FRIDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor plan to support Australian stories and Australian jobs; COAG; climate change; Adler; Australian Jobs
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, it is great to be at Ligare Publishing talking to the workers and the bookbinders and the printers who keep printing Australian stories day after day. Today for our fantastic announcement I am accompanied by Shadow Ministers Tony Burke and Mark Dreyfus, and also I am very privileged to be making this announcement in the company of great Australian writers Anna Funder and Tom Keneally, who you'll hear from in a moment.
This is a great day for Australian jobs and for Australian stories.
Labor is announcing that we will oppose watering down the restrictions which protect Australian publishing jobs and Australian story telling. Our book industry is a great industry. It employs directly 20,000 of our fellow Australians, and even more importantly, if I can say this, the Australian publishing industry makes sure that the Australian story gets told. From the suburbs of Melbourne and Brisbane, through to the Coorong, to our deserts right through to the surf of Western Australia.
This Christmas, Australians will be reading Australian stories, printed in Australia, by Australians telling the Australian story and Labor is asking Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition Government to join with Australian jobs and to join with Australian storytelling and make sure that we keep Australian story telling alive into the future.
I would like to invite Tom Keneally and then Anna Funder to explain why this is such an important announcement for the future of Australian storytelling and Australian jobs.
Tom and Anna, please take over.
TOM KENEALLY: Thank you. Thank you for having me here and I will skip the formal introductions but may I say, hello to all the printers on the floor. We rarely meet up with the people who create the texts and the people who print them but we are brothers and sisters in this particular fight.
I must say, I am delighted for all our sakes, for yours and ours as writers that a major party has come out in favour of the Australian publishing industry. Of all those that it employs, of the literary energy it stimulates and the readers who benefit from it, and the 20,000 people whom it employs. I am delighted that there is support for the fact that there exists an environment of Australian publishing, an ecology in fact, full of most exotic creatures, rich in plumage, robust in fur and then you meet an occasional aging mammal like myself.
Age isn't irrelevant to this story because when I was a young writer, published in 1964 for the first time, there was little visible book and publishing infrastructure in this country. It was easy to get publicity for your book because you were probably the first person in two years to have published one. There was so little infrastructure, so few support structures like printing and public relations – forgive me calling printing a support industry. That is the way we deadbeat hacks think of it.
We were a colony, most importantly, of other peoples' ideas and stories and other peoples' histories. A book by an Australian was a rare phenomenon, like the sighting of the Min Min lights or the appearance of a bicycling goanna. The craft of letters didn't exist. Now the writers and publishers organisations and the craft of letters and a vigorous printing industry which services it and that is a welcome change.
When I began writing, the lack of systematic Australian publishing justified the question of whether there was an Australian literature or not and of course the same questions applied to Australian history and biography. I don't want to go back there. I don't want to go back to the colonial phase. I am aware of the fact that no other English speaking market is thinking of abolishing their territorial copyright. Neither British publishers, nor would they do it to British writers, nor would anyone in the US, however crazy, not even the future incumbent of the White House is likely to take a step like this.
And on that basis, on the basis of the 20,000 people employed in this industry, I am delighted that the Labor Party agrees with us. We should be allowed to be alone and do our own stuff which we do so well, both in this printery and which Anna does so well in her individual study.
I would like to reiterate what I have said before, that books are not toothbrushes, interchangeable with each other, that they involve the immeasurable and the imagination in a way that other products just don't. This doesn't mean we want to stop Australian access to them. Australians can still access books from everywhere on the Earth and if you want to see whether the abolition of a publishing industry creates an environment in which books are cheaper then look at New Zealand where they have declined in price less than they have in Australia but in which there is no range of books, no New Zealand voice. The range, the range is gone.
So we are pleased to see a major party stand up for that range for which the printers on the floor today and the writers in their studies today stand. We are delighted that a major party has stood for the range of who we are and the richness of what we contribute.
May I say, as an old writer, standing with a young writer, there are writers yet unborn who won't have a voice, who won't tell Australian stories, if our industry is taken away. Once taken away, it will be gone for a short advantage, short-term advantage, forever.
Australia will, in an age where innovation is so important, when Malcolm Turnbull has invoked innovation, how can that occur without a publishing industry to interpret, to tell us about it, to mediate it to us? So here’s to parallel importation restrictions continuing and thank God the Labor Party agrees with that proposition.
I hope the whole of Canberra comes to agree with it.
ANNA FUNDER: Thank you very much for having me here. Tom, you're an incredibly hard act to follow. Miles Franklin said "without an indigenous literature, people can remain alien on their own soil". She must have felt alien writing here and about here for a foreign publisher. She must have felt like a wild colonial girl, seeing herself through British eyes rather than her own. It's terrible to be defined by how someone else sees you.
Without PIRs we'd all still be writing for British or American publishers or not at all. We'd be be seeing ourselves through foreign eyes. So it's a great thing today to have this support from the Labor Party and the publishers, the printers, the book sellers for PIRs and for the continuation of Australian writing and Australian publishing.
Without writers, our inner lives, as well as the inner life of the nation, would remain alien to us. We wouldn't know where we'd come from and we wouldn't know who we are. Much as Watson and Crick discovered the helix inside us, writers reveal our cultural, our national DNA.
The hashtag here is #BooksCreateUs and I think it's true. As much as we say you are what you eat, you are what you read. Writers show us things about life which are wonderful or terrible or funny, that life itself can't tell us.
If the PIRs were abolished, any writer who has published outside of Australia – to use a sporting analogy – any writer who is ‘world class’ would be punished. Their books sold here would come from overseas publishers and the author would most likely receive no money from them. Australian publishers wouldn't earn any money either. Australia would simply be a market or a dumping ground for overseas publishers. And they, as Tom mentioned, have no interest in investing in new Australian writers. We would lose a generation or more of Australian voices.
The impetus behind this proposal to get rid of PIRs, and also the more outrageous one about ending the actual copyright of Australian creators, comes from an ideology which values the free movement of money around the globe over all other freedoms. In this ideology, the free movement of money would trump the freedom of Australians to tell our own stories and to publish them in our own publishing houses and to print them in our own printers.
And as we have recently learnt, a world in which the free movement of money trumps all other values, is a world in which fake news has as much, if not more value as real news. This is because its value is measured only in money, in clicks and likes and monetised units of the human attention span. It looks like this is the world we are moving into. If and when we do, we need our own writers to distinguish between the fake news and the real news as well as to give us, as Ezra Pound called literature, the news that stays news.
The only beneficiaries to the proposed changes to the parallel imports would have been overseas publishers. The only beneficiaries of the proposed copyright change would have been the overseas corporations forming the Googlesphere to whom would have been delivered free content, which is to say mine and all other Australian authors expropriated property.
I would say that rather than kill off a thriving unsubsidised Australian industry in the name of a global ideology that has had its day, global competition will be better served by encouraging a national literature, one which can produce writers of a calibre to win prizes overseas and to win markets overseas.
Ours is a clever country, a country that has earned its identity and its self-knowledge in no small part due to its writers. Let's not mistake our freedom to think and write our own stories, with the freedom of overseas companies to make money here. And let's not outsource our minds to the monetised narcicism of the global algorithm.
Prizing this work of ingenious empathy, it is work of compassion as holy as any we are likely to find. We can't afford not to have it or we won't know who we are.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I think you'll agree that was a very interesting and passionate set of contributions from two great Australian writers. Are there any questions on Labor's announcement to defend Australian writers, Australian stories and Australian jobs?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what needs to happen next on this issue? You've made this statement but what's the next step in the process?
SHORTEN: Well I'll get my Shadow Minister to supplement this answer, but the Government is actively contemplating dismantling a set of rules which protect territorial copyright, which protect the Australian publishing industry and the ability to tell Australian stories. They are proposing to dismantle rules which have served us well since 1991 or thereabouts which also ensure that we keep the valuable skills in this country.
I don't want to see a country where we don't have Australian printers, Australian bookbinders. I don't want to see a country where future Australian writers can't get their break to help tell the Australian story.
What we need is for the Coalition Government and Mr Turnbull, to take off the table any proposals to dismantle the Australian book industry, to dismantle Australian jobs, to dismantle the ability to tell the Australian story. I might ask Tony to talk a little further.
TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: In the next few months and weeks, it's crunch time for the book industry and the Federal Government, the Liberal Government, has indicated that they intend to do away with these protections. So, to make those changes they would need legislative change, that's what they would need to be able to make those changes. And we are putting down a marker here that Labor stands with the writers, Labor stands with the printers, Labor stands with the workers here – and we make that clear.
The argument of price falls away when you look at what happened in New Zealand. New Zealand made this change, prices have fallen further than Australia than they did New Zealand. And we've managed to protect - make sure, that Australian stories are looked after. The number of sources of New Zealand stories shrunk and haven't had the advantages that we've had in Australia. And ultimately, when you look at the importance of stories, imagination is not a commodity and imagination and our own stories - they're something that we have got every right to make sure public policy looks after it.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, obviously it is a very busy day in Canberra; all the states and territories, only the A.C.T and the Northern Territory supports South Australia's proposal for a state-based ETS. Does that demonstrate that perhaps is a bad idea?
SHORTEN: Just before we move off parallel importation, I'll come to that.
Let me be very clear, today, the Labor Party is putting the Coalition Government on notice to show their hand and declare their intent. Labor will fight for these Australian jobs and for the telling of Australian stories. We are taking the initiative. We are seizing the moment. We are setting the agenda and now we ask Malcolm Turnbull in an act of bipartisanship to join with Labor to stand up for these jobs.
In terms of COAG, in terms of the meeting between the Premiers and the Prime Minister today; and the very important issue of ensuring reliable energy, cheap energy and action on climate change.
I think it is absolutely appalling that today it has been revealed that Malcolm Turnbull is more interested in appeasing the right wing zealots of his own party, the people to whom his job is hostage rather than taking real action on climate change and suppressing and not dealing with a report which shows the Government's own experts have now told Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition Government that the most effective way to save $15 billion on industry, on the economy, on households would be to take sensible, moderate steps in climate change policy.
And today, instead, Mr Turnbull's playing petty political games, having fake and bogus arguments with South Australia about renewable energy.
What Mr Turnbull needs to do out of today is stand up for real action on climate change. What he needs to do is save consumers and industry $15 billion rather than save his own job. Mr Turnbull now needs to back the science, the experts, the consumers, the households, the industry and he needs to stare down the right wing bully boys of his party.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Malcolm Turnbull only believes in saving his job and nothing else. He needs to fight for what he believes in otherwise he is in danger of becoming the nation's number one coward on climate change.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Alan Finkel's report about the ETS?
SHORTEN: You always have to back the science. To be honest, I'm a bit surprised at the end of 2016 that we've got a government in Canberra who is arguing against the best scientific evidence, the best economic advice for negative political purposes.
This Government needs to stop selling out the future. There are jobs to be had in encouraging the development of renewable energy. It will help industry, consumers, households by modernising our electricity industry, by taking sensible action on climate change. It's the best and most sensible way. If Australia's Chief Scientist is saying ‘this is the evidence’, why is Mr Turnbull listening to the bullies on his backbench and ignoring the best science?
JOURNALIST: What about the Government's $117 million homelessness package that the Federal Government is proposing at COAG? Is that something you would support?
SHORTEN: There has always been in recent years, agreements between the Federal Government and the States to help fund homelessness services by the States. These are national partnerships.
It is five minutes to midnight to fund homelessness services. The agreement is due to expire very soon. The Government's dragged its feet. It has already made savage cuts to homelessness services. We are pleased to have some certainty but it is only for 12 months. What about all those people who work in helping the homeless find accommodation? Malcolm Turnbull has given them a 12 month lifeline but that's all, and he's done it at the latest and last possible time to do it. I'm not going to give the government a tick for doing something they should have done a long time ago.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, Western Australia will push for a gas reservation scheme in Australia at COAG this morning. Is that something you support?
SHORTEN: There is no doubt that we need to ensure that gas in Australia is available for local producers and manufacturers. What we are seeing is very high prices internationally and a lot of our gasfields that are being developed, the gas is being sold for the highest price. I'm not sure about a reservation scheme. Labor did propose at the last election a national interest test to make sure that the local needs are getting prioritised. But the very fact Western Australia has had to propose this shows there is no national plan coming from Malcolm Turnbull to secure energy. He is quick to bag out climate change. He is quick to bag out the South Australians but industry is calling for reliable supplies of gas and Malcolm Turnbull has got no plan for that.
JOURNALIST: If we could just move to the matter of guns - do you think the Adler shotgun should be placed under Category D which would mean it is only available to professional shooters?
SHORTEN: I, like the police in all States, most state governments, do not want to see a watering-down of John Howard's gun laws. We think this Adler shotgun, the case hasn't been made out to make it easily accessible in terms of sales. Category D seems to be the most sensible option which makes it the most restricted access possible.
I'm really disturbed that Malcolm Turnbull has as his Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce who wants to make this weapon much more available in the community than the police recommend and the authorities recommend. Malcolm Turnbull needs to straighten out his Deputy Prime Minister and say that there is no watering down of John Howard's gun laws and that the case hasn't been made to make this weapon more accessible than the hardest possible category, which is being looked at.
JOURNALIST: What do you think the most pressing issue at COAG will be?
SHORTEN: Jobs. Where is the Government going on jobs in this country? We all know how hard Malcolm Turnbull is working to save his own job but why isn't he talking about Australian jobs? Why isn't he talking about the jobs of these printers and production workers?
On one hand, he is doing everything he can to keep the backbench from tearing him down by reversing positions he has held for a long time on climate change and a range of other issues but he has nothing to say about anyone else's jobs. Malcolm Turnbull spends his time saving his own job, the rest of the Liberal Party spend all their time trying to work out who should have his job, but they're doing nothing for Australian jobs. Malcolm Turnbull has a fantastic opportunity today. He should stand by Australian jobs and Australian writers, and that would be a very good start, talking about Australian jobs. We have seen this year alone over 90,000 full-time jobs go. The new jobs that are getting created in Turnbull's Australia are part-time, casualised jobs. He needs to do more about full-time jobs, defending and creating full-time jobs.
Thanks everybody. Have a lovely day and I want to thank Tom and Anna.