Popular Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig has attracted criticism for his views on vaccination. Source: News Limited
A BELOVED Australian cartoonist has sparked outrage on social media with a cartoon comparing the Victorian government to fascists, following a proposal to ban children who are not vaccinated from Victorian childcare centres.
Michael Leunig, who was declared a national living treasure in 1999, is a popular Melbourne cartoonist frequently published in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.
But some of his fans have expressed disappointment after The Age published this cartoon in today’s paper.
Leunig, a known anti-vaxxer, took a stab at the Victoria government after Health Minister Jill Hennessy announced she would introduce legislation requiring children to be fully vaccinated before they attend childcare or kindergarten.
The proposed law also closes a loophole that makes an exemption for parents who choose not to vaccinate their children on the grounds they are conscientious objectors. Children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will remain exempt.
Titled, “FACIST EPIPHANY,” the cartoon reappropriates Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ and depicts a hand pointing a needle at another hand. “The God of Science grants politicians the divine right to enforce mass medication among babies and small children,” it reads.
This isn’t the first time Mr Leunig has created a cartoon with an anti-vaccination message.
In April he created this cartoon criticising mothers who chose to vaccinate their children.
“Some mothers do ‘ave ’em,” he wrote above the image.
“They have maternal instincts that contradict what science thinks. They stand up to the state,” he continued.
“A mother’s love may be as great as any new vaccine that man has ever seen.”
When seeking comment from Mr Leunig, news.com.au was directed to an email response the 70-year-old gave to a woman who complained about the cartoon.
“My cartoon was not about the value of vaccines — it is about the punitive deprivation and coercive authoritarian force being increasingly and systematically applied by Federal and State governments to parents who want choice in the matter,” he wrote.
“There is a human rights issue here that is deeply disturbing and worth talking about in a clear-headed way that is free of hostility and insult.”
Social media users have expressed their disappointment at Mr Leunig’s position.
The Age’s news director Mark Forbes told news.com.au the newspaper doesn’t rule out covering any issues, with the exception of offensive racist or sexist material. “Cartoons are similar to commentary, they represent the opinion of the cartoonist,” he wrote in an email.
Mr Forbes said The Age has a clear editorial position in favour of vaccination.
“As an institution we disagree with Leunig, but we will defend his right to hold those views.
“This is not unusual, The Age has run columns and cartoons denying the existence of global warming, although we believe the views expressed are profoundly misplaced.”
Children not vaccinated against illnesses such as measles and whooping cough put other children and the greater community at risk, health experts say.
The power of simple questions
“What we don’t accept is those who go around myth-making about the risks of vaccination,” Health Minister Jill Hennessy said on Sunday.
“The public health and wellbeing of the broader community has to take precedence against the anti-vaccination movement.”
Despite a vaccination rate of 92 per cent for whooping cough in Victoria, the number of reported cases has increased by more than 1000 since the previous year.
“Ultimately it is a parents call in terms of how they respond, but we cannot continue to see the alarming rise in diseases like whooping cough and measles, and not respond,” Ms Hennessy said. She is confident the “no jab, no play” policy will provide an incentive for parents to make sure their children are vaccinated.
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