Well, maybe it is going a little far to describe Crikey as the “hard left”, but with Marni Cordell, ex New Matilda, as their new editor, they have to be trending that way.
Certainly this headline from their email newsletter suggests they know where their audience’s heart is: “Tories dominate PM’s book awards”.
The PM’s book award is an award given on behalf of the Prime Minister who apparently has the right to a say in who wins the prizes. You would think in those circumstances that he or she might also have an interest in the judges.
These are the richest literary awards in Australia, with a $100,000 prize pool (tax-free) for each of six categories. Abbott will make the final decision on who wins the 2014 awards, although previous PMs have been mostly — but not always — hands-off. Judges have to read up to 150 books.
The problem appears to be that Gerard Henderson and Peter Coleman have been appointed to the Non-fiction and History panel. Yet each would appear to be well-qualified for these positions, particularly with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, with a long history in the war of ideas.
There are five people on this particular panel, and 15 over all the panels. I have no idea how most of the judges vote, and in fact have never heard of most of them, but I do know at least one identifies as a Labor voter, and that is Professor Ross Fitzgerald. Others, like Australia’s leading poet Les Murray, are unimpeachable. (See the full list here).
Crikey also picks on Louise Adler, CEO of Melbourne University Publishing. As far as I know she identifies with the left, and MUP is anything but a right-wing publisher. Her crime is to have published Abbott’s book Battle Lines, and to have made some complimentary remarks about him:
Publishing identity Louise Adler heads up the judging of the PMLA fiction and poetry sections. Adler was the publisher for Tony Abbott’s book Battlelines and spoke glowingly of him in The Age today.
A quick look at the Politics and Current Affairs section of the MUP website, shows that if publishing a politician makes you partial to them, then she would appear to be many more times left than right, with recent books from Greg Combet, Malcolm Fraser, Bruce Hawker, Maxine McKew, and Kim Carr (and so there can be no arguments I’ve only chose authors who’ve nailed their colours to the mast by being elected to parliament for one of our political parties).
Crikey quotes extensively from former judge Colin Steele:
Former PMLA judge Colin Steele says he hopes the awards will not become ideological under the 2014 panel. “It does reflect in some ways possibly a political bent,” he told Crikey. “There are a couple of people who have clearly expressed right-wing views.”
Well, of course we wouldn’t want any judges with “clearly expressed views” let alone “right-wing” ones.
One of the things that has annoyed me over the years is the plethora of government sponsored events that when Labor is power sponsor all sorts of fellow travellers, from all over the world, to come to events and writers festivals, or receive awards, for work which supports a strongly left view of the world.
Yet, when the government changes, Liberal governments do nothing to redress the bias.
Is it any wonder that the youth vote and the intellectual vote seem to skew even more today than they have before?
If one side of the debate monopolises it, then the truth will never have a chance to out.
Whatever I might say about George Brandis, the Minister for the Arts, who chose the judging panel, he does understand that there is a cultural tyranny, and that it needs to be challenged and up-ended.
With comments like the ones above Colin Steele definitely deserved to go as a judge – who thinks he’d give anyone who he identified as “right-wing” a fair go?