New year, blank page

Friday, January 13, 2017
Kate Larsen

Picture of an open book with blank pages
New year, blank page

As we leap feet-first into a brand new year, we asked WV Director Kate Larsen for her thoughts and predictions for the writing and publishing sector in 2017.

What are the key issues that will be raised or resvolved in the sector in 2017?

The impact of funding cuts made to the Australia Council over the last three years will really start to be felt in 2017.

So far, the biggest impact of those cuts has been on individual writers and artists, who now have to apply for a smaller (and more competitive) pool of Australia Council funding but who are not eligible for the Catalyst program that replaced it.

If the government continues to ignore the recommendation of last year’s Senate Inquiry into Federal Arts Funding to return the money cut from the Australia Council in full, we will start seeing an impact on the viability of many arts, literary organisations and journals as well – as they’re forced to scale back, merge or close up shop for good.

We often talk about literature as being the ‘poor cousin’ – and so it is, in funding stakes, at least, with literature already receiving the lowest levels of funding at both a sees state and national level. so it’s easy to see why writers and literary organisations are nervous about what will happen next.

What is the biggest challenge the writing and publishing sector will face in the new year?

Right now, Australian writers are fighting two of their biggest ever challenges.

In December, the Productivity Commission issued their final report into Intellectual Property Arrangements, which recommends changes to copyright and removal of parallel import restrictions.

The proposed copyright changes would mean that writers may not retain ownership of their work in the lifetime, and that it’ll be easier for other people to use their work without permission or payment.

Removal of parallel import restrictions would mean that overseas copies of Australian books would be able to be sold here, which means less money for writers (lower royalties) and less money for Australian publishers (lower sales). That in turn would lead to less money for writers again, as publishers reduce the amount of books they produce, take less risks, and publisher fewer and less diverse Australian writers. Which all means that fewer Australian stories will be told.

Similar changes decimated the New Zealand publishing industry and didn’t do much to reduce the price of books in the bookshops, which is one of the arguments they're trying to push through.

Are you expecting any big news?

Hundreds of thousands of people have called on government to return funding to the Australia Council and reject the recommendations within the Productivity Commission report. And now all we can do is wait.

The new year is a blank page that we can all write together. We hope you find space for your words in the world in 2017.

About Kate Larsen

Kate is the Director of Writers Victoria.

She recently joined other arts leaders in sharing her hopes and ambitions for a shining new year with Artshub.