Hugo Kelly writes:

Alexander Downer obviously disagrees
with the PM that we’re getting ruder. He thinks it’s just the nature of
our society to be incredibly offensive: “I see the cartoons they
produce of me and John Howard and so on and they’re usually incredibly
offensive but that is just the nature of our society.”

But he
also thinks – at least according to his spokesman, the budding
parliamentarian Chris Kenny – that pesky cartoons that stir up violence
shouldn’t be printed
because they threaten trade: “Merchandise exports in 2005 were $5.4
billion and this is an area where media needs to consider the
repercussion of publishing the cartoons.”

So it’s okay to
print offensive cartoons, as long as the people depicted aren’t going
to kick up too much of a stink or, heaven forbid, lighten the money

But it’s not all sunshine and protection of our
democratic rights on the other side of the parliamentary fence either.
Big Kim once again shows that if he’s recently lost eight kilograms, it
may well have been from his spine. “It’s an offensive cartoon and it
shouldn’t be printed,” he bellowed yesterday.

And: “You allow
freedom of speech, but nevertheless part of that freedom of speech when
you see something being done which you think is silly, which is
foolish, you speak out and say so.”

So we’ve got a Government
that believes freedom of speech ends when it starts threatening the
money bags, and an opposition who think it stops when people start
getting silly or foolish. That definition would stem the flow of news
coming out of Canberra considerably.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey