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Authors, industry researchers to appear at parliamentary inquiry

Book industry researcher David Throsby, the Sydney Review of Books and authors Helen Garner, Charlotte Wood and Christos Tsiolkas are among those who will appear at the first virtual public hearing of the recently announced parliamentary inquiry into the state of Australia’s cultural and creative industries.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Sydney Review of Books argued literature as an artform is a ‘blind spot’ for government.

‘The Australia Council now distributes 44% less funding to literature than it did six years ago, in part through the abolition of specific literature programs. Currently literature is the only artform that does not receive infrastructure support through a targeted Government program.

‘There are no literary organisations funded under the Major Performing Arts Frameworks. Literature is poorly funded relative to other artforms not only by the Australia Council but by state funding agencies. Our writers and literary organisations deliver brilliant work—but they do so under penurious conditions, stretched thin. Fair pay for workers in the creative industries is at stake here—but so too are the broad possibilities for our literary culture to grow, mature and meet ever new audiences.’

In her submission, Wood pointed to the effects of Covid on authors’ incomes due to impact on events, writing, ‘One well-established bookseller who has been running constant online events told me that, with a few surprising exceptions, event-related book sales are down by 90 percent.’

Garner, in her submission, made ‘a personal statement of gratitude to the Australian government for the help it gave me, early in my writing life’.

‘The funding I had from the Literature Board, when I was starting out, gave me weeks and months of unencumbered time for the wide, deep reading every writer needs to do. It also allowed me long stretches of time to wander around looking at things and places, watching people and listening to the way they talk—just ruminating and thinking and absorbing, building up a head of steam.

‘To an outside observer, these activities probably don’t look like much. In fact, although they’re a sort of labour, they probably look more like bludging. But without them, no one can write anything that’s worth reading. Without the help I was given, my work would have been hasty and shallow, and my working life harder and more painfully fragmented.’

Similarly, Tsiolkas wrote: ‘I know that if it wasn’t for a grant from the Australia Council that I received during the writing of my third novel, and if it hadn’t been for the championing of my work by Australian literary festivals and publishers, I might have very easily given up.’

Throsby, who made a joint submission with fellow researchers Jan Zwar and Paul Crosby, pointed the inquiry to the Book Industry Collaborative Council’s 2013 final report. Among other recommendations, his submission stated: ‘One practical policy initiative would be to recognise the digital component of book borrowing by extending PLR and ELR payments to include digital lending by libraries.’

The parliamentary inquiry will hold a subsequent virtual public hearing on Friday, 4 December.


Category: Local news