PARALLEL IMPORTS ON BOOKS – PC CRIT 3

PC CRIT 3 – THE PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION’S APPROACH TO EDUCATION

Dear Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett, Mr Bowen and to all supporters of the Arts and Culture in Australia.

Today, I wanted to briefly tackle the topic of education and its relevance to this issue.

On page 1.5 of its report, the Commission states that its brief is to determine whether.

  • the restrictions generate more benefits than costs to the Australian community
  • there are other policy options that could generate greater net benefits.

It goes on to say, that

In making such assessments, the Commission interprets benefits and costs in their fullest sense – that is, covering the value of social, cultural and educational matters, as well as financial or material ones – and assess them within the community-wide framework as required by the Productivity Commission Act 1998.

Educational books currently form around 40 per cent of the total value of books sales.

Even if you discount the huge Australian job losses if the printing and production of books is done offshore, is it not concerning to think of the possibility of our educational books being ‘manufactured overseas’?

Imagine our books being produced overseas in much the same way that most of our consumables are  – by people not familiar with our language and culture – or what it means to be Australian?

How can this be in the best interests of the Australian Learning Community?

How can it be best for the Australian consumer in an educational and cultural sense to have books of any educational benefit manufactured overseas?

Dee White

Author

PARALLEL IMPORTS ON BOOKS – PC CRIT 2 – Culture and Learning

Dear Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett, Mr Bowen and to all supporters of the Arts and Culture in Australia.

I was pleased to see that on page XV of its report, the Productivity Commission acknowledges that books can be “tools of learning”.

But I have found the Productivity Commission’s whole debate on culture versus learning to be confusing and contradictory.

In reference to learning, the Productivity Commission states on page 6.12

Depending on the subject matter, it (reading) can also enhance a person’s awareness and understanding on specific topics as well as their cognitive capabilities more generally.

And in reference to Culture, the Commission had this to say on page XX:

Support of a larger publishing industry, and as a consequence, more Australian authorship results in a greater portrayal of Australian events, as well as stories that are told by Australian voices.

And on page 6.1

The PIRs, by increasing returns to publishers and authors, provide incentives for the creation of additional Australian books, increasing cultural and related benefits to Australia.

Yet two paragraphs further down, the Productivity Commission claims

The unpriced ‘externality’ component of the cultural benefits that is dependent on the PIRs is unlikely to be large…..

‘Unlikely to be large’ – what sort of conclusion is that – and on what basis is it predicated – where are the figures to support such a claim?

I’m not an economist, but I wonder how you can separate learning and culture – and the importance of both.

It’s not just authors and publishers who are arguing this point. Parents and educators have also expressed their concerns.

In her submission to the Productivity Commission (DR303), Doctor Deb Hull, an expert in education said,

It is important for children to see the language and idioms of their country reflected back at them in what they read. In order for them to develop a sense of national identity, they need to work with texts that reflect the history and culture of Australia.

In order for them to develop as citizens, they must read about issues that this country is facing.

In order for them to engage with literacy, they must have access to books that are directly relevant to them.

I freely admit to being no economics expert. I am just a writer, ploughing through the Productivity Commission’s 220 page report, trying to make some sense of it all. And trying to understand how The Commissioners came to the conclusion that culture is sort of important in our country – but not enough to preserve it in our literature.

Surely when it comes to the wellbeing and education of our children, we should not be basing our decisions on the assumptions of economists who believe something to be ‘unlikely’.  We should listen to people like Dr Deb Hull – people who know – people who have the experience to tell us that it’s not the price of a book that makes a child pick it up – and it’s not the price of the book that inspires them to read it.

In spite of people like Bob Carr’s assertions to the contrary, even the Productivity Commission notes on page B.6 that ‘reduction in book prices….would do little to raise literacy rate.

So why are we considering jeopardising our culture and children’s learning for the sake of a ‘possible’ but by no means guaranteed drop in the cost of a book?

Dee White

Author

(Please feel free to leave your comments on this issue. My next piece, PC Crit 3 will be posted to this blog on Monday 27th July).

PARALLEL IMPORT RESTRICTIONS – A Closer Look at the Productivity Commission’s Findings – and introducing a new column, “PC CRIT”

PC CRIT 1

This is the FIRST in a series of regular commentaries on the findings of the Productivity Commission’s Research Report into Restrictions on Parallel Importation of Books.

Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for future column topics.

Dear Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett, Mr Bowen and to all supporters of the Arts and Culture in Australia.

The Productivity Commission has provided you with a document of around 220 pages on why parallel imports on books should be removed. I promise mine won’t be anywhere near as lengthy, but seeing as we live in a democratic society, it seems only fair that the publishing industry gets to have its say.

That’s why I’ve started my column, “PC Crit”, which will go through the Productivity Commission findings and present things from an alternative perspective.

Today’s topic: WHO GAINS FROM PIRs and ARE PIRs REALLY PUSHING UP THE COST OF BOOKS?

In its ‘Key Points’ on page XIV of its Productivity Commission Research Report, the PC claims:

  •  Most of the benefits of PIR protection accrue to publishers and authors, with demand for local printing also increased.

 

  • Most of the costs are met by consumers who fund these benefits in a non-transparent manner through higher book prices.

The flaws in these argument are a matter of straight mathematics, which would be self evident if ‘current’ , independent, objective research was conducted on the subject.

Some chain stores are demanding discounts of up to 70% from publishers. The author gets standard 10% royalty, 10% must also be taken into account for GST, and the publisher, printer and distributor get the rest.

This clearly demonstrates that a disproportionate amount of the book’s retail price goes to the likes of Dymocks, Coles and Big W – and the members of the Coalition for Cheaper Books (frequently quoted in the PC report) the parties behind the move to abolish PIRs.

Clearly, the largest proportion of the price on ‘supposedly overpriced books’ is NOT going to the author, the publisher or the printer.

So how can it be argued that most of ‘anything’ accrues to publishers and authors?

And even if you concede that authors and publishers have the most to gain from PIRs, how can PIRs be blamed for the alleged ‘higher books prices’ when those receiving the benefits of  them are making the MOST financial outlay to produce the book yet receiving the LEAST back from its sale?

And when was price the prime reason for people’s book purchasing decisions? Ask any independent bookseller and they’ll tell you that people don’t walk into their store asking for a $10 book – they ask for something on a particular topic, or by a particular author – or perhaps they just want to read about their own country from someone who knows it well – an Australian author.

Thanks for your time.

Dee White – Author

PARALLEL IMPORT RESTRICTIONS – CAMPAIGN TO CANBERRA

If you’re like me and concerned about how removing Parallel Import restrictions on books is a terrible idea both domestically and globally, you can write to Federal politicians who will be debating the matter in Canberra in the very near future.

Here’s what I wrote to our Prime Minister, Mr Rudd:

Dear Kevin,

RE: PROPOSAL TO REMOVE PARALLEL IMPORTATION RESTRICTIONS ON BOOKS

I wrote to you back in April to express my concern at the proposal to remove Parallel Importation Restrictions on books.

At that time, I outlined in detail what I believed the cultural impact would be as well as the economic outcomes for all parties involved in the publishing industry.

Removing parallel import restrictions is supposed to benefit the reading public, yet we will be imposing overseas (in particular American) culture in an Australian context, and this will surely diminish representation of our own culture and language in our books. Some changes our readers might be subjected to include the use of:

  • faucet instead of tap
  • diaper instead of nappy
  • bro instead of brother
  • Mom instead of Mum
  • ketchup instead of tomato sauce
  • drugstore instead of chemist
  • jello instead of jelly
  • jelly instead of jam
  • gasoline instead of petrol
  • spyglass instead of telescope

In a country that already laments the deterioration of grammar in our schools, we may be subjected to y’all instead of all of you/everyone, off of instead of off, and other gems like gotten and putten and  winningest (having the most wins).

The entire basis for considering removing PIRs is predicated on the fact that it will put downward pressure on the price of books however, publishers and printers at the Melbourne Roundtable discussions asserted that the reverse was more likely to occur. Printers would have to recoup the same fixed costs, even though their volume of work had decreased, and publishers would need to increase costs to cover the increased risk on books that they might not ‘break even’ on.

And in fact, Dymocks, the bookseller pushing for these reforms, charges more than many other booksellers and earns at least five times as much as the author on any book sold.

Furthermore, the price of books is not one of the major factors affecting consumer’s book buying decisions. I know I buy books because of the author, subject matter, themes, or because they look interesting.

I have only ever bought two books on-line, and this was simply because they weren’t available here and I needed them for research. If the Australian market is flooded with cheap imports because they are more profitable, this will restrict the choice for consumers and many may be forced to buy more of their books online.

In fact, Dymocks, who advocates removing PIRs is forcing Australians to buy on-line already because they don’t stock some works by Australian authors; and rural customers in particular, are forced into this purchasing method.

I have been told that you recognise the valuable cultural contribution Australia’s literary sector makes to reflecting and celebrating our identity. As a proud Australian author, I ask that you protect it.

From a personal perspective, I am urging you to keep PIRs in place and not destroy the local publishing industry, and kill the careers of dedicated writers like me before they have had a chance to flourish.

I spent more than ten years writing my young adult novel, Letters to Leonardo – that equates to more than 2,000 hours and more than 1,000,000 words in print. Obviously, I did not do it for the money (an hourly rate of around $3.00) – I wrote because I had a story to tell and because I wanted to share it with young Australians.

On behalf of my children, I beg you to consider the damage to our history and culture that would eventuate from reforms to existing copyright laws.

I also ask that you consider the future of authors like me, dedicated to their craft and to telling their stories the way they need to be told.

But above all, I ask you to remember that books are not ‘mere product’ , they are something of special significance, a reflection of the country and times in which we live – something to be valued; not thrown on the scrap heap for the sake of making a few quick bucks.

Yours sincerely,

 

Dee White

Author

 

Write to Canberra and tell our politicians how you feel about the prospect of removing Parallel Import Restrictions on books. These are the specific Ministers/and Opposition who are dealing with this issue:

The Hon Kevin Rudd
Prime Minister
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon Julia Gillard
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Education; Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; Minister for Social Inclusion
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon Chris Bowen
Assistant Treasurer
Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon Peter Garrett, AM
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

OPPOSITION:
Senator the Hon Helen Coonan
Shadow Minister for Finance, Competition Policy and Deregulation
GPO Box 3513
Sydney NSW 2001

Mr Luke Hartsuyker MP
Shadow Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs
(Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the House)
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Mr Steven Ciobo MP
Shadow Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors, Tourism and the Arts
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
Leader of the Opposition
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Also contact the minority parties who hold the balance of power in the Federal Government.

If you want a lot more information … See  ‘How to get Politicians’ Attention‘  – from Electronic Frontiers Australia

You can also canvas your local Federal MP.  If you are not sure who your MP is, or how to contact them, or how to address them etc, look at this website which contains all that info! The most important thing is to show your MP how you personally could be effected by the repeal of Australia’s PIR’s – http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/lobby.html

PARALLEL IMPORTS ON BOOKS – Dear Mr Rudd, It’s me again…

Dear Mr Rudd,

I wrote to you back in April this year expressing my concerns about the Productivity Commission’s proposal to remove PIRs 12 months from the date of a book’s publication.

Unfortunately, since my last letter, things have got EVEN WORSE!

The Productivity Commission has declared that on the evidence before it (even though it admits there is not adequate current financial data available), removing Parallel Import Restrictions all together is going to be best for the Australian consumer.

The latest report claims that most of the benefits of PIR protection accrue to publishers, authors – and even printers. Are these people not consumers as well?

The Commission attempts to separate PIRs from Copyright (even though they are contained within the Copyright Act) yet territorial copyright will very definitely be affected.

Due to the absence of adequate current statistical data, the Commission has been forced to back it’s position by quoting Prices Surveillance Authority surveys from 1989 and ACCC reports dating back as far as 2001.

Let’s put vested interests aside  for a moment ( I admit I’m on the side of authors, publishers, booksellers not involved in the Coalition for Cheaper Books and our local printers.) My question is this…..

How can your senior economists recommend such sweeping changes to an entire industry – and produce a report (with more pages than I could be bothered counting) – all based on figures that are so outdated?

I’m no business guru – just an author surviving on a very average annual salary (that almost meets the cost of my kid’s school fees) – but even I would think that no business would contemplate change without studying the full financial implications – without examining the current statistics.

I hope you don’t mind me giving out your address Mr Rudd because I’m sure there are lots of people who will want to write to you about this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Dee White

Proud Australian Author

 

Tell our Prime Minister that Australian books are worth saving.

Write to

The Hon Kevin Rudd

Prime Minister

PO Box 6022

House of Representatives

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

WE NEED MORE POLLIES BEHIND US!

I can’t tell you how pleased I was to open the Bendigo Advertiser today and find an impressive piece by Sacha McDougal, ‘Brumby backs books’.

After seeing the likes of Bob Carr turn on the publishing industry, it was so reassuring to see that some of our current politicians can see the realities behind this issue.

As Mr Brumby pointed out, significant job losses will occur if Parallel Import Restrictions are removed.

He also said it would ‘put at risk the cultural and economic gains made in the book industry over the past two decades.’

Mr Brumby, you have restored my faith in our ‘democracy’. I hope that your fellow politicians embrace your philosophy of supporting something that is good for the majority, not just a few highly paid Executives looking to further line their own pockets.

Make the most of living in a democracy, write to your Federal Politicians and express your views.

Dee:-)

REMOVING PARALLEL IMPORTS ON BOOKS – THE REAL STORY!

On 1st July, my debut novel, Letters to Leonardo was released by Walker Books Australia. What a fantastic time it was for me. The Cyber Launch was a blast, the blog tour was a whirl wind, but it didn’t take long to come back down to earth.

Less than two weeks later, the Productivity Commission released its findings on the removal of Parallel Import Restrictions, and since then, I’ve found it hard to celebrate my novel’s release – all I can think about is that the industry I’ve wanted to be part of since I was seven year’s old, is now in jeopardy.

Since the Productivity Commission’s latest report there have been so many lies and misinformation being circulated by the print media on the debate  of the proposed removal of parallel imports on books.

Being passionate about books and writing, I have made two submissions to the Productivity Commission and attended the roundtable discussion in Melbourne, but the future plight of Australian authors seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

We are fighting the likes of Dymocks, Coles and Big W, and many members of the print media seem uninterested in accurately representing our story.

The Parallel Import Restrictions currently in place prevent overseas publishers from flooding our market with cheap imports of Australian books. These books are likely to be of inferior quality and would result in little or no income for Australian publishers, authors and printers. USA and UK are currently protected markets so if they want to publish books by Australian authors they purchase the rights from the Australian Publisher and author who receive income from the overseas sales.

This income not only helps support the author (Australian authors earn an average of $11,000 per year) in their difficult quest to make a living, but it also allows Australian publishers to nurture new authors and bring in important works from overseas, thus exposing us to cultural diversity. Industry experts in both the USA and UK have expressed disbelief that we are even considering subjecting our book industry to an open market.

The move to abolish Parallel Import Restrictions is not supported by authors, publishers, printers or most booksellers. It is being pushed by Dymocks, Coles, Woolworths and the chains who stand to make the most profit. They are the ones who will be able to import in huge numbers – thus gaining big discounts.

They will be able to charge discount prices for which the author may earn no income and the local independent booksellers won’t be able to compete – and will go out of business. They will be able to import cheap books that won’t be printed to our high Australian standards.

This is sort of like the current push to put independent service stations out of business. And on the subject of service stations – weren’t we told that petrol prices would go down when self- service came in?

None of this even takes into account the cultural ramifications of putting our publishing industry in the hands of America – a culture that is not the same as ours. Do we want our children to be reading about faucets, moms and opossums?

MISINFORMATION IN THE MEDIA

This the sort of misinformation that the Coalition for Cheaper books is deliberately spreading and some members of the print media are printing it without verifying its authenticity.

THE MISINFORMATION BEING PRINTED THE FACTS
That consumers will save $200 million per year on purchase of books if PIRs are removed.(THESE FIGURES HAVE NOT BEEN SUBSTANTIATED ANYWHERE!) Even the Productivity Commission agrees that there is no guarantee that prices will come down – and there is no obligation on the retailer to pass any discounts on. In fact, evidence suggests that the reverse will happen if PIRs are abolished – and that prices will go up. 
That authors are self-interestedly disregarding the interests of their readers. That it is greed that is driving our objections to the abolition of PIRs. This rumour is being perpetrated by the CEO of Dymocks who earns at least five times as much as the author yet they constantly charge more than the recommended retail price on book. On a $10.00 book, Dymocks earns at least $5.00 while the person who wrote it gets $1.00 and if the book is illustrated, author and illustrator earn 50 cents each.
That the Australian culture in books won’t be affected. It is already proven that when books are printed in the USA the language is changed to suit.Our children will be reading about Moms, faucets and diapers instead of mums, taps and nappies.
That abolishing PIRs in New Zealand has not had an adverse affect. This is so untrue. The New Zealand Society of Authors made submissions to the Productivity Commission asking them not to abolish PIRs because of their own experience of the resultant devastation to the industry.Since PIRs were abolished,  book distribution warehouses in NZ have closed down. Publishers and independent booksellers have gone out of business and new authors have struggled to get published.

 MY STORY

I have wanted to be an author since I was seven year’s old. For the last twenty years, I have taken whatever work I can that still allows me to write, but for the most part, have been financially supported by my husband who admires my passion for writing and books.

I am not crying poor – I am doing what I love to do – but I want people to know what the reality is for most authors.

And even those successful authors who are earning good incomes and speaking out against the removal of PIRs; they are not doing it out of self-interest – the money doesn’t matter to them – they are doing it to protect people like me – new authors whose careers are at risk before they have barely started.

In July this year, after working for more than ten years on my YA novel, Letters to Leonardo, it was published by Walker Books. This book involved more than 30 drafts, around 2000 hours work and one million words on paper.

Finally, when I feel I am starting to make it as an author, the rug looks like it is going to be pulled from under me. Publishers like mine, won’t be able to stay economically viable by taking risks on new authors like me. To survive they will have to focus on the tried and true – the bestselling authors – the established ones. So what happens to writers like me – who dreamed of being authors all their lives?

What makes me even sadder about all this is that my 10yo is a very talented writer, contemplating the possibility of a similar career, yet how can I encourage him when the jobs just might not be there?

For my ten years work, I will earn under $6,000 if 3,500 copies of my book are sold – and this is a standard print run for a first time author. Dymocks will make at least five times that – and our government will make the same money as I do through their 10% GST.

THE LONG TERM FUTURE IF PIRs ARE REMOVED!

We have seen so many manufacturing businesses move overseas because of economic rationalisation.

Many Australian publishers are owned by overseas companies who could very well ditch their Australian branches if PIRs are removed and it becomes more economical to do everything from their overseas head office. This would not only lead to huge job losses in Australia, but the whole content of our literature would change.

The point is that the people accusing us of greed earn five times as much as we do for what we create – and authors are now copping a lot of vitriol because of the campaign against us by Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspaper and Don Grosvnor the Dymock’s CEO.

Rupert Murdoch has been pushing the abolition of PIRs in his newspaper, The Australian, yet has failed to declare his conflict of interest – and the fact that he owns organisations who are part of the campaign to get rid of Parallel Import Restrictions. 

Dymock’s CEO claims that authors are ripping off the Australian reader, but as a matter of interest, here’s how Dymocks prices compare with A & R on the books that were on the front of  The Australian on Wednesday:

BOOK TITLE A& R AMAZON DYMOCKS
Finger Lickin Fifteen $22.99 $21.50 $32.99
Breath $20.99   $24.95
Breaking Dawn Not available $16.25 $29.99
The Scarecrow $22.99 $22.90 $32.99

 If A & R can sell them to the Australian public for that price, why can’t Dymocks? Who’s really ripping off the Australian Public?

Don’t believe the propaganda. Do you really think these big companies want to save YOU money on books? Look at the facts and decide for yourself.

If you don’t support the abolition of Parallel Imports on books, write to your local politician. Make your vote count.

If you are not sure who your MP is, or how to contact them, or how to address them etc, look at this website which contains all that info!

http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/lobby.html 

or refer http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com  or http://blottedcopywritersissues.wordpress.com for more information on this issue.

Dee

PARALLEL IMPORTS LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER – Objection to proposal to removing Parallel Imports on books

I urge writers, teachers, librarians, publishers, parents and readers to write to our politicians and voice their anger at the prospect of removing parallel imports on books and consequently, destroying the Australian book industry.

Below is a letter I forwarded today to our prime minister and other relevant politicians.

Dear Kevin,

RE: PROPOSAL TO REMOVE PARALLEL IMPORTATION RESTRICTIONS ON BOOKS

I am an emerging children’s author, parent and avid reader of works by Australian authors about Australia and our colourful history and culture. Major book chains are lobbying to get the parallel importation restrictions on books removed, and I am concerned about this on so many levels.

To this end, I have made two submissions to the Productivity Commission, and attended the Roundtable Discussions in Melbourne on this issue.

As a children’s author who earned less than $20,000 from my craft last year, I am concerned that not only will my meagre income be severely eroded, but also, a contraction in the industry will mean that publishers will not be able to take risks with new and emerging authors like me.

As a parent of a talented 10yo who sees writing as a future career, I am extremely disappointed for him – as there is no doubt that removing PRIs will restrict his opportunities for earning a livelihood in the publishing industry. As a parent, I am also concerned about what removing PRIs will do to the literacy levels and cultural understanding in this country.

You have stated your belief that more Australian history should be taught in schools, but if we are forced to write for a more global market, who will publish the necessary books to help our young learners find out about their country? Overseas publishers will not have the same knowledge or commitment to Australian history as those found in our own country.

The Productivity Commission has conducted prior studies which look at the ‘precise nature of the cultural benefits arising from books’. It claims that ‘these benefits do not appear dependent on the nationality of the author’.

I’m unaware as to what evidence they have collected to support this theory, but question how Koori dreamtime stories or even a reflection of multi-cultural Melbourne could be drawn accurately by an overseas author who has not experienced it.

Removing parallel import restrictions is supposed to benefit readers, yet we will be imposing American culture in an Australian context, and this will surely diminish representation of our own culture and language in our books. Some changes our readers might be subjected to include the use of:

  • faucet instead of tap
  • diaper instead of nappy
  • bro instead of brother
  • Mom instead of Mum
  • ketchup instead of tomato sauce
  • drugstore instead of chemist
  • jello instead of jelly
  • jelly instead of jam
  • gasoline instead of petrol
  • spyglass instead of telescope

In a country that already laments the deterioration of grammar in our schools, we may be subjected to y’all instead of all of you/everyone, off of instead of off, and other gems like gotten and putten and winningest (having the most wins).

The entire basis for considering removing PIRs is predicated on the fact that it will put downward pressure on the price of books however, publishers and printers at the Melbourne Roundtable discussions asserted that the reverse was more likely to occur.

Printers would have to recoup the same fixed costs, even though their volume of work had decreased, and publishers would need to increase costs to cover the increased risk on books that they might not ‘break even’ on.

Furthermore, the price of books is not one of the major factors affecting consumer’s book buying decisions. I know I buy books because of the author, subject matter, themes, or because they look interesting. I have only ever bought two books on-line, and this was simply because they weren’t available here and I needed them for research. If the Australian market is flooded with cheap imports because they are more profitable, this will restrict the choice for consumers and many may be forced to buy more of their books online.

In fact, some of the major bookselling chains who advocate removing PIRs are forcing Australians to buy on-line already because they don’t stock works by Australian authors; and rural customers in particular, are forced into this purchasing method.

As an Australian author of books for children, I am urging you to keep PIRs in place and not destroy the local publishing industry, and kill the careers of dedicated writers like me before they have had a chance to flourish.

On behalf of my children, I beg you to consider the damage to our history and culture that would eventuate from reforms to existing copyright laws.

For your information, I have attached copies of both my submission to the Productivity Commission. I would be happy to discuss this matter further with you.

Yours sincerely,

Dee White

My complete second submission to the Productivity Commission can be viewed at my blog:

http://blottedcopywritersissues.wordpress.com

I am happy to assist people wishing to make a submission and you can contact me at DeeScriber@optusnet.com.au

If you’re not sure who to submit to, see the list below:

Julia Gillard as Education Minister.
The Hon Julia Gillard
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Education/Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations/Minister for Social Inclusion
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra  ACT  2600

Your local Member of Parliament,
You can find out current MP’s addresses at:
http://www.aph.gov.au/House/members/memlist.pdfAny or all of the following:
The Hon Kevin Rudd
Prime Minister
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra  ACT  2600

The Hon Chris Bowen
Assistant Treasurer
Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra  ACT  2600

The Hon Peter Garrett, AM
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra  ACT  2600

PARALLEL IMPORTS ‘ROUND TABLE’ PUBLIC DISCUSSIONS

The Productivity Commission is holding ’round table’ public discussions on the subject of parallel imports in Sydney and Melbourne in early April.

I’ll be attending the Melbourne event on 7th April so I’ll be holding off finalising my submission until then. My complete submission to the Productivity Commission will appear on this blog on or around 9th April.

If you want to go to one of the public forums, you can email your interest to the Productivity Commission at books@pc.gov.au

Keep Saying ‘No’ to Parallel Imports on Books – MY FULL SUBMISSION TO THE PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION WILL APPEAR ON THIS BLOG LATER IN THE WEEK

 

I have ploughed my way through 171 pages of the Productivity Commission’s report on PRI’s, and it seems full of contradictions, research that has been slanted to support a particular point of view, and a disregard for more than 200 people and organisations who went to the trouble of compiling submissions in support of the publishing industry in Australia.

 

Although admittedly relevant research seems difficult to find, the Productivity Commission quotes statistics like the 2008 Starcom online survey, (ref: page 2.3 Productivity Commission Discussion Draft March 2009) which looked at the ‘buying and reading behaviour of 1200 readers aged between 16 and 65 years’. When you look at the size of this sample in relation to the number of Australian readers, it hardly seems representative.

 

WHAT THE PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION HAS DECIDED

 

Even the commission concedes on page 1.4 of its Discussion Draft that, ‘The large majority of submissions support retention of the restrictions’. However, they seem to disregard this in their recommendations which are as follows:

 

*Australia’s Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) for books should be modified as follows:

  • PIRs should apply for 12 months from the date of first publication of a book in Australia. Thereafter, parallel importation should be freely permitted.
  • If a PIR-protected book becomes available during this 12 month period, then parallel importation should be freely permitted until local supply is re-established, or the expiry of the 12 month period allows for generalised parallel importation.
  • Booksellers should be allowed to overtly offer an aggregation service for individual orders of imported books under the single use provisions.

 

All other aspects of the current PIR arrangements should continue unchanged, including the 30 day rule.

 

The commission further recommends that the ‘new arrangements’ be reviewed in five years time

 

* taken from page xxvii of Productivity Commission Discussion Draft March 2009

 

DISTORTION OF THE SCOPE OF PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITIES IN AUSTRALIA

 

Productivity Commission states (page 2.1) that there are 4,000 Australian publishers yet it’s not until page 2.12 (about twenty pages into the document, Productivity Commission Discussion Draft March 2009) that it mentions that the majority of these are self –publishers and consequently, not affected by PIR’s because they won’t be publishing their books overseas, and many of them offer their publications online, and don’t sell them through bookshops. So this figure of 4,000 Australian publishers provides a completely false impression of actual opportunities for Australian writers.

 

FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO AUTHORS

 

The Productivity Commission Discussion Draft March 2009 implies that authors don’t need financial assistance because 30% earn $1,000 a week or more. If you look at the Poverty Lines for the September Quarter 2008 figures provided by The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research http://www.melbourneinstitute.com/labour/inequality/poverty/default.html

(which provides figures after tax) you will see that $1,000 per week is not a great deal over the poverty line; and in fact most authors earn a great deal less.

 

The Productivity Commission claims that authors are already supported through grants, prizes etc, yet what % of the estimated 7300 ‘professional writers’ in Australia (ref: page 2.10 The Productivity Commission Discussion Draft March 2009 ) receive them? Possibly around 1%!

 

EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING

 

The report seems to consider that educational publishing only covers text books; it fails to even mention the reading schemes produced by Australian Educational Publishers that are keeping our kids literate, and aware of their own history and culture.

 

The whole position of the Productivity Commission on educational publishing seems contradictory. Page 2.6 of the report says that, ‘The factors influencing purchasing decisions for educational books are very different, (from trade books) with publishers typically seeking to market these books to educational providers rather than the ultimate consumer.

 

Then on Page 2.14 it says, ‘There are 8 local arms of multinational publishers and more than 20 Australian publishers supplying educational books to booksellers and educational institutions.’

 

THE TWELVE MONTH RULE

 

This means that, 12 months from the date of publication, Parallel Import Restrictions will come into force.

 

As the commission states on page 2.14 of The Productivity Commission Discussion Draft March 2009, ‘Libraries themselves are also large purchasers of new books’;

 

So, if an author is short listed for a CBC award for example; which means that their book is then in demand from libraries; these books will be subject to the twelve month rule. Libraries will be able to purchase cheaper copies overseas – and the author’s and publisher’s reward for having a book recognised as an important piece of work, will be to receive heavily reduced earnings.

 

 

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS

 

The media everywhere screams Global Financial Crisis, yet our government is going to change a law so that Australian authors, publishers, printers and agents will suffer reduced income and loss of employment.

 

On page 4.1 of its report, the Productivity Commission states, ‘Were PIR’s removed, books – particularly educational texts – could potentially be imported from Asia at substantially lower prices, and Asia could also serve as a greater source of books more generally in the future.’

 

How will the importation of books from Asia; putting local creators and printers out of business, help Australia to weather the Global Financial Crisis?

 

DISREGARD FOR DECLINING LITERACY IN AUSTRALIA

 

The Productivity Commission feels that money is being put into our industry that could be being put into others. Of course other industries are deserving of help, but surely an industry that shapes our children’s present and future education, is worthy of priority.

 

PSYCHIC INCOME

 

As an Australian author, I think one of the things I found most ‘dubious’ about the report was the section on Psychic Income; which is supposed to compensate for loss of ‘real’ income.

 

Page 2.11 of the Productivity Commission Discussion Draft March 2009 states, ‘In addition to the royalties (and related income) that author’s receive from book sales, the non-pecuniary rewards that many derive from writing – such as the “joy of self-expression” (Abbing 2002) – are widely acknowledged to be significant. In turn, such rewards may be a strong motivator for the generation of manuscript.’

 

I defy any of the Commissioners to serve up ‘psychic income’, at meal times and see how long it takes before their families succumb to malnutrition.

 

WHERE TO FROM HERE

 

This week I will be working on a new submission to the Productivity Commission and you’ll be able to view it at my blogs: http://writersissues.wordpress.com or https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

 

Post:

Parallel Importation of Books
Productivity Commission
GPO
Box 1428
Canberra City ACT 2601

Fax: Jill Irvine – 02 6240 3311

Email: books@pc.gov.au

All submissions must be accompanied by a submission cover sheet which can be downloaded from the Productivity Commission’s website http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/books/make-submission

 

If you want to make a submission, but need help, feel free to email me at deescriber@optusnet.com.au