Censorship and the arts

Ralph Myers (Belvoir St Theatre artistic director), Marion Potts (Malthouse Theatre artist director) and Geordie Brookman (State Theatre Company of SA artistic director) write: Re. “The art of interference: when politicians try and steal the show” (yesterday). As artistic directors we were extremely concerned to hear about the censorship of a line from Jonathan Biggins’ play Australia Day at the Queensland Theatre Company this week. The line, which poked fun at Premier Campbell Newman, was cut not because it was defamatory — but seemingly because of concern about the impact its inclusion might have on continued government support for the company.

This sets a dangerous precedent. One line might not seem like a big deal, but artists must be free to satirise and criticise without fear of retribution. It’s good for society. This incident gives us a timely opportunity to question the kind of environment we want to live in and to remind ourselves that freedom of artistic expression should be valued as a fundamental part of a healthy democracy. There are many places in the world where artists are afraid to criticise the government, and they’re not generally places most of us would choose to live. Let’s not make our country one of them.

Do we want the ABC to be News Corp?

Evelyn Goy writes: Re. “Should the ABC apologise? It’s far from black and white” (yesterday). I am outraged to hear the suggestion that the ABC should apologise for broadcasting the allegations that the navy had abused asylum seekers.

The ABC is not Pravda. It should inform us and stick to its guns. It never said that the navy had done what had been alleged, but it refused to be browbeaten by the “patriotic” clamour that the navy could do no wrong. In the light of the many problems that have been exposed, I am grateful that the ABC stuck to the story and asked that the allegations be investigated. The overseas media did treat the story very differently and gave the asylum seekers the benefit of the doubt.

I would deeply regret if the ABC cowered before this other example of intimidation; they have a very difficult job in the face of a litigation-prone Coalition that uses every opportunity to blame them. I doubt whether the ABC will be able to continue to do its — overall — good job of reporting the news objectively in the light of the government’s proposed reviews. Perhaps Murdoch and Packer could take control of the editorial side of the ABC and we would all sleep better?

Carelessness determining our election results

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “A Liberal by any other name: party titles and ballot trickery” (yesterday). With regard to the Liberal Democratic Party collecting votes intended for the Liberals in New South Wales, it’s clear that the confusion was not due to just the similar name, but also to the LDP’s position on the ballot paper in that state. So why stop at reserving the word “liberal”? Why doesn’t the Liberal Party reserve a top spot on the ballot paper as well?

But surely anyone who was confused was careless or ignorant, and probably both. Why should the rules be changed because in their resounding victory, the Liberals missed out on a few votes of the careless and ignorant?

Big Issue a great read

Doug Clark writes: Re. “Why buy a Big Issue? Because selling it is bloody hard work” (yesterday). I’ve always bought and enjoyed The Big Issue. (I’ve even had a story about a rather personal procedure published — fee declined, and you’ll never find it …) I buy it because it’s a good read, and there’s stuff in there you don’t see anywhere else (ringing any bells?)  Sure, you may be helping people who need a hand, but this is not charity — it’s a transaction where both parties benefit. So don’t skulk around the vendors avoiding eye contact — say hi, or better still, buy the mag!

What’s so bad about graffiti anyway?

Jim Underwood writes: Re. “Graffiti v street art” (yesterday). Don Wormald says NSW State Rail (whoever they are) spends $50 million on graffiti removal — save $50 million by just leaving them there. That’s what seems to happen in Copenhagen with no bad effects. I also wonder how much it is costing them to change the logos on their trains.