Nick Earls

Room For Reading Exceptions

Nick EarlsI’m not normally a Nick Earls fan, but there’s always room for exceptions to the rule. And never more so than on the eve of the handing down of what I suspect will be an Arts-unfriendly Queensland budget (As a side note, I’m also still genuinely confused that Campbell Newman would choose September 11 to do so—his media/comms officers must be justifiably anxious).

I blogged my outrage at Newman’s appointment as a National Year of Reading (NYR) ambassador some months back, but Earls has written something much more in depth and eloquent in recent days. Oh, and more powerful, because Earls has the platform, the readership, and the equal footing of being Newman’s NYR co-ambassador.

47% per cent of Queenslanders can’t read ‘newspapers, follow a recipe, make sense of timetables, or understand instructions on a medicine bottle’. No, that’s not (as you, I, and Earls himself thought) a typo. That’s an ABS statistic highlighting the dire base literacy levels in this state.

Literacy is the foundation of a whole heap of skills and helps determine whether people can, for example, obtain and retain employment and contribute to the state’s economic success. Which is why you’d think improving literacy levels would be high on Newman and Co.’s agenda.

It’s not.

Nor are a whole bunch of other you’d-think-important things that Earls lays out in his article.

GaysiaFellow writer Benjamin Law (who has, incidentally and in unrelated but exciting news, just released his latest book, Gaysia) posted that it was embarrassing how often ‘Minister for the Arts’ (my emphasis, not his, and I’m paraphrasing his sentiment in this sentence) Ros Bates is being met with incredulity and laughter when she says that the LNP is committed to supporting the Arts.

Oh, and she’s also been appointed a NYR ambassador.

I worry, quite simply, about what tomorrow’s three-months-late, two-weeks-finished budget will hold for us writers (or perhaps not hold).

Wish us luck.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.