Prime Minister Tony Abbott has fronted the Logies of the Australian book industry, telling a roomful of publishers and authors that he too knows “the travails of authorship”.
The Battlelines writer attended the Australian Book Industry Awards on Friday to talk up his vision for books in “challenging” times.
And in a week in which coalition colleagues Chris Pyne and Julie Bishop were hounded by angry protesters and Mr Abbott cancelled a planned university visit amid rally fears, guests at Friday’s ceremony were gently asked not to throw any shoes at the nation’s leader.
“We do wish to work with you as closely as we humanly can to try to ensure that our country continues to be a creative nation,” Mr Abbott told the event.
“I do know something of the travails of authorship.
“It’s one thing to be published, it’s another thing to be sold, and it’s yet a third thing to be read.”
Mr Abbott recalled the time he had hunted down and bought the single copy of his debut book – “I’m sure you all remember it, it was called The Minimal Monarchy, a royalist tract for our times” – that was on Alice Springs shelves so that he could enjoy having his book sell out.
He did not respond to publisher Louise Adler’s calls for the government to extend GST to book imports so that Australian booksellers can “have a level playing field on which to compete”.
But he did pay tribute to fellow guest, Arts Minister George Brandis, whom he described as a “mighty champion” for the arts who had helped shield his portfolio from the coalition’s budget razor gang.
“He has very substantially protected – very substantially protected – arts funding generally and literary funding in particular from the stringencies of these times, and in so doing has made himself deeply unpopular with all of his colleagues,” Mr Abbott said.
Even with Senator Brandis standing guard, Australian arts bodies took an $87.1 million hit in last week’s budget.