Labor stands up for Aussie book industry

The Australian Labor Party has revealed its plans to block any attempt by the Coalition to relax parallel import restrictions (PIRs) on books, making the repeal unlikely to pass through Parliament.

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten says Labor has taken into consideration the economic and cultural impacts of PIR changes, and has concluded he will not support any relaxation of the current legislation.

“We believe the removal of PIR would have caused significant damage to our local book industry, just as it did in New Zealand. As strong supporters of the arts – and our local book industry – we cannot stand by and let that happen,” says Shorten.

“Labor will continue to fight for our Australian stories, and the tens of thousands of jobs which depend on a strong book publishing industry.”

Opus-owned Ligare Book Printers played host for Labor’s declaration of support. Shorten toured the book printer’s NSW plant shortly before his announcement and met with the employees who depend on local book printing to survive.

‘Your jobs are worth fighting for,’ Shorten told Ligare staff.

Australian authors Anna Funder and Thomas Keneally joined Shorten for the Ligare plant tour, both commending Labor for backing local Australian book culture and adding to the list of local authors voicing disapproval of Turnbull’s plans.

[Related: Future Print calls on industry to save books]

Printing Industries CEO Andrew Macaulay says Labor’s position on PIRs reflects the Association’s determined lobbying for government protection of the Australian book printing industry.

“The PIAA has been working tirelessly for some time now with the various representatives of the Books Create Alliance to ensure the safety and stability of this vital and creative industry sector,” says Macaulay.

“Things are moving in a favourable direction for the industry and we commend the position of the Australian Labor Party on parallel importation rules. Printing Industries representative Rebecca Mason attended the announcement at Ligare, meeting with our member and the political representatives to enforce our message.”

As the present legislation stands, Australian publishers have 30 days to establish copyright for a book by making it available in Australia. Book retailers are then restricted from importing more copies from overseas suppliers which ensures Australian printers, publishers, resellers and authors benefit from onshore production.

The Turnbull government indicated last year it would support the removal of PIRs in Australia in a bid to ‘drive economic growth’. The government argues the removal of PIRs will ‘make local booksellers more competitive with international suppliers, promote lower prices for consumers and ensure the timely availability of titles’.

The Australian book industry is positioned as the 14th largest publishing industry in the world, produces more than 7,000 titles annually, generates $2bn in revenue and employs some 20,000 people.

[Related: Griffin Press defends Aus book industry]

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