June 18th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Deregulation cause of dairy industry crisis

CANBERRA OBSERVED Double-dissolution election likely to deliver disillusionment

EDITORIAL Turnbull keeps his smile as all around lose theirs

LIFE ISSUES Infant viability fails to wake upper house interest

GLOBAL ECONOMY A generation left to twiddle its thumbs

LOCAL GOVERNMENT Amateur hour at the Brisbane City Council

EUTHANASIA Too quick a leap to counsel of despair

CULTURE WARS Australia Council cuts funding to Quadrant

SEXUAL POLITICS Gay "marriage" and the given in human procreative behaviour (Part 2)

FEDERAL ELECTION How to ensure your Senate vote goes all the way

PHILOSOPHY John Haldane holds true to faith-reason nexus

HISTORY The Chinese in Australia: not the story you've heard

MUSIC The times it takes to reach eternity

CINEMA Madcap adventures in the Kiwi bush: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

BOOK REVIEW The curate's egg

BOOK REVIEW That other great Irish prelate


 A day in the life of a religious white man from the point of view of evidence and truth

Books promotion page

Australia Council cuts funding to Quadrant

by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, June 18, 2016

The decision of the Australia Council – the Australian Government’s autonomous arts funding body – to refuse funding for the literary pages (poetry, short stories, essays and book reviews) of liberal-conservative magazine Quadrant is probably the most disgraceful and indefensible in the history of Australian arts administration.

Who’ll bid five bob for this

extremely rare, in fact, unique

Autumn 2016 edition of Overland?

It is without a fig leaf of pretence at objectivity. Quadrant editor-in-chief Keith Windschuttle has called it “a political decision designed to devalue our reputation and demonstrate that the left remains in control of the arts.” It is an unusually blatant demonstration of the Gramscian tactic of capturing institutions for the left.

There is an argument that a conservative magazine opposed to socialist statism should not accept government funding anyway. The flaw in this argument, however, is that the Australia Council continues to lavish funding on left-wing magazines, however unsuccessful they are at attracting readers. Indeed this year their funding has increased.

The Australia Council has made the following grants for 2016:

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.

When government money – in large doses – is given only to left-wing cultural institutions, there is no level playing field and the only long-term result must be the complete domination of the culture by the left, or, as has to some extent happened already, the disappearance or drastic decline of literary and other high culture. Either all sides should be supported, or none.

Windschuttle says: “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 subsidised 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.”

Personally, I have had a number of books, fiction and non-fiction, published both in Australia and the US, with some good reviews and sales; but the ABR has declined to review any of them over about 30 years.

Taking culture war a little further, the hard-leftist magazine Overland, with $329,000 in government grants in the last few years, has given notice that it will not publish any poets who have appeared in Quadrant – a reverse McCarthyist blacklisting, and another blatant defiance of the principle that taxpayers’ money allocated to “the arts” should not be disbursed or withheld according to political criteria. With no Gulag handy, this totenschweig (death by silencing) is presumably the next best thing.

Quadrant is not a fly-by-night organisation. It was founded in 1956 in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Hungary, with the express purpose of offering a non-left forum to creative writers and other intellectuals. Its founding editor was great Catholic poet James McAuley. How many other magazines, with so little support, have lasted 60 years or helped launch so many literary careers?

For those 60 years, and despite determined attempts by the literary and intellectual left to strangle it at birth, it has been a forum for anti-totalitarian writing. Along with News Weekly and a few other publications, it supported in the 1970s the cause of the Vietnamese boat-refugees when their lives were in the balance.

McAuley said men’s minds would be won only when the anti-totalitarian position could radiate a counter-attraction. The Australian Research Council was later to pay $84,000, with further support from other taxpayer-financed bodies, to subsidise a book portraying McAuley as a blaspheming alcoholic, snob, fanatic, racist, adulterer, homosexual and possibly murderer (Peter Coleman who knew McAuley well over many years, was able to absolutely refute all this).

From day one Quadrant has struggled to support itself and attract paid advertising, but this is extremely difficult for a magazine with a national rather than local focus. The kind of ads that are bread-and-butter for local magazines, such as real estate, are out of the question, except for ones charitably donated.

Combining classical, conservative and liberal intellectual traditions, its spiritual ancestors include Arthur Koestler and George Orwell, but also Edmund Burke, Adam Smith and Don Quixote.

Beyond Australia, some of the greatest names in the Western intellectual tradition have written for it (for peanuts). Many of Australia’s best and brightest have been associated with it, including (to give an extremely incomplete list) Bill Hayden, Barry Humphries, Frank Knopfelmacher, Tony Abbott, Dame Leonie Kramer, John Wheeldon, Nicholas Hasluck, Patrick O’Brien, Patrick Morgan, Robert Murray and Peter Ryan. One of its towers of strength over many years has been Peter Coleman. It has published a long roll call of accomplished and even great poets: from A.D. Hope, Vincent Buckley, Gwen Harwood, Judith Wright and Rosemary Dobson to Peter Kocan, Rod Moran and Andrew Lansdown.

Its poetry editor and literary editor is Les Murray, Australia’s only living poet of international reputation, winner of innumerable prizes, including the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Queen’s Medal for poetry, and the only Australian poet to be seriously mentioned as a potential Nobel laureate.

Murray has worked on every edition since 1990, that is, for 256 of the magazine’s 518 editions.

The great Sovietologist Robert Conquest, translator of Solzhenitsyn, praised Quadrant as flourishing in a jungle of pigmies armed with poison arrows. He added: “Australia is lucky to have it and so are we in the world at large.”

The first edition’s editorial, which McAuley wrote in the aftermath of the Soviet butchery of Hungary, remains pertinent today: “Suddenly this huge glaring visage, this enormous mask made of blood and lies, starts up above the horizon and dominates the landscape, a figure of judgement speaking to each person in a different tone or tongue: ‘And what do you think about me?’ ”

The members of the Australia Council should be called to account for this decision. If Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull showed any interest in, or even awareness of, the present culture war the left is waging against the traditions and values of civilisation, the present government could legislate to disentrench it.

Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD LLB, has won both the WA Premier’s Prize for Poetry and the Prime Minister’s Prize for History.

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