Richard Watts  |  |  Monday 3 February, 2014

The Brisbane-based circus-burlesque troupe has demanded an apology from failed SA Liberal candidate Peter Maddern.

Failed South Australian Liberal Party candidate Peter Maddern has claimed in court documents that two photographs of Briefs member Mark ‘Captain Kidd’ Winmill, described as ‘trash’ – together with criticism of the images and Maddern’s association with them by Unley branch president Robert Fitzgerald – were responsible for sabotaging his 2012 pre-selection bid for the safe seat of Unley.

Today the company and their producer demanded an apology from Maddern, Fitzgerald and others involved with the case.

Maddern is currently seeking damages from Fitzgerald arising from a meeting held on 11 September 2012 in relation to his bid for pre-selection for Unley, at which he claims Fitzgerald used the presence of the ‘trash’ photographs of Briefs on Maddern’s Facebook page to impune his reputation.

The Briefs publicity images, which Maddern claims were used to deny him endorsement on the basis that their presence was evidence that he was ‘not a fit and proper person to be a Liberal Party candidate’, have been misrepresented as gay pornography in the case, which is currently before the South Australian District Court.

Fez Fanaana, Briefs creator, said, ‘The pictures from Briefs didn’t cost Mr Maddern his chance in Parliament: his ill-informed and archaic attitude did. Surely ‘liking’ something on Facebook cannot dictate your political future. It’s ridiculous to suggest that associating yourself with Briefs deems you unfit for political candidacy.

‘Whether you are gay or straight personally or by association has no impact on whether you are suitable as a candidate for any party. The development of this production was proudly funded and supported by Arts Queensland in conjunction with Brisbane Powerhouse as part of a Brisbane City Council initiative, all whilst the Liberal party was in power at both a local and state level. I’m surprised and disappointed that we are having this conversation in 2014. Surely we’ve moved on from a time where implications that someone is gay can ruin a career.’

Critically acclaimed at arts festivals internationally as well as across Australia, Briefs perform a blend of circus, drag, burlesque and comedy. The company are well known for using humour not only to entertain audiences but also to challenge gender, racial and other stereotypes.

Well respected burlesque photographer Neil Kendall shot the images in question, which feature Briefs cast member Mark ‘Captain Kidd’ Winmill.

Winmill, who was crowned the King of Burlesque in Las Vegas 2011, said of the images, ‘Neil is one of the best burlesque portrait photographers in the world. He’s worked with many high profile artists including Dita Von Tease, Tempest Storm and Dixie Evans. The Briefs: All Male. All Vaudeville. All Trash. Facebook page is not a gay porn page. Facebook is a tool we use to promote our show and the images have been used entirely out of context without our or Neil’s permission. Sure the shots inspired by vintage images might be sexy but to state that our page only features young men in provocative porn poses and that liking them can ruin a political career is madness.

‘To say we are a ‘gay page’ or a ‘straight page’ is simply not accurate nor is it relevant. Briefs is a celebration of masculinity in all its forms and our cast features a mix of gay men and straight men. Some are single, some are married, some are in de facto relationships, some are dads. Most importantly, all are highly skilled performers who are involved in the show for their talent and artistry.’

Kendall has also responded to the controversy, writing on his Facebook page: ‘Amazing… an image I took of Mark ‘Captain Kidd’ Winmill in Australia has sparked a huge political debate down under and is making headlines there as a reason for ruining the political chances of Peter Maddern, whom I understand clicked like on the said image… Now a political furore with a distinctly homophobic tone has escalated to National Press featuring my shot, which is labelled trash and pornographic,’ he wrote.

‘Seriously thinking of a next step to take against this; we are in 2014 not 1914 right?’

Maddern and Fitzgerald have yet to issue an apology, and the Liberal Party of Australia SA Division has not returned artsHub’s calls at the time of writing. The court case continues.