Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New 'Minister for Books'

If the performance last week of the new 'Minister for Books,' Senator George Brandis, on Radio National's 'Book Show' is anything to go by, it's unlikely books are going to get much attention in the lead-up to the next election. Brandis, actually Federal Minister for Arts and Sport (always a popular combination, that) was the guest of stand-in presenter Michael Gurr. Brandis has clearly been slow to get briefed on the book industry side of his portfolio since his February appointment, claiming that the annual ABS industry statistical survey was still going (Gurr politely informed him it wasn't), and identifying no particular measures his government was pursuing on the industry's behalf beyond the modest sums dispensed by the Australia Council. Still, he did mention he read books (his favourites are David Malouf's Johnno, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and Robert Menzies' The Forgotten People) and said he bought books from Folio Books in Brisbane and Hill of Content in Melbourne. Perhaps the best that can be said about his performance, which was almost breathtaking in its blandness, was that he believed he didn't see a role for the government in regulating the industry. The government, he said, 'should keep their noses out of it.' That may be the best we can hope for.

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