Newly-formed Book Council of Australia 'scrapped'

Newly-formed Book Council of Australia 'scrapped'

The Book Council of Australia is to be "scrapped" following cuts to the arts, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported.

$52.5 million in total will be cut from arts budget over the next four years, it was revealed by the country's mid-year economic and fiscal outlook (MYEFO), released by the treasurer and finance minister yesterday (14th December).

The Book Council of Australia is three months old, its creation announced by then-prime minister Tony Abbott a year ago to "strengthen the sector’s capacity to respond to rapid change brought by new technologies". It has been axed in order to save $6 million over three years, reported The Australian, as part of the budget. 

The Australian said writers and publishers "reacted with dismay", and that the council's proposed head, Melbourne University Press’s director Louise Adler, remarked on a “very disappointing decision’’ which suggested to her "the Turnbull government’s respect for our literary culture seems to be less than wholehearted’’.

However, according to The Conversation, the BCA was "probably doomed" from the start, since funding from the Australian Council was always "against industry wishes". It directed readers to a Facebook post from Peter Donoghue, the former president of the Australian Publishers Association, which said: "I for one rejoice in its demise. The pity is the money wasn’t returned to its rightful owner, the Australia Council."

Sam Twyford-Moore, a former director of the Emerging Writers' Festival, had protested the Book Council's chosen leadership and origin of funding. He said, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald: "For it to be buried in a budget document and not owned by the government is distressing and offensive.

"The Book Council began as ideological warfare on the Australia Council, but those moneys – in the right hands – could have been used wisely as strategic investment in a fragile sector.

"Now? Now a lot of magazines and emerging organisations will very likely die – denied funding in the latest round of Australia Council grants – everything within the world of Australian letters is at risk."

He added in conversation with The Australian that the "critically mismanaged" BCA was "never going to work" and it was "heartbreaking" to see the money "just sucked up into the budget, at a time when literature is so desperately underfunded".

Arts minister Mitch Fifield said on Tuesday afternoon: "I will be consulting widely with the literary community about alternative sector-led mechanisms for representation and promotion.

"I thank those who had indicated their willingness to serve on the Council, particularly Louise Adler AM, who had agreed to be Chair, and the many people who have generously shared their views on Australian writing and reading."

A 3% "efficiency target" is to be introduced to affected institutions, which include Screen Australia, suffering its third round of cuts in 18 months; $47m of the $52.5 savings is to be redirected to Hollywood film studios for "Thor" and "Alien" sequels.