... and was soon recognised as one of the best cartoonists in Australia. ... not everybody reading the Australian was happy. ... 'You name it, Bill got attacked by everybody. If it wasn't the left wing it was the right wing.' People ... 'tried to stop me from drawing by complaining to the Press Council. There are also those who complained to the anti-discrimination board because you draw a black person black. What are you supposed to do. I'm a cartoonist. ... you jump in with both feet. Anyhow, all those attempts failed'. According to him, government ministers had written letters of complaint and the Church of England once claimed he was a racist.The 'Bill' mentioned in the above extract from Comic Commentators: Contemporary Political Cartooning in Australia was not Bill Leak; it was one of Leak's predecessors, the savagely satiric cartoonist Bill Mitchell who died in his fifties in 1994.
It seems it takes a satirist to know a satirist. Everyone else is just plain offended. On Saturday, Barry Humphries wrote:
"Bill Leak was the best political cartoonist in the world. ... He made the mistake of telling the truth, which is the mark of a great satirist. ... Bill despised aspects of political correctness, in the sense that they obscured the truth. A famous cartoon - or you may say an infamous cartoon - was so blatantly a pro-Aboriginal cartoon that only an imbecile could throw the epithet 'racist' at Bill Leak. He was the very opposite ... ."Critics of the cartoon Humphries mentions blindly ignored its portrayal of the appalling and wilful neglect of aboriginal children; rounding instead, like a bunch of droop-lidded Texas salamanders sniffing out a waterbug, on the alcoholic father of the child as the victim. Yes, you would have to be an imbecile to run, arms outstretched, to the drunk instead of his impoverished son.
In a column last year Leak wrote, "By enabling tantrum-throwers to re-establish their feelings of moral superiority they can walk away purged." Last Wednesday night, at the launch of his book Trigger Warning, he said, "When I met the great cartoonist Bill Mitchell about 34 years ago, he said, 'Mate, a cartoonist only has to be funny once a day, but it's a lot harder than you'd think.' ... Political correctness is a poison that attacks the sense of humour. Luckily for Mitchell, it was tipped into our water supply at around the same time he retired."
Comic commentators: Contemporary Political Cartooning in Australia
Edited by Robert Phiddian and Haydon R. Manning
Network Publishing, 2008
Trigger Warning: Cartoons by Bill Leak
Wilkinson Publishing, 2017