The imported book fiasco in Australia

Time Labor was brought to book | – suhit’s posterous

Given this week’s decision to maintain regulatory protection for Australian publishers from imported books, these politicians may find themselves paying up to 30 per cent more than readers in other countries, but then that’s the price of an economic policy that panders to vocal special interest groups at the expense of the wider community.

The decision – and Cabinet was reportedly deeply divided on the issue – means Australian publishers will retain a 30 day exclusivity period within which, if they decide to publish a specific title, they will not be subject to competition from often cheaper overseas imports.

This is nothing short of a special tax on books, and would appear to fly in the face of the pro-education rhetoric in which the Government so likes to cloak itself. Furthermore, the decision totally rejected recommendations from the Productivity Commission and also knocked back a compromise proposal from Competition Minister Craig Emerson.

In terms of books, if a title isn’t available here because an Australian publisher hasn’t picked it up or it’s far cheaper overseas, then in the digital age there’s always the likes of Amazon – which doesn’t pay Australian taxes or employ Australian workers. The imported books fiasco is a stark illustration of the fact that when it comes to continuing the process of reforming and modernising the Australian economy that began with the Hawke and Keating governments, and continued through the Howard years, the Rudd Government has to date been found sadly wanting.


This is most ridiculous. In terms of losses, consumers in Australia will spend about $200 million per year because of this decision. These kinds of decisions by the Rudd government makes you wonder how they can manage the carbon reduction scheme. Their ability to pander to vocal interest groups is scary.

Update: An interesting history of the law in question which was enacted by the Britishers to help British publishers.


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