20 years of Tremain cartoons


Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the publication of Garrick Tremain’s first cartoon in the ODT. In an article (not yet on line) Tremain explains how the fax machine helped launch his cartooning career.


He’d long held a desire to try his hand at political cartooning but had no desire to work in a city. A chance conversation in a pub about a fax machine showed it might be possible to cartoon from his Central Otago home.


“I sought a meeting with the managing director and editor. Both were dismissive of my claim I could work from so far afield. “You’d have to work within the building so we can give you the ideas.” I disagreed and suggested that I would simply fax them my cartoon which they could then put into their paper or into their rubbish bins, depending on their opinion of the work. At the end of each month I would send them a bill for the number (if any) that they had published. “A Bill? A Bill?” they chimed, “You want money as well?!” I think they saw me as a rabid mercenary deluding myself I could work in isolation …


His first cartoon showed a car salesman saying to prospective buyers “I don’t want to press you bit it could be the last one at this price” while holding a newspaper behind his back which stated car prices would drop.


This was 1988 when a reduction in import duties meant prices were, for the first time in living memory showing signs of dropping. But Dunedin’s two biggest motor companies didn’t see the joke and pulled their advertising.


Response from politicians has always been interesting. Max Bradford used to phone me late at night to plead for kinder treatment and try to convince me that the shambles of the power reforms as all Pete Hodgson’s fault. John Banks wrote to tell he thought I need to know that politicians are actually very nice people and most intelligent as well… A minion rang to say that Prime Minister Clark was deeply offended by my portrayal of her husband and herself. I was able to convey my deep disgust at the theft of my money for her political propaganda.


Tremain sees cartooning as a negative art form in that it is critical but seldom offers remedies. He feels cartoon reflect rather than direct.


Those who claim a particular cartoon is damaging endow it with a power it does not have. I think the political cartoon’s greatest gift is assuring the lonely and the powerless that they are not alone in their outrage and despair.


I have always found it amusing to have my cartoons described as “Maori bashing”. I have never lampooned people for their race. I continually lampoon people for being ridiculous and grant no exemption on grounds of race, which is what so offends the politically correct.

What’s poverty?


The Child Poverty Action Group opens it challenge against Working for Families before the Human Rights Review Tribunal today.

The group claims that the in-work credit of $60 a week breaches the Human Rights Act and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by discriminating against people because of their employment status.The credit is given to single parents who work at least 20 hours a week, and two-parent families who work at least 30 hours between them, provided neither parent receives any income-tested benefit.

There would be no case to answer if people had tax cuts rather than a benefit which is what WWF is. However, while tax cuts would be better than a benefit for those on medium to high incomes, they would not give a similar level of help as WWF does to low income working families.

And that still leaves the problem of beneficiaries. But how do we help those in genuine need without propping up those who can help themselves, what’s poverty and how much is enough?

Keeping Stock  says that after a trip to Ethiopia his perception of poverty has changed. That reminded me of a comment by an Oamaru vicar who had been asked if it was alright to steal food if you were hungry. He responded that he found it difficult to accept there was real hunger in New Zealand because he came from South Africa where hundreds of people shared one cold water tap whereas here people drove to the food bank.

That is not to say that children are not in desperate need here, and when you are on a low income it is very difficult not to go backwards because no matter how carefully you budget there will often be too much week left after the end of your money.

But sadly that happens to people who by any reasonable measure are earning more than enough to be above the poverty line too. We see numerous examples of this on the dairy farm where people are earning at least $35,000 a year and have a house supplied which must be worth at least another $10,000, but still run out of money before payday.

%d bloggers like this: