Germaine Greer is no stranger to controversey at literary festivals – remember the glitter bomb thing in Wellington last year? – and has again caused a minor storm, this time in Brisbane.
Greer, who was paid a four-figure sum to attend the Brisbane Writers Festival this weekend, created outrage when she claimed in her opening address on Thursday night that nearly half of all Queenslanders could not read texts such as newspapers or recipes.
Apparently she’d mixed up her figures. State Library of Queensland public and indigenous library services director Jane Cowell told the Courier Mail that the relevant stats came from the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey, which showed “it’s not 47% of Queenslanders can’t read a newspaper or a medicine bottle but 14.7% and another 32% struggle with complex things like lease documents, tax advice and Centrelink forms … Making derogatory comments doesn’t help this situation because it’s the shame that’s attached to the issue that stops people from learning.”
Greer’s words have prompted a response from one of Australia’s best loved literary figures, the poet Les Murray.
His assessment, as reported in the Courier Mail:
[Greer] would say anything to get a headline … [She has been] a mishandler of truth her entire adult life …
I would not turn aside from a good urination to listen to Germaine Greer.
Greer has been getting stuck into Julia Gillard, too …