Nick Cave calls on PM to sack George Brandis as Minister of Arts

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Nick Cave
Australian musician Nick Cave arrives at the British Academy of Film and Arts (BAFTA) awards ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London February 8, 2015. Reuters/Toby Melville

Songwriter and author Nick Cave, along with a group of 263 writers and artists, urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to dismiss George Brandis as the minister of Arts and reintroduce independent funding and management to the intellectual and cultural sector. The open letter to the prime minister also voiced protests against the Book Council of Australia leadership, which was announced by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as the peak advocacy body in December last year.

In the open letter, it has been pointed out that eight months have passed since then, but the course of actions to be taken by the council is still unclear.

“Nearly eight months later, however, it remains unclear what the Council will do, how it will run, who will be invited to contribute to both its strategy and operations, and how the $6m allocated to its funding will be attributed,” it read. “There has been no visible consultation with the industry to date and any proactive enquiries into the policy and strategy behind the Council have gone largely unanswered.”

Last week, Brandis announced Louise Adler, the chief executive of Melbourne University Publishing, as council chair. A formal declaration of the council’s board and terms of reference was also made at the same time.

Nine organisations including associations of authors, publishers, screenwriters, agents, booksellers, and libraries were invited to represent themselves at the council. Miles Franklin award winner Michelle de Kretser, book critic Geordie Williamson, international bestsellers Christos Tsiolkas and Hannah Kent, as well as Stella Prize winners Emily Bitto and Clare Wright were amongst the signatories who are disappointed by the lack of consultation by the council.

Tamara Winikof​, executive director of the National Association for Visual Arts, called on the prime minister on the eve of the cabinet reshuffle to take control of the literary sector and revoke the decision of Brandis to divert AU$104 million from the Australia Council which assesses applicants to the new National Program for Excellence in the Arts.

"Given the incredible international sales of works like Christos Tsiolkas's ‘The Slap’ and Hannah Kent's 'Burial Rites,' it is disappointing to discover that current literary funding models are unable to adequately support the professional trajectories for upcoming authors who have the potential to follow in Tsiolkas's and Kent's footsteps," the letter read. "We will no longer stand, under any government, further cuts being made to what is already the smallest amount of funding, when we are delivering quality work to the largest audience in the nation. We will not stand by as the Minister for the Arts continues to wreck a fragile yet essential part of the Australian people and sense of nationhood."

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