December 20, 2016
Australian Booksellers Association rejects recommendations of Productivity Commission
As promised, the Productivity Commission has paid little heed to the submissions and testimony of the authors, publishers, booksellers, printers and related industry organisations and experts who oppose the removal of Parallel Importation Rules that protect the integrity of territorial copyright.
The Commissioners made it clear that their brief was to develop a pathway to transition to an open market, and not to consider whether their assumptions and outdated data were valid. And their conclusions showed they were not swayed by evidence or facts.
During the hearing, ABA Chief Executive Joel Becker queried the Commissioners: "Are you suggesting, in fact, that the outcome is already determined and what we are giving is a victim impact statement? "The outcome of the PC report indicates that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. And they have done so with a vengeance."
According to the PC: "The Australian Government should proceed with its announced plans to repeal parallel import restrictions...no later than the end of 2017. Additional transitional arrangements are not needed given the positive confluence of efficiencies made by the Australian publishing industry and broader economic circumstances."
According to Becker, "Testimony regarding the impact on the sector from authors, publishers, the print industry and many booksellers, as well as the ABA was given short shrift in the report. The only quotation used in the final report comes from the one bookshop group actively supporting the PC's views. While we respect the right of that group to their view, we find it interesting that of the myriad of booksellers opposing the dropping of PIRs in written submissions and testimony by a range of respected booksellers, only one point of view was highlighted without criticism."
ABA President Tim White said, "We feared a shallow, self-serving report that perpetuates a number of fundamental misunderstandings about how the book industry operates, how booksellers can source books, the relative purchasing power of bookstores and the costs of doing retail business in Australia generally. Despite a number of offers from the ABA to provide evidence or information to the PRC – the PRC deliberately sought no input from booksellers other than those that met with their pre-determined view."
"The so-called in-depth analysis of book pricing was shallow and unsophisticated. It took no account of parity pricing effects, the cost of doing business in Australia and did not provide any analysis of how books would actually be cheaper in the future once PIRs are removed."
"Despite what appears to be a long winded attempt to justify their position, the reality is that the report, in so far as it relates to the book industry, does not respond at all to the minister's original referral as it does not take into or address how the recommendation to remove PIRs will improve the overall wellbeing of Australian society; encourage creativity, investment and new innovation by individuals, businesses and through collaboration; allow access to an increased range of quality and value goods and services. With the power to make recommendations for the Australian public comes the responsibility to make them for the public benefit. The PC has failed in this regard."
Joel Becker added, "We call on the Government to join the ALP, Nick Xenophon Team, the Greens and Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie to acknowledging the importance of a healthy book industry to the economy, to jobs and to the culture, and reject the poorly thought out recommendation to eliminate Parallel Importation Rules."
For further information:
Joel Becker, CEO, Australian Booksellers Association
Tim White, President, Australian Booksellers Association