Three-ring circus

Global ringmasters, jugglers and human cannonballs take centre stage under the Big Top of politics

Before the internet, television or cinema, the circus was the world’s greatest entertainment industry.  In their heyday, circuses were home to grand spectacle and wonder. Fast forward 100 years and, under the unquenchable gaze of the 24-hour news cycle, we see Question Time playing out in the circular form of the parliamentary chambers – democracy itself has become the new spectacle.

Aside from the obvious definition, a three-ring circus means ‘something wild, confusing, engrossing, or entertaining’ and, as the theme for this year’s Behind the Lines, this term captures the feeling of a world in turmoil in which fact and fiction seemingly collide. Our cartoonists have been busy wrestling this spirit of surprise and turbulence – we are fortunate to have their help finding ways to navigate the nonsensical, cut through the spin and smile in these unsettling times.

Daryl Karp, Director of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, considers the importance of Australia’s traditions of free speech and a free media, especially as Australians’ trust in their politicians and institutions erodes.

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Personal reflections on a year of political cartooning by Cathy Wilcox, Behind the Lines Political Cartoonist of the Year 2016.

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