Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.01.31 am
Type
Essay
Category
Culture
Reading
Writing

Getting on the same page

A number of the images we have of the former federal arts minister George Brandis relate to books. In October 2013 he earned media attention when he had to pay back $1700 that he’d claimed to attend a wedding, but the political frou-frou that followed is better remembered for Brandis’ claim of a $12,800 entitlement for the purchase of books (mainly political titles) and a $7000 claim for a very handsome bookcase to put them in.1 It turned out that the bookcase couldn’t easily follow him into a new parliamentary office and a new one needed to be commissioned – at a cost of $15,000.2

But Brandis’ real legacy as arts minister will be his oversight of the biggest restructure in arts funding since the Australia Council was given statutory authority in 1975. Brandis’ restructure of the Council in 2014, his elimination of the artform boards, his cutting of the Council’s budget in favour of the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (later relaunched as Catalyst – Australian Arts and Culture Fund),3 and his establishment and then shelving of the Book Council of Australia (BCA)4 have significantly changed the funding landscape.

Perhaps more important was the way George Brandis recast how government would make decisions in the arts and literary spheres: a diminution of peer assessment, less sector-driven policy and greater ministerial oversight. The general outcome of Brandis’ time with the arts was a retraction of government interest in and funding for literary activity. As a result, we are at a moment of change in policy both in relation to the literary environment and in the options that might be taken up.

 

Strange bedfellows

A persistent idea both inside and outside the literary sector is that literature and government should not have much to do with each other. This view springs from several related discourses: liberal-democratic ideas about the position of literature in a modern state as organically arising;5 neoliberal aversion to economic policy interventions as a distortion of a ‘natural’ order;6 enduring modernist fantasies about literature as an autonomous field where value is constituted and activity undertaken independent of state or economic interests;7 and populist aversion to the privileging of some cultural practices over others.8

But relations between literature and the state are complex, with interwoven domains that take in everything from, say, a modest grant to fund a minor poet to write a never-to-be-read chapbook9 to the funding of billion-dollar education systems that use literature to teach every child to read and write.

Australia first involved itself in literary patronage in 1818 when Governor Macquarie gave Australia’s first published poet, Michael Massey Robinson, two cows from the government herd ‘for his services as Poet Laureate’, for a suite of poems in praise of the Crown.10 A century on, the relatively experimental Australian democracy, which had led the way with a minimum wage and women’s suffrage, was also an early adopter of formalised arts funding. In 1908, the Deakin government established the Commonwealth Literary Fund (CLF) as a pension scheme for older writers – ostensibly to support the ailing Henry Lawson. (There are, in fact, a small number of writers, such as the novelist David Ireland, who continue to receive a literary pension payment today.) By mid-century, CLF support broadened to include funding for literary magazines, such as Meanjin and Southerly, public lectures, and even book publishing. At one point the literary magazines were thought important enough that federal parliamentarians sat on the funding committees, giving rise to accusations of political interference.11

In the 100 years since the establishment of the CLF, literature has become subject to a loose policy regime involving a vast range of uncoordinated instruments: subsidised university creative-writing programs, subsidised short courses offered by funded NGOs, writers’ grants from state and federal governments, public and educational lending rights schemes to compensate writers for library borrowings, research grants, publicly funded publishing houses such as UQP (and other specialised university, regional, and Indigenous presses), campaigns to encourage reading, compulsory acquisitions provisions for libraries, territorial copyright.12 Mostly the cash value is modest. In 2012–13 literature and print media received $56 million out of the $7000 million governments spent on culture.13 The Literature Board received only $5.4 million, less than one-tenth of 1 per cent.14

But taking into account the funding and support for literary activity embedded in a series of adjacent agendas, it begins to look like a massive cultural project. We spend $1027 million on public, school and university libraries, including $128 million a year on book stock.15 Underpinning all of these expenditures is our largest cultural project: the teaching of reading and writing. Elizabeth Eisenstein argued convincingly for the printing press’s role in the standardisation of language, the dissemination of knowledge and the establishment of the modern state.16 From a cultural policy perspective, a more substantial ongoing task is teaching the citizenry to read and write so they can participate as economic and political subjects.

 

New preoccupations

The exact nature and effect of regulation of the literary world are changeable. For the past two decades the government has been funding literary-sector development and public participation through NGOs (such as the writers’ centre networks), supported practitioner development through revised higher-education policy, and used literature instrumentally in various forms of community building.17 These are all to the greater good. But Brandis’ relationship to literary policy was less clear. He described himself as ‘Minister for Books’,18 yet his actual position on the sector or his preferred policy was never made clear beyond a 2015 statement in which he emphasised fostering ‘a culture of reading’.19 The position of new minister Mitch Fifield seems equally gnomic.

Sometimes the benefits of literary policy are as much for government’s sake as they are for the sector or the wider community. One dividend that government seeks from literature is reflected prestige. While few individual writers have much prestige, the most successful writers and literature as a whole can confer considerable status. The opening parties of major literary festivals usually bring together people from government, literature, the media, academia and even the corporate sector.

James English has written about literary prizes as an exchange of prestige between writer and conferring body.20 Australian governments, even as they have wound back grant funding for individual writers, have invested heavily in literary awards. Australia is unique in that its governments spend $1.5 million on such awards, maintaining a scheme of awards at the federal, state and territory levels.21 The decision of Campbell Newman to axe the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in 2012 ran largely against the national trend. Unusually, Newman resisted the role of literary patron, instead seeking a political bounce by disassociating himself from ‘elite’ culture. And while the writing sector has fought to protect such award schemes in that state and in Western Australia, there is a question mark as to whether awards are as productive as, say, grant money for unwritten works.

Awards might bring controversy – and English argues they may actually work best when they are controversial because of the profile they generate – but a more interesting policy development has been attempts by cities or regions, particularly Melbourne and Victoria, to develop local literatures and to brand themselves in relation to literary activity.

Since Arts Victoria’s 1994 policy statement Arts 21 – which can be read as a response to the Keating government’s Creative Nation statement of the same year – Victoria has, arguably, led the nation in strategy-driven cultural policy formation. Arts 21 articulated a capital-city policy for Melbourne that recognised its cultural leadership, seeking to invest in further development, and to brand the city around culture for both lifestyle and tourism. While Melbourne has strengths across the entire sweep of the arts, in 2007 Arts Victoria proposed that Melbourne bid to become the second UNESCO City of Literature, following Edinburgh in 2004.

Pascale Casanova nominates London, Paris and New York as the three great literary cities.22 They earn the sobriquet from their gravity in the literary worlds. Writers are drawn to these cities, where publication activity happens and reputations are made. She sniffs somewhat at New York because of the commercial logic of its literary activity, but sees London and Paris as archetypal autonomous literary cities – and cities marked by vast textual and authorial associations that forge a global literary logic.

The UNESCO City of Literature program seeks to consecrate second-tier cities as major literary cities. A decade into the program, there are now twenty recognised cities: initially in the West but more lately also in Eastern Europe (Lviv and Prague) and elsewhere (Baghdad and Montevideo). UNESCO developed the network of literary cities as part of its Creative Cities initiative, and there are corresponding cities of film, and even cities of gastronomy. UNESCO used to be involved in community radio and the dissemination of printing presses in developing countries, as key functions of its cultural policy; but the program of city branding shifts the focus to the symbolic potential of literary activity.

Cities apply to UNESCO on the basis of a distinctive aspect of their literary assets: Edinburgh has literary events and Walter Scott; Dublin has Joyce, Wilde and prestigious collections including the Book of Kells; Reykjavik has saga culture; Iowa City has a famous writing school. Melbourne’s claim was built on a proposed centre for books and reading (now the Wheeler Centre), the Melbourne Writers Festival and its literary awards.

The global value of the program is unclear. Baghdad and Montevideo aside, it’s generally a first-world initiative. Little harm is done, but UNESCO hasn’t much to offer other than appointing itself the anointing body for cities of a certain kind and drawing them into a loose network. The initiative, as a transnational form of cultural policy, seems to be about cultural delineation both for the city and for UNESCO. Director of Melbourne’s City of Literature Office David Ryding provides a counter-case that the status helps facilitate local access to reading culture.23 No matter the outcomes, that is not something a city administrator in London or New York or Paris would bother with. Neither UNESCO nor Paris would gain anything by anointing the city: this has already been done by social consensus, and its literary pre-eminence is both plain and naturalised.

Fortunately Melbourne’s investment in literature appears to have had positive effects on its culture. While Melbourne’s writers festival has not overtaken Sydney’s in terms of attendance, there is a sense that Melbourne has become the centre of the nation’s literary culture. Younger writers gravitate there and many set up small publications.24 The Wheeler Centre, as one of the best-resourced centres of its kind in the world, maintains a popular program reaching more than 47,000 people a year and providing extensive digital content. They also house several related organisations, including the Emerging Writers Festival and the Small Press Network. This is augmented by the City of Literature Office, which offers literary advocacy, small travel grants and residencies.

Other governments have been influenced by the initiative. Queensland established a ‘State of Writing’ network in 2008 through its state library – a working group for local writing organisations. But they spent no money on the network and it folded four years later. The lesson here would seem to be that some level of resourcing is often necessary to secure benefits. Coordination alone is not enough.

 

Supporting writers, fostering debate

Melbourne’s pursuit of literary leadership aside, the current period is one of disorganised policy-making. While the Victorian government plans its investments in the literary space, the federal government has dismantled the Literature Board and Brandis’ Book Council of Australia, retreating from writing-specific policy-making. Elsewhere, governments have cut funding and reduced literature policy to part of genericised (or multi-artform) funding, as though there are no significant differences between artforms.25 These developments have left a number of policy issues unmet, particularly the sustainability of small publishing and small event-based infrastructure, and the decline of writers’ incomes.

Despite the seriousness of some of these problems, in late 2015 the publishing industry and a number of literary heavyweights focused on the specific policy issue of territorial copyright.26 Some of our best-known literary writers see the fate of Australian literature turning on this issue. In the opinions of Peter Carey, Tom Keneally and Richard Flanagan, the removal of this copyright would mean the end of a national literary culture as publishers whose profits are guaranteed by territorial protections would lose the capacity to cross-subsidise other titles.27 As Peter Donoghue has pointed out, while this issue is seen as the single policy measure that will determine the overall fate of the industry, it’s a diversion for writers and publishers. Further, Donoghue argues, the value of the protection is largely meaningless: the differential in prices between local and overseas editions of books has already been competed away by our ability to purchase print-format books from overseas sites.28 But even if we accept the argument put by Carey et al – that protection is needed to ensure Australian editions of international titles are published in order to guarantee profitable cross-subsidy of Australian titles – consumers might well see this as an inefficient tax on all book buyers.

Another approach would be to deregulate territorial copyright, thus allowing the flow of cheaper international editions. This is not an argument of ideologically based deregulation, but one of policy substitution. Instead of territorial copyright as a single measure, the future of Australian writing and publishing would be better guaranteed by positive policy-making in the literary sector. That is, spending targeted to ensure outcomes of public, social or economic value: a greater number of Australian publications, greater diversity of voices, more active discussion of Australian issues in an extended public sphere. This would, however, take planning by governments and involve development of new policy and funding mechanisms to replace the ones we recently dismantled. Such a policy would commit to the principle that literary activity is overwhelmingly positive and brings benefits across the community.

I want to suggest three priorities for policy discussion: literary infrastructure, the question of support for literary livelihoods or writers’ incomes, and fostering digital belletrism as the centre of a new supplementary public sphere.

 

Literary infrastructure

The past forty years have seen the Australian literary sector grow from a handful of publishers and a small number of writers to one with 150 or more publishers, networks of agents, and 10,000 (or so) members of writers’ centres and professional writing bodies. Writing and publishing are popular widespread activities, as is reading. David Carter argues that ‘the spread of publishers in Australia points to a mature industry and a relatively stable (rather than crisis-ridden) book culture, despite the vulnerabilities inherent in the system for small and medium-sized players’.29 Of course, digitisation has even further expanded the ease of publication and circulation.

Even as the production and circulation of work have become easier than ever, the outcomes from our literary system are sub-optimal. For relatively small expenditures, the literary sector might address issues that the market doesn’t – say, Indigenous publishing, children’s access to books, publishing from the social margins, the touring of writers to regional areas, new forms of digital publishing, support for broadened or supplementary public spheres in communities not served by the national media, or the inexhaustible demand for writer-based events.

At the moment, the capacity to build infrastructure to undertake this work is restrained by the government trend away from funding small-to-medium-sized organisations (see the recent cuts to the Australia Council).30 There is a perversity in government unpreparedness to support cheaper, more efficient organisations while continuing to subsidise the less efficient majors. Almost all of these cuts resulted from politicians intervening in what were previously peer-based processes, suggesting a schism of belief between the political class and the arts industry about what is valuable about the arts and how best to develop them. The case for a return to peer-based policy-making and decision-making against transparent criteria31 partly hinges on proven commitment by peers to the orderly development of infrastructure that addresses shortcomings in their relevant artforms.

 

Writers’ incomes

The question of writers’ incomes is a more difficult issue, partly because it presents a policy problem rather than a policy opportunity. The decline in writers’ incomes has been much observed and much decried, the product of a perfect storm of factors: an ‘overabundance’ of writers, a ‘shortage’ of readers, transformations in book publishing, the decline of paid journalistic outcomes and of per-word payments. Jan Zwar and David Throsby have produced a remarkable portrait of the circum-stances of contemporary Australian writers, which identified that in the 2013–14 year, Australian authors averaged $62,000 per annum in income, but only $12,900 per annum for their writing work.32

A number of writers have argued for policy responses to the softening in earnings. They range from advocacy and transparency, to mandated rates, to a ‘dole’ for artists.33 In this they echo measures that have been undertaken here and elsewhere. In Australia the precedent is the Commonwealth Literary Fund; in Norway and in Sweden it is an artists’ benefit.34 Most of these initiatives are couched as a way of addressing an equity issue: the right of writers to a living wage. I want to suggest, though, that the policy task here is to reframe any claim for government intervention in more positive terms. The sector has to begin to explain to government and the community the outcomes that will result from state investment in improving writer incomes. What will we get if we increase the number of grants, or make prizes tax-free, or introduce an artist dole, or provide more support for artists as small businesses?

Unfortunately the social benefits of the arts are often hard to argue. In Uses of Literature, Rita Felski revisits the private uses of literature: recognition, enchantment, knowledge and shock. Felski’s book – part scholarship, part manifesto – pushes back against academic anxieties about the claims that can be made for literature. She makes a positive case.35 But what she describes are mostly private pleasures; for policy purposes we need something similar regarding the social uses and value of literature that can be taken up in policy discourse. If writers’ incomes are to be prioritised, we need greater discussion and caucusing by industry as an initial step, and the value and outcomes of subventions for individual writers would need to be argued in the public square.

 

Digital belletrism:
a supplementary literary public sphere

Let us now reverse the gaze and consider literature’s effects on government. First, boosting the density of literary activity (writing, reading and discussion) particularly online is a relatively inexpensive option for government that might contribute to the health of the democracy.

A starting premise is that literature functions as a set of partly autonomous practices which enable, restrain, and discipline governments and communities. In more authoritarian states the role of literature (in its various modes) to comment, contain, represent, criticise, narrate and personalise exists in a tension with the apparatus of the state. In more democratic states, literature is part of the feedback loop to government from sectional interests and the wider citizenry. As Percy Bysshe Shelley noted, literature and writers (over time) have their own ways of legislating, or at least ways of contesting power.

In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes with despair and anger but also power about the marginalisation of Black Americans – giving flesh to the #blacklivesmatters hashtag. Yet despite Coates’ anger, democratic governments are rarely scared of writers36 – even where writers speak for many, literary agency is appreciable but only partly serves the democracy. The state can then weigh the necessity for a response, be it real or merely rhetorical. In this, we can see literature as a supplementary public sphere inside the overall democratic apparatus, one that contributes to the performance of the state and the circumstances of the nation or community.

An inexpensive and effective way for government to enhance the beneficial effects of public discourse and feedback is through further development of the online literary public sphere. The rise of the digital realm has, of course, suggested to many the possibility of a new politics where people have greater say than ever before – the Arab Spring was built upon such hopes but dashed by authoritarian repression.

In the West we are better placed to harness the benefits of robust public discussion, and the digital transformation of the literary realm leaves it well placed to play a role in augmenting public understanding of the complex world we inhabit. While the rise of ebooks has been the most remarked-upon development in the past two decades, perhaps a more socially and politically transformational literary development has been the internet itself. The online world has admitted and circulated new literary voices and added density to discussions of literature, people’s lives and politics. It has given rise to an age of digital belletrism: an expansion in the amount and availability of short-form literary writing – essay, memoir, fiction, and social-media commentary – to the extent that it now characterises the primary writing and reading experiences of many people, particularly young people.

Overseas, many of the major literary mastheads have substantial digital real estate (the Atlantic, New Yorker, London Review of Books and so on) and there are many web-only publications (such as Salon and Slate). Together these publications form a new supplementary public sphere – substantial enough to propel issues from the margins into the broader public realm (see again, for example, Coates’ work).

In Australia, digital belletrism has not developed to the same extent – in a sense we remain more connected to US digital publications than our own. There has been some repurposing of literary print publications for online (Meanjin, Overland, the Lifted Brow), some new online outlets (Junkee, Sydney Review of Books) and some use of new digital forms (such as the Rereaders podcast). But this in the end seems like a missed opportunity.

There has been little cultural policy discussion inside the Australia Council or within state governments about the formation and support of a supplementary digital public sphere based on the expansion of belletristic writing. This would involve thinking about literary writing as forms of political and socially orientated writing – and about the place for new publishing entities in this landscape. While the sector itself is improvising in the realm, governments have been hesitant to explore their role, and the value to the community in supporting literary forms of citizen journalism, based on low-budget digital publication dispersed across the community. Cheaper than the state-owned newspaper apparatus developed in Sweden, such publications provide a counterweight to the dominant discourses of the mainstream media. And more specifically in the literary realm, support of expanded digital belletrism would operate as a counterweight to hegemonic construction of the literary world around Paris–New York–London or, in the Australian example, white middle-class Sydney–Melbourne.

 

A new mechanism for policy-making

Will our governments commit to a discussion of literary development? The last decade has seen the demise of the Cultural Ministers Council, the removal of artform boards from the Australia Council, the cutting of literary funding by a number of state governments and the reduction of many arts performance indicators to measures of tourism outcomes. Indeed, the Liberal and National parties went to the 2013 election without an arts or cultural policy (so too in 2010). After the high watermark of 1990s cultural policy, we are in a period of regression partially marked by an aversion to planning but also an acceptance of direct political intervention.

This leaves the literary sector in a quandary. Outside of Victoria, it struggles to engage government in strategic conversation about itself.

It seems to me that the starting point for the sector is self-organisation. A version of the Book Council of Australia – as a peak body for sector consultation and planning – could go ahead outside of government (with a membership augmented by representation of emerging writers and the new digital sphere). There is still a place for a national sector-wide body that can speak to the levels of government without being beholden to government. While the scrapped BCA seemed principally attuned to the financial health of the book-publishing sector, a non-government council would profit by reorientating itself to a concern for the presence of literature in people’s lives. The finances of writers and publishers are not ends in themselves – the enriching of people’s personal lives and the public sphere through an active literature is a more genuine goal.

There are also places for smaller bodies to coordinate activity and represent industry. While publishers, booksellers, authors, agents and libraries all have national and sometimes international bodies, the new literary intermediaries – festivals, event presenters, writers’ centres, small magazines – are not well organised, have limited resources and are all relatively apologetic about themselves despite the clear role they play.

At the other end of the spectrum, universities have massive resources and, without fully comprehending it, are among our most significant literary institutions: they train writers, readers and critics; they publish books, journals, little magazines; they stage literary events; they maintain specialist literary collections and programs; they pay dozens of writers and public intellectuals and even directly fund literary organisations.37 The relationships among the component parts of their programs, among themselves as a sector, and between themselves and other intermediaries (particularly outside Sydney and Melbourne, where they often are the most significant literary institution in their regions) are unexplored.

The campaign38 against the BCA in 2015 indicated two things. The first is the need for such bodies to be established in good faith. The reallocation of funds from the Australia Council was never acceptable to the sector – it soured the proposal. Second, the campaign managed to tap into a new policy community of writers and readers who are active online to draw them into a discussion about the fate of the literary sector. Many of these people are not book-industry people, but younger writers being published or presented in a wide variety of formats: magazines, websites, social media and podcasts, alongside books. They are the future of the sector and it seems entirely profitable to include them in sector-wide discussions and foolhardy to leave them out.

The best way forward is a fresh engagement by all layers of government in discussing the future of literature in this country. What does government and the community want from an investment in literary activity and capacity? Surely a subsequent sector goal should be consideration of a new government agency for literature – a body at arm’s length from government. (The film sector has such a thing in Screen Australia.) In the meantime, keeping the conversation going about the structure and role of the literary sector – both in working with government to develop positive policy and in operating as part of the fourth estate – is a priority.
 
 

  1. Troy Bramston, ‘Brought to Book: How the Taxpayers Built George Brandis a Library’, The Australian, 1 October 2013.
  2. Jonathan Swan, ‘Too Big for His Books: Brandis Library Is Shelved’, the Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October 2013.
  3. Stuart Glover, ‘Writers and Publishers Are All at Sea Under Brandis and the NPEA’, The Conversation, 21 July 2015.
  4. Stuart Glover, ‘The Book Council of Australia? Well, It Is Better than Nothing’, in Politics, Policy and the Chance of Change, 1st ed., 223-228. Melbourne: MUP.
  5. For the standard account of the emergence of the literary sphere alongside the emergence of democracy and eventually the modern bureaucratic state and oligopolistic capital see Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1989.
  6. The Arts Minister himself reproduced this argument, see Mitch Fifield, ‘Australia’s Creative Industry Has Again Shown Its Canny Ability to Frame a Debate’, The Punch [reprinted on Fifield's website], 30 September 2009.
  7. For a discussion of the tension between the market and the idealism of modernist writers see Paul Delany, Literature, Money, and the Market, Palgrave, Hampshire, 2002.
  8. For an example of an attack on arts funding from the Right, see Michael Connor, ‘How to Rethink Arts Funding’, Quadrant, October 2008.
  9. In 1992 the Arts Division of the Queensland Government gave eleven grants to individual poets to attempt new works, more than even the Literature Board of the Australia Council might manage in any given year (personal recollection as Program Manager, Writing at the Arts Division).
  10. Richard Lansdown, ‘Romantic Aftermaths’, The Cambridge History of Australian Literature, Cambridge UP, Melbourne, 2009, pp. 118–136.
  11. Barry Andrews, ‘The Commonwealth Literary Fund and the Literature Board, 1908-80′, Australian Cultural History, Vol. 1, 1982, pp. 59–69.
  12. Stuart Glover, ‘Publishing and the State’, in Making Books: Contemporary Australian Publishing, U QLD P, St Lucia, 2007, pp. 81–95.
  13. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Cultural Funding by Government, Australia, 2012–13, ABS, Canberra, 2014.
  14. Australia Council, Australia Council Annual Report 2012–13, Australia Council, Sydney, 2013.
  15. State Library of Queensland, Australian Public Library Statistical Report, 2012-13, SLQ, Brisbane, 2014.
  16. Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2nd ed., Cambridge UP, Cambridge, 2005.
  17. See as an example black&write!, the State Library of Queensland’s Indigenous Writing Program.
  18. Ben Packham, ‘It’s Good that I Read More Books: George Brandis’, The Australian, 1 October 2013.
  19. George Brandis, ‘Address to the 2015 National Writers’ Congress: A Culture of Reading’, Attorney-General for Australia, 11 September 2015.
  20. James F. English, The Economy Of Prestige, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2015.
  21. See Wikipedia, ‘List of Australian Literary Awards‘.
  22. Pascale Casanova, Le Republique Mondiale des Lettres, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1999.
  23. David Ryding, ‘Australia’s City of Literature’, Incite, vol. 36, no. 5, May 2015, pp. 14–15.
  24. See for example The Lifted Brow and Scum Mag.
  25. For example, from my own observation as a participant, in the late 1990s the Queensland Government removed the previous artform-specific panel for literature and replaced it with panels operating across all artforms, delineated instead by the generic purpose of grants – say, project-based versus program-based. While in 2016 the Australia Council convened quarterly artform assessment panels, they no longer maintained artform-specific policy panels.
  26. Peter Donoughue, ‘Parallel Importation and Australian Book Publishing: Here We Go Again’. The Conversation, November 25 2015.
  27. Peter Carey, Richard Flanagan & Tom Keneally, ‘An Open Letter to PM Malcolm Turnbull’, The Age, November 28 2015.
  28. See Peter Donoughue, ‘A Resurrected Debate with the Same Old Dead Language’ on Pub Date Critical, 29 November 2015.
  29. David Carter, ‘The Literary Field and Contemporary Trade-Book Publishing in Australia: Literary and Genre Fiction’, Media International Australia, vol. 158, no. 1, 2016, pp. 48–57.
  30. Matthew Knott, ‘Turnbull Government Overhauls George Brandis’ Arts “Slush Fund”‘, The Sydney Morning Herald, November 20 2015.
  31. The Myer Report (Report of the Contemporary Visual Arts and Craft Inquiry, Australia Council, 2002) is a superior example of a sector review providing a focus into the peer-based funding mechanisms
  32. Jan Zwar and David Throsby, Australian Authors: Industry Brief No. 3: Authors’ Income, Macquarie U Dept of Economics, Sydney, 2014.
  33. Jennifer Mills’ piece ‘Pay the Writers’ in Overland was something of a starting point for activism around this in Australia.
  34. See Peter Vinthagen Simpson, ‘Sweden Calls Time on Lifetime Artist Stipends’, The Local, 17 February 2010.
  35. Rita Felski, Uses of Literature, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2008.
  36. An interesting counter-case to the relative freedom of writers in democracies is the series of killings and shamings of Indian writers and intellectuals in 2015 that led to a stand-off between the Indian government and the republic’s large community of writers who had accepted government prizes over the previous decades. It took the return of more than twenty prizes by a range of writers and a great deal of commentary and arm twisting before the government even moved to condemn the killings and shamings, and even Prime Minister Modhi hesitated to condemn the underlying issue of Hindu fundamentalism.
  37. ‘In 2014 Emerging Writers’ Festival received more funding from Monash University than from the Australia Council and the City of Melbourne combined. It was only second to Creative Victoria, but could well become the main funding based on growth.’ (personal communication from the former director of EWF, Sam Twyford-Moore, March 2016)
  38. See ‘Writers Sign Open Letter Opposing Book Council Chair, Call on Arts Minister to Move Book Council to OzCo’, Books+Publishing, 18 September 2015.

 

This essay has been peer-reviewed.

 

Read the rest of Overland 223

 

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Stuart Glover lectures at the University of Queensland. He was founding director of Brisbane Writers Festival, founding chairperson of the Queensland Literary Awards, and member of the now defunct Literature Board of the Australia Council.

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