The Henson fracas:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Henson fracas: Art the victim of child s-xualisation” (Friday, item 1). The original argument for making it a crime to possess child p-rnography was that there was a real victim, namely, the child depicted in the photograph, so there was a need to close down the end customer market for the criminals. Looking at images of children being s-xually abused was therefore reclassified from being a harmless thought crime committed by despicable perverts to a crime which caused the s-xual abuse of some children. Police prosecutors led evidence in court of children depicted in the photographs being forced to perform s-xual acts with adults or other children. Child s-xual abuse is repugnant. However, p-rnography is anything that is created to cause s-xual excitement or arousal. P-rnography does not necessitate s-xual abuse or even s-xually provocative poses. Nudity itself can be intended to cause s-xual excitement or arousal, but it can also simply be normal and natural. There are now those who argue that advertisers should not use images of naked babies to sell nappies because paedophiles can become s-xually aroused by them, even though the babies have not been s-xually abused and the images are not exuding s-xuality. There is a clear distinction between nudity and s-xual abuse. Those fighting a rear-guard action to bring back the fig leaf are trying to make n-dity shameful. They argue that Bill Henson’s pubescent model will feel that she was s-xually abused when she is older and has had time to think about the perverts who were s-xually aroused by the photos. Hetty Johnston of Bravehearts wants the girl to feel she was victimised but Hetty is causing the girl more harm by making her feel ashamed of her body. There is no need for the model to feel ashamed of nudity and a mature adult would not be overly concerned that perverts are aroused by her image. After all, they can be aroused by their thoughts alone.

Venise Alstergren writes: Does anyone from Crikey know of any scientific research which proves, conclusively, that the careers of paedophiles are kick-started in art galleries? Has anyone discovered if the painting of a glass of coloured water with a crucifix in it called Piss Christ started a mass movement of the rain coat brigade to urinate on crucifixes? Was there a mass fainting by the little old ladies of Australia who caught sight of Michelangelo’s David and his g-nitals before the dead hand of the Gestapo decreed that a fig leaf be placed over the statue’s moderately sized p-nis? The day anyone can answer yes to all three questions is the day I will start to get worried. The difference between Henson’s “obscene” photographs and the work displayed on p-rn sites is as wide as the mouth of the Amazon. Why is it that the people who get a momentary thrill out of these images immediately feel guilty about that thrill and set out on witch hunts. That Kevin Rudd weighed into this sea of hyperbole and can’t, is no surprise. He is, after all, a God botherer. I am not enamored of the works of Bill Henson but the fact that the wowsers of our community have leaped in to castigate him makes me think I may have misjudged him.

John Richardson writes: Kevin Rudd says that the photographs of naked 12 and 13 year old children at the Henson Art Exhibition “are revolting” and have no “artistic merit”. I’d like to know how our Kevin could form those views without having seen the photographs concerned. Alternatively, if he has seen them, I’d like to know how, given that the Exhibition never opened. In view of some of the disgusting moral compromises that Rudd has been comfortable making to-date, I hardly think his opinion on this subject counts for much at all.

Mark Jeanes writes: Why on Earth did The Age last week decide to give some space to the Festival of Light in one of its news stories about the Bill Henson affair? When will news outlets learn that a vocal opinion, rooted only in religion (of all things) does not qualify a person or organisation as a credible commentator on ethical matters? Especially bigoted, shadowy groups like the Festival of Light. Who this group represents God only knows. Congratulations to Crikey for running the most thoughtful (and happily secular) piece on the Henson affair yet to appear in the Australian media.

The politics of petrol:

Paul Watson writes: Re. Re. “Time for the price of fuel to rise above politics” (22 May day, item 1). Good article, getting to crux of the matter but can Bernard Keane please show me where in the budget the Federal Government has committed to investing in urban public transport. There might be $20 billion to spend but I have yet to see any indication that so much as a cent will be allocated to public transport. In fact, of the $3.2 billion already allocated to transport infrastructure, over $3 billion is going to roads, with the rest to rail freight. So when I see a firm commitment from Labor on expenditure for public transport I’ll applaud but not before.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Milne: Oil price rising — how surprising!” (Friday, item 4). In her commentary on the petrol price Green Senator Christine Milne repeatedly uses the phrase “peak oil” without ever explaining what it means. The phrase has cropped up before in the Crikey bulletin without explanation. In fact, “peak oil” functions as a meaningless shibboleth for believers in a coming oil crisis. There is no acknowledgement that it refers to a fringe theory which claims that oil production will peak halfway through the planet’s total oil supply, a theory which has not correctly predicted when this “peak” will be and which gives no weight to the interplay of price, supply, and demand. Nor is there any acknowledgement that the problems of the greenhouse effect and pollution in general require a shift away from both oil and coal, regardless of availability, rather than just jargon-peddling.

Walt Hawtin writes: Tamas Calderwood today (Friday, comments) attempts another contrary view to an issue for the sake of it. Presumably because he can. Because a Crikey editorial suggests that the energy debate may best be dealt with outside the framework of adversarial politics, it does not follow that Crikey does not want the issue debated, or that Crikey is trying to be totalitarian. I would assume the mass debate is Crikey’s raison d’etre. Calderwood tends to write like the full conversation has already taken place in his head, and he generously then shares his conclusions with us, but without explaining the link. Tamas, share the wisdom, my friend! You are a poet stuck in a curmudgeon’s body!

Mark Byrne writes: Tamas Calderwood’s analysis of our energy resources has a flaw — it defies the most fundamental laws of physics. Energy accounting is something in which we will be forced to become literate (think energy return on energy investment). In a nutshell, we have used 150 million years of stored energy (oil) in 150 years. We should use our remaining energy reserves wisely if we have any respect for the law of entropy. For a century it may have looked like we have access to limitless energy, in reality we’ve already exhausted the energy source with the highest utility (the oil that was easiest to access). If we have half left, then this will require increasing amounts of energy to extract, until the energy investment for extraction will exceed the energy return. Another principle that we must consider with our current trajectory is the principle of exponential growth. JK Galbraith illustrated this principle with one lily on a pond. He asked, if the number of lilies double every day, and it takes 30 days to cover half the pond, how long will it take to cover the whole pond? Our energy consumption has experienced something resembling exponential growth for almost 150 years. Perhaps “running out of resources” is a relative thing? But we are going to be forced to change.

Daniel Patman writes: Re. Tamas Calderwood. The problem with doomsayers is that the day they’re right there won’t be any of us around to acknowledge it. As for digging holes in the ground so we can get the black stuff out to burn: the end is nigh, and we all know why. If, as Calderwood suggests, the market should be left to sort out oil prices and alt fuels then we need to put end to subsidies that artificially allow cheaper fossil fuel consumption and production. And on top of all that we need to whack on taximus maximus to cover the long legacy of CO2 emissions. Working families et al aren’t going to like it but they’re going to have to, so give ’em no choice: bipartisanship. In the meantime I’m turning to Senator Milne and ASPO for news on the future.

The Liberal Party:

Andrew Clarke writes: Re. “Three words Liberals: FFS” (Friday, item 3). So, Bernard Keane. You are the voice that keeps the government honest because in your (and to be honest at the moment, most people’s) eyes the Liberal Party is too busy with internal battles to keep its eye on the real enemy. Perhaps instead of spending your time editorialising your opinions on people like Costello and Downer you could do what you said you do, ask hard questions and keep the government accountable. No words from you on the laughable attack on the so-called rich by investigating the tax affairs of anyone who bought a car that would fall into the new luxury car tax — Rudd’s logic, if you can afford such a car you must be cheating the system. No word on Gillard’s plans to make private schools more elite than they are now by slashing funding in yet another attack on Rudd’s rich. No talk about the harsh, unfair and perhaps even discriminatory new child care rebate provisions. If I had a column at Crikey, I reckon I’d be asking the government more questions that worrying about an opposition that is working through some issues, even if they are big and destructive. Come on Mr Keane, stand up and be a journalist. I’d make more of what I had if I wrote for Crikey…

Joe Dwyer writes: Why doesn’t Alexander Downer just stay at home and use his alleged diplomatic skills to sort out the collective dog’s breakfast that resembles the country’s state Liberal party oppositions.

Mal Brough:

Chris Lehmann writes: Re. “The Brough and the smooth of bi-partisanship” (Friday, item 8). Mal Brough may have lost Longman at the last election, but maybe someone should be patting this bloke on the back for having a go at bringing long needed reform and focus to the Queensland Libs, rather than running the cynical line that “Brough was rejected by his own voters last year, as was the Government of which he was a high-profile member”. Here is a bloke who has stuck his head above the parapet whilst in government, and tried to do something meaningful, (whether you agree with him or not). He made himself a target, a BIG target, and that to me shows some sort of political and moral intestinal fortitude. At the federal election it cost him dearly, but give him his due, he is ready for another go-round in the very un-s-xy role as a state president… That’s masochistic… that’s the hard yards of a dedicated man who wants to give something back to public life. We need a viable and strong opposition in Queensland, and I believe having someone like Mal Brough involved can ONLY be good for the health of our democracy in Queensland.

Inflation and children:

Tim Mackay writes: John Taylor’s comments (Friday, comments) on the RBA increasing its inflation target are naive in the extreme. A market economy depends on the price mechanism to function properly and inflation stops it from doing its job well. If the RBA increased its target to pander to public opinion as John suggests, what credible reason would investors have to believe that it would stick to that higher target? Telling inflation that “you can come up this high but no higher” has never worked.

Dave Evans writes: Great idea Trevor Best (Friday, comments). We must legislate for maximum family size, and license the right to have children (no criminal records, and reasonable asset or earning prospects). To enforce such legislation we must sterilise everyone who earns less than $200,000 a year. The social engineers of the Left will take umbrage at such a notion, but let’s face it some of us have more of a right to consume, or rather exist, than others.

Tax and babies:

Matthew Auger writes: In response to Chris Chamber (Friday, comments) about when is it a good time to have a baby in relation to tax the answer depends on income before and after maternity leave. Generally if a woman taking 12 months’ leave and then going back to the same salary as before, she should start leave on 1st of January. This way she will get the benefit of two tax free thresholds and low income tax rebates over two financial years. Basically, if a woman takes maternity leave 2 weeks before having the baby then she should conceive the baby on 14th of April in the prior year. If a woman goes from a full time job then 12 months maternity leave and then returns part time on half her previous salary she should start maternity leave on 1st of November. As with the above point of taking maternity leave two weeks before birth, the baby should be conceived on 14th January. The general principle is to have the same income across two financial years so it is simply a matter of apportioning the leave accordingly.

Ted Kennedy:

Moira Smith writes: Re. “US08: Hillary sweats on superdelegate cancer cluster” (22 May, item 3). Guy Rundle wrote: “Ted Kennedy, an example of American liberalism dying from the brain down.” Unworthy of you, Guy.

Means testing:

Joseph Palmer writes: Re. “‘Mean’ testing” (Thursday, comments). Paraphrasing John Lennon, if the rich are unhappy about means testing handouts they can always rattle their jewellery in protest.

The Footy Show:

Gerry Costigan writes: Re. “Newman’s stunt puts the skids on Footy Show audience” (Friday, item 16). I have followed the game closely since 1944 when Fitzroy were premiers and Fred Hughson would kick the ball 80 metres after opponents scored a point. He made them scared to do that again. It was indeed a “blokey” game in those days. I spent lots of time at the club where my father was a respected player from the 1920s. We had tough players, some of whom had survived the worst of times in World War 2. The fearless Frank Curcio would make Sam Newman look like a wimp. And the massive, incredibly fast moving, Norm Johnstone, if he had lived later, would have pulverised Sam. So would Butch Gale. I knew these men. Sam Newman looks fragile beside them. His fragility is not just physical. He is personally fragile in this case. They respected women. He does not. There is no good reason for me to watch The Footy Show any more.

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