I met Bill Leak only a few times, the last just over three weeks ago, when he greeted me like an old friend. He had that astonishing ability to recognize faces and names and to make one feel special. I felt as if I had known him all my life. At dinner, I had the great privilege of talking with his partner, Goong, a wonderful, intelligent woman, who is experiencing a loss far beyond what the rest of us can ever imagine.
Sometimes, we can celebrate a life completed. But in the case of Bill Leak, my first reaction to the shock news was, “this is not fair. We have been cheated.” I sensed a great gaping hole had been blasted in our defence of Western civilization.
Many words of tribute, far more eloquent than I could hope to match, have already been published. What more can I add?
I have the last cartoon which Bill ever did on my table. In it, the beheaded Rob Stokes, the hapless New South Wales Minister for Education, says: “Oh, y’know- boys will be boys”. As has been said, a picture tells a thousand words. Yes, we could go on and on about how bad things are. The cartoon said it all. One thing which I took away from this last cartoon was how ineffectual politicians, from even the conservative side of politics, were in mounting any sustained defence of Western liberal democratic values.
The leadership in our defence has had to come from the likes of Bill Leak. This makes his loss so hard to bear.
Many words have been written on Bill and that notorious 18c, and that fatwa on him by Muslim fanatics. Why should a cartoonist face persecution from the Human Rights Commission and death threats from jihadists?
Bill might have a “mere” cartoonist. But he represented a deadly threat to the Left establishment and Islamists alike. The powers-that-be can survive hatred but not humour and ridicule. No wonder, Professor Gillian Triggs, Tim Soutphommasane and the Islamist death squads were in an unholy alliance to make Bill shut up, each of those enemies acting according to their preferred methods. The one difference between the Left establishment and Islamists was the degree of punishment to be inflicted.
Bill Leak’s opponents were not simply bullies. They had a very clear view of the threat he presented.
How do we best carry on the good fight without Bill by our side? Sometimes, we can get mad at our opponents. But too often, angry words are wasted in an echo chamber. I know. Most of what I write will only be read by those who largely agree with me. This is a problem shared by many of my fellow Quadrant writers. Increasingly, Left and Right tend to live and write in their own bubbles. On the other hand, Bill Leak, with deadly precision, pierced the enemy’s defences.
Bill’s example should inspire us all.