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February 14th 2013 print

Roger Franklin

On Lit Board grants, words fail her

When the Literature Board announced the latest slashing of Quadrant's funding, no adequate explanation was forthcoming. We are still waiting, and so is Senator Eric Abetz, who has extracted a promise from the Australia Council's acting chief to look into the decision and explain its logic


Last year, when Quadrant saw its annual grant from the Literature Board sliced and diced, from $40,000 to $20,000, the news prompted an appalled wonderment – and no small degree of suspicion. How could it be that Australia’s leading literary magazine was suffering, despite producing more words and editions per year than any other journal of Australian thought?


Worse, and most unsettling, was the unavoidable observation that, while a conservative magazine had been sentenced to lean times, "progressive" publications did very nicely in the same tranche of grants. Literature Board Chairperson Sophie Cunningham, a former Meanjin editrix and Labor appointee, is a well-known woman of the left, but surely her personal sympathies and those of her colleagues could not have shaped the decision?

An adequate explanation for Quadrant’s latest and drastic cut in funding would have banished such notions, but one has not been forthcoming. The decision remains inexplicable, and not merely to those of us at Quadrant. This became apparent earlier this week, when a flummoxed Libbie Christie, the Australia Council’s  acting chief executive officer, also found herself unable to explain the decision during an appearance before a Senate committee.

The video below captures the full ten minutes of her bafflement, as well as a pledge to look into the matter and enlighten her questioner, Senator Eric Abetz, in regard to the Literature Board’s logic

While they await the result of Ms Christie’s inquiries, those who suspect the public funding of arts and letters in Australia would benefit from sweeping reforms may well find the clip below confirms that sentiment. What they will not find in the clip is an official and adequate explanation for Quadrant’s stripped coffers.

A full transcript of Ms Christie’s exchange with Abetz will be published as soon as it becomes available.