Another skirmish has begun in the tired old culture wars, with the conservative magazine Quadrant accusing the Australia Council of a “patently political decision” in cutting its funding from $50,000 to $30,000, thus threatening its literary content.

In a letter to subscribers, editor and key cultural warrior Keith Windschuttle asserts that the during the years of the Howard government, the literature board of the Australia Council has never reduced the funding of “overtly left-wing publications like Meanjin, Overland and Australian Book Review. In fact those three journals always received more money than Quadrant even though they carry a fraction of our literary content.”

But this morning the director of the literature board, Susan Hayes, said that the reason Quadrant’s funding was cut was not politics, but a lack of funds combined with a concern that Quadrant drew on too narrow a field of writers.

“I absolutely and categorically reject the idea that politics had anything to do with it,” she said.

Hayes said that the literary magazine Southerly had also received a cut in the current round. In a context of declining funding, more magazines were considered this year, with the publications Griffith Review and Wet Ink becoming eligible, she said.

Hayes said that the literature board had had ‘concerns’ about Quadrant, because its fiction and poetry seemed to come repeatedly from the  same small field of writers. The magazine had been told that this was of concern, she said.

She did not name them, but the Quadrant website for fiction and poetry shows that frequent  contributors include Sophie Masson and Jennifer Compton. Quadrant’s literary editor is the world-renowned poet Les Murray.

In his letter to subscribers, Windschuttle states that the content “distinguishes the magazine and attracts many readers” but that the rates of pay for writers were already “pitifully low” and might have to be cut because of the reduced funding.

The report of the key meeting at which the literature board decision was made, together with the successful funding recipients, is here.

Hayes said she had already fielded “a couple” of complaints from Quadrant subscribers.  Meanwhile, Windschuttle appeals for supporters to renew regular subscriptions early or take out premium subscriptions. Premium subscribers, he says, will receive free books including his own book, volume three of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, which has, of course, already proved controversial.