In case a link to the site doesn´t work for long, here´s the article essentials:
Art seizure fuels fire
By Clay Lucas
The Age January 27, 2006 - 4:43PM
In a move guaranteed to generate even more controversy around the issue of flag burning and freedom of speech, police have seized a burnt Australian flag that was displayed as part of a Footscray art exhibition. The move came as Prime Minister John Howard declared yesterday that while burning the Australian flag was offensive, it should not be made a criminal offence.
Last Friday, Footscray Police removed Proudly unAustralian, by controversial Melbourne artist Azlan McLennan, which was displayed outside of the Trocadero Art Space in Hopkins Street, Footscray. Police said they had received a number of complaints about the artwork from locals.
The National Association for the Visual Arts director Tamara Winikoff said she had been horrified by police actions.
"This is a really disturbing censorship issue,'' Ms Winikoff said yesterday. "We are asking urgent questions about the artist's rights to not be censored. Did Footscray Police have the right to remove that artwork, and if so on what grounds?''
Prime Minister Howard yesterday said that the burning of a flag by Aboriginal protesters in Brisbane on Australia Day was "offensive'', but that flag burning should not be a criminal offence because it was an expression of political opinion.
"Much as all I despise what they did I do not believe it should be a criminal offence,'' he said. "I see that kind of thing as just as expression, however offensive to the majority of the Australian community, an expression of political opinion. I do not think we achieve anything by making it a criminal offence - we only turn yahoo behaviour into martyrdom.''
I can´t believe I´m agreeing with John Howard. Burning the flag is not a crime. Australia is not America. Yet. Just like Munich, this piece should be shown. It´s portrays exactly how I felt about Australia following the Sydney riots, how I still feel about the ongoing asylum seeker treatment.
In the words of the artist, Azlan McLennan:
"Proudly unAustralian is an artwork designed to counter the continent’s upcoming anniversary, celebrating 219 years of European intervention," said McLennan.
"The burning of the Commonwealth flag exercises Prime Minister John Howard’s public, yet begrudging reluctance to outlaw Australian flag burning in 2002, with his admission: “…I guess it's part of the sort of free speech code that we have in this country.”
The flag burning symbolises the locally and internationally deplored treatment by the Australian government of its indigenous peoples, asylum seekers, its industrial relations and education reforms, US collaboration in the attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan and the incitement against Muslim and Arab populations at home and abroad. This act is compounded by Howard’s denial that there is no underlying racist sentiment in Australia following the racial tensions in Sydney in December and more importantly, the government’s clear role in this division of class."