Sunday, March 19, 2017
The only way to save coral reefs: A war on global warming (?)
This utter BS first came out in Australian newspapers and I commented on it then. I found the article below in the Boston Globe, however, so the nonsense has spread. In the circumstances, I think I should repeat and amplify my earlier comments.
Cape Grim tells us that CO2 levels have been plateaued on 401ppm since last July (midwinter) So anything that has happened in the recent summer is NOT due to a rise in CO2.
And NASA/GISS tell us that the December global temperature anomaly is back to .79 -- exactly where it was in 2014 before the recent El Nino event that covered the second half of 2015 and most of 2016. So there has been no global warming in the recent Southern summer and there was no CO2 rise to cause anything anywhere anyway.
The claim that this summer's bleaching was an effect of global warming is a complete crock for both reasons. The data could not be clearer on that. The seas around Northeast Australia may or may not be unusually warm at the moment but if they are it is some local effect of air and ocean currents etc. The warming in NOT a part of global warming
Reducing pollution and curbing overfishing won't prevent the severe bleaching that is killing coral at catastrophic rates, according to a study of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. In the end, researchers say, the only way to save the world's coral from heat-induced bleaching is with a war on global warming.
Scientists are quick to note that local protection of reefs can help damaged coral recover from the stress of rising ocean temperatures. But the new research shows that such efforts are ultimately futile when it comes to stopping bleaching in the first place.
"We don't have any tools to climate-proof corals," said Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia and lead author of the study being published on Thursday in the journal Nature. "That's a bit sobering. We can't stop bleaching locally. We actually have to do something about climate change."
Across the world, scores of brilliantly colored coral reefs once teeming with life have in recent years become desolate, white graveyards. Their deaths due to coral bleaching have grown more frequent as ocean temperatures rise, mainly due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The hot water stresses corals, forcing them to expel the colorful algae living inside them, which leaves the corals vulnerable to disease and death. Given enough time, bleached coral can recover if the water cools, but if the temperature stays too high for too long, the coral will die.
Preserving coral reefs is crucial, given we depend on them for everything from food to medical research to protection from damaging coastal storms. Scientists and policymakers have thus been scrambling to find ways to prevent bleaching. Last year, for example, Hawaiian officials proposed several measures they hoped would fight bleaching on the state's reefs, such as limiting fishing, establishing new marine protected areas, and controlling polluted runoff from land. The question was whether such efforts could provide the corals any resistance to bleaching, or just help them recover.
The researchers conducted aerial and underwater surveys of the Great Barrier Reef, which has experienced three major bleaching events, the worst of which occurred last year. The scientists found that the severity of bleaching was tightly linked to how warm the water was. In the north, which experienced the hottest temperatures, hundreds of individual reefs suffered severe bleaching in 2016, regardless of whether the water quality was good or bad, or whether fishing had been banned. That means even the most pristine parts of the reef are just as prone to heat stress as those that are less protected.
Prior exposure to bleaching also did not appear to provide any protective benefit to the coral. The scientists found that the reefs that were highly bleached during the first two events, in 1998 and 2002, did not experience less severe bleaching last year.
Ultimately, the study concluded, saving reefs from the ravages of bleaching requires urgent action to reduce global warming.
"I think it's a wake-up call," Hughes said. "We've been hoping that local interventions with water quality and fishing would improve the resistance of the corals to bleaching. We found no evidence that that's actually true, at least during a very severe event."
The study shows that older ways of thinking about reef management, such as reducing river runoff, are now moot points when it comes to preventing bleaching, said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist and coral researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
"It all seems so quaint now, really," said Cobb, who wasn't part of the study. "A future that we thought was decades coming is basically here."
The research also illustrated the gravity of the situation facing the 1,400-mile Great Barrier Reef. The team found 91 percent of the reef has been bleached at least once during the three bleaching events. Even more alarming, Hughes said, is that a fourth bleaching event is already underway. Corals need years to recover from bleaching, so back-to-back events increase the possibility that the bleached coral will die.
The study shows that very intense coral bleaching events are no longer isolated and are happening more regularly, said coral reef scientist Julia Baum of Canada's University of Victoria. That assertion has been further bolstered by the Great Barrier Reef's latest bleaching event, which began a few weeks ago and which Baum says has stunned scientists.
"None of us were expecting the water to be heating up again right now," Baum said. "I think it's beyond what any of us could have imagined. It's our worst nightmare."
The foreign investor myth that's fooled us all
THE Australian property market is a complex beast.
Prospective homeowners are so desperate to get a foothold in the housing game they're putting off having children as they front up to dozens of open houses and auctions each weekend trying to find their forever homes. Yet in the very same suburbs, foreign investors - predominantly Chinese buyers - are snapping up properties they're happy to let languish unoccupied with no intention of ever living in them.
What's seen as the great Australian dream for one buyer is merely a place to park money for another.
The housing crisis looming over home-owning hopefuls is completely at odds with what's going on in the cashed up world of Chinese investors. At first glance it seems foreign investors are driving up prices by taking the homes first home buyers believe they deserve, but experts are not convinced the two are so easily linked.
Alarming figures published this week show one in every 10 homes in NSW is purchased by foreign investors - 11 per cent of property purchases - and some of those are being left vacant.
A closer look at the figures, according to the Australian Financial Review, shows the figures aren't as scary as they seem. Once you strip out home jointly purchased by Australian and foreign citizens or by dual citizens, the share of foreign buyers is just 8 per cent, and that includes permanent residents according to today's report.
While many call Australia - and their new properties - home, the motivation for the few overseas property moguls who keep their purchases vacant is generally either so the owners or their children can inhabit them at their whim when they want to visit, or simply to "offshore" some cash and wait to turn over a profit when they eventually sell. For this particular brand of investor, rental income is not an issue.
It seems unfair these houses should languish unoccupied and presumably be stripped from the market that young families are clambering to enter but, according to University of Sydney chair of urban and regional planning and policy Peter Phibbs, the two buying groups aren't always stepping on each other's toes.
"The Chinese investor is quite complicated and what they're after is not the same as what your average first homebuyer is looking for," he said.
"Often they want to live around Chinese people where there's Chinese food and culture. It's not like they're spread out all across the city. A lot of them are looking at apartment blocks in Chatswood where they're very dominant in that market.
"You can't imagine your first homebuyer that's trying to buy a crappy semi in the middle of the suburbs is going to have to fight a fight with an investor over that sort of property."
Prof Phibbs said it was important to bear these differences in mind when looking to pin the blame on high house prices on foreign buyers, particularly when many of them, anecdotally, were unconcerned with the livability of the properties they were investing in.
"Certainly if you've got a lot of money in China and you're a bit unsure about the direction of the regime, banking your cash in Australian real estate would be a good strategy," he said.
"That could be part of the reason why sometimes those increases in stamp duty in Victoria (imposed on foreign investors) haven't made too much difference. Some of that market is definitely not operating like a normal housing investor market, there are clearly buyers that are only interested in offshoring money."
He said often foreign buyers would barely consider the living conditions for their investment properties, seeing them as a banking mechanism rather than a home.
Last week the House Economics Committee review into Australia's four big banks heard that, in Melbourne, a glut of apartments had sprung up as foreign buyers failed to settle on property sales, and were having difficulty trying to offload properties "which may or may not be what the local buyers want".
Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer told the committee local buyers rejected the lower quality apartments that Chinese buyers had put money into in favour of higher quality developments, the Australian Financial Review reported.
"Take an apartment building in the Docklands [Melbourne] that is a luxury building with a high-quality build and it's fine and we will back a good development with high quality local buyers. Some of those buildings will be fine," he said.
"You can go half a dozen blocks away and find another apartment building with a small footprint targeting overseas buyers who don't plan to live there and it's in trouble. You actually have to go building by building."
It's easy to rebuke foreign buyers for locking the rest of us out of the market, but if you look at it another way, without them the market would be a lot smaller.
Prof Phibbs said it was actually thanks to them that a lot of new developments were getting off the ground.
"You can't get finance for an apartment block without presales, and guess who's buying off the plan?" he said.
"By making that investment and boosting that supply, foreign buyers are in a way helping out domestic investors."
According to the Foreign Investment Review Board, the government's policy is to channel foreign investment into new dwellings "as this creates additional jobs in the construction industry and helps support economic growth".
When the new foreign investment rules were implemented, it was decided that foreign investment applications should be decided in light of the principle that "the proposed investment should increase Australia's housing stock" or contribute to creating at least one new additional dwelling.
In order to curb the number of foreign buyers flooding the real estate market, state governments have introduced a number of measures.
The NSW government last year introduced a four per cent foreign investors stamp duty surcharge, and Opposition Leader Luke Foley on Tuesday said if Labor was elected it would lift that to seven per cent and double the land tax.
Victoria has already boosted its stamp duty for foreign buyers to seven per cent, but it's made little impact.
NSW property industry leaders have slammed the suggestion of hiking surcharges for foreign buyers, saying it throttles supply.
According to Prof Phibbs, measures to reduce demand are "probably a good thing at the moment", and while it's important to remember property, like other markets, is now dealing in "a global market", slapping on extra fees to those who were least harmed by the housing crisis "couldn't hurt".
Literally no idea about literacy and numeracy
In my entire teacher education degree, there was just one subject dedicated to learning how to teach literacy and numeracy. And ironically that subject included very little literacy and no numeracy.
It is unsurprising therefore -- but nonetheless concerning -- that it's necessary for the federal government to require students doing teacher education degrees to pass a literacy and numeracy test before they can be accredited to teach.
The test requires students to achieve the literacy and numeracy level equivalent to the top 30% of Australian adults (not the loftiest of goals). This week we learnt that over 5% of teacher education students didn't achieve the required level on the test in 2016 and another 3% had to re-sit the test, despite having already been admitted to a teacher education degree.
Students are charged $185 to sit the compulsory test -- and are then charged the same amount again if they have to re-sit it. They are entitled to wonder why they were admitted to an expensive teaching degree in the first place if their literacy and numeracy skills were not necessarily up to scratch.
This raises many questions. How has the quality of graduate intake in teaching degrees fallen so low that the ATAR cut-offs don't eliminate applicants who lack the literacy and numeracy levels required? What are universities actually covering in teaching degrees if an external test for literacy and numeracy is still needed? And are there teachers already in schools who don't have adequate literacy and numeracy skills themselves -- and so have no hope of passing on these basic skills to school students?
The absurdity of having to test the literacy and numeracy levels of teacher education students, who will soon be responsible for teaching literacy and numeracy, shows how from primary school through to university the Australian education system is failing to consistently get the basics right. No wonder Australia's school results have been declining in the international rankings.
It is a crucial problem that literacy and numeracy are not being taught as well as they could. They are the foundations of a proper education.
Headscarves ban: Bronnie urges Islamic headscarf ban in Australia
Bronwyn Bishop has urged Australians to "fight for our culture" while announcing her support of a ban on headscarves in Australia following a controversial ruling made in Europe overnight. "It's an excellent ruling, an excellent ruling and I'd like to see a similar ruling here," Ms Bishop told Sydney's Macquarie Radio this afternoon.
The former politician and speaker in the House of Representatives was responding to a decision made in the European Court of Justice which may allow European companies to legally forbid employees from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols.
The court argued such a ban does not constitute "direct discrimination".
"The word discriminate gets banded around a hell of a lot doesn't it? But sometimes it's a good thing to be discriminating and it's a good thing to not tolerate the intolerable," said Ms Bishop told radio host Ben Fordham.
The ruling in Europe was a response to two cases presented by a Belgian and a French woman who were both fired for refusing to remove their headscarves in the workplace.
Ms Bishop, who resigned from Parliament in 2015 after a travel expenses scandal, says such a ban should be adopted in Australia. "I've said for a long time that young girls who are going to public schools in Australia should wear the school uniform and not a religious uniform," Ms Bishop said.
She also referenced the controversy surrounding Punchbowl High in Sydney's west, where alternative ways for pupils and female teachers to interact are being explored in response to religious beliefs that prevent males from shaking a woman's hand.
"Somehow people are saying a solution to that is they can put their hand on their heart," said Ms Bishop. "Well they can put their hand where they damn well like, but in this country, if a hand is put out by a woman, you take it. This is our culture and we have to fight for our culture."
"When I hear the Department of Education start to say it's okay for a boy to put his hand on his heart instead of taking a woman's hand is totally unacceptable. Because the belief behind that is that women are unclean. It just is totally unacceptable. In this country men and women are equal and if we don't, as women, stand up for that continually then we will lose that battle. I'm not prepared to lose it."
Bill Leak: silencing a larrikin spirit
I feel not only terrible sadness at Bill Leak's premature death but also anger and resentment.
Bill was not gunned down at his office, like the writers and artists of Charlie Hebdo, nor did a murderous Somali axeman break into his home, as happened to Kurt Westergaard, one of the Danish Mohammed cartoonists, nor did he have his last public appearance shot up by a killer jihadist, as did Swedish artist Lars Vilks. But, as much as any of those, Bill was a target of what he called "the cartoonists hit list" and the wider war on free expression that has rampaged across the West this past decade.
Last October, he woke up to find that, after a cartoon arising from a then current controversy on Aboriginal policy, he was to be investigated by the Australian state's thought police. Indeed, the government's race discrimination commissar, Tim Soutphommasane, was so anxious to haul Bill up on a charge of "racial stereotyping" that he was advertising for plaintiffs: he urged anyone who was offended by it to lodge a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act.
As Bill's mate Tim Blair observed: "This is extraordinary. The Human Rights Commission is now preparing to sit in judgment in a case clearly already decided by one of the HRC's most senior officials. As Homer Simpson once asked: `Who made you Judge Judy and executioner?' "
In the way of apparatchiks everywhere, Commissar Soutphommasane insisted that his -verdict-first-trial-afterwards approach was all part of the vigorous public debate of a healthy democracy: "Cartoons will be subject to all matter of public debate. It's a healthy part of our democracy that we have that debate."
To which I responded: "Sorry. A legal action is not a `debate'. Mr Leak is being `subject to' not debate but state thought-policing - because ideological enforcers like Soutphommasane find debate too tiresome and its results too unpredictable. Which is why he gets a third of a million a year from Australian taxpayers to prevent debate."
Gillian Triggs, the chief commissar of the Australian "Human Rights" Commission, complained that Bill had refused to send her a written response "justifying" his cartoon. Good for him. As I wrote in The Australian at the time, you don't get into a debate with someone whose opening bid is "You can't say that": It's not a dispute with someone who holds a different position but with someone who denies your right to have a position at all - which is what Triggs and Soutphommasane are saying when they require you "to justify an 18D basis for the cartoon". (18D is the relevant section of Australia's crappy anti-free-speech law.) In healthy societies, the state does not require artists to "justify" art.
That was five months ago - the last five months, as it turned out, of Bill's life. So all that "healthy part of our democracy" didn't turn out that healthy for him. As I always say, the process is the punishment, and in this case it may well have proved fatally so.
I can't say for certain what toll the section 18 complaint took on him but I know something about the strain of being caught in the commissars' crosshairs from my own experience with section 13, Canada's equivalent.
I remember one day reading a legal analysis of my case that was all "Steyn this" and "Steyn that" and eventually concluded: "It will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court." And I realised that "it" referred to "Steyn", to me. I was no longer a "he", a flesh-and-blood human being called Mark, but an "it" - a legal matter that happened to share my name. I wonder if Bill ever felt like that under his cheery exterior: you become your case; the case gets bigger and bigger, and the real you becomes smaller and smaller. And, even as your life shrivels, far too many people who should know better swallow all that guff about how "it's a healthy part of our democracy".
Bill was not his case. He was a brilliant observer of the scene, an inventive joker, and a superb draughtsman, which these days too few editorial cartoonists are. One image, for example, pictured above, was on a familiar theme, at least to me - the Left's indulgence of Islamic supremacism. But it's made by the detail - the beard, the earrings, the pose, the trouser colour - and the contrast between the infantilised teacher and his pupils in their neat little English school uniforms.
Australia is not yet beheading infidels but it does drag apostates of the multiculti pieties into court - which is a difference merely of degree. As Blair wrote, Bill was "one of the sweetest, funniest and most generous people I've ever met" - but he was also braver and tougher than men of his prominence have found it prudent to be in this cowardly age.
Two years ago, after the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath, I got pretty sick pretty quickly of the bogus solidarity - not just the #JeSuisCharlie humbug hashtaggery but also the response of the victims' fellow cartoonists around the world, with their fey, limpid drawings of pencils shedding tears and pens mightier than swords, and other evasive twaddle, all of which would have made the dead of Charlie Hebdo puke. Everyone wanted the frisson of courage but without having to show any. Bill's attitude was truer to the spirit of the slain: one example was beautifully drawn - a beard protruding from the burka is a very nice touch - and, if you have to hold candlelit marches through the streets, #JeSuisMohammed would have made a much better slogan.
But you can also sense in it the difficulty a cartoonist faces in a world retreating into silence: you have to come up with something your newspaper will be willing to print. Can you draw Mohammed? Whoa, not in a Western newspaper, no. Can you suggest that someone in the cartoon might be Mohammed? Possibly - if you put him in a burka, with a beard dangling. What if your editor responds to the cardboard placard by saying, "Hang on, mate. Isn't `Je Suis Mohammed' French for `I am Mohammed'?" Well, maybe your line is "No, no, that's just someone showing solidarity with Mohammed" . like Helen Mirren wearing her "Je Suis Charlie" brooch to the Golden Globes.
It's an ingenious solution in an age when, with or without Commissar Triggs and section 18C, "justifying" your cartoon now goes with the job.
But that wasn't the cartoon Bill gave his readers in the days after the Charlie Hebdo slaughter. He drew the "Je Suis Mohammed" beardie-in-a-burka piece pictured above a few months later to accompany a speech he gave on the role of humour in today's world, and it nicely skewers the cartoonist's predicament in our times. In January 2015, in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, he offered a far more direct image: no burka, no ambivalence, just God and Mohammed shooting the breeze in the hereafter.
To their credit, his editors published it. When every other major Western newspaper was professing solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo dead yet refusing to show the reason they died - the Mohammed cartoons - The Australian actually published a new Mohammed cartoon.
Unlike the jihadists in Bill's picture, the real ones couldn't see the joke. So, after a gag about a "cartoonists hit list", the cartoonist wound up on an actual hit list, from Islamic State.
Distinctive-looking persons started showing up around his house. "What do you mean, `distinctive-looking'?" asked the coppers. So he got out his pencil and drew them. On my visit to Australia a year ago, Bill told me, in confidence (though he later went public with it), that as a result of death threats he and his family had been forced to leave their home, and live in a strange house in a new town under police protection.
This is the life of an Australian artist in the 21st century: you exist in a kind of precarious semi-liberty. Having friends over for dinner is a gamble - because if a careless friend mentions it to a friend of a friend, you'll have to move again, to another house in another town, further and further away from what used to be your life. There is a price for not taking refuge in bland, self-flattering hooey about weeping pens might-ier than swords.
Bill paid it without complaint. Last year I gave a speech in Sydney, followed by the usual book signing. It was a very long line that night, and you get a little punchy, head down, staggering from one autograph request to the next, one photograph to the next, and all you see is the guy at the front, not the fellows waiting patiently behind. So I didn't spot Bill until he was at the head of the queue, bantering amiably with those around him. "Who's next?" I asked, and the bloke whose book I'd just signed said breezily, "Australia's best cartoonist." Which is true.
I told Bill he needn't have stood in line - not because he's under Islamic State death threats (I didn't yet know that) and waiting in a slow-moving queue for an hour makes you a very inviting target even for the most incompetent jihadist, but because he could have pulled rank and demanded he get the VIP treatment. Come to that, we'd have been happy to let him have free copies of the five books he'd very generously purchased for friends and family. He scoffed at the suggestion and gave a characteristic Bill response: "That's not how we do things in Australia, Mark," he said, and grinned.
I would like to believe that. I real-ly would. But "how we do things in Australia" - and France, and Denmark and The Netherlands and Sweden and Canada - is what's at issue here. The Islamic State savages said, "That's not how we do things in the new caliphate" - and the Leak family was forced to move house.
And a few months later the goons of the state grievance industry decide to remind him just ex-actly "how we do things in Australia" these days: a man who is already living in hiding because murderous thugs don't like his cartoon has to be further tormented because hack bureaucrats and professional grievance-mongers don't like some other cartoon.
As I said that night in Sydney, these are merely different points on the same continuum: the Islamic State and the Australian state are both in the shut-up business, and proud of it. But for Bill this must have exacted an awful, cumulative toll. The "human rights" investigation was later quietly abandoned after the plaintiff decided to withdraw. The thought enforcers had made their point, they'd pinned the scarlet letter on him and persuaded fainter-hearted artists and writers that here's one more topic you might want to steer clear of. The silence of so many Australian journalists and cartoonists these past five months was more shameful than the accusations of his enemies.
I doubt this is how he thought his life would end up when he first came to public attention in the 1970s. He was a skilled and sensitive portraitist of Sir Don Bradman and other great Australians, and you can see in his paintings what he loved and cherished. He could have led just as successful a life far more quietly. But, when the Islamic Statists and the Australian statists alike decided to target him and his art, he didn't flinch. He understood the malign alliance between Islamic imperialism and a squishy, appeasing West. One of his cartoons shows a spotty T-shirted kid announcing he's off to join Islamic State in "the war on Western freedoms". "No need for that, son," says his dad. "They're giving them away."
And so we are.
Thirty-six hours before his sudden death, Bill held his last book launch, for a collection of cartoons called Trigger Warning. He was by all accounts on great form, calling political correctness "a poison that attacks the sense of humour" and that "infects an awful lot of precious little snowflakes". Other eminent Aussie free-speechers such as Anthony Morris QC were present. But I wonder, in the circumstances, given the state commissars' efforts to de-normalise him and criminalise his work, if his favourite moment during the event wasn't when proceedings were interrupted by the arrival of Australia's iconic cultural ambassador, Sir Les Patterson.
When they play the racism card against you, you always worry that, even if you win, the word's got out that you're no longer quite respectable or mainstream, and the wobblier A-listers among your mates will decide that discretion is the better part of full-throated support. Good for Barry Humphries for putting a stained and sodden arm around Bill on his last night out.
When I wrote my column on Bill's travails for The Australian, I quoted a report in The Economist on my own battles with the "human rights" commissions: "Much of Canada's press and many broadcasters are already noted for politically correct blandness. Some fear that the case can only make that worse. Mr Steyn and others hope it will prompt a narrower brief for the commissions, or even their abolition. As he put it in his blog, `I don't want to get off the hook. I want to take the hook and stick it up the collective butt of these thought police.'
And I added: "Canada's section 13 was eventually repealed. If I can get my hook past Australian Customs, I would be honoured to assist Mr Leak in performing the same service for Australia."
I meant that. Section 18C is a squalid and contemptible law incompatible with a free society. I hope one day that it will be gone - because "that's not how we do things in Australia". But, to return to where we came in, I am bitter and angry that for Bill Leak, a very great Australian, his long overdue victory will be a posthumous one.
A Leftist view of cartoonist Bill Leak. To the The Leftist "Saturday paper" realism is racism
The Leftist "Saturday paper" is owned by an Israeli draft dodger and edited by a Peace Prize winner so its stories are fairly predictable. Under the heading "The freedom of a coward", the paper refers to examples of Bill Leak's cartoons that give realistic impressions of life on Aboriginal settlements. Such cartoons are "racist" said the paper.
To those who have never set foot outside the more affluent suburbs of our capital cities, the portrayals offered by Leak probably do seem grotesque. For those of us who have had a lot to do with Aborigines, they are simply realistic. We have seen in real life the sort of thing Leak portrayed.
So there is a issue here: Is it permissible to say anything negative about minorities? It's a strange retreat from reality when all minorities must be portrayed as without stain but that seems to be the Leftist position. If not, why is Leak abused as a racist?
Clearly the Left are not confronting the absurdity of their assumptions. But expecting any balance from them about anything is a big ask, of course
And if Bill was a racist is it not a little strange that he was married to a non-Caucasian person with the charming name of "Goong"? In the Bogardus scale of social distance, marrying a minority person is the ultimate example of tolerance and lack of prejudice. The Saturday Paper should be renamed the Saturday Propaganda. There is no honour, depth or truth in them
Bill Leak was a racist. To pretend otherwise is a nonsense.
His death doesn’t change that. The culture warring obituaries don’t change that. The misguided plea of a former prime minister still squaring up against the national broadcaster doesn’t change that.
It was racism that drew a cartoon of two Aboriginal men drinking – they were always drinking – as they read about John Howard’s Northern Territory intervention. “Rape’s out, bashing’s out,” the speech bubble read. “This could set our culture back by 2000 years!..”
It was racism that drew a cartoon of two Aboriginal men drinking – they were always drinking – as a woman slumped battered behind them. Her exaggerated fat lips were made fatter by violence. Blood ran from her head and nose. A comedy of stars circled above her. The speech bubble: “Sheilas! You give ’em an enriching cultural experience and what thanks do you get??!!..”
They were the same men in both cartoons. For Leak, they were always the same men – grotesqueries of a culture his pictures deemed subhuman.
Bill Leak was not brave. There is nothing brave about the persecution of minorities. There is nothing brave about tracing clichés. Leak became a martyr for free speech but in reality he was a martyr for the right to be wrong. His was the freedom of a coward.
Leak’s late-career targets were rarely the powerful. At some point he gave up on genuine insight. About the same time, he gave up on being funny.
There is history to these cartoons. It is the history of a kind of racism that would not be published in another developed democracy anywhere in the world. Leak’s late cartoons drew on the tropes of colonial propaganda to demean and dehumanise an entire race of people. And that was before you got to the homophobia or the Islamophobia or any of the paranoias that drove his pen.
Bill Leak drew for a country that no longer exists. The majority of the words written since his death have been a kind of specious voodoo – a hope that Leak’s Australia could somehow be reanimated, that racist intimidation would once again dominate, that freedom of speech may be co-opted as a tool to keep down the future and the diversity of people who will make it.
The Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, wrote this week that Leak represented “a nation at war over its core values”. He called him “an iconic figure in this struggle … the most important local symbol in the cultural disruption afflicting Western societies.” Leak’s bigotry, in Kelly’s mind, was a corrective to the progressives “dismantling the cultural norms and traditions that have made Western societies such as Australia so successful”.
These are bizarre assertions. They depend on the repression of minorities to maintain an ailing status quo. But this is what Leak spent his time doing.
There is nothing to celebrate in Bill Leak’s death. But there was little to celebrate in the last years of his cartoons, either.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here