The parallel import restrictions on books:

Patrick Gallagher, Chairman, Allen and Unwin, writes: Re Yesterday’s editorial. A combination of naiveté and muddled thinking from Crikey in the Great Book Debate. Blind Freddie can surely see the motivation behind the Murdoch Press’s rabid publisher bashing, which is simply a case of a handy stick to take to Rudd. Which in fact makes the Government’s decision to retain Territorial Copyright the brave one; it would have been far easier to take the populist line, tear down the walls and proclaim cheap books for all.

Put those pesky intellectuals back in their place and give the people lots of cheap rubbish from overseas.

Don’t fall for the economists’ and free marketeers’ attempts to paint this as a failed opportunity to create a nirvana for the reading public. The small but noisy minority led by Dymocks and Bob Carr had one thing and one thing only in mind – better margins for their business.

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The government deserves credit for appreciating this, and for understanding the wholesale damage that change to copyright would do to the book industry, to authors and ultimately consumers.

Rod Raymont writes: Yesterday’s Crikey got itself all in a tizz about Fairfax papers not giving prominent coverage to the Government’s decision not to withdraw parallel import restrictions on books. The Australian, it pointed out, gave it blanket coverage.

The alternative view is … it’s just not that important compared to other policy issues on the national agenda. It suited The Australian because (a it’s a national newspaper that has to continually contrive front page leads of national importance to justify its existence and (b this fits perfectly with its dry economic view of the world and its self-proclaimed title of the only newspaper keeping the Rudd Government honest.

Besides none of the coverage I read of the Productivity Commission’s reports suggested there was any unequivocal guarantee that books would be cheaper without parallel importing. Where did some of these economic reporters get potential savings of one third from?

Does anyone seriously believe Coles and Woolworths when they say they want a change in policy just so they can give consumers cheaper goods?

Bob Carr and Allan Fels would have been better served if they hadn’t kept fudging prices by quoting recommended retail book prices in Australia as the price when it was quite easy to find them already discounted at Coles and Woollies. Or quoting UK and US book prices in Australian dollars without adjusting for the fact there is no GST on books in either country.

Coles and Woolworths already discount popular books. What they really want to do is make the margin between the price they can buy them for and their discount price to consumers bigger – in other words increase their profit margin.

Angus Sharpe writes: Re. “PIR decision: Australian writers need to be left the f-ck alone, to write” (yesterday, item 18). I think that Jack Robertson’s article needed some brutal sub-editing. How about this:

It’s not government’s job to save your industry from itself. In the internet era, why anyone is going to ship books to Australia rather than set up a website and shift them direct escapes me.

Local publishers aren’t commercially passive in this. Local sellers don’t particularly want to poo in their local nests. The local industry (even big book chain sellers) is not some kind of bizarre unpeopled vacuum, run by automatons who want to hurt literature and screw our own writers.

And no other industry on the planet would get away with the built-in wastage of hard copy publishing. Game’s up, tree killers.

The way books are produced is changing in fundamental ways. A publishing contract is a contract. It’s a negotiation. Before you sign up, you fight to get what you can. You write better books. You get more negotiating grunt. “Standard contract” is the oldest hick’s dupe in the book.

Finally, there’s us, the readers/buyers. Remember us? Just because we can buy a slightly cheaper US remainder doesn’t mean we will. Especially if we know what it means for the author’s income.

Maybe we have taken all the sprayed cultural xenophobia of recent years to heart. Maybe we don’t want to read Cloudstreet in an Yank accent any more than you want to write it in one. Maybe we are capable of making purchase choices with half a view to helping out Australian literature.

Or shall we let the publishing players run around playing Important Cultural Icon & Big Swinging Publishing D-ck rolled into one? Champion.

All Australian writers need is $20,000 put quietly each year into their bank accounts by the Literature Board with no questions asked. And then they need to be left the f-ck alone, to write. This stupid, stupid campaign by a handful of loud-mouthed industry egotists has just waved bye-bye to the Productivity Commission’s practically begging offer to throw more cash at Australian literature. How many more would-be pens might we have funded? 500? 1000?

Check out the “careful-what-you-wish-for” tone of that press release, and weep.

Jack Robertson is a writer. He also contributed to and MS-edited Margo Kingston’s Not Happy, John! bestseller in 2004.

Shirley Colless writes: In all of the arguments to and against the parallel import of books system, I have not noted any comment on the role of public libraries in both the support of both Australian and overseas authors and the provision of books free of charge to library users.

If, as Bob Carr asserts, “the availability of cheaper books is important for low-income families” or, as Niall Clugston (yesterday, comments) suggests “Why doesn’t the government fund discounts for Australian books”, then surely adequate funding of the public library system should become an important factor in the budgetary manipulations of both the Federal and State Governments and not be left to be determined by the budgetary struggles of local government authorities, particularly in far flung rural areas where local government revenues are extremely restricted and where, sadly, the financial demands of infrastructure outweigh the demands of leisure and culture.

And, of course, in those far flung rural areas, who are the book lovers who can actually get onto the internet to indulge in ‘cheap’ books from online sources, anyway?


Angelos Frangopoulos, CEO Australian News Channel Pty Ltd, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey’s Tips and Rumours yesterday allowed an attack on the ambition of “Sky TV” to operate Australia’s diplomatic TV and radio services because Sky TV sacked a NZ rugby commentator for criticising the NZ Rugby Union which is a commercial partner of Sky.

The connection of the companies and the issues is palpable rubbish as anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the media would know. Does Crikey have no basic fact checking system?

Sky News is an Australian news channel provider that produces Sky News, Sky News Business Channel and the A-PAC public affairs channel — it has nothing to do with sports broadcasting. Sky News and its owner Australian News Channel have expressed interest in bidding to provide the diplomatic service, Australia Network.

Sky TV is a completely different company that is listed on the NZ stock exchange and provides subscription TV services in NZ.


Humphrey Hollins writes: Re. “Rundle: ask not what your country can do for you, but how often you can die for your country” (Wednesday, item 4). As a scholar of the Pacific War I prefer Guy Rundle’s version to that of his critics, particularly that of Greg Williams (yesterday, comments) .I refer to what I believe to be the bible on the Pacific War, John Costello’s weighty tome Pacific War 1941 — 1945:

Badly infected by the “victory disease,” Admiral Nagumo’s Imperial Naval Staff at first put forward an ambitious proposal for the Second Operational Phase that called for the occupation of New Guinea as a springboard for the eventual invasion of Australia. The army staff was quite properly horrified at the Napoleonic scale of such an undertaking before they had even won their campaign in China.

They rejected it on the grounds that they did not have the one hundred divisions available or the sea transports to supply such a massive land campaign. By the end of January 1942,the naval staff had trimmed their ambitions sufficiently to get the army’s support for the first stage of their grand strategy-the occupation of New Guinea and the garrisoning of the Solomon Islands.

This, they argued was essential to secure the defence of their empire’s southern perimeter against any Allied counter offensive from Australia.

Asylum seekers:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Your asylum application is important to us, so please hold … ” (yesterday, item 12):

I need a new Pacific Solution
Indonesia’s just confusion
Those old policies are done
I’ll make up a new one on the run

The Philippines ain’t yearning
And New Zealand’s not for turning
Malcolm Turnbull says I’m fatuous
I’ll send new policy in dispatches

I’ll try to hide the back door
With my cunning open front door
I’m Kevin, I’m your man
Here’s my Colombo Plan

Mark Scott:

Angelos Frangopoulos, CEO Australian News Channel Pty Ltd, writes: Re. “Scott: ABC is right to engage with our region” (yesterday, item 17). Mark Scott’s premise in his pitch to get extra taxpayer money and lock-up the ABC’s role as Australia’s “soft diplomacy” broadcaster is that the other G20 nations trust their publicly-funded broadcasters to do the job. And so should Australia.

However in his defence in Crikey yesterday of Eric Beecher’s criticism of the ABC’s international ambitions, Mr Scott neglected a key example of worthy diplomatic broadcasting that he was citing enthusiastically just a week ago in his major public speech on the subject.

Mr Scott reckoned that the ABC needed to become recognised as an international “brand” like the BBC and CNN. “The power of the single, clear, unambiguous global brand is shown by such international broadcasting powerhouses as the BBC and CNN,” he said in his speech which made several references to CNN as a “soft diplomacy” standard bearer.

CNN of course is a private sector broadcaster emanating from the United States, the most influential and powerful member of the G20. Mr Scott appears to have now redacted CNN from his rhetoric.

My point is, outcomes matter — not whether the public or the private sector provides them.

Mr Scott said in an address to the National Press Club in 2008 that Australia needed a public affairs channel, that the private sector would not provide it, and that such a channel was the natural territory of the ABC.

In January this year, Sky News in co-operation with FOXTEL and AUSTAR launched Australia’s public affairs channel A-PAC, after many years of planning and commitment to political broadcasting.

A-PAC covers the Federal and State Parliaments, and speeches and debate from prominent individuals and major public and private institutions, including the National Press Club, the Lowy Institute, the Sydney Institute, the Melbourne Institute, the Australian National University and other universities and major business and public policy representative groups. A-PAC also covers events of national importance such as Australia Day, and Anzac and Gallipoli services.

A-PAC last week broadcast Mr Scott’s speech about the future of diplomatic broadcasting.

Sky News and our owner, Australian News Channel, have made it public that we would like the opportunity to tender to provide Australia’s diplomatic television service, Australia Network. A tender would let the Government test for new ideas, innovation and value.

All-male institutions:

Jim Forbes writes: Re. “S-xual consent, Sydney University and me” (Wednesday, item 10) (). To Margot Saville’s list of corrupting all-male institutions, let us not forget the boarding school.

An alumni of two, I experienced what becomes a lad when cleft from maternal influence, segregated from the other half of society, and thrust into a total institution controlled by repressed and angry men. Result? A breeding ground for some major strains of social disease — misogyny, substance abuse, rugby union.

Objectification of women was routine. We had a “R-pe Squad” (complete with tees), and consumption of hardcore p-rnography was prolific.

Some seniors even converted wet dreams into damp realities. One chap cuckolded the science master, in a weekend of applied biology with the latter’s wife. Another enjoyed his mate’s mother while on leave, making her a MILFA (the “A” stands for “Again”).

Elsewhere, binging was rampant — from booze, to pot, to aerosol. There’s something dystopian about boys in a closed male environment huddling down for a good huff on a can of “Mum”.

Of course, most matriculates formed stable relationships, and live sober and responsible lives. In my case, that’s more in spite rather than because of Catholic boarding school education. As bastions of Christian values, they make fine Gomorrahs.

Climate change:

Meldi Arkinstall writes: Re. “The coalition need Howard’s pragmatism on climate change” (Tuesday, item 1). An elderly Hungarian friend of mine recently said when he learned how to speak English it was pointed out to him that the only admissible topic of conversation between people you didn’t know well was the weather. Politics and religion were a definite no no. Now if you mention climate change, it leads to an intense political argument. What the – ?

Traveston Crossing dam:

Andrew Owens writes: I guess I was a little surprised not to see any coverage in Crikey of the rather surprising (if in my view welcome) decision by Garrett to say “no” to the State Labor government in Queensland regarding the proposed Traveston Crossing dam. It was a central issue in the last State election and has been making national headlines for about 3 years.

Tiger Woods:

Pamela Papadopoulos writes: If Jesus Christ returned to earth in human form within a sporting context , I think Tiger Woods would be this re-incarnation, observing the media’s commentary of this man in Australia.

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