for human freedom initiated by those artists who rebelled against conformity and capitalism and war and so on.

But the current crop are the handmaidens of exploiters and profiteers, the lackeys of bankers and robber barons who pay them handsomely to adorn their coporate walls with obscene photographs of their own and other people's children ...their flesh already splayed and displayed for the corrupt pleasure of people whose corruption in their own pleasure is actually costing us the earth.

(There are exceptions like the beautiful warm humanism of Australian sculptor Fiona Hall, for example.)

And then the arts community ... they have the gall, the pompous strutting nincompoops, to label me and others like me as an enemy of freedom and a philistine.


Anthony Nolan: "In my view a career trajectory that is personally and politically coherent."

No doubt.

As for myself, I have a Master of Arts (Psychology) Preliminary (ie, Honours degree) with first class honours, and a PhD in developmental psychology.

Although I had the privilege of reading Psychopathology (and getting a first in the subject) under Professor Henry Jackson, one of Australia foremost clinical psychologists, I wouldn't dream of making a clinical assessment of any person whom I encounter in my professional life. I don't believe anyone is qualified to give clinical assessments without 1) a relevant masters or doctorate and 2) extensive one-to-one work with the person being assessed.

Without wishing to insult you, I must therefore take the position that your views on the psychopathology or otherwise of artists and their children can only be regarded as personal, rather than professional.

On the other hand, my husband's father was a professional artist for most of his life, as well as an Anglican clergyman. Hmmmm, maybe that explains a few things .... 


If you must...

More than two decades in public health ... mental health in particular but extensive experience in emergency and elsewhere...

A degree in political philosophy (Hons 1, thanks)...

An incomplete (and never will be thank heavens) doctoral thesis in environmental politics/philosophy...

Theravaden Buddhist...

Past member the CPA...

And now I work in child welfare...

In terms of art theory see Berger's Ways of Seeing, Bob Hughes The Shock of the New , Bernard Smith's European Vision and the South Pacific and various works by Charles Merewether ...

In my view a career trajectory that is personally and politically coherent.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago