The loss of innocence

Yet another tragic loss of innocence today. This time, the sweet young things who edit Art Monthly Australia have had their childish illusions that our politicians are anything other than opportunists or morons brutally ripped from their adorable virgin minds. According to darling little editor Maurice O’Riordan:

The choice of Papapetrou’s Olympia as Lewis Carroll’s Beatrice Hatch before White Cliffs (2003) for our cover may be seen as controversial but is made in the hope of restoring some dignity to the debate; to validate nudity and childhood as subjects for art; to surrender to the power of the imagination (in children and adults) and dialogue without crippling them through fear-mongering and repression.

Oh sweetheart. Restoring some dignity? “If you ask for my personal view, no it doesn’t. It does the reverse,” said PM Howard, I mean Rudd, but what’s the difference?:

My view hasn’t changed on this. We’re talking about the innocence of little children here. A little child cannot answer for themselves about whether they wish to be depicted in this way. I have very deep, strong, personal views on this, which is that we should be on about maximising the protection of children. I don’t think this is a step in the right direction at all.

Premier Iemma chimed in with similar musing. Neither of these men appear able to stop thinking and thinking and thinking about the little girls and their innocence. At least someone’s thinking of the children. Iemma’s Minister Kevin Greene has even referred Art Monthly to the Commonwealth’s Classification Board. Gee, I wonder how that will go?

Anyway, I slight legal point for the Charter, because the pollies have found an alternative to the police as a way to out-do eachother in their race to be the biggest lover of kids. Art Monthly are going to lose more than their innocence, it seems:

“I understand they are in receipt of funding from the Arts Council and I assume there are procedures where that can be reviewed by Mr Rudd and his ministers,” Mr O’Farrell said. “I notice (Premier) Morris Iemma hasn’t ruled them out receiving state government funds in the future. The public are furious about the double standards, I think taxpayers are angry when they see funds used in this way and to review it, I think, would be sensible.”

But is Art Monthly sponsored by a Victorian body too? [EDIT: Apparently not, since 2005.] The magazine’s website is surprisingly vague about its funding base:

Over the eighteen year-life of the magazine it has been vigorously supported by the Australia Council, initially with annual funding and now with triennial funding. The magazine has also sought and received some funding from state and territory arts funding bodies.

Not much of a plug there for its state and territory sponsors. I’m thinking they don’t give much. But, anyway, what would be the Charter consequences if Arts Victoria announced that it was going to withdraw or decline future funding on the basis of Art Monthly’s choice of covers?

Well, of course, it all depends on the interaction of these two provisions:

15(2) Every person has the right to freedom of expression which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds…

38(1) Subject to this section, it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with a human right or, in making a decision, to fail to give proper consideration to a relevant human right.

And, while I think there could be some interesting analysis about whether the objects provision of the Arts Victoria Act 1972 provides any Charter s. 38(2) cover, I think this argument fails at the word ‘incompatible’. While  a funding decision can be incompatible with an equality right, and maybe some of the legal process rights, I can’t see how it can be incompatible Art Monthly’s free expression. To the contrary, the decision to fund is itself an instance of expression. So, stupid as our pollies’s ‘information and ideas’ are, their funding decisions are, in general, there’s to make (or to boss their agencies into making.) I sure hope Arts Australian Monthly has locked in that ‘triennial’ funding.

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