'From precedent to precedent': Cartoon Interpretation
Cartoon by Ted Scorfield published in the Bulletin,
2 February 1944.
Click on the cartoon below to see a larger image.
PRECEDENT TO PRECEDENT.
"This agreement... shall come into force as soon as both Governments
have ratified [it] and have satisfied each other accordingly."
- Last clause of the Australia - N.Z. agreement signed at Canberra.
Before you try the guided interpretation activities, here's some useful
contextual information that will help you understand the political situation
in Australia leading up to the signing of the Anzac Agreement in early
1944. There's also some background about the cartoonist and the newspaper
that carried the cartoon.
- In 1931 the British Parliament passed the Statute
of Westminster establishing Australia as an independent state, able
to form its own foreign policy and defence, free from British control.
- Initially, Australia, unlike Canada and South Africa,
made no attempt to ratify the five key sections of the Act which required
separate Australian action.
- The decision of the Curtin Government to legislate for
parliamentary ratification of the Statute of Westminster in the second
half of 1942, was a major step forward in Australia’s preparedness
to forge its own legal identity in the international arena. The first
opportunity came in early 1944.
- Australia was angry that the Allies had met in December
1943 and, without consultation or the provision of much information,
had decided on issues of importance to the Pacific region.
- These decisions included stripping Japan of all her conquests,
restoring to China territories taken by Japan and restoring to European
powers their former territories in the Pacific.
- New Zealand shared Australia’s concern about the
lack of consultation but it was Australia that took the initiative by
arranging a conference between the two nations and then put forward
the suggestion of a treaty.
- Through the Australian-New Zealand Agreement of 1944,
Australia and New Zealand unilaterally stated their right to share in
discussions about the South-West and South pacific area.
- Under this agreement Australia and New Zealand agreed
to consult and work together on matters such as: security and defence,
post war disposal of territories and bases, and, the welfare of Pacific
- The Australian cabinet ratified the agreement on 24 January
1944 and New Zealand on
- This was the first time that Australia had entered into
an international agreement to which Britain was not a party.
- The agreement was generally welcomed by the UK government
and the British press. It received an unsympathetic hearing in the United
- The agreement can also be considered the forerunner of
the ANZUS treaty signed between Australia, New Zealand and the United
States in 1951.
Born Northumberland, England, 1882, died Mosman, New South Wales 1965.
Edward Scafe Scorfield served in the Royal Engineers during World War
One, serving at Gallipoli, Salonika, Greece and Palestine. After the war,
he began drawing cartoons for the Newcastle Weekly
Chronicle before coming to Australia to work for the Bulletin
as a cartoonist and illustrator in 1925. His cartoons followed the Bulletin
line of the time, combining Australian nationalism and British conservatism.
In World War Two, Scorfield's cartoons 'lionised the Digger, exalted the
Allies against the Japanese, and lampooned black-marketeers, strikers
and white feather conchies.' Scorfield stayed with the Bulletin
Information from biography of Ted Scorfield by
Peter Coleman in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, pp
Publisher: The Bulletin
described itself in the 1940s as 'The national Australian newspaper' with
the rider 'Australia for the white man'. It was generally pro-private
enterprise, anti-union and against any moves to socialise industry. The
Bulletin's editorial of 2 February 1944 gave
a comprehensive and favourable analysis of the Anzac Agreement, even though
the accompanying cartoon looked at the treaty more light heartedly. In
the war years the Bulletin was particularly
supportive of the Australian fighting male, including a lot of humour
about Aussi soldiers and the Australian way of life in its articles and
Check your understanding of this contextual information
- What important meeting took place in Australia
around January 1944?
- What were the circumstances leading to this meeting?
Interpretation Activity 1
||Maori carved pole
||grass and bare feet
- What does the Maori carved pole represent?
- What is unusual about the grass and bare
Interpretation Activity 2
||the third character from the right
||all the remaining characters
- Who does this character represent?
- How does the cartoonist identify this character
as an Australian? Answer
Interpretation Activity 3
||all the remaining characters
- The following people attended the Australian-New
Zealand conference of 1944 - use the photos to help identify as many
of the cartoon characters as possible.
John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for Defence. (image
John Dedman, Minister for War Organisation of Industry.
Peter Fraser, Prime Minister of New Zealand. (image
Herbert Evatt, Attorney General and Minister for
Foreign Affairs, architect of the Anzac Agreement. (image JCPML00376/102)
Frank Forde, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister
for the Army. (image JCPML00409/6)
- What do both the characters on the left hold
in their right hand? Answer
- In what other way do the two characters on
the left differ from those on the right? Hint
- Which character in the cartoon seems to be
the driving force in the dance? Identify this character? Hint
- The character third from the left is making
a 'V' symbol with his fingers. What does this signify? Hint
- What do you notice about the way the characters
are dressed? Answer
Interpretation Activity 5
||caption 'FROM PRECEDENT TO PRECEDENT'
- To what does the caption 'From precedent
to precedent' refer? Hint
- What does the cartoonist suggest the two
countries will do to show that they have ratified the agreement?
- What makes this cartoon funny? Hint