Artists throw the book at Campbell Newman

About 80 activists and artists gathered in Brisbane on April 13 to protest the axing of the Premier's literary awards. Photo: Em

About 80 activists and artists gathered outside the Queensland Government Executive Building on April 13 to voice their discontent over the axing of the Premier's Literary Awards.

The picket was called by Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of South Brisbane in the April 28 by-election, Liam Flenady, and Hannah Reardon-Smith, both of who are also artists.

“Scrapping the Premier’s Literary Awards in the name of budget savings makes no sense,” Reardon-Smith said. “The $244,000 saved amounts to a mere 0.00028% of what we’re told by Campbell Newman is our state’s $85 billion debt.

“Choosing this as one of the first cuts and one of the first public acts of governance is clearly a political and ideological decision, meant to send a ‘strong’ message about ‘cracking down’ on ‘unnecessary spending’ and clearly implying that the arts are not valued by our new Premier.

“This is especially apparent when viewed in tandem with Newman’s record as Mayor of the Brisbane City Council, when he slashed the funding available to emerging artists and our city festival, and even cut nearly $1 million out of the budget for library books.”

Among the awards scrapped is the David Unaipon Award — a unique Australia-wide prize for unpublished indigenous writers.

Respected local Aboriginal elder and activist Sam Watson is the father of two winners of this award. He told the rally that all of the Premier's Literary Awards gave artists a stepping stone into the publishing industry.

“We need to recognise the value of Queensland’s stories,” he said. “That is what these writers do, they tell our stories.”

He said that it was a tragedy how few Australian writers can live off their work. He urged all present to take action, to go into their local bookstore and ask if they have a section dedicated to local authors and to indigenous authors.

Greens candidate for the seat of Central Ward in the upcoming Brisbane City Council elections and community dance teacher Rachael Jacobs said: “There is more to a state than growth and tunnels.

“This is a bad economic decision, this will cost jobs. We need to stand here and tell the Newman government that we are angry.”

Colourful signs and banners dotted the crowd, painted with slogans such as “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture” and “Don’t send us back to Joh’s Dark Ages”.

Many artists at the rally spoke about how important the awards are and how important arts funding is to our state. They collectively urged Queenslanders to continue to take action against funding cuts.

To close the rally, all those gathered shouted the words “Campbell — quit kicking Queensland in the Arts.”


Comments

What ever happened to standing up for workers?

The government is taking from the workers the fruit of their labour and handing it out to artists. Some artists are receiving huge amounts of money. Kim Scott, author of The Deadman Dance took home awards in a number of states, receiving over $300,000.

I don't know how a socialist can be supportive of this.

Hi Anonymous

Kim Scott is an exception. It's rare for a writer to make so much money from a publication. However you have to understand that artists work. And most of them not only work on their art, but also in day jobs to pay the bills and pay taxes.

If no other pursuit was funded, I'd see your point. But I fail to see how helping artists to be creative and enrich our cultural lives is any different to funding sports people or those people who want to be tradesmen and women. They are all beneficial in their own way, and there are many people who take an active interest in the arts to improve their physical and mental health.

Nerissa

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