The Australia Council’s Revenge

OzCo logo IIThe Australian Council last week announced it would cut its annual grant to Quadrant magazine to zero.

This is the first time in the magazine’s 60-year history that we have applied for a federal literary grant and been completely denied. This not only leaves a gaping hole in our modest operating budget; it is also a political decision designed to devalue our reputation and demonstrate that the Left remains in control of the arts.

Although the Australia Council itself suffered a loss of government funds in 2015, the Quadrant decision was not taken because of a lack of money for literature. Indeed, while abolishing our grant, the council increased its funding to other literary magazines, all of them left-wing. Instead of the one-year grant of $60,000 that we applied for, the others were awarded grants of four-years, with an annual increase of from $20,000 to $40,000 for each of them. The 2016 grants list for literary magazines looks like this:

  • Australian Book Review, increase per year $20,000; total grant $560,000
  • Griffith Review, increase per year $40,000; total grant $400,000
  • Overland magazine, increase per year $20,00; total grant $320,000

The only leftist literary magazine to miss out this year was Meanjin, but it was teetering on its last legs anyway, with a succession of stop-gap editors since radical feminist Sophie Cunningham resigned in 2010 over plans by its board, Melbourne University Press, to end its print edition and publish it online only.

If you value Quadrant, print the form at the foot of this letter
and return it with your donation

None of these publications match the output, the quality, or the readership of Quadrant. With a circulation of more than 6000 buyers/subscribers per month, it is easily the best read of these publications. Quadrant is also the most prolific publisher of poetry in Australia, in either magazine or book format, with up to 300 poems published per year for the past decade. Our Literary Editor, Les Murray, has worked on every edition since 1990, that is, for 256 of the magazine’s 518 editions. He is not only widely recognized as Australia’s greatest living poet but also Australia’s foremost poetry anthologist. He has made an outstanding and enduring contribution to the literary arts in this country, unmatched by anything achieved by the minions funded by the Australia Council.

Griffith Review and Overland are only published quarterly and each struggles to find 1000 purchasers per edition. Australian Book Review and Griffith Review publish no poetry at all. Yet all three are also heavily subsidized by universities and other government agencies. And the contents of all three have long been dominated by left-wing academic literary fashions of postmodernism and critical theory. They are little more than production lines for the Left’s limitless appetite for identity group politics of gender, race and sexual preference, and its support for any national culture, no matter how violent or barbaric, except our own.

In contrast, since its founding in 1956, Quadrant has consistently defended high culture, freedom of speech, liberal democracy and the Western Judeo-Christian tradition. Apart from the grant we have now lost, we have no other public subsidies or major patrons. We survive entirely through the honest market revenues of subscriptions, newsagent sales, and donations from subscribers.

The Australia Council’s decision to end our funding is plainly an act of revenge by its bureaucrats and advisers. It is designed to punish us for being on the same side of the political fence as the Abbott government’s Minister for the Arts, George Brandis, who himself was responding to an act of arts-funding bastardry by Julia Gillard.

Faced with the certainty that Labor would lose the 2013 election, Gillard pushed the Australia Council Act 2013 through parliament with her partners, the Greens. This was intended to both entrench the existing bureaucracy and ensure a Coalition Minister for the Arts could no longer do what all his predecessors had been able to do since 1975, that is, make his own appointments to the Literature Board and other sub-boards within the organization. George Brandis decided to circumvent this Act by cutting some Australia Council funding and placing the money saved with a new organization, Catalyst, run from within his Ministry.

However, funding for literary magazines such as Quadrant remained with the Australia Council. In response to Brandis’s action, the Australia Council cancelled last October’s round of funding applications and made us apply in February this year, announcing results last week.

Our Australia Council funding has always gone to the writers of Quadrant’s literary content, that is, our poetry, short fiction, book reviews and essays on literature, film, theatre and the arts. We had to account for every dollar of this expenditure. The Australia Council did not fund our opinion pieces, political commentary, printing, Quadrant Online, or Quadrant Books.

The decision by the Australia Council is a blatant breach of its public duty to be politically even-handed. Throughout the eleven years of the Howard government, its appointees to the Council never reduced the funding of any of the overtly left-wing literary magazines.

Despite this latest blow, we are determined to maintain the quality of our literary output. We are also determined to preserve the volume of our content and the rates we pay the authors who write for our literary pages. We intend to show adversity can bring out our best.

In the second half of 2016, Quadrant’s marks its sixtieth anniversary. We have planned a program to make this a memorable year, with a number of innovations already in the pipeline. We will be sending out invitations and placing advertisements soon.

To do this, however, we need the help of our subscribers, readers and supporters to recover the funding we have lost. Please send us a donation (tax deductible), however modest. Please print the form below, fill it in and return it ASAP. Donations can also be sent directly to the Quadrant Foundation Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Keith Windschuttle


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* The Quadrant Foundation is a tax-deductible fund listed on the Australian Government’s Register of Cultural Organisations maintained under Subdivision 30-B of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

24 thoughts on “The Australia Council’s Revenge

  • davenewsday says:

    I am sure I was not the only reader sampling for free on the web – now paid up subscriber – 1016 to go and job done.
    To reuse the best line of the election so far – The Arts Council “they can go and get stuffed!” – credit to Senator Leyonhjelm.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    When the Australian get act train to Greece finally crashes or derails Quadrant will be standing watching the carnage occurring to the leftie freeloaders. Of course they won’t know what hit them or how to survive una free market with a level playing field.

    I subscribe and I’ll be making an annual donation. Leghorns is right they can all go and get stuffed.

    My father used to say that to people who offended him.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    Oops gravy train to Greece.

  • Jody says:

    The Arts Council is essentially a Lefty cabal. Think “Writer’s Festival” and you get the general idea. They’re more interested in promulgating lefty ideologies than anything which may be implied in their brief.

    What I’ve learned is that the Left is full of hatred and wishes society ill, only thinly veiled as caring and compassion for the less fortunate. In reality, what these people seek is a complete upturning of the system from where they currently feel situated (at the bottom). What happens when you turn a jar upside down? The bottom suddenly becomes the top. You see, the Left despises aspirationals and the wealthy middle class because the Left believes they didn’t sufficiently do the ‘hard yards’ – pouring over books for years on end and finding the path to true ‘enlightenment’, but with scant understanding – if at all – about their fellow, very-much-alive present day human beings. One of the most effective ways to overturn the status quo is to confuse the populace; remove from them their ability to see objective observable truths and you’ll have them running to you for an ‘interpretation’. Instant ontological crisis!! ‘See, you need me because I am the path to true enlightenment and I only have the purest of motives!! You base and craven money-makers don’t know what is right and good’. (Do I detect a hint of evangelical fervour in this mentality?)

    THEN along comes Donald Trump and calls it all out and the ‘progressives’ look around in wonderment – like creatures out of “Bambi” – about this new, very threatening phenomenon. See? They really are dumb after all!!

  • prsmith14@gmail.com says:

    We should keep in mind that we have had a Coalition government in place since September 2013; and yet this happens. Only the left are committed. Conservatives – apart from a brave few – simply go to water when challenged; have a look at them on Q&A as they curry favour with the audience. The rise of Trump is quite explicable. I intend to write to my local federal member – who unfortunately is no longer Abbott since I was ‘redistributed’ but Zimmerman. Still who knows he might be interested in supporting literature even though Quadrant is unlikely to be his favourite read.

  • Michael Boldys says:

    I’ve been reading Quadrant for some time now, and only recently subscribed, as the only newsagent to stock it – local to me – closed down. Whilst shocked at the denial of funding, I’m happy to step up and donate what I can.

  • kkutasi says:

    As much as one can (rightly) get angry about Leftist institutions being Lefist, I have to say that Quadrant should never be budgeting upon getting government grants. You should always have to survive on your own two feet, particularly in this epoch of “no platforming”. If you get funding – then awesome – but otherwise Quadrant will have to find a way to survive by its own wits.

    Here’s an idea: get rid of the crap poetry and theatre reviews and have more conservative political conversations instead. You may find it leads to more subscribers and perhaps you may be able to charge more per edition.

    • Another View says:

      Written like a true philistine!
      One man’s crap, is another man’s treasure.

    • nfw says:

      I have to agree about the poetry, very 1960’s and pretentious. It was what always stopped me from taking out a subscription to Quadrant although I enjoy the almost daily Quadrant Online.

      Took the big subscription plunge after the utter bastardry of the so-called Australia Council. It should be called the Luvvie “Progressive” Socialists Council.

      Donation to follow.

    • Edwin Dyga says:

      Kutasi is quite right to caution conservatives against relying on Leviathan for their daily bread; it militates against intellectual independence and encourages financial complacency.

      However, his separation of “conservative political conversation” from cultural discourse is self-defeating. There simply is no “conservative political conversation” without the arts and humanities because conservative discourse is inherently a discourse on culture, first and foremost. To suggest otherwise is to confuse the things we life for – which is essential, rooted in the profound and permanent – with the means by which we live – which is variable, profane and impermanent by definition.

      “Mainstream” or “establishment” conservatives’ secession from the world of “poetry and theatre reviews” has made them completely incompetent at pushing back against the left’s onslaught in the Culture Wars. The Gramscian left understood this, which is why they own the schools, universities and Arts Councils, and why explicitly conservative politics is increasingly electorally non-viable with each passing generation. Today’s Abbotts and Turnbulls have no clue, and show no interest in getting one. The evidence speaks for itself.

    • pgang says:

      I don’t read the arty stuff either but it is a crucial part of what Quadrant is.

  • Simon2808 says:

    No better reason to subscribe!

  • Ian Flanagan says:

    A lefty cabal with their hands in the public purse is a fair assessment of the Arts Council, but we must remember that the poor dears do have the tiresome burden of allocating funds to the anointed.

    That Quadrant is not anointed this time around is probably better in the long term, as it is never a sound practice to suckle from the public teat (partially or totally) for an extended period of time. Tears always result.

    Perhaps the Australia Council’s revenge will be for the better, and Quadrant’s readers and subscribers will reap additional benefits as the Quadrant crew innovate and approach the financial hiccup in a positive manner.

  • CARNIFEX says:

    I’ve bought magazines here and there but have read mostly online, just signed up. Sorry to hear about what’s happened. A question, does the quarterly essay still receive funding, thanks

  • danielbull says:

    Sad and disgusting, but what else is to be expected. The left have no respect for the arts or culture. Just a quick response to some of the above comments: I for one absolutely love the cultural and artistic side of Quadrant and it is for this reason I subscribe. This publication has been a bastion for Australian Poetry over the last half century.

  • gray_rm says:

    Im a subscriber, have donated, and sent a rather curt letter to the Council.
    If you don’t hear from me after a while, I’ve been sent for re-education.

  • denandsel@optusnet.com.au says:

    My family/I have been Quadrant subscribers for decades, it’s one of the few places where common sense is prominent and seems more important than the overly emotional soap opera/tabloid crap routinely served up on TV, radio and unfortunately [increasingly] even in the AUSTRALIAN.
    I don’t like the poetry much either, I’m so old fashioned that I still like Banjo Patterson, but I’m more than prepared to read it if only to annoy the parasitic leftists who I am forced via my taxes to support. I don’t think that any government should support ‘the arts’ in any way, let alone by borrowing money to fund propaganda outlets determined to destroy our way of life.

  • dchawcroft@yahoo.com says:

    Well said, all. Liveliest comments page I’ve ever seen.

    Perhaps this is a good thing that will galvanise the magazine into taking a hard look at itself and how it does things and the things it does.

    Yes, for instance the poetry, which I don’t think that good, either.

    And the comments software which doesn’t help a bit to keep a discussion rolling for there’s no automatic notification by email of further posts to a topic you are interested in.

    And this ancient bull about leftists and rightists. Surely the magazine is not ‘rightist’ out of a desire to adhere to some fancy creed, sycophantically following the dictates of some lofty distant arbiters? No. Surely the magazine follow what it considers is correct, is ‘right’in a meritorious sense rather than a political sense? So that in time perhaps the political right may follow the magazine and redefine ‘the right’ as being the path and philosophy of Quadrant rather than ever having Quadrant follow the path and philosophy of some school?

    You make phantom enemies. You lapse into childishness using these hackneyed grab bags to categorise all who’ve disappointed or hurt you.

    Lastly: fight back. Use the web and whatever. What the Arts Council has done is unsupportable at first look. Don’t adopt a truculent, bellicose attitude. Just ask them their rationale. Get friendly. Drop this left and right stuff. Ask people to explain. Ask them their opinion. Ask. Print what they say. Presumably they’ll bring their own audience with them when they appear in your pages.

  • Mikeriddle says:

    Been reading online for a while, just subscribed. will keep up subscription no matter what happens with funding. Conservative voices are too few and far between amongst the socialist garbage we are swamped with.

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