At her father’s memorial service, Bindi Irwin stepped up to the world stage — and the promise of mega stardom. “We all know that she will end up a much bigger star than Steve ever was”, said Steve’s manager John Stainton.
It’s hard not to feel a little disquiet about Bindi’s future. Child stars don’t have the greatest track record for adult happiness. And pyschologists have been divided over the issue of whether it’s too much too soon.
Senator Bill Heffernan is also troubled. After watching Monday night’s Australian Story, “What Lies Beyond?” he called the ABC straight away to “voice his reservations”, reports The Oz. “It’s a very difficult situation and I don’t want to be critical of her mother at all”, said Heffernan, “but I just think it’s time to flash an amber light about the way this child is being treated.”
“When she says she’d rather play with snakes than dress up like a lot of girls her age, that’s fine — but does she need to do it in front of the camera?” However, Heffernan has a disclaimer to make in The Daily Telegraph: “I recognise that it’s really none of my business”.
So why did he weigh in? Where issues surrounding the treatment of children are concerned, Heffernan, “a veteran campaigner on pedophilia” is a man possessed, wrote Kate Legge and Richard Yallop in a 2002 Weekend Australian article. Although some, like Senator John Faulkner, have tied his crusade to “a personal vendetta against homos-xuals”.
Heffernan famously used Parliamentary Privilege to falsely accuse Justice Michael Kirby of using rent boys for s-x, claiming that it made him “not fit and proper to sit in judgment of people charged with s-x offences against children”. And he apparently bailed up Peter Hollingworth privately for a chat after the former Governor-General was accused of failing to do enough to protect children from abuse during his time as Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane.
Somewhat ironically then, Heffernan occasionally saves his bile for those who are not in a position to do wrong by their children — he once said of Shadow Health Minister Julie Gillard that “anyone who chooses to remain deliberately barren… they’ve got no idea what life’s about.”
We called Senator Heffernan to discuss his views but he didn’t want to comment on the record.