Albo channels late Labor legend in Mark Knight’s public hol cartoon
When Prime Minister Albanese suggested a public holiday if the Matildas won the World Cup, Aussies rejoiced but small business owners despaired in a 40 year old replay of America’s Cup quote
READING LEVEL: ORANGE
The Australian women’s soccer team, the Matildas, captured the public’s imagination when they made their way through to the World Cup semi-finals. “Matildas fever” was in epidemic* proportions across Australia, with TV ratings for their matches soaring to stratospheric* heights. Sold out stadiums and live sites around the nation added to the hysteria*.
Of course the politicians wanted to bathe in some of that spotlight and none more so than our Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who got swept up in the excitement by promising that if the Matildas won the World Cup, there should be a public holiday across Australia to celebrate the occasion.
People described it as a bit of a “Bob Hawke” moment for Albo, by promising to give Australians a day off. The late Bob Hawke (1929-2019) was Australia’s prime minister from 1983 to 1991. A former trade union president, Hawke ran for parliament and won the Victorian Federal seat of Wills in 1980 for the Labor Party.
Hawke was a man of the people, hugely popular with a larrikin* nature, but also highly educated and a Rhodes scholar*. He liked a beer (but he gave up alcohol while in office) and such was his success as prime minister that he won four elections for the Labor Party in 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1990, cementing himself as a legend, not only among the Labor faithful but a wider group of Australians and the business community.
One of the great moments during Hawke’s leadership was when Australia won the America’s Cup yacht race series in 1983, not long after Hawke took office. For 132 years, the trophy had not left the hands of the New York Yacht Club, but West Australian businessman Alan Bond put together a team to sail Australia II to victory over the Americans and bring the coveted* trophy back to Australia. Australia II was a super maxi yacht with a revolutionary* “winged keel”* and there were wild celebrations in Australia when the yacht claimed line honours*, much like when the Matildas defeated France in the World Cup quarterfinals.
In the excitement the morning of the win, Prime Minister Hawke was filmed at a press conference making his famous statement: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum!”
It was classic Bob Hawke and tapped into the public mood of the day.
Fast forward nearly 40 years to the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament in Australia with the Matildas’ bandwagon* starting to build, and PM Albanese sees his “Bob Hawke” moment by declaring a public holiday if the Matildas win the Cup!
The only thing was that public holidays cost business owners money, by having to pay their workers penalty rates* for working on a holiday, and as we know the economy has been going through some pretty hard times. So the promise of a public holiday was met by the small business community with a slow hand clap. As the Matildas kept winning, the possibility of a public holiday increased. The debate about whether we should have a holiday grew louder. It called for a cartoon on the subject!
When Bob Hawke became prime minister, I was a young 20-year-old cartoonist, getting my start in newspapers. I was fortunate in my early years as a scribbler to have a politician like Hawke to draw. Very interesting politically, loads of personality and physical features that beg to be caricatured. That great head of silver hair and eyebrows that relayed every emotion. I have drawn him all my life and relished the thought of including him in a cartoon that would be based on the idea of our current PM trying to emulate* the popular politics of a Labor legend.
The idea would also have to cover the fact that the public holiday thought bubble was not being entirely embraced by Australians within the business community and that it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. So I started sketching Albo sitting in the stands at a Matildas game wearing his green and gold scarf. Just as a bit of fun, I drew the spirit of RJ Hawke sitting next to him. He is wearing that unique “Australia” jacket he wore on the day after the America’s Cup win. I liked the look of both of them sitting together. I thought they might be talking and that Hawke, the most successful Labor prime minister, might be offering some advice to the current PM about his promise of a holiday and his attempt at impersonating Bob.
But what would Hawke say? It was my wish to somehow incorporate into the cartoon Hawke’s quote about “any boss who sacks someone today is a bum”. I knew then I would have to adapt it, rewrite it to suit this moment, but it still had to be recognisable. The cartoon hung on that re-imagined line.
After a bit of thought, I came up with a line that seemed like something that Bob Hawke would say in his unmistakeable way: “Any boss who sacks Albo at the next election for promising a public holiday if the Matildas win … is a bum!”
In my mind I could hear Bob Hawke saying those very words.
In cartoons like this one, the political humour hinges on taking a famous historical line or moment and slightly adapting it to the present situation.
- epidemic: sudden outbreak of infection in a large number of people in a particular place
- stratospheric: very high or great, out of this world
- hysteria: an uncontrollable outburst of emotion
- larrikin: a cheeky, mischief-making man
- Rhodes scholar: recipient of a Rhodes scholarship, an international award funding talented young people from around the world to take up postgraduate study at Oxford University
- coveted: strongly desired by a lot of people
- revolutionary: radically new and different, outside or beyond what has existed before
- winged keel: a sailboat keel is the underwater profile of the boat that gives it its ability to sail; the winged keel or horizontal foil lowered drag and improved stability
- line honours: first to finish in any class or division of sailing race
- penalty rates: higher pay rates employees must be paid for working certain hours or days
- emulate: to copy someone’s behaviour, to imitate with effort to equal or surpass someone else
- Why did the late Bob Hawke make his famous declaration?
- Hawke won how many elections in what years?
- Prime Minister Albanese suggested a national public holiday if what happened?
- How long was the highly prized America’s Cup at the New York Yacht Club?
- Why were small business owners less than impressed by the idea of a new public holiday?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. What happens next?
Imagine this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is the start of the story. Think about what the story could be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking
Being able to draw is only one of the skills needed to be a great cartoonist. Write a list of all of the other skills that you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job.
Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them to do a great job.
Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design
Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon – a person or an animal. Write it down.
Add three adjectives to describe them better.
Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?
Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.
Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.