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Video clip synopsis – Humans have always argued over territory; it’s just that the weapons get deadlier and the rules keep changing.
Year of production - 2002
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - arms race, Cold War, colonialisation, common good, culture, DIY Doco, globalisation, human rights, identity, independence, offshore, sanctions, UN, see all tags


The Global Machine

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About the Video Clip


The Global Machine is an episode of the series Human Contraptions (10 × 5 mins) produced in 2002.

Academy Award winning animator Bruce Petty takes a satirical look at the “contraptions” that shape our lives. Education, sex, finance, globalism, art, media, medicine, law, government and even the brain are transformed by Petty into evolving machines. Beginning with a simple concept, he takes us on an anarchic journey through history as each apparatus builds to its complex contemporary form. In the wry, ironic style that is his hallmark, Petty reveals these to be contraptions of a very human kind – imperfect, sometimes unpredictable and always subject to change. A witty, provocative and entertaining series, narrated by Andrew Denton.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus


By studying this five minute Film Australia animation, students have the opportunity to examine aspects of the National Statement of Learning for Civics and Citizenship.

Government and Law
Students explore principles, features and practices that characterise democracy in Australia. They have the opportunity to:

  • Consider the role of government in developing policy and formulating legislation.

Students explore concepts of justice and law and the ways in which legal institutions and processes uphold peoples’ rights in a democracy. They have the opportunity to:

  • Recognise that there are different types of law
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of international organisations in protecting human rights

Please refer to the Curriculum and Assessment Authority in your State or Territory for Study Guides and learning standards.

Background Information


Academy Award winning animator and political cartoonist Bruce Petty says that ”caricature is a device by which we hope to make complex ideas (at least) accessible, (occasionally) witty and (sometimes) informative”.

His professional life has always been about finding those gaps and niches and trying to fill them in. He explains the challenge in creating the Human Contraptions series in this way: “I wanted Human Contraptions to be a cheerful reminder that as our cars, videos and toasters get smarter and cheaper, the institutions we really need are getting more expensive and unreliable, and are starting to rattle. I hope viewers recognise some of our more bizarre organisational devices and enjoy the general irreverence.

The main aim was to take an impressionistic, shorthand, comic look at over-worked, serious subjects. The series is based on general suspicions people have about the institutions we live in. These bodies are old or biased, often politically disfigured and under-funded – they are familiar targets. Representing them as machines at least suggests they are man-made, they wear out and can be fixed even as they do determine how we live.

The series offered a chance to check the workings of these “contraptions”. Institutions such as the arts carry our “trust” – we are expected to believe in them. We are persuaded that they are self-correcting and that the corrections are properly and democratically monitored.”

Many people are now beginning to suspect that this is not so.

The satirical, witty narration suggests double-meanings while sound effects and music are also important ironic components.

The Global Machine
The main problem with marking out territory is someone else doing it in the same place. In this episode, Bruce Petty looks at the global contraption and continuing efforts to divide the planet, even as a worldwide info net shrinks the globe. Petty’s machine comes fitted with a ‘race-ometer’ for sorting humans according to the shape of their nostrils and numerous refugee holding tanks which are filling up while the fuel tanks are running out.

Classroom Activities

  1. Using a range of data from your classroom – for example, technology equipment, student clothing – develop an argument about how we are, today, part of a globalised world. Is globalisation a good thing?
    1. In groups, investigate a range of global organisations that Australia is currently a member of, for example, the United Nations.
    2. Explore Australia’s role and obligations in being a member of these organisations.
    3. Select two of these organisations and determine how effective they are in achieving their stated goals.
    4. Are there any global organisations/treaties to which Australia is not a signatory? Do you think we should be? Give reasons for your opinion.

Further Resources


Go to The Age for a profile of Bruce Petty

Go to to find out more about Bruce Petty

Go to The Age for a colour slide show of various Australia cartoonists presented by The Age.

Cagle, D, The Best Political Cartoons of the Year 2007, Macmillan Computer Pub, 2006.

Petty, B, The Absurd Machine: A Cartoon History of the World, Penguin, Ringwood, Harmondsworth, New York, Toronto and Auckland, 1997.