Guest Blogger: Dee White – author
Alan Fels and Bob Carr are pushing to have Parallel Import Restrictions on books removed on the basis that this will create ‘Free Trade’; providing economic growth and opportunity.
But this whole concept raises the questions of ‘opportunity for whom’ and ‘at what cost’?
Clearly, those organisations that stand to make the most benefit from such a move are the duopolies of Coles and Woolworths; both members of the Coalition for Cheaper Books, both with massive buying power that will enable them to import huge volumes at heavily discounted prices. There is no guarantee they will pass these discounts on (do they reduce petrol prices when the price of oil goes down?) and furthermore, if they offer cheaper books, it is likely to be a temporary move aimed at pricing their competitors out of the market rather than producing long term discounts for consumers.
One of the major principles of ‘Free Trade’ is its mutual benefit to member countries; mutual implying that each party enjoys advantages from the arrangement. Yet his can only happen if both parties open up their markets. The USA, UK and Canada have stated categorically that they have no intention of opening up their markets – no intention of abolishing Parallel Import Restrictions on books in their own countries.
So where does such a one-sided arrangement leave Australia?
If we remove Parallel Import Restrictions and our trading partners don’t, this makes us very vulnerable.
The Printing Industries Association of Australia estimates that such a move could cost 1400-1600 jobs, yet the figure could be even higher.
According to the 2007 Census, more than 40,000 people are employed in printing and support services and over 6,000 in book publishing. This does not take into account authors or illustrators who also number in the thousands.
Many of the printing jobs will be lost in regional areas where entire economies will be decimated. There are also some 28,000 independent booksellers; many of whose livelihoods will be put at risk if the Coles and Woolworths duopolies are allowed free rein.
In addition to this, book exports will shrink, there will be less choice for consumers as few book titles will be on sale, and there will be fewer opportunities for new Australian authors to be published.
And for me, one of the worst side effects of all this will be the massive carbon footprint as books are air-freighted from overseas.
If you’re concerned like I am at the possibility of the Book Industry and our environment being sacrificed in the name of ‘Free Trade’, there’s something you can do.
A working party is currently looking at all sides of this story. Now is the time to have your say – talk to your local federal politician! Meet with them and express your concerns! Exercise your democratic voice!
To find out who your Federal politician is, you can download the list from this blog.
Act now! 17th September is the date set out for a Cabinet decision on this issue.
Dee White http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com