For those who have been following the neoliberalists (The Productivity Commission) jihad on books in this country – they want to remove Parallel Importation Restrictions, PIRs, or to name its true nature, they want to abolish Australian territorial copyright for writers – here is a roundup of the news from the week just past.

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The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

‘The conference gave notice there would be stiff resistance to any attempt to lift the restriction on the parallel importation of books … The resolution said the Government should give priority ‘‘to encouraging Australians to keep on buying Australian books and to maximising the economic, cultural and creative viability of Australian literature and Australian book industries’’.

An ALP working group will consider the Productivity Commission recommendation and report to the relevant ministers in a month. Senior sources said the group would not be sympathetic to lifting the ban.

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From a letter by the CEO of the Australian Publishers Association (APA):

APA members,

This afternoon part of our work behind the scenes came to fruition. We were working to have a motion from the floor of the conference adopted by both the Left and the Right of the ALP that acknowledged the value of territorial copyright and ensured that the conference flagged to the federal Cabinet that this issue is not a matter of simple “free trade principles”…

We have also succeeded in amending the National ALP Policy on Copyright.

This now signals to the federal Cabinet that the ALP conference cares about this issue and that the PC Report needs to be consistent with ALP policy for its recommendations to be adopted.  The wording of the resolution appears below.

Mover: Lorraine Cassin – AMWU
Seconder: Mark Dreyfus – QC MP National Chair of the ALP Policy Committee

Labor believes that the Government should give priority to encouraging Australians to keep on buying Australian books and to maximising the economic, cultural and creative viability of Australian literature and Australian book industries.

Labor notes the Productivity Commission’s report, Parallel Imports of Books.

Labor acknowledges the matters considered in the report include territorial copyright, arrangements in comparable countries, consumer choice, pricing, education, the creative rights of authors and the jobs and economic well-being of Australians engaged in book industries.

Labor agrees to establish an ALP Working Group to consider the matters raised in the Productivity Commission’s report and ensure consistency with the priority expressed by this Conference.

The Working Group will provide a report to the National Executive for circulation to relevant Ministers within one month. The report will assist Ministers in the Government’s consideration of the Productivity Commission’s report.

This now allows us time to provide further documentation and analysis of the PC report and both the APA and member companies to step up the pressure and lobbying of all the federal MPs and members of the Senate.

This afternoon was nail-biting but a significant win.]

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For more: ausbooks.com.au

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From the industry Bookseller+Publisher Magazine‘s Weekly Book Newsletter (WBN):

The Australian Publishers Association (APA) has welcomed the move to set up a working group. ‘The working group will report to [the ALP] National Executive on the relationship between the commission’s recommendation and the party’s platform,’ said the Association in a statement. ‘Its report will be distributed to relevant Ministers.’

APA CEO Maree McCaskill told WBN that the move was not a stalling tactic. ‘This is the same message that the COAG ministers have also made on the value of considering any decision in light of jobs, Australian cultural values, the future of content production in Australia and the survival of the diversified bookselling market aside from the DDS and chains,’ she told WBN.

In a statement McCaskill said: ‘The Labor Party has clearly recognised that there is a major industry, a large number of jobs, issues of national culture and broad industry policy at stake here. We welcome the party’s measured approach to the commission’s recommendation.’

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One curious note: it is still a mystery as to how the Productivity Commission came to be tasked with producing this report, Parallel Imports of Books, in the first place, which happened during the last COAG meeting. No one is owning up…was it the invisible long arm of a nerdy putatively book-loving ex-politician?

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