The sudden death of Bill Leak has been harrowing. You only realise how much you rely on cultural warriors when they are gone; suddenly, they aren’t there to say the things you want to hear.
Bill Leak’s talent was to depict the unsayable truth. Ingenious, counter-cultural, piercingly accurate truth bombs were let off daily in The Australian.
Political correctness just didn’t stand a chance when it looked so funny in a picture. No one needed to listen to bureaucrats and politicians waffle on TV; we knew that what they really thought would be in a Leak cartoon the next day. Leak cartoons were the fiercest weapons used against 18C and the overreaching Australian Human Rights Commission. Both have been left with far less credibility, having been the subject of an incisive Leak cartoon.
For readers of Flat White, no longer having his cartoons to peruse will leave our newspapers rather desolate. It’s a tragedy both because of Leak’s talent and the timing of his death.
Stuck with a stale political and cultural order, a great swathe of Australia is hungry for change. More importantly, they’re hungry for a conversation about what every issue and every policy really boils down to: values.
No one boils things down better than a cartoonist. Having nothing but a picture in which to make the point, Leak’s cartoons always got to the heart of the matter, especially on 18C. He became one of the very few prepared to talk seriously about values and he championed the values that are seeing a resurgence; most notably, the sensibleness of free speech over the paranoia of political correctness.
This tells us that the leaders of the future will be those who lead on values. The culture war is theirs to win, whether they are the temporarily troubled progressive cosmopolitans, or the rising firebrand conservatives, now with brief window of opportunity.
We elect our representatives to reflect our values, just as much as we elect them to deliver policy.
That’s why the federal government should immediately move to repeal 18C.
They should draw the link between the high regard held for Bill Leak and his status as a cultural warrior against this law.
Recently, senior Liberals, including Scott Morrison said 18C was just a fringe issue and people were more worried about the cost of living.
Yes, people are worried about the cost of living. However, they’re enraged by an establishment that goes silent on values like freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is an Australian value. Unreasonable political correctness and a culture of offence-taking is not.
We should learn the lessons of Leak, and have 18C repealed. Perhaps his death will create enough momentum and will-power within the right circles to make it happen; thus, making it his final stroke of brilliance.
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