Who had more life, more energy than him? So many more cartoons to draw; painting to paint, politicians to satirise… so many more lives to enhance with his wit, his brilliance, his good friendship. Prime Minster, Malcolm Turnbull, speaking of Bill Leak
The magic of the caricaturists
By Roger Childs
Cartoons are often the first thing magazine and newspaper readers look at. (We know how much readers enjoy the work of KIN’s Andy.)
They are an amazing group and are generally fearless in putting their interpretation on events and issues.
In most countries this doesn’t cause problems, but in places like Malaysia, Equatorial Guinea and Turkey cartoonists may up end up before the courts and in jail. Tragically in the Charlie Hebdo case people died.
And in Australia, Bill Leak’s brilliant cartoon showing the prophet Muhammad arguing with God resulted in jihadist threats and forced Bill and the family to go to a safe house.
A sad loss for the world of cartooning
When The Australian cartoonist passed away in March the country, and the world, lost one of its best.
Bill Leak ranks with the likes of Nicholas Garland, Herblock, Pat Oliphant, Peter Brooke, David Lowe, Steve Bell, Tom Scott and Sharon Murdoch, to name but a few, in not giving a damn about who they offended.
One of Bill’s cartoons about an Aboriginal father not knowing the name of his son, had him hauled before the Human Rights Commission, but the case was eventually dropped.
No one was safe from is pen!
The best cartoonists make us laugh with a combination of clever sketching and appropriate words. Not surprisingly, Bill Leak’s main targets were Ozzie politicians: a mixed bunch at the best of times.
Some examples of the words that went with the brilliant caricatures:
- Pauline Hanson on a soap box: This country has been swamped by Caucasians.
- Labor leader Bill Shorten on television: I have no idea what I said yesterday, but I fully support whatever I said.
- Former prime minister, Tony Abbott leaning on a podium: By the year 2005 Australian kiddies will never ever come down with illnesses that their parents can’t afford.
- Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull in a triptych, having bricks dropped on him from behind : Together we will rebuild …. brick …. by brick…
The multi-talented man was held in high esteem
As well as being an outstanding cartoonist, Bill Leak was also a fine writer and an accomplished artist. He painted portraits of many famous Australians such as Don Bradman, Robert Hughes, Malcolm Turnbull and Gough Whitlam.
Whenever he spoke, he would fill the hall and have the audience rolling in the aisles.
The Weekend Australian of March 11-12 devoted seven pages! to tributes to the great man. There were articles from politicians, cartoonists, fellow journalists, entertainers and the public. There were well over forty letters to the editor paying tribute.
One example: Bill Leak was not only a brilliant artist but also a fearless and fair political commentator. His work exposed hypocrisy and self interest, but did so with irreverent humour and intelligence. A fierce defender of free speech, he could articulate his point in a way that was a challenging and thought provoking. Andrew Weeks
He was funny to the last: this from his final speech on March 8 2017: Ladies and gentlemen, I know it’s International Women’s Day, so first I must apologise for not being a woman.