Culture

Leunig Has Compared The Victorian Government To Fascists In His Latest Cartoon About Vaccination

Turns out he might be ready to take that position on vaccination.

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Over the past four decades, Michael Leunig has rightfully earned his place as the nation’s most beloved cartoonist. But in recent months, his iconic work which generally focusses on broad philosophical or existential concerns has been tainted for some by a persisting interrogation of vaccination. After a cartoon depicting a mother protecting her baby from needles angered many, Leunig defended his work in an interview on ABC News Breakfast. And, though he was hesitant to take a public position, he affirmed his view that “the science is incomplete”.

Now, with a new cartoon published on the matter in this morning’s edition of The Age, it appears he’s willing to take a stronger position.

Though the issue took off earlier this year after the federal government’s admittedly flawed No Jab, No Pay scheme, this latest work comes just three days after the Victorian State Government’s announcement of No Jab, No Play. In these new laws to be introduced within the next few weeks, pre-schoolers will be unable to attend childcare or kindergarten until they’re vaccinated, to protect other young children.

In order to achieve what’s called “herd immunity” against preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles, vaccination rates in a society must stick between 90-95 percent. The rates in Victoria in particular are usually around 92 percent, but have registered as low as 81 percent in certain communities in the past couple of years. Speaking about the issue last year, the state’s Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Tony Bartone suggested anything below 93 is considered medically unsafe.

“The science on this issue is really clear,” state health minister Jill Hennessy told ABC, when speaking to this idea. “Vaccinations save lives.”

As such, many have expressed their outrage at Leunig’s fairly explicit critique of the move — one which has the potential to sway people’s views on the matter with a moralistic rather than scientific argument.

Others have directed their grievances towards The Age for putting it to print at all:

Much of this criticism is not new for the cartoonist. His work for Fairfax in particular regularly focusses on political issues, and he’s repeatedly railed against a number of complaints, most notably for work that appeared to be anti-Semitic. Speaking to this point in 2012, he labelled it all as merely part of the job: “My cartoonist’s duty and conscience compel me to focus on the plight of the subjugated, the ones most neglected, severely deprived and cruelly afflicted,” he wrote.

For many, that’s exactly how today’s cartoon has failed him.