Triple-A Credit Rating Now Locked In for Qld (or, On the Axing of the Premier’s Lit Awards …)

Well I’m glad that’s sorted out, and congratulations to Campbell for getting us there so quickly. Insiders tell me there’s nothing more influential on the ratings folk at Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s than reducing your debt by 0.00028% through axing awards for writing. That’s how valuable the axing of the Premier’s Literary Awards is to the state’s finances. It’s a saving of $250,000 at the same time as the LNP is telling us the state is $85b in debt (and I didn’t even factor their extra $4b of new spending into my calculation).

It’s the difference between going $20,000 into debt to buy a car and instead being really smart about your finances and only having to borrow $19,999.94.

While I’ve had little personal reason to love the Premier’s Literary Awards, I’ve been glad they’ve been there. In the 90s, when just about every other state seemed to have them and we didn’t, it was yet another contributor to the perception that we were a backwater that hadn’t shifted since the mid-20th century (a perception I’ve tried to combat any time it’s shown its face). Peter Beattie’s introduction of the awards in 1999 wasn’t some bizarre act of state largesse – it merely brought us into line with the rest of the country.

If in fact yesterday’s decision cans all of the awards this year, it actually means this government will be doing LESS than the National Party government did in 1989. The David Unaipon Award was in operation then, and I think the Steele Rudd Award was too. (It was certainly well-established by 1993, when I remember failing to win it.)

The Unaipon Award is one that will be particularly missed. There is nothing else like it in the country – a national award for an unpublished manuscript by an emerging Indigenous author – and it has launched several major writing careers and unearthed some work of great quality. To name three: Samuel Wagan Watson’s ‘Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight’ (1999), Larissa Behrendt’s ‘Home’ (2002) and Tara June Winch’s ‘Swallow the Air’ (2004) – some brilliant poetry, a strikingly impressive first novel and one of the best collections of short fiction this country has produced. To name a fourth: Doris Pilkington Garimara won the Unaipon in 1990 for her first novel, and went on to write ‘Follow the Rabbit-Proof fence’, which became the acclaimed and successful film ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’.

The Unaipon Award has been important both in discovering new Indigenous voices and also in starting several significant writing careers. Tara June Winch acknowledged that herself yesterday.

Another significant loss is the Qld Premier’s Prize for an unpublished manuscript. This award gave a prize of something like $10-15,000 to the author and, at least as importantly, guaranteed publication of the book. Winners have gone on to have their books win or be shortlisted in significant national and international awards such as the Miles Franklin, Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and Age Book of the Year. I know of at least two manuscripts recognised by this award that ended up with significant US publishing deals.

Those two awards can make careers, and all of the awards can help sustain them. They’re partly about drawing attention to our stories and continuing to see them told, and they can have an industry benefit too, and an economic benefit.

If Doris Pilkington Garimara hadn’t been picked up by the David Unaipon Award, would she have written ‘Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence? I don’t know. But that award was the start of a sequence of events that not only made her a published author and saw her next book published, but saw $6m invested in making that second book into a film which took $16m at the box office and won 23 awards in 7 countries.

To the caller to talk back radio this morning who said ‘you don’t see the government giving money to apprentice plumbers,’ please when open your eyes whenever you’re ready to. An apprentice is eligible for $5,500 in Tools for Your Trade grants, $7800 Adult Apprentice Support in year one if they’re over 25 and $5200 in year two, up to $1000 a year in travel support and up to 13 other Centrelink benefits. Plus the government pays their employers to have them. I don’t have the figures for plumbers, but for apprentice brickies the employer incentives total $19,800 per apprentice.

It’s a rare writer who is good enough to win awards that might pay them an amount comparable to the tax dollars that go towards each and every apprentice training anywhere around the country. I want us to have apprentices. I want us to have plumbers and bricklayers and sparkies – I’m not for a second suggesting we wind their money back – but I also want us to have writers. And anyone saying we don’t put taxpayers’ money towards apprentices is just plain wrong.

To the caller who said ‘You don’t see governments handing this sort of money out to other industries,’ okay, you’ve got a point. The federal government recently committed a thousand times this much to one initiative in the car industry, for whom $250,000 proabably wouldn’t fund one meeting in Detroit. The government would never bother earmarking $250,000 for the car industry.

Governments give huge amounts to industries all the time, and we don’t notice much of it. A lot of it’s probably very useful, but it’s not there to be noticed. Writers’ awards are there to be noticed – it’s partly what they’re about. But don’t go saying governments don’t give out money to other industries.

A government has a chance at a pretty good return on $250,000 invested in writers’ awards, both culturally and in terms of fostering future writing (and tax-paying careers). Meanwhile, in the world that some people seem to think is more real than the creative industries, $250,000 doesn’t even buy a bus stop. We’ve got one down the road that was recently moved 50m at a cost of $300,000.

But at least Qld now has only 99.99972% of its ugly debt left, and only $84,999,750,000 more to cut. And there’s one fewer set of awards I’ll need to get bitter and twisted about not winning this year.

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73 Responses to Triple-A Credit Rating Now Locked In for Qld (or, On the Axing of the Premier’s Lit Awards …)

  1. Christina says:

    Nick, you are so right! What a sad, sad move for everyone! It’s a shame that the lack of knowledge about Government incentives is so wide spread and even more shameful that QLD has taken such a leap back in time… thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Stacey Donnelly says:

    Fabulous blog Nick! Things are moving so fast: UQP will still fund their awards and the rest of the awards will still go ahead in some form:​pages/​Queensland-Literary-Awards/​335366193187820 Anne-Maree Britton

    • nickearls says:

      That’s good to hear. One thing I meant to say was that I wasn’t sure why the government hadn’t decided to look for more sponsorship instead of simply axing the awards, but my post was starting to look like a book more than a blog. There were (and are) a range of alternatives to simply bringing the curtain down, particularly when other parties such as UQP are already making a contribution (and always have been).

  3. Lisa Hill says:

    Well said, Nick. The value of these awards went way beyond their value to any individual writer. This move signals a return to a cultural backwater, and while most may not care about that, they should realise that it impacts on the tourism industry too. I’m not interested in Queensland’s resort tourist industry, I’m only interested in its arts.
    But it’s not just tourism. One of the reasons given for doctors not wanting to work in the bush is their perception that they will be culturally isolated, unable to participate in cultural activities and considered odd in the local community for being interested in them. This move tars the entire State with that cultural backwater brush. It may not be accurate, but Qld needs to work hard to overcome that perception and this foolish move (and some of the commentary online from Queenslanders) doesn’t help.

  4. Pingback: No longer the ‘smart state’ « Turning the Page

  5. Jo Clifford says:

    Nick Earls, you have said it all. You have summed up the amount of $ “saved” the dept of transport pisses up against a wall on one Friday night..

  6. Linda Jaivin says:

    Nick – brilliantly put. I was notified by the awards committee by email as a ‘stakeholder’ (though, like you, I’ve never quite made it to the stake), and wrote back with the following reply, which I’m also putting onto my website:

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    Thank you for your email informing me of Premier Newman’s decision to axe the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. Like everyone else in the Australian literary community, I am appalled by this news. The savings to the Queensland budget are negligible to the point of risible, the damage done to the state’s reputation, built up over the last several decades, as a place where the arts are valued and supported, maximal.

    There seems to be a thuggish tendency among certain Liberal and National leaders – but definitely not all, and they are by no means representative of the entire Liberal Party, National Party or their supporters – to belittle and undervalue the role of literary culture in our society. Mr Newman would most likely be surprised by the number of people among his supporters who are passionate about the importance of books and reading – although he shouldn’t be as the Brisbane Writers Festival has for years attracted a huge and enthusiastic audience, including many country-based Queenslanders and inter-state visitors to Brisbane.

    I believe that many of Mr Newman’s own supporters would have long been proud of the prestige accorded to Queensland in Australian cultural circles by the awards. They offer important material and moral sustenance to this country’s writers, who work so hard to tell Australian (including Queensland’s) stories for so little reward. The David Unaipon Award, moreover, was unique in this country, and made a massive contribution to the recognition of indigenous literature.

    Surely, there are other parts of government where one might cut costs with less consequence.

    The news makes me want to weep. If he cannot be persuaded to change his mind for 2012, I urge Mr Newman to restore the Premier’s Literary Awards in 2013.

    Thank you.
    Best wishes,
    Linda Jaivin

  7. Well that’s a damned shame – although not surprising, given the ‘need’ to cut back on public spending. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that it was one of the more visible (and to the public, worthless) ways the government handed out ‘largesse’ to pinko lefties.

    Oh well, another award on the list of those I won’t win this year…

  8. Nick, I think twitter might be helpful here. I loved Linda’s letter, but private letters don’t shame anyone into changing their mind. Will try to flog my old dial-up over there tomorrow a m with your blog link.
    Tx for bringing this to everyone’s notice.

  9. Well said dear Sir, well said indeed.

  10. Kylie L says:

    Love it Nick- well said. I don’t have much to add, except this: when the Miles Franklin long list came out last week I read through the blurbs and thought how interesting “Blood” sounded. Called into my local bookshop that morning and they didn’t have it, and hadn’t had plans to restock until the list. Then went to the library thinking I would put it on hold- but it was on the shelves, as was Duigan’s “The Precipice”, another long-lister. That was a bonus for me, but a bit sad that no-one else was clamouring for the book (especially given “Twilight” had 56 holds on it). My point is that awards and award lists bring books to the public’s attention. If we had no awards, how many great books would slip past us,how many great stories, important stories, *our* stories? How short sighted to can them for such a trivial amount of money.

  11. Pingback: On Nick Earls vs the Premier – when politics becomes personal | This Charming Mum

  12. A friend today noted the defining nature of cultural capital – knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing does nothing towards progressing us as a community. Newman is like the guy with the pricing gun at your local supermarket. He knows what it costs but can’t tell you what it is or does.

  13. This Charming Mum says:

    Well the last time I wrote about plumbers and arts funding I got sued, so I’m really glad you did it this time. This is a really important post. I’ve blogged about your blog today and will share this around my social networks. I’m glad someone other than the news media is putting all this in context. Thanks! Lara

  14. Susan Shew says:

    Teachers are mandated to teach literacy. While books are not the only way to do this, it has been shown that texts that relate to the students’ world are best to engage them in reading. Literary works by Queenslanders can not only encourage reading but give a career path for young writers. When you think that this was spread over a range of awardees and the influence of these awards, is this an example of the value that the incoming government places on literacy. Perhaps the money they save could put one book in every school library but that book would probably be written and published overseas.

  15. Rosie Noakes says:

    Thank you for putting this in perspective!
    I know of two petitions to keep the awards that are currently circulating:

    Matthew Condon and Krissy Kneen are also trying to start a grassroots version of the awards, called the Queensland Literary Awards:

    • nickearls says:

      Thanks for that info. Very useful. With them and with UQP’s response, I’m starting to think we might see something happen. It’s a shame the Premier or his team couldn’t have worked with the department, industry and potential sponsors to look for a solution other than simply pulling the funding.

  16. Jenn says:

    It’s depressing 😦 Let’s see if any of the various Premier incentives for Sports (listed individually) are axed. Even if alternatives are found, it’s the lack of interest in investing in the Arts that makes me saddest. Especially in the clearly token “Year of Reading”

  17. Pingback: Queensland Premier’s Literary Award | EJTemple

  18. Matt Condon says:

    Nick, a unique and superb analysis

    • nickearls says:

      Thank you. I hear you’re already well on the way to a replacement scheme – nice work. Meanwhile I’m planning to start a sideline pickling cocktail onions to sell to mining magnates.

  19. carly says:

    does triple a stand for ‘arse, arse, arse’?

  20. Pingback: Skepticlawyer » Your merit good is not meritorious, therefore it has been cancelled

  21. Canetoader says:

    Now they’ve saved so much money with the Premiers Awards, they can take a razor to the politicians’ superannuation…

  22. Well said, Nick. Particulalry sad to see The Unaipon Award go. Short sighted.

  23. Well said, Nick. Particularly sad to see The Unaipon Award go. Shortsighted. Straining at gnats.

  24. Adam Lynch says:

    Did you ever think that it might be pay back to dick heads like you you think that the Arts can’t survive without public money. The Arts are fine… and will be without the public money that stops commercial options thriving.

    • Gabrielle Sottile says:

      Dickheads like who? Can’t you people find a blog sympathetic to your pitiful right wing cheering? I’m tired of your asinine opinions and deplore your pathetic attempts here to further abuse and intimidate writers and their supporters. It’s time to say ‘No passeran’ (They shall not pass.) This comment also applies to the ignorant rants below.

  25. Kenneth Travels says:

    Oh please get over yourselves. Just be thankful you live in a Country/State where you have the freedom to write what you want, without fear of persecution, or threat to life. If you are truly writing from the heart what are you seeking? Some glorified award and a pat on the back or the chance to maintain purity of your thoughts & words through true self expression. If you must waste time writing about this why not write to politicians so eagerly voted for by the majority instead of some behind the scenes blog. The pen is mightier than the sword us it wisely.

  26. Pingback: My two cents on the cancellation of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards | lyndawithaycrawford

  27. Dazza the Muso says:

    FFS, Arty farty types spitting pointless, self serving rubbish while the rest of us have a real job. There are plenty of deserving charities that get absolutely no govt funding at all, maybe they can share some of it now. And, news just to hand, the Literary Awards being awarded and judged by the literary fraternity. As they should be. It was just a gravy train for the socialist left of labor. Just like the Indy Car race is a waste of money. If you authors want it, get off your backsides and organise it yourselves! We the taxpayer are just about broke paying for your lifestyle choices!

  28. Peter deVoil says:

    Wait until he gets around to GOMA – we’ll be world leaders to losers in one step..

  29. Lisa Hill says:

    Very disappointing to see the abusive comments above. It’s fine to disagree, it’s unpleasant and unnecessary to be spiteful and rude.

    • Isobele Carmody says:

      And yet somehow one can imagine this is exactly the tone CN’s supporters would take because they lack the vocabulary and depth of wit and insight, not to mention the imagination to make their points in a civil way. Probably didn’t read enough books to evolve, Lisa. Great blog, too, Nick. I will tweet it too but good to hear moves are afoot to thwart the redneck brigade. The pity of it is, when they succeed, CN and his supporters will say, see, you didn’t need government help after all, and pat themselves on the back. sigh.

      • Nicholas says:

        Well, this is good to know which authors to avoid in future. I guess that if an inspiring author like you says that half of Queensland are just unevolved rednecks, it must be true. Why you would even want recognition from someone voted for by people who lack vocabulary, depth of wit and insight (not to mention the imagination), is beyond me.

        Of course, if this is something that can be done privately without needing to get taxpayer money involved, it should be done that way. No one has a right to government recognition. How could you even think otherwise?

    • caitlinscarr says:

      I was also quite offended by some of the derogatory remarks above. It’s quite sad when artists are considered to be second-class citizens. I do remember someone once telling me that what I did (as an actor and writer) was purely selfish and had no benefit. I told them to research Augusto Boal.

  30. Thank you for this post. I was saddened to read about the award being axed and had a rising fear for other great arts program, such as the Premier’s Drama Award. I hope your recognition as a successful Queensland writer has the ability to influence and shame this new government.

    I noticed through the campaigning leading up to the election that the arts didn’t make a mention on either side of politics. As arts lovers and practitioners we have grown complacent, believing our state (and federal) governments have now entrenched programs, funding and support. That the arts are now recognised for their contribution to our communities, telling original stories about us – who we are, why we are. Should the question have been asked through the campaign about what either party would commit to the arts? I hope we remember to back ourselves come the next election and ask the question.

    If anything comes of out this, perhaps it will be a story or play, commenting on a state going back in time.

  31. Lisa Dart says:

    Some of the comments are quite interesting by those agreeing with the axing of the Literary Awards, in various media. Do these people not realise that every book they read; the movies and television and plays they watch; their magazines, newspapers and even the blogs they follow; are written by writers/authors/journalists, even if those who write them are not professional. Literary Awards are a way of embracing the written word, of encouraging our writers to take the next leap, and for us the readers and watchers, to encounter new names that we have not come across. Remember, the people against the awards are the same ones that will say – we never listen to music, look at visual art, watch and experience dance or drama – and the same argument applies. Art in all its forms surrounds and enriches our lives every day, in ways that cannot always be seen, and is often not appreciated. The written word is something that I consider my friend. It takes me to places that I cannot go, makes me think, makes me laugh, makes me cry and sometimes it may make me angry and investigate an injustice further. I have travelled far and wide, solved mysteries (sometimes incorrectly – damn that twist at the end) but always been taken on a journey. There are those books that “I will get to one day”, there are those that I revisit as they lift my spirits when I need it; realism, fantasy, fiction, sci-fi, biographies and investigative all have a place on my shelves and I will continue to enjoy and use them to enlighten my life and soul. Thank you to the authors out there in the world, those who are struggling to be heard and those that are being heard, we continue to need you in our lives, don’t stop. (This is the post I made this morning on my facebook page.)

  32. Hi Nick – well put. I like this quote ““Arts is not a ‘nice to have’ but an absolute ‘must have’;
    not a cultural policy but a highly targeted national security strategy”. Enlightened countries and governments understand this. Europe, for example, has embraced a model that views culture not as a commodity, in which market forces determine which products survive, but as a common legacy to be nurtured and protected, including art forms that may lack mass appeal.

    In fact, I think it was Don Watson who said something similar in his book RECOLLECTIONS OF A BLEEDING HEART: A PORTRAIT OF PAUL KEATING PM, cutbacks to the arts was like pissing into the ocean. I’m paraphrasing, of course!

  33. Maddy says:

    We had a moment of silence in one of my writing tutorials on Tuesday when it was announced.

  34. The apprentice analysis is nice work. I think that makes your point eloquently.

  35. Aleta says:

    Well put! But don’t lose heart; we’re writers – let’s use that skill to keep the awards going. I don’t think the Queensland writing community should let this go without a fight! I’m off to see how I can help…

    • nickearls says:

      Matt Condon, Krissy Kneen, UQP and some others are already making moves, so maybe you could get involved with them?

      Of course, Isobele Carmody’s right to say that a successful independent non-Premier-style resurrection of the awards would be used by some to justify the axing, but that’s something we could learn to live with. I can’t imagine it would be on the same scale, but it would be good to see something happening.

  36. Pingback: Campbell Newman, subsidised arts and the popular vote « Vampires in the Sunburnt Country

  37. Just Me says:

    Where did you get your Plumbing Apprentice figures from? According to Qld Gov website they get “A subsidy of up to $300 is available to apprentices and trainees employed in identified skill shortage industries to purchase equipment such as necessary”. From Australian Gov “Commonwealth Trade Learning Scholarship provides two tax exempt $500 payments to eligible apprentices and trainees undertaking qualifications in the skill needs trades with a small/medium enterprise or group training organisation, Tools for Your Trade Initiative provides up to $800 for the purchase of trade tools for eligible apprentices and trainees, Youth Allowance (including Austudy for over 25s and ABSTUDY), Living Away From Home Allowance, Apprenticeships incentives for existing workers”.
    1st year Apprentice Plumber also only get “1st year apprentice wages can range from approximately $247 to $352 per week ($12,844 to $18,304 per year).” Work hours “between 36 to 38 hours a week”.

    • nickearls says:

      The Tools for Your Trade figure of $5,500 is from the Commonwealth government’s website,, which says ‘The Tools For Your Trade payment initiative will provide up to $5500 to eligible Australian Apprentices over the life of their Australian Apprenticeship’.

      The adult apprentice support figures also come from there: ‘Payments are made at $150 per week ($7,800 per annum) in the first year and $100 per week ($5,200 per annum) in the second year’.

      The $19,800 employer incentives for apprentice brickies comes from That’s the website of Flexible Construction Training and Assessment, a nationally accredited construction industry training provider, specialising in Bricklaying, Tiling, Wall & Ceiling Lining and SolidPlastering.

  38. Amity knight says:

    We as a state are in so much debt we have to start somewhere. The car industry employs thousands of people and thousands more in run off and support industries. If the federal govt stops supporting this huge industry we’d be in a lot of trouble. It works out to be approx $275 per year per car industry employee. Not a bad investment if you ask me. I don’t think you are comparing apples with apples here. If this is the wrong decision to stop the lit awards, can you give me an example of what they should be doing towards cutting debt? Surely they have to start somewhere? When my family is in financial hard times we cut luxury items. Isn’t this a luxury item in govt terms for who else but the writers does it support? Possibly the film industry? but there really isn’t a flow on industry like the car industry supports or the apprenticeship incentives support. This is purely a luxury item which we can’t afford at present. That’s not to say we won’t be able to afford it in future but we can’t afford it now. It’s the difference between buying Paul’s milk or woolies milk during financial hardship. It might only be a small saving but one that needs to be made.

    • nickearls says:

      I appreciate you coming back to me with actual arguments, rather than just opening with something like ‘It’s dickheads like you …’.

      I agree I’m not comparing apples with apples. I couldn’t find any more apples to compare with. In mentioning car industry support, my intention was simply to contradict someone I heard on radio making a claim that went something like ‘You don’t see the government handing out this kind of support to other industries’. My point was that that’s simply not true, and the government provides loads of support to a range of industries, in a range of different ways. I’m not saying I have a problem with that. I won’t begin to express a view on car industry subsidies, since it seems like a very complex issue and there seem to be lots of ways of manipulating the figures. The government’s New Car Plan, according to one government website amounts to $5.4 billion. I’ve seen another site that says government subsidies for 2016-2020 amount to $1.5billion. Just taking that figure alone, at $275/yr/employee, that suggests our car industry has over a million employees. Is that really the case? And if it includes people who sell the cars, I’m not sure it should, since most of them aren’t selling Australian cars and there would still be people selling cars if there were none made in Australia.

      Cutting debt sounds good, but it’ll take 340,000 cuts this size to eliminate it. I don’t think it rates well as a debt-cutting measure. The last government tried privatisations which generated billions, but their timing unfortunately made the electorate think they’d been hiding something (I can’t say whether they were or they weren’t).

      And I’d argue there is actually a flow-on from book awards. I won’t even go into the cultural arguments (much). I think it can stack up financially. I’ve never won a Premier’s award but 48 Shades of Brown won a Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award. That gave me $10,000 to do more writing, and the award significantly increased sales to schools (and I think it’s a good thing that, among the books they read, our students have contemporary works set in their own part of the world). The award and the resulting increased sales led to the book catching the eye of international publishers, and it’s been published in several countries as a consequence. The US publication led to film development, and the film was made here, injecting $1m into the local economy and providing work for cast, crew, caterers, etc. The award and sales success also led to the book being adapted into a play, which toured the state. It gave a playwright work and gave months of work to a cast of 4-5 and a tour manager, as well as supporting theatre staff. The play was a commercial success, which allowed new work to be developed by the theatre company. Most, perhaps all, of that wouldn’t have happened without the award.

      Separate to those flow-on effects, if the award had been funded by taxpayers, it would have more than paid for itself through tax. The total GST from sales of the book, plus film and theatre tickets is more than 10 times the prize money. The income tax I’ve paid on earnings from the book is at least several times the prize money too.

      That doesn’t happen every time a book wins a prize, but nor does every developmental vaccine turn out to be Gardasil and nor does every car make money.

      • Kenneth Travels says:

        Nick, I really don’t get your line of thinking here. What has the Car industries subsidies which is a Federal Government issue got to do with your Literary Awards axing which was a State decision? Who are you targeting Federal or State?????
        You waste a lot of words looking for someone to blame when your efforts would be better spent looking for other avenues that may want to support your cause. What about book publishers, distributors, etc as they have a stake in your industry. I would reason they take the bigger cuts out of the money made from the sale of a book so why not make them give something back.

      • nickearls says:

        I mentioned the car industry in response to a radio caller saying ‘You don’t see governments handing this sort of money out to other industries.’ Whenever funding for anything creative is mentioned, some people lash out and, while everyone’s entitled to speak their minds, I’d at least like them to put some thought into it and say something that’s not blatantly wrong. My point was that governments are often involved in industry support, and the car industry happened to be one of the most obvious examples at the moment.

        I went into detail in my reply above because the person posting – whose response was far from thoughtless – suggested car funding had flow-on effects and book-award funding didn’t. So I gave an example where it did. My other point with that example was that these awards aren’t some kind of charity for hopeless arty people who don’t know what a job is. In the case I gave there was a clear economic benefit in terms of tax revenue and private sector investment into the film. I think there are also strong cultural arguments for supporting awards, but some people seem more interested in the financial side of it, so I focused on that.

        But don’t think for a moment this is all I, or anyone else, is doing. I’m quite prepared to contact politicians directly, and do so pretty often when I feel the need to. As far as these awards go, people are already working on putting together some kind of replacement. The publishing industry was already contributing to the awards – UQP, for instance, provides significant funding and resources for the two awards I focused on in my post, and appears willing to keep doing so.

    • How good to see a view opposing Nick’s – yet balanced and restrained in its reply. I understand where you’re coming from, Amity. My maternal grandfather was a ganger on the Qld railways, my father was a foundry worker; we’re no strangers to economic hardship. But through all that, my grandmother read stories to my mother and 10 siblings in front of the wood stove ar night. I think, for them, life was so hard that that little bit of light relief was looked forward to, all day.
      These days, people – even those who live below the poverty line (and writers are no strangers to that, either) – watch TV and films; even people in Aust’a who would consider themselves poor own a DVD player. What I’m trying to say, I guess, Amity, is that the arts are not some luxury item that we as a people can’t afford, the people need them to unwind so they can get up next day and do that hard work all over again. If we don’t support the ones coming along, our stream that provides this will dry up.
      Thank you again for your fine and reasonable response.

  39. scova says:

    So, Amity, we’re in so much debt? Where did you READ that? Have you ever read a book to your child, read a book on the bus to work, never heard the words in ads promoting your cheaper milk? Writers write such words.
    This is what another writer says:
    Ever thought that winning an awards encourages people? Isn’t that why they give them to kids at school? It is usually a once in a lifetime opportunity, winning an amount that probably only pays a few bills at best but mainly, draws attention to them from the wider community. Literary writers tend to also have jobs until they are one of the few that becomes popular. My mother is 72 and still trying to gain recognition of her lifelong love of writing and expression of the human condition. She’ll never give up and she worked goddamn hard all her life, writing in her spare time.
    People accusing writers and other artists of being pinkos lefties is like saying all plumbers stand around scratching their arse. But THAT commentator is probably a CanDo staffer earning about $224k anyway. (To be clear, reducing one or two staffers would save that money in an instant).

  40. ojbuttplug says:

    Nice work Nick, and I would also like to add that the axing of the award is the kind of spiteful and mean act of aggression the creepy-little-man-with-mini-baked-beans-for-teeth and his ‘can-do’ party of bullies, bumpkins and born agains are famous for, and it won’t be the last. The comments in this thread range wildly – what are some of these people doing here? “We as a state are in so much debt we have to start somewhere.” If we really care about Queensland’s future we should start finding ways to reduce the state’s ignorance – this is one area in which we have a true triple A rating.

  41. ojbuttplug says:

    In our new ‘can-do’ Queensland we would profit by first reducing our ignorance quota – it has a true triple A rating. Nice work Nick – a good read.

  42. Ian Smith says:

    I very much like the way you are thinking. Not Well known for my interest in the arts, I do have a beautiful wife who is and can say that I was drawn to your blog via her Facebook. Congratulations on your well written and thoughtful blog. Your uptake of a very necessary effort to try and counter this well known ruthless individual with a “takes no prisoners” approach and his kind of petty cutting and “we must start somewhere” reminds me of the years I spent in Corporate life when things got tight. It was always simpler to cut the easy to sell stuff. Like travel perks, meetings off site, entertainment. All deemed to be waste. However, after many bouts of cost cutting the lessons learnt were that there was simply one approach that should have been followed – The first cut should be the deepest and I have to say that denying writers of a very important prize is far from deep.

    My wife feels as strongly about this as you and most of your followers. She even wrote a piece found here which when I read it made me feel very proud on one hand but extremely angry at the short sightedness of a man who has form. I fear that his next easy target is the QLD public service community support programs.

    Keep the effort flowing. I for one have been spurred into action and will be spreading the word.

  43. Jane Greenwood says:

    Good for you, Nick. The axing is short-sighted, small-minded, mean-spirited and mere window-dressing: ‘Look at me! I’m so effective!’ But having once taught a literary course to third year Engineers at UQ I can’t say I’m surprised …

  44. Hi Nick, absolutely brilliant article, and really punchy response to some of the most common criticism we’ll face in speaking out against cutting these awards.

    I thought you might be interested to know, we’re organising a picket to protest the cuts. It’s had quite a strong response! If you would like to say a few words over a megaphone, you’d be most welcome!!

    For anyone not on facebook, it will be on Friday 13 April at 1pm … although the location is to be confirmed. We’re trying to work out where the premier’s office actually is! When I know I’ll come back to this comment and post complete details.

    I’m not a writer myself, I’m a flautist. But I can see all those emerging artist grants I’ve got my eyes on disappearing in front of my eyes 😦 Just when Queensland is really finding its feet in the world of contemporary art music!! A damn shame.

  45. Kate says:

    Nick! Your blog is actually the first I’ve heard of this and I’ve been watching the news and listening to the radio all week! This is terrible.

    As a financial measure it’s a ridiculous strategy. The arts and tourism go hand in hand and if writers can’t make a living or feel supported by their home state or town, they move. They create amazing things in places like Melbourne, Sydney, London, and New York and people flock to see them. I was only watching an episode of Australian story a few weeks ago about Yaron Lifschitz who took on Circa, a then tiny home-grown circus company working out of the Powerhouse in New Farm, and created an International sensation – 400 sold-out shows in 13 countries in the last year alone. Certainly very little of this income, made overseas, will come back to the state. But having a reputation as the home of Circa makes Brisbane a destination for tourists and performers alike – all of whom use public transport, pay GST/resident taxes, make purchases from local retailers and put money back into the state economy. The Literary Awards were, in effect, a grass root strategy giving a very small amount of money to promote a much greater chain reaction. Writers who win awards become recognised names, publish more books, win bigger awards, are invited to write plays, tv and film scripts which are, if we’re lucky, produced locally and create more jobs. They become recognised teachers in universities – with any luck in their home town – and people move heaven and earth in their lives to enrol in these institutions and courses and hear what they have to say. That $250,000pa brings in millions, it keeps writers writing, it keeps aspiring writers aspiring and it keeps them contributing to the Arts industry in Queensland, which I’m sorry to say, is doing a fraction of what its capable of in terms of promoting employment, tourism and immigration compared to what you see, supported by funding, in other states. Tightening pursestrings on grants and awards, which are essentially features research and development, is short-sighted from any commercial viewpoint.

    In the last 10 years I have worked in at least 3 different industries in two different states – Property, the Arts and Medicine in both Queensland and New South Wales and I can attest from the lowest levels of those food chains that a city without a strong Arts industry will struggle to maintain the population boom we’ve been having. Developers pour money into cities and locations that are rich with entertainment, federal Arts grants go to companies with media clout and itinerant professionals choose their homes around potential lifestyles. All of which requires writers, writing and a lot of publicity.

    The government as patron of the arts is a practice that is centuries old and while I, for one, never expected an LNP government to prioritise Arts funding (and voted accordingly, I might add), I certainly did not anticipate such a backward, unenlightened step.

    All the best for the campaigning, my thoughts are with all of you and I hope, with time, I can promote the Arts in Queensland in other ways.

  46. Jill Marley says:

    Hi Nick…I enjoyed reading the blog and the comments which it attracted. I’m hoping someone in government is also reading them. Writers have to do what they do best – write. Write to those who may be a bit short-sighted in negotiating a reduced budget. Cutting funds which encourage the best of our best writers is no way to run a government representing the people who love reading books = nearly everyone. I also received an email telling me of the cut to the awards and I replied as follows:

    “This is a very sad day for Queensland writers. Perhaps we could negotiate a path whereas the award went ahead but with a reduced prize? I say this because it’s a worthwhile award for writers of excellence and it boosts their career. If I was a football player instead of a writer, I would demand the ovals to play on and seating and so forth. Sport is important and excellence is rewarded.

    I could relate this analogy to many other fields of excellence which the governments support financially, even if only partially. Maybe writers could continue to compete for these prizes, especially those who may never have had a manuscript published, and the state could tell them what a fine job they have done by getting business to donate a laptop or a trip to the country of their choice for research purposes. Recognition of a job well done in all fields is a worthwhile endeavour and I have to say I am sorry that this government has just told the writers of Queensland that they are wasting their time. That writing books is not something we should bother doing. I hope they change their minds. Qld writers deserve some support!”

  47. Steve Ray says:

    I don’t know if you are aware,but in Queensland there are around 1500 volunteer Rural Fire Brigades,with about 30 000 firefighters. Only 30% of these brigades receive funding through their local government via a levy as they receive no funding from the state government other than receiving personal protection clothing and some equipment. These brigades also pay thousands of dollars in buying their own fire trucks (the government pays some of the cost and the volunteers some). So what this means is that these volunteers not only give up their own time in fighting fires,helping with flood and cyclone cleanups and protecting their communities,they also go out and do fundraising so that they can pay their bills and buy much needed equipment.

    It is a shame that people are so concerned about a few writers not being able to receive tens of thousands of dollars when we have other people in the community who need funds but cannot get them.

    • nickearls says:

      I’m continually struck by how much Rural Fire Brigades, surf life savers and a range of other groups achieve for the community, while relying so much on the time, work and sometimes bravery of volunteers, and receiving little government support.

      You probably didn’t see my reply to someone’s earlier comment – I can’t expect you to trawl through every comment made before making your own – but I think that, separate to the cultural arguments that plenty of people have focused on, writing awards can actually have an economic benefit, rather than be a handout that quietly disappears.

      When my novel 48 Shades of Brown won a Children’s Book Council award ($10,000, not from the Qld government), it directly increased sales of the book and led to overseas publication, which led to a film being made in Qld. The film created jobs, and the GST from sales of books and film and theatre tickets would total $1-200,000 so far. I also paid income tax on anything I earned from it but, had the $10,000 prize come from the taxpayer, the GST alone from the boost it gave the book would have repaid that at least ten times over. I can’t say that happens every time, but literary prizes can generate tax dollars, and I’d be very happy to see some of those dollars going to support work like that of the Rural Fire Brigades.

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  50. Ross CLARK says:

    I came late to this news, being off on a self-funded camping junket (sans internet & newspapers — ah, luxury) at the National Folk Festival in Canberra (which I’m sure Andrew Bolt would call “leftie”, since folk music is working class and all, gov . . .but I digress). On my return, I emailed the following to the Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and am waiting (with bated breath, you know), for a response to my taxpayer-saving suggestion of alternative funding for the Awards.

    “I am incensed at the dropping of the Qld Premier’s Literary Awards.

    The catalogue took a long time to establish, and I have been involved as an administrator, advisor etc to several of them . . . and they are now wiped by fiat, without advice from stake-holders or consideration of the effect on Queensland’s varied and widely-scattered writing community.

    I am astounded that the small amount of money involved (prizes and admin costs) could significantly affect “the cost of living for all Queenslanders”. The Queensland (and other Australian) writers whose lives would be made briefly more comfortable and manageable by these awards are now subsidising the rest of the state by their own poverty.

    May I make a suggestion that will re-instate the awards for this year’s round, and also save your government the few shekels we writers would otherwise cost you? I believe our own “living national treasure” Mr Clive Palmer has healthy coffers, and I’m sure he would be glad to repay the state that gave him his start with the money for these awards.

    Could you let me know the results of an enquiry to Mr Palmer re such a philanthropic endowment on his part?”

    [Nevertheless, I ain’t ‘bating my breath for too long.]

  51. Jane Greenwood says:

    Ah, Ross … I, too, had thought about Mr Palmer. Why not? After all, American philanthropists support the arts … why not Australian ones? (Always assuming CP has philanthropic tendencies.) You’d think this kind of philanthropy would ensure some kind of fame, or at least the good opinion of others – and maybe better opinion than simply that of a mining magnate.

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