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Books Alive: speech.

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Speech by Senator Rod Kemp - Minister for the Arts and Sport

Books Alive

Saturday 2 August 2003

(Delivered by Ms Jennifer Bott, CEO Australia Council, Check against delivery)

General Peter Cosgrove and Mrs Cosgrove; Peter Field, CEO of Penguin Books; Bryce Courtenay, Geraldine Brooks, Anna Fienberg, Morris Gleitzman, Sally Morgan and Matthew Reilly; members of the Kyle family; booksellers, booklovers, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to the biggest promotion of Australian books and reading this country has ever seen.

Welcome to a campaign that involves more than 90 per cent of the nation's book retailers-including nine out of every 10 independent booksellers. That's more than 1100 book stores across the country.

1100 stores that care so deeply about the future of Australian books and Australian writing that they are foregoing any profits from the sale of these special editions, passing the savings on to Australian readers.

For the next two weeks, six fine Australian titles, ranging from children's literature through to adult fiction and autobiography, by some of the best-known writers in the country, will be available for just $5, with the purchase of any other book.

The books are:

● Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks

● Tashi and Tashi and the Giant, by Anna Fienberg

● Toad Heaven, by Morris Gleitzman

● My Place my Sally Morgan

● Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

● and a very special book-An Anzac's Story, the never before published

memoir of ANZAC Roy Kyle - with an introduction and annotations by Bryce Courtenay. This book is available for two weeks only, during the Books Alive


The Government recognises the powerful and important role books play in the cultural and intellectual life of this country.

That is why it committed $240 million to the four-year Book Industry Assistance Plan-of which the $8 million Books Alive campaign is a part. Other parts of that package include the Educational Lending Right, the School Textbook Subsidy and the Printing Industry Competitiveness schemes.

The Government believes our publishing and bookselling industries are world-class. And we believe that the book business has matured incredibly in recent decades.

According to figures from the Australian Publishers' Association, in 1978, Australian titles accounted for just 39 per cent of book sales in this country. By 2001 this had risen to more than 59 per cent.

In 1978, export sales accounted for just 6.1 per cent of all publishing industry sales. By 2001 it was more than 50 per cent, and exports of educational titles had more than tripled.

ACNeilson figures show that more Australians read for pleasure most days of the week (78 per cent) than play computer games (14 per cent) or use the Internet (35 per cent). More than seven out of every 10 parents read to their young children.

But much as we have to be proud of, there is room for improvement. There is a need to remind Australians of the industry that is telling and preserving Australian stories, in Australian voices.

I encourage every Australian to visit their favourite bookstore during the next two weeks and see what all the fuss is about.

Congratulations to each of the authors, for being a part of this promotion of Australian books and writing, and to the family of Roy Kyle.

Congratulations to the publishers and booksellers, who have so enthusiastically supported the campaign.

Thanks to the Chair of Books Alive, Sandra Yates, the Books Alive reference group and former chairs Justice Nicholas Hasluck and Dr Helen Nugent.

Also to Jennifer Bott and her staff at the Australia Council and to Brett Osmond and Andy Palmer in the project team.

It gives me great pleasure to declare the Books Alive 2003 campaign officially off and running.

Thank you.