Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Industry groups respond to Australia Council cuts

The Australian Publishers Association (APA) and the Small Press Network (SPN) have responded to the Australia Council’s decision to suspend and cut some of its programs, following funding cuts to the organisation in the 2015-16 federal budget.

APA CEO Michael Gordon-Smith told Books+Publishing that the longer term implications of the changes to arts funding are still unclear, and that ‘some [publishers] will do better and some worse’.

‘We will not be able to assess the longer term implications for the book industry until more is known about the working arrangements for the National Programme for Excellence in the Arts, and about the priorities for the funds to be allocated by the previously announced Book Council,’ he said.

Gordon-Smith said the APA had applied for the six-year funding for organisations program, which was cut last week. ‘It would have helped us plan with more certainty our support for Australians attending book fairs, and our high-level editorial training program—including the Beatrice Davis Fellowship and the Residential Editorial Program,’ he said.

Gordon-Smith added that the cancellation of the next quarterly funding round, originally scheduled for June, will disrupt or delay the plans of publishers and writers. ‘It will be a problem for any publishers who were hoping to submit applications, including applications for travel, for the June grant round,’ he said. ‘Fortunately for the [APA], we submitted our application for this year’s book fair program in the previous round. We will know the results of that application soon.’

SPN general manager Mary Masters said the organisation was still trying to find out more information about the cuts, but was ‘shocked at the impact of the budget on Australia Council funding and saddened at the effects that this will have on the arts community—particularly the small and emerging organisations’.

Masters said arts funding ‘is vital to the diversity of the literary landscape’. ‘The peer-review funding model administered by Australia Council has been so supportive of innovation within the industry and allowing the establishment of the vibrant publishing sector that Australia enjoys,’ said Masters.

Several publishers and authors have written articles protesting the cuts. Giramondo publisher and University of Western Sydney writing and society research centre chair Ivor Indyk has written that the existence of the Sydney Review of Books will be threatened ‘if there is no corresponding [six-year funding] program forthcoming from the Ministry for the Arts’, on which it and other literary journals had been depending.

‘The cancellation of the June round of funding will have an immediate effect on the publishers of Australian literary titles, requiring the cancellation or postponement of some of those titles,’ wrote Indyk. ‘Literature has always been the poor relation to the other arts when it comes to funding—if, in addition, you take out the $6 million transferred from the Australia Council budget for the new Book Council of Australia, the situation for us looks pretty grim.’

Former Arts Council chairman and author Rodney Hall has also criticised the changes to arts funding, warning that ‘a handful or public servants will end up with personal fiefdom over who gets what and when’.

An online petition against the initial cuts to the Australia council has attracted more than 7000 signatories, including writers Thomas Keneally, Alexis Wright, Christos Tsiolkas and J M Coetzee.


Category: Local news