Authorised by…

When Andrew Macaulay took the reins at PIAA, he said he wanted to refocus the organisation to its basic functions, one of which is lobbying the government on our behalf. And he wasn’t kidding.

He and Membership Services Director Mary Jo Fisher headed to Canberra to meet with a score of politicians to spruik the industry, emailing us all a list of the issues they took up with various members of Parliament.

I have been highly critical of PIAA’s lobbying efforts in the past. They have invariably been ham-fisted and wrong-headed, and, apart from Bill Healey’s eleven million dollar training fund, largely ineffective. Macaulay and Fisher seem to have swung the bus around, targeting a broad group of people who are both influential and potentially sympathetic to what we do.

There is a problem though, and it is a misstep that highlights the fact neither Macaulay nor Fisher have a background in print.

One of the points they argued for was the removal of the printer authorisation on electoral material. This is a dud idea.

Most items printed during a federal election require the name and address of someone responsible for the content and the name and address of the printer to be printed on the flyer.

The idea behind authorising election material is that nominating a real person as being responsible will civilise the material, keeping anything too outrageous from being printed. And in the event that it is not clear which organisation the material came from, the authorities and public can contact the person named. Including the name of the printer assists in this accountability – if Joe Blow is not answering his phone, the AEC can always talk to the printer.

[Related: Removing 'Printed By' on election material]

PIAA has asked for this to be removed because during the last federal election, several idiots decided to ring up the printers named on some flyers and abuse and threaten them, blaming the printer for the contents.

This may sound outrageous but let me assure you it is nothing new. I have been heavily involved in printing election material for twenty years and I have received every variation of abuse in that time.

One bloke rang me and assured me he would not rest until he had destroyed me and my business. I think he may have had a bit of a kip though as that was in 2013.

I have had several people threaten to come to my office and whack me. I always point out they have my address and are welcome to try. None have.

I have had more people tell me they were referring me to their solicitor than I can count. Never heard from any of them or their dopey suburban conveyancer mates again.

I have had people try to place false orders of more flyers in attempts to run up bills for me and my clients. Nice try.

These people are hopeless losers, impotent trolls whose only goal is to try and intimidate people away from printing views they do not agree with. They deserve to be laughed and laugh at them I do. That is the answer – ignoring them.

If the PIAA proposal to remove the Printed By is taken up, a few printers may avoid the nasty phone calls but odds are they will never see another election job again.

The Printed By is often the only thing keeping election work in regional and suburban print shops. It shows people that the job was printed by a printer in the area the candidate wants to represent. The local candidates want to be seen to be supporting locals, or more to the point does not want to be criticised for using someone outside their electorate.

In metro areas this is less important. People do not really mind if the MP for Melbourne gets his stuff printed in the suburbs. But in regional areas this counts.

Take away the Printed By, and the work will fall into the hands of large print management companies who are already chasing this market. And they will farm it to the cheapest printer anywhere, including offshore.

Don’t believe me? When that great patriot and champion of Australian business Clive Palmer ran, he printed in China – it said so on the how-to-votes. Do you think he is the only one who has had that idea?

For Queensland state elections they do not need to print the Printed By on it now. There is still print work done in Queensland, but the vast majority has been taken over by the big printers and is being printed out of state by the printers with the cheapest prices.

Do you remember Annual Report Season? Shops like Chippendale Printing thrived off the back of the beautiful annual reports companies like BHP were forced by law to print for their shareholders. When the government allowed listed companies to hide away their bad news on websites, a massive chunk of the print market disappeared in an instant and no doubt contributed to the routing of those wonderful mid-size printers who counted on them every year.

Remove the Printed By tag and we will see another piece of reliable print work swallowed up by big companies with the work shipped to China, and the profits most likely shipped to Japan and the US.

Those regional printers who look forward each election to getting a healthy boost to their turnover can watch instead as the work arrives by container loads from overseas. At least they won’t be getting any threatening phone calls.

Yes, some people in politics are awful and the phone calls are irritating and upsetting, but that is what happens to anyone who is a part of the democratic process in modern times. Suck it up. Calling for the removal of Printed By will not cure people of being idiots, but it will cost a lot of printers a lot of work and hand it straight to the big guys.

If you want the work to stay in Australia, tell PIAA to reverse their position.

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