Hetty Johnston’s Crikey piece on Monday about the need to subordinate artistic freedom to human rights provides a new perspective on Johnston’s own decision to accept support from the adult entertainment industry in 2004.

Johnston (who didn’t return Crikey’s call before deadline) accepted donations from adult industry companies Club X, Adultshop and Gallery totalling more than $4,000 for her Senate campaign in the 2004 election. Johnston attracted 0.18% of first preference votes in Queensland.

Eros Association head Fiona Patten said that, while disagreeing with Johnston over the Henson issue, the industry still supported her campaign against child abuse. Mal Day, head of Adultshop.com, also said that he continued to support Bravehearts. Day, who has been active in pushing the debate over the relationship between art and p-rnography for some years in Perth where he is based, agreed there was a tension between Johnston’s views on the Henson issue and those of the adult industry.

Johnston’s arguments against the work of Bill Henson are equally used by those who regarded p-rnography as exploitative of women. The adult entertainment industry, in all its forms, has been resisting such arguments, and the censorship that inevitably flows from them, for decades.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister has been a tad precious in his defence of his own comments on the Henson photos as “revolting”. Rudd told Jon Faine this morning that he’d been asked as a parent what his opinion of the photos was, when clearly he wasn’t – he was asked that later in the same interview on Today. Apparently speaking as a parent provides greater moral authority, and certainly greater political cover, than speaking as Prime Minister. In any event, why make the distinction?

Other politicians might also want to revisit their reaction to the Henson photos. Tasmanian Liberal Guy Barnett devoted quite a bit of time in the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Estimates hearings Monday before last to demanding to know from Mick Keelty why the AFP wasn’t pursuing websites that had carried the Henson photos that morning. Keelty, for once the voice of moderation and sense, patiently explained that the AFP had real child abusers to pursue and only limited resources with which to do so.

Barnett was having none of it. “The point is that you are creating your own threshold… the threshold that many in the community are concerned about is the abuse of children, the s-xualisation of children and the crimes that are being committed, but apparently we cannot catch all the offenders. That is the concern I am expressing and I think many in the community have likewise.”

Too bad even the NSW Police don’t think there’s an “offender” here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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