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Letters to the Editor

by Australian Book Review
January-February 2023, no. 450

Letters to the Editor

by Australian Book Review
January-February 2023, no. 450

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Disorderly process 

Dear Editor, 

Peter Rose has done the literary community – including we historians – a service in drawing attention to the manifold and persistent problems with the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (ABR, December 2022).

While the writing quality of the judges’ reports this year might be politely described as uneven, the panels as unrepresentative, and the scheduling of the awards ceremony as untimely, the central problem is the recurring political manipulation. It has been a habit of both Coalition and Labor governments. What I find puzzling, however, is that state and territory prizes do not seem to experience the same difficulties. If there has been political interference – and, most egregiously, direct intervention of the kind that resulted in my book The Sex Lives of Australians: A history being vetoed for the 2013 Prime Minister’s Prize – it has not come to light at the sub-national level. In my experience as, at different times, a judge and shortlisted author, the New South Wales awards enjoy warm bipartisan support and are administered with great professionalism by the State Library of New South Wales. The ceremony is a wonderful celebration that kicks off History Week.  

The new federal government likes to talk about its commitment to orderly process. It would do well to apply the high standards it professes to these awards. 

Frank Bongiorno, Scullin, ACT 

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