He’s been labeled an apologist and cheerleader for Bill Henson, but it’s fair to say David Marr’s insight into Australia’s most recent underage art saga doesn’t come close to being matched by any other journalist in this country. Marr’s access to Henson and the families involved puts him in a unique position to lend much needed clarity to the case and his talk at the Sate Library of QLD tonight was no exception.

David Marr at State Library of Queensland, October 8, 2008.

David Marr at State Library of Queensland, October 8, 2008.

Marr broke down the entire series of events into stages. From the tabloid feeding frenzy and the rhetoric bidding war played out by politicians, to the final realisation that no laws were broken and the return of some sane debate about the issue. But as we’ve seen this week, it’s unfortunately a never ending cycle.

Perhaps most revealing though are his conversations with the other major players in this controversy. Like his hilarious chat over the phone with Senator Bill Heffernan about ‘masturbation rules’ or his sobering discussion with senior police who said if people think Henson’s photographs are child pornography, they need to see the real stuff.

It’s also where Marr gets to the core of the censorship: Australian’s have a hard hard time separating things they don’t like with things they want banned. For too many they go hand in hand and don’t we know it all to well.

However, some might say consent is where these Bill Henson photographs begin and end. I’m sure one or two members of the audience suggested it tonight. Did the model have the knowledge, the authority, and the voice to consent to them being taken. To people like Hetty Johnston, the answer is no. She might be right, but Marr tells of the time he asked Johnston whether she had the right to announce to the public that her seven year old daughter had been molested. Who consented to that information being released. Her answer: But she wasn’t naked.

If your in Melbourne or Sydney, definitely head to one of David Marr’s talks. As for me, it’s late, I’ve had one too many Krispy Kreme’s and I better get started on reading the book.

Also of note:
A member of the audience said a child used in the Australian Government’s new tourism advertising campaign was scouted at a school. If this turns out to be true, I’d expect to see it hit the papers in the coming days.