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Political cartoon fails to make sense on closer scrutiny

[Edition 89] According to Moir, it was the idea of Latham’s belly being a hill that probably confused things. “It was an idea I cooked up when Beazley was still leader, and it didn’t translate as well as I’d expected. I probably should have scrapped Latham and just drawn a hill marked ‘credibility’.”

[Edition 89] Sydney Morning Herald readers have expressed their concerns that Alan Moir’s latest cartoon still makes no discernable political point, even despite Moir’s thorough labelling of every item in the image. The cartoon, entitled “Over the Hill”, consisted of a sweating John Howard pushing a wheelbarrow of money labelled “Pre-election promises” over Mark Latham’s belly, while straining against the weight of a ball and chain marked “budget surplus”.

Newspaper reader Sally Anderson was one of the first to raise the alarm. “I couldn’t work out if Howard was having trouble pushing the wheelbarrow because he was old, or because the wheelbarrow was heavy. I thought it must be the ball and chain holding him back, but why would a budget surplus be a hindrance? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

While admitting that the cartoon doesn’t bear much scrutiny, Moir has defended it as making a “general political point” about fiscal responsibility. “Some cartoons are a kind of metaphor or symbol representing what’s happening with a particular political situation” the cartoonist said. “But others are images loosely brought together by a pun, or in this case, something that seems like a pun if glanced at while reading a newspaper.”

According to Moir, it was the idea of Latham’s belly being a hill that probably confused things. “It was an idea I cooked up when Beazley was still leader, and it didn’t translate as well as I’d expected. I probably should have scrapped Latham and just drawn a hill marked ‘credibility’.”

Harold Cairns, from the Australian Political Cartoonists’ Association, says he feels Moir’s pain. “An election like this, with so many abstract economic issues, is a cartoonist’s nightmare. You can only draw a barrel with “handouts” written on it so many times.”

Cairns says that many cartoonists used up their quota of pig troughs, piles of cash with spades in them, and treasure chests early in the campaign, and were now in uncharted territory when trying to depict excessive spending. The result, in some cases, was confusion. “They’ll just draw any object and mark it ‘budget spending’, and the cartoon’s internal logic goes out the window,” he said.

Cairns recommended young cartoonists to seek guidance from the work of Warren from The Daily Telegraph, a man whose work “never becomes too complicated.”