Tag: Australian authors

‘Don’t it always seem to go….’

It weaves its melody through my brain and never was there a better time to remember the words of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

Not that I’m saying book publishing in Australia is paradise – there are probably grey areas of inefficiency in every area of the industry to improve, just like in most businesses or professions.

But nothing gets away from the fact that this push to abolish the Restrictions against Parallel Importation of Books is not designed to improve the publishing industry so that Australian authors can get just-working rights and fair payment for the many hours it takes to bring a story to publishing standard; or to ensure brilliant Australian books continue to flourish under the guidance and support of the editors and publishers who back them. Could one be cynical and suggest it is solely to increase the profits of big retail corporations and a minor one? I’ll leave that one for Australians to figure out.

But when I hear people (like ex-NSW Premier and board-member of Dymocks Books, Bob Carr; Don Grover, head honcho at Dymocks and Allan Fels, a disciple of the ‘free-market’) pushing their tripe onto concerned Australian booklovers that there won’t be any negative affects if the Restrictions are lifted, Joni’s song grooves its way into my head and I find myself singing along – just like I did all those years ago.

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone……

Sheryl Gwyther (who remembers and appreciates the genius of Joni Mitchell)


Productivity Commission picks at P.I.R.’s bones

These are the three recommendations the Australian Productivity Commission presented to Parliament on the 14th July 2009.  All three will damage the future production of Australian-authored books.

The Government should repeal Australia’s Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs)
for books. The repeal should take effect three years after the date that it is

The Government should, as soon as possible, review the current subsidies aimed
at encouraging Australian writing and publishing, with a view to better targeting
of cultural externalities. Any revised arrangements should be put in place before
the repeal of the PIRs takes effect.
* Presently, the Federal Government commits to recognising the importance of the ARTS and CREATIVITY in encouraging a fully-rounded Australian society.

It does this through the Grants, Fellowships and Subsidies from the Australia Council for worthy projects. And these are hotly contested.

The PC’s Recommendation 2 will force all Australian writers to go cap-in-hand begging from the Australian taxpayer just so they can continue to write. If you’re writing a romance or a murder mystery you can’t access a grant.

So what happens to those authors who will lose out when publishers can’t afford to take them on, AND they can’t access Australia Council grants? Has the Productivity Commission even considered this?

Recommendation 2 seems as though it was stuck on to appease authors – well, guess what, it doesn’t!

The outcome from the repeal of the PIRs and any revised subsidy arrangements
should be monitored and assessed five years after implementation. To assist that
assessment, the Australian Bureau of Statistics should, as soon as possible,
undertake a revised version of its 2003-04 surveys on the books industry and
market, having regard to the information gaps and interpretation problems
identified in this study and relevant data held by other agencies. It should then
update these revised surveys prior to the commencement of the five year
* This should have been done before the Productivity Commission even sat down at their table to pick over the bones of the Restrictions against Parallel Importation of Books.


My letter to politicians – Parallel Book Importation threat

Dear (Member of Parliament)

Re: Productivity Commission’s Report into Parallel Importation of Books into Australia

I am writing to voice my concern at the PC’s recommendations about lifting the Restrictions against Parallel Importation of Books.

I believe this move, if passed by Parliament will do great harm to the Australian publishing industry – not only through the loss of a great number of jobs, but also to the future of Australian books.

There is no guarantee that books will be cheaper under the PC’s recommended abolition of Territorial Copyright laws (even the Productivity Commission admits there is no guarantee of this). What it will do is open our book market up to a flood of foreign imports of editions of Australian books. Not only will it turn Australian publishing houses into the warehouses for their overseas branches, but it will send independent Australian publishing companies to the wall.

Another great concern is the fact that when Australian books are re-published in North America, they are changed to suit the US market. Nowhere is this more pertinent and worrying than that of children’s books – where spelling becomes Americanised, terms and idioms are sanitised, references to Australian places and experiences are deleted. Even the humour is adjusted so American children can understand Aussie humour, or taken out if they don’t.

Now, that might be fine for Australian books being read by American children, and presently these editions are not allowed to be sold in Australian bookshops. But if the Parallel Import restrictions are lifted the American editions will become available in Australia. Children will be exposed to two versions of spelling at an age when they need hardly run the risk of literacy difficulties. Parents won’t know if their children are reading the true-blue Australian version or the pale, facsimiled American one, unless they know to look behind the cover.

I believe it is vital for Australia’s future as a nation that its children grow up with a firm grounding in the written language and the stories of their own country.

I hope the Australian Government will consider carefully the multitudes of submissions from committed people who believe in our viable publishing industry and the future of our unique Australian stories, and decide not to follow the Productivity Commissions’s recommendation to abolish restrictions on Parallel Importation of books.

Yours sincerely
Sheryl Gwyther – author



You will probably have heard by now about the Productivity Commission  Report that recommends abolishing Territorial Copyright on books and so allowing the Parallel Importation of books. Many Australians are up in arms about this.

We have initiated a new blogsite to help explain our campaign and the issues behind it, and to demonstrate the breadth of opposition amongst authors, publishers, independent booksellers, parents, teachers, librarians, printers and book lovers.

The blogsite address is http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com/ This new website offers information (easy to understand), links, comments and access to practical ways people can contact  (and lobby) politicians, letters to the editors – and getting our concerns out to the general community.

The site also has guest bloggers willing to put their names to blog entries, (hopefully not just authors) because there’re many other professions and trades who will be affected by this change of law.

Please pass on to as many people as you can in your circles.

The timing is URGENT as the Federal Government will make its decision in the weeks ahead.  Many thanks for your interest and support.

The latest on Parallel Imports of Books…

Yesterday, June 30,  the Productivity Commission took their findings to the Australian Parliament on whether Australian authors and illustrators will lost Territorial Copyright. Over the past decade this protection has ensured a phenomenal increase of quality Australian-authored books and the emergence of a battalion of award-winning authors. More significantly is the fact it has given the world an insight into our country through the eyes and words of Australian authors.

But we, the general public will have to wait until 14th July to find out what is about to befall the book publishing industry in Australia.

Do I have a sense of the Productivity Commission‘s findings? No. I just hope the PC’s commissioners have listened to the voices of thousands of authors and their supporters.

Bob Carr, one of the mouths who lobby to open up the Australian publishing industry  to the ‘free-market’ has been on the air-waves constantly, bleating about how he came from a poor family with no books and now he wants poor Australian families to have access to cheaper books.

He says nothing of the fact that the Productivity Commission itself says there is no guarantee books will be cheaper; no does he mention that poorer families have access to free public libraries and free school libraries when their children want to read; nor does he tell anyone about the threat to the Australian publishing industry and the flow-on effect to thousands of people who work in this field, from authors to printers to distributors, and to independent booksellers.

Bob, we know what you try to hide with your shadow dancing and your dominating, loud voice – the desire of higher profits for the large, retail booksellers like Dymocks, Woolworths and Coles.

We can only hope that all sides of politics in the Federal Government will listen to us.

Just imagine a world where our Australian authored books have returned to colonial status; where Australian children’s books feature American spelling and values, and with less Australian content; where Australian authors struggle to be accepted by publishers in the US and the UK.  A world where, as Tim Winton says, ‘to be Australian is to be second rate’.