Prime Minister Tony Abbott has shrugged off criticism of his environmental policy from Australia’s newest Man Booker Prize-winning author.
Richard Flanagan said he is “ashamed to be Australian” when he sees the damage done to Australia’s environment.
Mr Abbott said he was pleased another Australian had won the prestigious prize, but defended his government’s environmental record.
“I don’t spend my life commenting on literature, and I’ll leave litterateurs to make their comments on politics,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.
“I’m confident that we are a country which has a very, very strong environmental record.”
Mr Abbott pointed to his government’s work protecting the Great Barrier Reef and deploying the Green Army to environmental projects as evidence of that record.
Mr Flanagan claimed the STG50,000 ($A91,000) literary award for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
After accepting the prize in London, Mr Flanagan was asked how he felt about Mr Abbott’s comment this week that “coal is good for humanity”.
“I’m very saddened because Australia has the most extraordinary environment and I don’t understand why our government seems committed to destroying what we have that’s unique in the world,” the Tasmanian writer told BBC television.
Mr Abbott said he hadn’t yet had a chance to read Mr Flanagan’s book.
“It must be pretty good or it wouldn’t have won,” he said.
“I’ve read a couple of his previous works and I think he’s an interesting and stimulating author.”