Reprint: Letter to the Editor: Commonwealth Literary Fund by T. Inglis Moore

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Sir - The Prime-Minister has ridiculed effectively the quaint charges of pro-Comunist bias splattered against the Advisory Board of the Commonwealth Literary Fund in Parliament by Messrs. Keen and Wentworth. Without exposing in detail the garbled inaccuracies of our local McCarthys, may I, as a member of the Board, add a few simple facts?

1. As a matter of principle, in aiding Australian literature by the grant of literary fellowships and the sponsoring of books for publication, the Advisory Board makes its recommendations to the Fund Committee solely on grounds of literary merit. The political opinions of the writers are quite irrelevant, and are treated as such. I can vouch for the fact that in seven years' service on the Board I have never once known such political considerations influence its literary decisions.      

2. It would be impossible to operate the literary Fund except on the basic principle of the complete freedom and integrity of Australian writers.            

3. Writers aided by the Fund have naturally held a wide variety of political opinions -- Right, Centre, and Left, including Communist. As a matter of fact, from 1940 to 1952 the Fund has awarded 50 literary fellowships, and only in 5 cases, to the best of my knowledge, the holders may be Communists, i.e. one out of every ten. Since 90 per cent of the fellowship holders have been non-Communists, the allegation that the Board has been biassed and given special preference to Communists is obvious nonsense.    

4. Its absurdity is proved even more strikingly when we note that, of the 30 books published with the Fund's sponsorship since 1940, in not one single case has the author or editor been Communist.        

5. Not only are there no Communists on the Board itself, but in any case the final decisions upon its recommendations are made by the Committee of the Fund, consisting of Mr. Menzies, Sir Arthur Fadden, Dr Evatt, and Mr. Scullin. The charge that these gentlemen direct "pro-Communist" propaganda answers itself.  

6. Within its limited sphere the Fund has done, as Mr. Menzies indicated, valuable service for Australian literature. It has made possible the writing or publication of books which are important contributions to our poetry, novel, short stories, drama, descriptive writting, biography, and scholarship. Its Pocket Library Series made available a variety of books that would probably not have been otherwise reprinted. It would be a tragedy if political ebullitions were allowed to interfere in any way with its literary functions.

7. Finally, it might be added that members of the Advisory Board devote substantial time and labour to its work. This is especially true of its Chairman, Mr. Vance Palmer, who has a very long and honorable record of unselfish service to Australian literature in addition to his outstanding achievement as a creative writer, critic, and exemplar of the highest literary standards. In contrast, moreover, with Government advisers in economics, censorship, and other fields, the Board members have freely given their services as literary advisers for years without any payment. They may reasonably object, however, to their present reward of calumny, however Gilbertian to those who know the facts.  


First published in The Canberra Times, 2 September 1952

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 23, 2011 7:00 AM.

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