Few publishers are interested in works by new writers except through agents. But few agents are interested in works by writers unless they're published. Such circles are of course, part of life - ask many job applicants. No experience, no job. No job, no experience.
But job hunters can fall back on apprenticeships and the like - not so with writers. We can give away our talents on the internet of course, but few publishers or agents regard this very highly.
My biggest question is this: Who do the publishers (and agents) think they'll be publishing in 30 years time when the current collection of authors are retired or dead?
Serious effort needs to be made to provide support for emerging authors. Never mind awards for established authors, what is really needed is a system whereby previously unpublished authors can get a foot in the door.
Government or commercial sponsorship perhaps - or better access to print-on-demand services such as that soon to be deployed by Angus and Robertson - or something else? At least when one is read and rejected there is some merit in that - but given the few publishers or agents that still accept unsolicited manuscripts - getting read is extremely difficult.