Bill Leak takes aim at ‘tantrum throwing Tweety Birds’ in robust defence of The Australia cartoon

Under fire cartoonist Bill Leak has defended his controversial cartoon in yesterday’s Australian, and drawn a cartoon portraying himself as the victim of “tantrum throwing” and “sanctimonious Tweety Birds”.

Leak, and his employers, faced widespread criticism of yesterday’s cartoon which appeared to suggest indigenous fathers do not know the names of their own children.


Today’s Bill Leak cartoon in The Australian

Writing in today’s Australian, Leak mounted a defense of his work, branding those who attacked the cartoon as “racist” as suffering from what he called “Chronic Truth Aversion Disorder”.

He took particular aim at The Guardian Australia’s media correspondent, Amanda Meade, for failing to understand the meaning of a cartoon “when it was so glaringly obvious”.

The cartoon showed a policeman bringing back an indigenous child to his father by the scruff of the neck and telling him: “You’ll have to sit down and talk to your son about personal responsibility”.

The father responds: “Yeah righto, what’s his name then?”

Leak insisted the cartoon had been “inspired by Indig­enous men and people who, without regard for their ­personal safety, feel compelled to tell the truth whether it incites the CTAD sufferers to attack them en masse or not”.

The Leak cartoon published by The Australian.

The Leak cartoon published in yesterday’s edition of The Australian.

Leak accused people – he singled out those working at media organisations – of simply not understanding the cartoon.

“When little children can’t understand things, they often lash out and throw tantrums,” he wrote. “Workplace and safety considerations prevent adults stamping their feet and hurling themselves on to the playground, so they have to content themselves with spewing invective all over the virtual playground of Twitter.

“They take aim at whoever confounded them, claim to be offended and engage in a cathartic process of name-calling and abuse.”

He continued: “The cartoon I drew for yesterday’s paper was inspired by Indig­enous men and people who, without regard for their ­personal safety, feel compelled to tell the truth whether it incites the CTAD sufferers to attack them en masse or not.

“It’s their prescriptions for ­improving the lives of Aboriginal Australians that inform my own understanding of the subject.

“Before the howls of outrage and accusations of racism that were directed at me started filtering through into my Twitter-free world yesterday, I received an email from Anthony Dillon — whose father Colin was Australia’s first Aboriginal policeman and whose evidence was pivotal to the Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption in Queensland — ­congratulating me on the cartoon.”

He added the “Chronic Truth Aversion Disorder” epidemic that is “raging through Australia’s social media population” is making it impossible to have any “intellig­ent debate on serious social issues, such as the rampant violence, abuse and neglect of children in remote indigenous communities”.

“The reactions of people in an advanced stage of the condition to anything that so much as hints at the truth, while utterly irrational, are also so hostile that anyone ­inclined to speak the truth understandably becomes afraid to do so,” he wrote.

Earlier yesterday, The Australian editor in chief, Paul Whittaker, also defended Leak, saying his cartoons “force people to examine the core issues in a way that sometimes reporting and analysis can fail to do”.

He said people often “skirt around the root causes and tough issues” and heralded The Australian’s “long standing and detailed contribution to our national debate over the crucial issues in Indigenous affairs”.

“The current controversy over juvenile detention in the Northern Territory has lifted these matters to the forefront of national attention again,” he said. “Too often, too many people skirt around the root causes and tough issues. But not everyone.

“This week on Lateline, Noel Pearson said: “Blackfellas have got to take charge and take responsibility for their own children … That part of the message really struggles to get traction.”

“In our pages, Marcia Langton said: “Instead of talking about personal agency, these people talk about self-determination. It drowns out any message about personal agency.”

“Bill Leak’s confronting and insightful cartoons force people to examine the core issues in a way that sometimes reporting and analysis can fail to do.”

But as the broadsheet defended the cartoon – published on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day – the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council joined the chorus of criticism, attacking it as “ugly, insulting and embarrassing”.

In a statement, NSWALC chair Roy Ah-See, said: “Sadly racism and discrimination is a fact of life for Aboriginal people who have lived on and cared for this country for more than 60,000 years.

“Bill Leak’s cartoon is ugly, insulting and it is embarrassing for Australia’s national newspaper to publish it. It is time the decision-makers at The Australian accept personal responsibility for the hurt they have caused Aboriginal people today.”

The Australian Press Council confirmed it has received at least one complaint, with a number of commentators online describing the cartoon as racist and implying that it might be breach APC’s guidelines on the reporting of race.


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