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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3955


Mr CHYNOWETH(11.28) —I rise to speak on the Bounty (Books) Bill 1986 with a great deal of pleasure. I will disclose to the nation a little-known fact about my history. I have printers ink in my veins, and it goes back a long way. My maternal great-grandfather was one John Bedford Leno, who was a Chartist. He was a founder of the first printing guild in the United Kingdom. In the late 1800s he was a member of a guild which was the beginning of the first unions. He was also in the Chartist Movement, which applied for the right of women to vote and began many other great legislative moves in those days. He was one of the group that brought Garibaldi to London in the late 1800s. So my printing background goes back a long way. I have been a printer in my time, and years ago I used to sell offset printing equipment. I assure honourable members that I still have that ink in my veins.

I wish to bring to the notice of the public some facts about the Australian printing industry, which this Bill affects greatly. It is most important that people be aware of these facts. Taken together the printing, publishing and allied industries constitute the fourth largest manufacturing industry in Australia. In the early 1980s it operated more than 2,500 establishments with some 76,000 employees. The annual growth rate of printing and publishing is about equal to the gross national product, and somewhat above the total non-agricultural product. The printing industry in Australia, as in most other countries, is highly skilled and is equally fragmented. That is good. I would hate to see it all controlled in a few hands. It consists of a large number of firms each producing only a small proportion of the total output. Fewer than 20 per cent of all printing companies produce some 80 per cent of the total production. With the advent of new technology, one can buy an Apple computer with the appropriate software program and a laser printer and set up one's own printing works. The dissemination of information and different views is important in these days of mass media. I am pleased that even though that particular side of the industry will not help printers, it will make certain that information is not just spread around by a few people.

I would like to comment on what a book is. Often people take no notice of what they are looking at; they do not give books any thought. A book is a system of portable written or printed sheets held together and protected by a cover. The origin of the word `book' is derived from a Teutonic term meaning a charter or tablet. Books are a form of documentation whose earliest roots can be traced to the ancient civilisations of the Sumerians, Babylonians and Egyptians. The Sumerians used a series of wedge shaped characters imprinted in clay tablets. The clay tablets were baked, and the information contained on them was in a numerical sequence to indicate order. The papyrus reed was used by the ancient Egyptians, and in effect that method was used for many hundreds of years. The rise of alphabetic writing in around 1500 BC in Syria-Palestine and its consequent spread through Phoenician inscriptions added a more compact dimension to the documentation and record keeping contained on scrolls. The idea of a protective covering on books emerged with books that had wooden tablets attached at a hinge with leather thongs to protect the writing contained inside. Simple things are books, but they can form a great impression on people and they can do many things for many people. One of the reasons I am a member of this House at present is contained in the writings of William Shakespeare. A couple of lines in Hamlet triggered off something in me that made me move into the political arena. Those lines were written many hundreds of years ago, they were recorded in a book and to some extent they led me to my position today. I want to read to the House a few little quotes about books. Thomas Carlyle said that books are all `that mankind has done, thought, gained or been'; that `they are the chosen possession of men'. We could add `women' to that. The quotes continue:

A book may be as great a thing as a battle.

Further:

Books are the food which develops the intellect, character and personality, for in all good literature there is truth, wisdom and imagination.

These quotes are very important. Years ago I was a probation officer and I went into many houses. One of the things I noticed was that there were no books. I go into houses today and there are not many books. I am afraid that people are being conditioned just to watch television. That is not right. We should set aside a period just for reading, to absorb knowledge and get involved with what books are all about. This Bill assists our printing industry, and it assists the workers in the printing industry. It assists our industry to become more competitive in overseas markets, and I commend it to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.