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Book industry slams Productivity Commission report

Wednesday, 21 December 2016
By Print21

“The Productivity Commission is like a deranged hairdresser insisting their client wears a mullet wig,” according to Man Booker Prize-winning Australian author Richard Flanagan.

Authors, publishers, booksellers, literary agents and book printers, united as the #BooksCreate Australia alliance, have called on the government to reject the recommendations on copyright in the Productivity Commission’s Report on Australia’s Intellectual Property Arrangements, which they say offers no tangible consumer benefits yet risks a $2 billion creative industry.

Bestselling author Flanagan described the report as: “predictable: an 80s ideology in search of a victim. The Productivity Commission is like a deranged hairdresser insisting their client wears a mullet wig.

“At this time of economic difficulty, I hope the government rejects the report and seeks to help the book industry, its 20,000-strong work force, and the creators who bring Australia global good will, pay taxes and effectively receive no direct taxpayer subsidy,” says Flanagan.

The Australian book industry invests in new printing technology, new Australian writers, creates culture and enhances national literacy and employs 20,000 fellow Australians, contributing $2 billion to our economy per annum, according to the #BooksCreate Australia alliance.

“I would like to invite my old friend, Malcolm Turnbull, to make this a bipartisan matter,” says leading author, Thomas Keneally. “Comparison with New Zealand, which has done away with PIR, shows the book prices there are no cheaper. But the range, oh the range! ­— it is gone.”

PIAA CEO Andrew Macaulay says: “The local print industry has invested in jobs and cutting edge technology to become highly efficient and responsive in the fast-moving contemporary book market. Any government that cares about jobs or growth in Australia will not adopt recommendations that would threaten that investment and have no benefit for consumers.”

President of the Australian Publishers Association, Louise Adler, says: “The Productivity Commission has ignored more than 400 expert submissions in response to a draft report that was widely criticised as biased, based on narrow analysis and out-of-date data. Look at the Christmas bestseller lists that star Australian books up there alongside international blockbusters. Australians love reading great writing by Australian authors.

“Back in 1998, New Zealand used this exact proposal suggested by the Commission to undermine territorial copyright and remove Parallel Importation Rules (PIRs). New Zealand book prices have dropped by 14% while Australian book prices have dropped by 25% since then. The range of books available to Australians has expanded while in New Zealand the range has shrunk by 34%. In New Zealand the proposals decimated an industry and their nation’s ability to tell the range of their own stories.

“The US, UK and Europe have no plans to remove their versions of PIRs and territorial copyright. Why would we?” says Adler. “These proposals risk Australia’s ability to publish great Australian stories by the next generation of talent. Imagine an Australian childhood without books like Diary of a Wombat, Possum Magic, the Treehouse series; or great Australian writing like Cloudstreet and True History of the Kelly Gang.”

CEO of Australia’s leading independent publisher, Allen and Unwin, Robert Gorman says: “Local publishers directly invest $120 million in Australian writers and the promotion of Australian stories each year. The Commission’s recommendations would jeopardise that investment and risk returning Australian writing to the days when London and New York publishers decided what Australians read.”

Australians enjoy access to the largest network of independent bookshops in the English-language market, including winner of the Best International Bookshop – Readings Group of Melbourne (London Book Fair 2016). Co-owner of Sydney’s Gleebooks, David Gaunt says: “Local publishers produce around half of the books we sell to our 200,000 customers each year in store and online. There is no way that the abolition of PIRs will benefit the Australian consumer interested in sustaining the health of Australian writing and the industry underpinning it.

“Across more than 40 years in bookselling, the most significant and positive change in our industry has been the phenomenal growth in the Australian publication of Australian writers. We have seen a substantial increase in Australian published books, produced to the highest international standards, increasingly efficient pricing and industry commitment to fast supply of international books within 14 days.”

National Print Secretary, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Lorraine Cassin asks: “Why would the Productivity Commission want to bet against the Australian economy and an Australian industry that employs over 20,000 people? Its recommendations would negatively impact up to 66,000 jobs, many in regional Australia, and damage Australia’s chances to build a knowledge-based economy. There is nothing to recommend them.”

The #BooksCreate Australia alliance has called on the Government to confirm its support of Australia’s book industry and its intention to uphold internationally recognised standards for all copyright holders.

 

 

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