Update: some early industry responses on the Ragged Claws blog.
The Productivity Commission today released its long awaited report on the parallel importation of books. I've only had time to read through the overview, but the conclusions are clear. The commission unequivocally recommends the total abolition of restrictions. Surreally, it says that any "contraction" in the publishing industry or in "cultural externalities" (I think they mean all the things that make books different from clothes pegs or fridges) caused by this decision should be countered by... the Federal Government giving more subsidies to literature!!!
That free market ideologues could actually recommend a higher rate of state subsidies, in the name of increasing competitiveness in the publishing industry, totally does my head in. They're effectively passing the responsibility for cultural value from the market to the state. It makes no sense, certainly from my understanding of what free market ideology is supposed to be, but I'm sure this is what it says. Perhaps someone else has a better translation?
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 announced.
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.
It further recommends an assessment after five years, presumably to see what the damage is, while openly admitting that there isn't enough information about the publishing industry available now to make decent decisions. This also does my head in.
If this report is ratified by the government, it will have one immediate effect on me, and the majority of other Australian authors who are able to do so: I will think very hard before publishing in Australia from now on. I will be far better off publishing in the UK or the US, where I will have the benefits and royalty protection of territorial copyright. Which makes me a bit sad.
And I would hate to be a new Australian writer now.