The acronym for the Museum of Australian Democracy is actually MoAD and it’s obvious why. But I’ll use MAD temporarily given MoAD is displaying the Behind the Lines exhibition of Australian political cartoons. BtL is an annual event and I’d seen two previous incarnations at the Museum of Australia (MOA). It’s an unusual exhibition because it’s mirthful and accompanied by frequent chuckles and even belly laughs. It’s also mercifully short, so this is one for anyone. The themes were obvious enough: Julia, Tony, Kevin, animal exports, refugee imports, climate change. I found it interesting that I could guess the source for some cartoons, especially the Daily Telegraph and the West Australian but also occasionally the Australian. Here are some favourites: a mediaeval recounting of carbon disaster / First dog on the Moon (Andrew Marlton) in Crikey; the Devil complaining that “the place hasn’t been the same since we transitioned from fossil fuel to solar” / Philip Somerville in Nexus; a woman wailing over the Tomb of the Unknown Cow / Dean Alston in West Australian; Abbott consoling the homeless man over “Gillard’s class war” / John Spooner in The Age; Gillard’s big picture as a severely undeveloped whttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifork in progress / Bill Leak in The Australian. But my vote goes to the cutting simplicity of Gillard turning out the Light(-house) on the Hill because it’s attracting boat people / Jon Kudelka in The Australian. (Thanks to Jon for his permission to publish the cartoon).
BtL didn’t take long so we wondered around Old Parliament House. It’s a sparse but fascinating visit, especially if you remember significant events and the building on TV. We sat in Senate and House seats (I was particularly amused to see the MPs’ benches had inkwells), marvelled at the tiny offices (the Secretary of PM&C shared his small office with the stationery cupboard!) and visited the various party rooms and the PM’s suite, but the most interesting was a session in the actual Cabinet room where we played at being ministers and argued over whether to bring the troops home in 1941. Megan and I knew what happened and we approved of the decision (Curtin brought the troops home from Europe/Africa against the wishes of Churchill and Roosevelt and they soon defeated the Japanese on the Kokoda Track) but it was news for some others and a lively debate ensued. I certainly don’t envy our pollies who have to make decisions of this magnitude and complexity. We should thank our lucky stars that they get it as right as they do. MOAD is a small and relaxed museum but the building has history oozing from its walls.
The annual Behind the Lines exhibition of Australian political cartoons was held at the Museum of Australian Democracy in the Old Parliament House.