Hundreds of Australian books come across Vicki’s desk every year. Subscribers to Buzz Words include writers, illustrators, publishers, teachers and library staff; many of whom share Vicki’s fears.
As compiler and editor of Buzz Words, an e-zine for people in the children’s book industry, I hear much disquiet over the Productivity Commission’s proposal to lift current restrictions on the parallel importation of books into Australia.
With the prospect of many smaller Australian publishers falling by the economic rationalist wayside if PIRs are removed, many aspiring and emerging authors are concerned that it will become even harder to be published.
The road to publication is laced with subjectivity but one thing is certain; a manuscript must sing to the editor. Cultural differences run deep even across English-speaking nations. An editor in London or New York cannot be expected to understand the Australian vernacular – the language of bush and paddocks, dummies and nappies – let alone the deeper elements of our unique culture.
My greatest fear is that if the federal government legislates to remove PIRs, Australian stories will not be told. I need only think of some of my favourite children’s books to wonder if they all would have been published without the protection of PIRs.
Imagine if an overseas editor didn’t quite connect with Jackie French’s collection of short stories, Rainstones, which is so very Australian. Will our children be denied the future equivalents of James Roy’s Captain Mack’s War or David Metzenthen’s Blackwater let alone Brocky’s Bananagram set in tropical Queensland? How about Leonie Norrington’s Barrumbi series, or Alison Lester’s wonderful Are We There Yet? And who else but Australians would understand Maxx Rumble? The list could go on and on.
A nation’s culture is defined by its stories. If Australians do not care enough to protect their culture, who will? America is a large nation which exports entertainment. It also protects their creators through PIRs as does the UK.
Why, as a small nation, and with all the competing attractions of a global and digital world, would the Australian government abandon our stories and our way of telling them?
It’s not too late to have your say! This issue is still being debated. Write to our Prime Minister and your local Federal MPs today (you’ll find addresses on this blog site). Let our politicians know how important Aussie Books are to you.
We’re looking for blog posts from readers, parents, teachers – members of the general public. So, If you’d like others to know why you think PIRs should not be removed on books, send your piece to firstname.lastname@example.org