Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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That New Award

The new Government, in an attempt to make the ever growing group of poor authors happy, announced last week that they would be releasing a Prime Minister's Literary Prize, which which one book of fiction and one book of non-fiction would receive $100, 000 tax free.

That great cynic of our time, Sean Williams, however, thought the money could be used better:

You could start by increasing the money available to the Australia Council Literature Board, which funds the creation of new and innovative works by writers at all stages of their career.

Then you could let the writers receive those grants tax-free.

These two initiatives would immediately do more than large public ventures like this award, or Books Alive, which tried, ineffectually, to make up for the hit the industry took from the GST.

Thirdly, in a related vein, you could increase the funds available to the Lending Rights program, which earns writers a kind of royalty every time their books are borrowed from a public library.

Or you could encourage literacy and audience development itself, since no amount of grant money and royalties will increase book sales if no one's going to read them.

Organisations like the Big Book Club - the only literacy advocate in the world covering people from birth to death - are gradually achieving national prominence.

That aim could be achieved more quickly and even more effectively with increased resources.

You could also pump more cash into the nation's network of writers' centres, since such organisations assist all writers, not just those banging away at their keyboards for a living.

Well, yes. Williams is quite right.

I, however, am pleased with this new award, because what Australia needs, if anything, is another award.

No, wait, okay, so that is cynical of me. Australia doesn't need another award, but let it be said, that I actually do look forward to seeing this award used. Not because I have any personal hopes of winning it--none of my books are even published in this country, I mean, come on--but because the award, run through former Midnight Oil frontsman Peter Garrett's Arts Office, and judged no doubt by obscure, elderly people, will be an openly political one. I doubt that anyone here expects that an award called the Prime Minister's Literary Prize will aim to promote literary excellence before a political statement, and even should those involved in it say otherwise, the fact is that any book slapped with that award is going to be viewed in a political way, and given added layers of meaning and controversy, and it might even be read by the Prime Minister, and he might actually talk about it on the television.

Doesn't it make you all excited?
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