Mr Abbott has announced the judges for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards

Mr Abbott has announced the judges for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. Photo: Andrew Mears

Tony Abbott has remade the $600,000 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards in his own image, with a line-up of mostly like-minded judges, including his publisher Louise Adler, conservative columnist Gerard Henderson and former Liberal MP Peter Coleman.

The names were announced by press release after Mr Abbott spoke at the Australian Book Industry Awards dinner on Friday, ending a delay that stirred concern he might drop the awards started by Kevin Rudd. Mr Abbott chose the judges from a list of suggested candidates.

At the dinner in Sydney, Mr Abbott and his Arts Minister, George Brandis, were good-humoured about gentle ribbing from the satirical singing MC, Casey Bennetto (creator of the musical Keating!), who serenaded the Prime Minister, ‘‘He’s an author too’’, and Mr Brandis as ‘‘the publishers’ friend’’.

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Columnist Gerard Henderson. Photo: Lee Besford

The crowd of publishers, booksellers and authors was polite apart from a few turned backs, despite rumours that some would voice their anger at budget cuts and other government policies. Several speakers called for extension of the GST to online booksellers such as Amazon.

Maxine Beneba Clarke, a young author of Afro-Caribbean descent, privately gave Mr Abbott a copy of her acclaimed short-story collection, Foreign Soil, with a petition signed by hundreds of writers that calls for more arts funding. He thanked her but said he didn’t get much time to read.

As Mr Abbott left to catch a plane, Mr Bennetto mock-whispered to the audience, ‘‘He’s gone!’’

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Publisher Louise Adler. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

Among the night’s presentations, Mr Abbott might have been amused by the award for general non-fiction to Kerry-Anne Walsh for The Stalking of Julia Gillard.

Book of the year was The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, international book of the year The Luminaries by New Zealander Eleanor Catton, literary fiction Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, biography The Crossroad by Afghanistan veteran Mark Donaldson, illustrated book I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson, and children’s books The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and WeirDo by Anh Do.

The non-fiction and history panel for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, chaired by Mr Henderson, includes Mr Coleman, who is Peter Costello’s father-in-law, historians Ross Fitzgerald and Ann Moyal, and Ida Lichter, a psychiatrist and commentator on Muslim women’s rights.

Peter Coleman, writer and former Lib MP.

Writer and former Liberal MP Peter Coleman. Photo: Supplied

Ms Adler of Melbourne University Press, who published Mr Abbott's book Battlelines, chairs the fiction and poetry panel with poets Les Murray, Jamie Grant and Robert Gray, and Margie Bryant, a filmmaker who produced the SBS series Who Do You Think You Are?

On the children’s and young adult panel, chaired by Mike Shuttleworth, program manager of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, are authors Mark MacLeod and Irini Savvides, Belle Alderman, a children’s literature academic, and bookseller Kate Colley.