Supporting Australian stories and Australian jobs

Labor will support the jobs of more than 20,000 Australians working in the book industry, from publishers to printers to book sellers, by maintaining the current restrictions on parallel imports.

Labor believes in the importance of telling Australian stories and on the cultural value of having a thriving local publishing industry and nurturing Australian authors. Our policy will ensure that local stories continue to be published locally and can be enjoyed by millions of Australians.

What’s the problem?

Australian copyright law provides for exclusive territorial rights to Australian publishers. These restrictions allow Australian publishers to print Australian editions of books. They protect the industry from overseas publishers engaging in large-scale dumping of low-royalty editions in the Australian market, which results in little or no return to Australian authors.

Since they were introduced, Australia’s copyright laws have ensured the book industry is able to thrive, delivering quality local works to Australian consumers at internationally competitive prices.

Labor believes the current laws get the balance right. But the Government wants to get rid of these restrictions, putting at risk the future of the local book industry.

Publishers, booksellers and authors have been campaigning against the Government’s threat to end the restrictions on parallel imports.

The Government wants to remove parallel import restrictions, which would cause damage to the local industry and jobs, with negligible, if any, benefit to consumers. Book publishers would be directly affected first. This would flow on to booksellers, particularly smaller independent stores, who are likely to lose their “sale or return” arrangements. It would eventually impact Australian authors and affect their ability to secure local publication.

Australia’s major competitors, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and much of Europe maintain territorial copyright regimes to protect their publishing industries and national cultures.  New Zealand abolished their protections in 1998 with devastating results to local publishing. 

Since 2008, the range of books sold in New Zealand shrank by 34.5 per cent and the price of book prices only fell by 14 per cent. Over the same period in Australia, the price of books has fallen by 25 per cent and the range of books sold has increased by 15 per cent.

Labor’s position

Labor will maintain the current restrictions on parallel imports.

Labor will support the jobs of more than 20,000 Australians working in the book industry, from publishers to printers to book sellers.

We will make sure that Australian authors are able to be published in Australia, protecting Australia’s stories and culture.

Importation of books will still be allowed when a book first published overseas is not subsequently published in Australia within 30 days, or if an Australian publisher cannot supply a book within 90 days.  

Individuals will still be able to buy copies of books published overseas at the click of a mouse button. Similarly bookshops will still be able to order individual copies of books from overseas to fill specific customer orders.

Maintaining the current restrictions won’t affect Australian school texts, which are created solely for Australian education institutions and reflect the Australian curriculum – they do not fall under parallel import restrictions because they are not published overseas.

Labor’s record

In 1991, the Hawke-Keating government introduced the regime that exists today. These arrangements have allowed the Australian book industry to flourish over the past 25 years.

It has been long-standing Labor policy to support the current territorial copyright arrangements.

At the last election, Labor said we would consult extensively and openly before reaching any decision on copyright changes which would have a significant impact on one of our most important creative industries. Labor has been talking extensively with members of our local publishing industry, with local authors, and with the wider community, and we see no reason to be changing Australia’s laws.

The Liberal alternative

The Government said it would support removing the restrictions on the parallel importation of books in response to the Competition Policy Review (Harper Review).

Financial implications ($m)

Nil.