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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3957

Mr BARRY JONES (Minister for Science)(11.38) —The Government rejects the amendment. I have some sympathy for the general point made by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale). We are not a madly interventionist or regulatory government. But I think we have to recognise that the book industry is a bit of an anomaly. It is not exactly the same as, to take examples at random, the textile, clothing and footwear industries. Basically, in producing a certain volume of underpants, we can be pretty sure that in the course of a 12-month period we go through them-if honourable members will excuse the expression. But, in the case of an industry such as books, purely market considerations would lead us to say: `The only kind of books we are interested in are those that will be good sellers'. We would have a diminished industry and the books would have a smaller contribution to make to the Australian scene. Books are very hazardous business. I suppose any accountant would say to booksellers: `You would be very wise to stock up on Barbara Cartland and Harold Robbins and stick to them; stick to the proven selling lines', like the bookshops we have at airports--

Mr Beale —But the omission of the clause does not--

Mr BARRY JONES —Well, I know that the whole question of orderly marketing implies the sort of thing that the National Party of Australia might have put up under earlier regimes for marketing of primary products. I do not really see this matter in that way. I put it to the honourable member for Deakin-and I am sure he will recognise this-that the discretion will be exercised, as the word suggests, with discretion. It will not be done to push the industry around. It is really intended to assist. The view the Government takes is that, in this case, for the reasons that I have just advanced, there ought to be a discretion, on the understanding that any discretion exercised by the Minister will be used appropriately, but not all the time. The discretion does not exclude new entrants to an industry from receiving the bounty, nor does it unfairly entrench existing bounty recipients. Provided that new entrants are prepared to undertake the necessary commitment to the industry and meet the registration requirements, they will not be denied registration.

We had some literary history from the honourable member for Dunkley (Mr Chynoweth) earlier. It was going through my head as he was speaking that the standard Sanskrit dictionary, produced, I think, in 1816 by the Oxford University Press, has not exhausted its original print run. Accountants would have gone bananas at the investment that was put into it then. Nevertheless, we say that the publication has been worth while; a contribution to knowledge. The famous book by Copernicus that revealed the operation of the solar system was not exactly a best seller. We must recognise that, if we are to develop a strong book industry, a tremendous number of titles must come out. There has to be assistance and a degree of discretion. So, with infinite regret, we reject the amendment.

Question put:

That the amendment (Mr Beale's) be agreed to.