If it wasn’t so deliciously ironic, you’d struggle to believe it. Quadrant, the staunchly conservative little magazine, has had its funding cut by the Australia Council. Who is to blame? Lefties, of course! As Crikey and the Sydney Morning Herald have variously reported, the journal’s controversial editor Keith Windschuttle has written an outraged letter to subscribers slating home the funding cut to the perfidious progressives on the Literature Board (the drop-quote is from the SMH):
Quadrant’s editor, the historian Keith Windschuttle, a key protagonist in the history wars who denies that the removal of Aboriginal children from their families was racist or deliberate policy, has written to subscribers saying the decision by the council’s literature board was ”patently political”.
”Throughout the 11 years of the Howard government, its appointees never reduced the funding of overtly left-wing publications like Meanjin, Overland and Australian Book Review,” Mr Windschuttle says in the letter. He says the entire Australia Council grant is used to pay writers and does not fundQuadrant’s political commentary.
While I agree with Windschuttle that Overland is overtly left-wing, it’s hard to describe Meanjin under current editor Sophie Cunningham in the same terms. As for the generally poker-faced ABR - well, it’s actually difficult to pick up any “overt” political discussion at all in what remains a journal of book reviews. Guy Rundle had great sport with the story yesterday in Crikey (the link is firewalled), pointing out that:
… the even funnier thing about Windschuttle’s letter is that, since the departure of Robert Manne from the editor’s chair, Quadrant has made its economics firmly neoliberal, and come down hard on the whole notion of subsidised culture at all. Here’s Michael O’Connor,Quadrant’s online editor, in a ringing jeremiad (about 65% of which I agree with)on cultural policy and funding:
“Whitlamesque pork-barrelling of the arts obtains the artists’ vote (of minor importance) and their amplified voices (of incalculable benefit). Public money flows to culture, and its associated artists and carpetbaggers, from all levels of government—local councils, state governments and federal governments. Even individual government departments give away money and undermine the workings of a free market.”
Ah, the good old free market – ever the friend of the neo-liberal, except when he’s applying for government grants.
UPDATE: Imre Salusinszky has fired back in today’s Crikey comments. Salusinszky is understadably annoyed at Rundle’s insinuation that his political views contributed to Quadrant’s funding increase while Salusinszky was Chair of the Literature Board, pointing out that in 2008, “all the major literary magazines supported by the Board, not just Quadrant, received a boost to their funding,” and that “the Chair is one of seven members of the Literature Board, and that all decisions are taken on a majority basis.”
Salusinszky ends with this zinger:
I note, in closing, that the goateed little grub finds non-Anglo names hilarious. Is this what it has come to, for the far Left?
The culture wars. They shall not die.