I have to write a speech today about artists engaging with
politics for an exhibition I am opening tonight. I am grateful to Judy Madigan,
the Labor speaker of the Victorian Parliament, for giving me something timely to
talk about. Why do we need John Howard’s sedition laws to reign in subversion when we
can rely on a Labor politician like Judy to crack down on artists daring to make
political statements?

As reported in The Oz, Madigan has ordered the removal of a
sculpture by indigenous artist, Brian McKinnon, from an exhibition in Queen’s
Hall because it was overtly political. I haven’t seen the sculpture but the work’s title Little King Johnny of
the How How How Liberals Awardeded by Aboriginal Australia
indicates it was
probably not that flattering of the Prime Minister.

The speaker’s decision to remove the work from the exhibition apparently
hasn’t gone down well with her Labor colleague, Aboriginal Affairs minister
Gavin Jennings.

The Oz
quotes him lamenting the work’s removal, although he
incorrectly refers to it as a painting. Jennings said: “Given that the
Victorian parliament, in a bipartisan way, back in 1997 passed an apology to
Aboriginal people and said sorry, I thought it paradoxical that in 2006 a
painting that calls on someone else to say sorry has been withdrawn.”

Surprisingly, my supposedly progressive local member John Thwaites, in his
role as acting premier, supported the speaker.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey