PARALLEL IMPORTS DEBATE: Free Trade – There’s no such thing as a ‘Free Anything’

In theory, ‘Free Trade’ is a great idea. Just ask Bob Carr and Alan Fels. They are two of the stalwarts behind the move to abolish Parallel Import Restrictions on books.

But when ‘Free Trade’ stands to only benefit one party, it’s no longer ‘Free Trade’…’s a one way street.

That’s the difficult road that the publishing and printing industries will be forced to navigate if Parallel Import Restrictions on books are removed.

America, UK and even Canada have made it clear that they have no intention of reciprocating if Australia chooses to relinquish its territorial copyright advantages by removing Parallel Import Restrictions on books.

Proponents of Free Trade like Daniel Griswold in his presentation Australia, the United States and the Road to Free Trade,  say that it’s all about economic growth and opportunity.

‘Try telling that to the estimated 1400 to 1600 people who stand to lose their jobs if PIRs on books are removed.

A book doesn’t just happen. The following professions are involved in creating the finished product:


  • publisher
  • editor
  • writer
  • illustrator
  • printer
  • designer
  • desktop publisher
  • prepress houses
  • mail houses
  • software and hardware manufacturers
  • paper manufacturers
  • paper merchants
  • ink manufacturers
  • suppliers of printing equipment
  • packaging staff
  • binders
  • communication and media services
  • distributors

ALL these people face loss of jobs and potential earnings in their sectors.

Then there’s the  massive carbon footprint being created by the need to air-freight books in from overseas.

The move to abolish PIRs in the name of Free Trade comes at a huge economic and environmental cost. It’s not one I’m willing to pay and nor should you.

Now is the time to talk to your federal politician! Meet with them and express your concerns! Exercise your democratic voice!

If you are not sure who your MP is, 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 –

For sample letters or to download a petition visit

Act now! 17th September is the date set out for a Cabinet decision on this issue. 

I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the “Printing Industries Association of Australia” and the “Australian Publishers Association” in providing research data for this piece.







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


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,


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:

I am happy to assist people wishing to make a submission and you can contact me at

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: 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