Politicians really are the most appalling of opportunists, and over the weekend they excelled themselves. Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Malcolm Turnbull, John Brumby and the federal Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis, all spent their weekend beating up on one of Australia’s finest artists, photographer Bill Henson.

Mr. Henson was allowed to visit a Melbourne primary school by that school’s principal because he was looking for possible subjects for his work. Outrageous, sick, undermining of the innocence of children, a full inquiry will be held, the principal of the school will be burnt at the stake of public opinion etc, was the reaction of our political leaders.

Leaving aside the fact that underpinning their collective outrage is a defamatory assertion by those politicians who joined the weekend’s bully pulpit that somehow Mr. Henson should not be allowed near children, there is also an extraordinary level of hypocrisy about the attacks.

Every day of the week our political leaders allow children to be abused at schools right around Australia, because they sanction the sophisticated and relentless efforts of fast food and soft drink companies to market to children through the education system and sport.

We have an obesity epidemic in this country, due in large measure the presence of too much fast food and drink in the diets of children.

Only last month one of those who was crucifying Bill Henson over the weekend, John Brumby, refused to rule out the idea that McDonald’s should be allowed to sponsor educational programs in Victorian schools. On September 2 AAP reported that fast food chains “like McDonald’s will not be excluded from forming partnerships with Victorian schools, but the decision will be left to school authorities, Premier John Brumby says.”

And what does Julia Gillard think of the sponsorship by Coca Cola Amatil of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation’s Remote School Project in the Northern Territory which “provides accredited literacy course work in English to classroom teachers and in First Language to teachers’ aides in Central Australia”?

Kate Ellis’ disgust at Henson’s school foray was based on her wanting children to remain as innocent for as long as possible. Why then does she think it’s okay for McDonald’s to sponsor a soccer in schools program throughout New South Wales, or for Cricket Australia to take money from KFC?

And do Ms Ellis, Ms Gillard, Mr Brumby think it’s okay for Krispy Crème doughnuts to facilitate junior sporting clubs and schools fundraisers by selling their fat and sugar laden product?

Bill Henson’s fleeting presence at a school in Melbourne provokes a torrent of abuse from politicians, but these very same people are content to allow the children they say they care about to be exposed to companies that will ruin their short and long term health. How’s that for sickening hypocrisy.

Peter Fray

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