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Mark Knight: Is that cough from coronavirus or the state of Australia’s piggy bank?

Mark Knight, May 14, 2020 6:30PM Herald Sun

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Part of Mark Knight's cartoon. media_cameraPart of Mark Knight's cartoon.


Reading level: orange

The coronavirus symptoms are coughing, loss of breath, high temperature, dizziness and aches and pains … and that’s just the political fallout* for our leaders who have to try and steer a course through this once-in-a-generation event.

COVID-19 has caused nightmare scenarios* for governments all around the world. Some countries have done better than others in managing the crisis.

We are lucky in Australia that our Federal and State Governments have all done a good job working together to battle the outbreak. Good decisions have been made by the National Cabinet, medical advice has been listened to and financial assistance has been made available.

On that last point, Josh Frydenberg, our Federal Treasurer, the person who is in charge of the national wallet, got up in parliament to tell us all what the state our piggy bank was in.

He and the Prime Minister have had to hand out a lot of money during COVID-19-related restrictions to support businesses and people who’ve lost their jobs. Gazillions* of dollars have been pledged*.

There are two prongs* to the damage coronavirus can cause. The first is to our health and the second is to our economy*.

I wanted to draw a cartoon on this topic so I tuned in to the coverage of parliament to watch the Treasurer’s speech. He got up to speak and was calmly explaining the financial cliff we were facing when he developed a little cough. He took a sip of some water, which must have gone down the wrong way because the cough got worse, especially as it was being amplified by the Parliament House microphones.

Then he coughed into his hand, which we know is a BIG NO-NO in the COVID-19 cough etiquette* handbook (which tells us to cough into our elbows).

To me it looked like the treasurer was choking on the massive numbers in red* ink in the budget!

And of course anyone who coughs or sneezes these days is instantly thought to be infected with the coronavirus.

Mark Knight’s cartoon. Right-click and open in new tab for full-sized image

Josh Frydenberg's coughing fit in Parliament media_cameraMark Knight’s cartoon on Josh Frydenberg’s cough.

Did the Treasurer have COVID-19? We’ve seen other major politicians such as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson catch it.

I decided I could link these two aspects of the Treasurer’s speech in a cartoon. The idea being related to the two aspects of coronavirus: bad for our health, equally bad for our economy.

So I had two backbenchers* in the background, one very concerned with Mr Frydenberg’s health asking if he had COVID-19? The other delivering the punchline: “Worse, he’s just been given Budget-20”

The Budget for 2020 contained a lot of toxic debt numbers that would make any treasurer gasp for air!

After his speech the Treasurer went off for a coronavirus test, which returned negative. He just had a bit of a cough after the water went down the wrong way.

Unfortunately for him, as my cartoon illustrates, he still had Budget-20, which was severely affecting the nation’s financial* health.


  • fallout: results of something happening
  • scenarios: situations
  • gazillions: lots and lots
  • pledged: promised
  • prongs: different directions something could take
  • economy: how money moves around a country or economy, by buying and selling and wages
  • etiquette: system of manners
  • red: used for writing numbers that someone owes, rather than has
  • backbenchers: junior politicians who aren’t ministers
  • financial: to do with money


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  1. What cough etiquette rule did Josh Frydenberg break?
  2. What job does Mr Frydenberg do?
  3. What is the UK Prime Minister’s name?
  4. What does it mean to say Mr Frydenberg had Budget-20?
  5. Did Mr Frydenberg have COVID-19?


1. What would they say?
Cartoonist Mark Knight has used speech bubbles but no caption on this cartoon, letting the imagery speak for itself.

Read Mark’s explanation of what the cartoon means again and write two, three or four short sentences, just to make sure you understand what the cartoon is saying.

Using your sentences to help you, write a caption for the cartoon or some thought bubbles or quotes from the people in the cartoon that will make Mark’s meaning clearer for children or people who haven’t been reading the news this week.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Civics, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Look through the most recent stories on Kids News and choose one to draw a cartoon about.

Use Mark’s three-step process to get started:

What is my subject?

What do I want to say about this issue?

How do I say it? Do I use visual metaphors (an image that the viewer is meant to understand as a symbol for something else), multiple panels or symbolism (when one idea, feeling or emotion is represented by something else such as a: picture, character, colour or object)?

Time: allow at least 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Civics, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article?

Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick 3 nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you prefer drawing, writing or talking to discuss an idea?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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