Claims of artistic merit should never be seen as a satisfactory excuse for exploiting children, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.

Controversial photographer Bill Henson is set to argue against “shackling art” in an address opening the Melbourne Art Fair tomorrow night (Monday August 2) and according to an abstract of his speech will put forward the view that: “Our zeal to protect innocence should not come at the cost of violating artistic experience.”

However, ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace today said that artists should not be allowed to exploit children for any reason.

“This statement is staggering – so evidently self-serving for the artistic community, and completely in conflict with community standards of morality – supposedly our measure,” Mr Wallace said.

“The Government and the community have a responsibility to act in the best interests of children and to put their welfare far above any claims of artistic merit or freedoms,” Mr Wallace said.

“We should never stand by and accept anything less.

“The real issues Mr Henson should be addressing during his speech are why he thought it was appropriate to photograph naked adolescents and why he allegedly felt it was appropriate to scour a Melbourne primary school for child models.

“Community reaction showed just how unacceptable this was and that there is no justifiable reason for exploiting children.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan on 0408 875 979.