A cartoon featuring a nude Jacinta Allan as a play on The Emperor’s New Clothes fable has been slammed by the Victorian premier, who accused the publishers of using sexualised imagery.
The cartoon, which appeared in News Corp’s Herald Sun on Tuesday, depicts a naked Allan on a fashion runway for Melbourne Fashion Week with pixelated areas across her chest and hips.
It appears alongside the caption: “From the Commonwealth Games cancellation collection ... the premier’s new clothes”, in a play on the tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
Allan hit out at the portrayal on Tuesday, saying she could not recall any male politicians being depicted in the same way.
“It’s 2023,” Allan said. “It’s pretty reasonable to expect that the Herald Sun in-house cartoonist should be able to draw women without using sexualised imagery.”
Walkley Award-winning cartoonist Mark Knight, who sketched the piece, defended his work. He insisted it was not sexualised and said he had also drawn federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and former prime minister Tony Abbott without their clothes on.
“I felt that some of the information that was coming out left the premier a little bit exposed and my cartoonist brains clicked into gear, and it was Fashion Week and, I thought, well, this is not a bad idea,” Knight told ABC Radio.
Andersen’s story, first published in 1837, is a cautionary tale about an emperor who is conned into buying an imaginary suit that can be seen only by the wise.
The townsfolk maintain the illusion due to a fear of challenging authority or appearing stupid. Similar depictions have been used in newspapers to mock world leaders such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.
The cartoon was published after a committee investigating the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games heard evidence on Monday that Allan had assured representatives from Commonwealth Games Australia in April that the budget was available to host the Games, before it was axed in July.
Liberal MP Georgie Crozier, leader of the opposition in the state’s upper house, defended the cartoon and branded the criticism “a distraction”.
“There are bigger issues facing Victoria than the premier worrying about a cartoon,” Crozier said.
“The premier has been fully exposed and needs to front the Commonwealth Games inquiry and tell Victorians what happened.”
However, the Liberals’ education spokeswoman, Jess Wilson, said the cartoon was in poor taste and disappointing.
“It is incumbent on all of us when discussing politics ... that we are focusing on the policy issues,” she said.
Former Labor premier Steve Bracks hit out at Knight, saying, “We need to do better.”
“I was premier for almost eight years and not once was I subjected to the awful, sexualised treatment Premier Jacinta Allan has received in less than a month,” Bracks said.
On social media, Allan also found support from her parliamentary colleagues, including Mordialloc MP Tim Richardson, who described the cartoon as creepy and sexualised, and crossbench MP Georgie Purcell, who said: “Sexism in politics doesn’t just hurt us. It damages democracy and hurts everyone.”
In 2018 Knight faced a global backlash over a cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams, which drew accusations of racism and sexism.
“There’s nothing worse than a boring cartoonist ... but I don’t seek to deliberately outrage,” he said on Tuesday.
Get the day’s breaking news, entertainment ideas and a long read to enjoy. Sign up to receive our Evening Edition newsletter here.