Australian literary prize dumped

SYDNEY (AFP) – One of Australasia’s richest literary prizes was scrapped Friday after the resource-rich state of West Australia said it was a waste of money.

The 110,000-dollar (95,502 US) Australia-Asia Literary Award (AALA) was launched in 2008 as the biggest prize in the region, with the then-Labor state government saying it gave Asia an award on a par with those of Europe.

But Western Australia’s current conservative government said while it agreed with the intent of the award, the money would be better spent elsewhere.

“Given the economic pressures, the AALA does not represent the most prudent use of funds and is unsustainable,” Culture and Arts Minister John Day said.

“The State Government is now under a lot more pressure than was the case two years ago and there is simply not the ability to continue that sort of prize in the longer term.”

Funding will now be transferred to the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards, increasing that prize’s top winnings to about 40,000 dollars and bringing it in line with other significant Australian state awards.

Critics said the move would hurt Western Australia’s image in Asia.

The AALA award, won by Australian David Malouf in 2008, was open to works of fiction written by authors resident in Australia or Asia, or which are set primarily in Australia or an Asian country.

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