What’s behind the black square? It is interesting how provocative a black square can be. The cover of Art Monthly can be given a very smutty look when key features are removed from view. Presumably that’s the version that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saw in the Sunday Telegraph before he burst forth yesterday with his moral outrage. “I have very deep, strong, personal views on this, which is that we should be on about maximising the protection of children,” Mr Rudd was quoted as saying. “I don’t think this is a step in the right direction at all. Frankly, I can’t stand this stuff.” Premier Morris Iemma was just as quick off the mark with his description of the images in the art journal as “disgusting”. ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope’s morning daily The Canberra Times was another in the black out camp so there was a qualification about his comment this morning. “Not every photograph of a n-ked child, or a n-ked young person or a n-ked person is pornographic,” Mr Stanhope told ABC Radio. “I haven’t seen it but that’s a huge leap to suggest that a photograph of a young child is inherently p-rnographic if it’s displayed publicly. That’s a concept that causes me enormous difficulty.” Look at the whole picture without the disfigurement, as Age and Sydney Morning Herald readers could, and it is hard to disagree with the Stanhope sentiment. Not that they could do that over in Perth where they took the television approach of distorting some of the pixels.

Cursing those miners . It is all very well and good for those mining companies with a dominant position in world markets that enables them to get both increased volume of sales and massive price increases but spare a thought for the effect their boom is having on other exporters as the value of the $A keeps strengthening. Figures for the wine industry out this morning tell the sad story confronting those in competitive environments. Exports for the 12 months ended May, reports the Australian Bureau of Statistics, were 725.0 million litres, with a total value of $2.7 billion. This was a fall of 8.7% in volume and a decrease of 5.1% in value over the corresponding period to May 2007.

Cash for no comment. Competition is something the Australian racing industry dreads after so many years of state governments putting it in the privileged position of receiving a share of the money taken from the poor mug punters by legislation governing totalisator betting. In the last few years, however, this comfortable monopolistic arrangement has come under threat as wagering’s share of the gambling dollar declines in the face of competition from lotto, pokies and casinos. Not that the governments have been so concerned as they are beneficiaries from those competitors as well but racing has started to do it tough. Last week came the announcement in NSW of reforms to the industry designed to stop the rot with the centrepiece being the proclamation after a two year delay of the so called Race Fields legislation, mooted to produce an extra $20 million a year for the NSW industry. Whether that money will actually eventuate is open to question as the Virtual Form Guide website points out in an interesting analysis suggesting that there has to be a serious possibility that no one will observe the new law, or even worse that it will be challenged in court. If you are wondering why you have not read about these doubts in the Sydney newspapers, remember that the Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald both receive multi-million dollar payments from Tabcorp for including race fields in their papers. It is a bit like cash for no-comment really! 

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