If Dickens hadn't already claimed the phrase, you might be tempted to call it the tale of two cities.
In Brisbane, new Premier Campbell Newman unceremoniously dumped the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards as part of his policy to save money. In Melbourne, Premier Ted Baillieu remains committed to the state's equivalent, which for the second year running now offers the richest writing prize in the country, the Victorian Prize for Literature, worth $100,000 to the winner.
Mr Baillieu reiterated his commitment to the literary community and its work at this morning's announcement of the five category shortlists for this year's Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. The winners of each section receive $25,000 and are then considered for the big one.
The Premier said that he had no desire to criticise Mr Newman because he had been starting from a different position when he took office in Queensland.
"Campbell Newman had no money," Mr Baillieu told The Age. "Victoria puts great store on the arts and literature and it's what gives us the edge in making this such a liveable city. Anyone who places any value in words knows the importance of prizes."
And he told the shortlisted authors present at the announcement at the Wheeler Centre that he took the prizes, now in their 27th year, very seriously. "Literature and arts and culture are important parts of what we do in Victoria."
One of the authors shortlisted for the fiction prize, Wayne Macauley, said he was particularly happy to be listed in the context of what had happened in Queensland.
"That was unfortunate. The idea of supporting books and writing is critical. It's hard to make a living and these prizes matter. Essentially the Queensland awards have been subject to summary execution. Yes, some alternative awards have been established so there will be prizes but they have no money and what Campbell Newman did sends the wrong signal to everyone.
"In general the Premier's awards — particularly in Victoria — have established a strong reputation. These prizes are well respected, valued and have a flow-on effect in alerting readers to new books and writers. Have a look at my career."
Macauley was shortlisted for The Cook, a biting satire of society's obsession with food and the excesses of capitalism. He was joined in the list for the fiction prize by Miles Franklin winner Anna Funder (All That I Am); PM's prize winner Gillian Mears (Foal's Bread); Frank Moorhouse (Cold Light); Gerald Murnane (A History of Books), and Carrie Tiffany (Mateship with Birds).
The list for non-fiction consist of: James Boyce (1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia); Bill Gammage (The Biggest Estate on Earth: How the Aborigines Made Australia); Kerryn Goldsworthy (Adelaide); Simon Leys (The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays); Brenda Niall (True North), and Alice Pung (Her Father's Daughter).
Drama: Aidan Fennessy (National Interest); Lally Katz (A Golem Story), and Daniel Keene (Box-man).
Poetry: Michelle Cahill (Vishvarupa); John Kinsella (Armour), and John Mateer (Southern Barbarians).
Young adult: John Larkin(The Shadow Girl); Doug MacLeod (The Shiny Guys), and Vikki Wakefield (All I Ever Wanted).
The winners will be announced on October 16. This year, two biennial prizes will also be presented — the $15,000 award for an unpublished manuscript and the $20,000 award for indigenous writing. Readers can also vote for their favourite book in a people's choice award.