THIS year’s premier’s book awards has been cancelled—to save $65,000.
The formerly annual awards will now be held biennially, a move the LNP government says it’s making as part of its efficiency drive. It says that a week or so after shelling out $2 million to bring the Giants to Perth,
Author David Whish-Wilson, whose history book Perth was short-listed at last year’s awards, says they are an important fillip for local writers: “The awards are announced nationally and receive wide media coverage,” he says. “Booksellers frequently promote short-listed writers, as do librarians.
“The loss of the annual awards for very little financial saving is an illustration of an out-of-touch government that clearly sees the arts as a soft target.”
The writing team behind Perth literary journal Regime is split over the cutback.
Poet Nathan Hondros says writers should be more concerned about the government impinging on their freedom of speech, than what it thinks about their books.
“Any writer worth their salt should be boycotting publicly-funded writing awards,” he says.
“There is still legislation making it unlawful for a writer to offend anyone: for instance, the material published by Charlie Hebdo wouldn’t be allowed here.
“It’s also a criminal offence if you don’t hand in a copy of your published book to the government.
“Writers should spend more time worrying about that, than about what some government committee thinks of your work.”
His playwright buddy Damon Lockwood is concerned the biennial timeframe might influence publishing schedules.
“I just hope publishers don’t start delaying releasing books until the year of the premier’s award,” he says.
“You know, so they are in people’s consciousness when it comes to voting time.
“It’s hard enough for aspiring fiction writers to get published without having to deal with another hurdle.”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK