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Friday, 27 November 1959

Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Monaro) . - I take this valuable opportunity to bring to the attention of the Government the disastrous effect on the Australian magazine industry of the lifting of the import restrictions on overseas magazines. I hope that tha Government will be able to give me an assurance which will make Christmas and the New Year happier andmore secure for those who are engaged in this vital Australian industry.

First of all, concerning the extent of the Australian industry which is menaced by the lifting of the restrictions on overseas publications, I point out that there are 407 newspapers and periodicals in Australia to-day, employing 14,868 people, to whom salaries totalling just on £14,000,000 a year are being paid. The value of the industry's output last year was just over £51,000,000. In addition, the industry provided very great employment in associated fields such as paper-making, ink production, the manufacture and maintenance of machinery, transport, block-making and type-setting.

Australian magazines are an important part of the culture of this country. They have provided avenues for the wide use of Australian writing and artistic talent. Many Australian writers including such prominent persons as D'Arcy Niland, Jon Cleary and Frank Clune have developed the talents for which they have now become known throughout the world mainly through Australian magazines. If those magazines do not continue to exist we will not have the opportunity of developing future Australian literary and artistic talent.

To illustrate just what the presence of a healthy magazine industry means I instance the fact that one Australian publishing company has paid approximately £250,000 to Australian artists and writers in the last 14 years. But for the presence of Australian magazines, many promising local writers would have had nowhere to display their talents. There are more than 600 titles of magazines produced in Australia, ranging from comic books through general interest magazines, fiction magazines, special service magazines, such as those for the yachtsman, motorist, sportsman and outdoor man, up to important technical publications.

Many Australian magazines are now achieving circulations which, before the war, would not have been thought possible. The local publishing industry has expanded, with benefit to all, to keep pace with the country's growth. Together with the development of Australian magazines - those specifically produced for the local market - there is the enterprise of publishing in Australia many overseas magazines which were formerly imported. Since the war, as in the automotive and household appliance field, many items of overseas origin have been and are being manufactured in Australia by Australians with Australian capital. That, applies also to publishing. The preparation - editing, typesetting, block-making and printing- by special arrangement; of many overseas magazines, particularly those from Amenca, has given employment to many thousands of people in the graphic arts industry and has represented considerable capital investment by the publishing companies. But, more than that, the reproduction of overseas magazines in Australia has given these companies the financial ability to continue the publication of Australian magazines and. to assist in the development of Australian talent.

In the last few years, as I think the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will be the first to agree, specifically Australian magazines - those conceived in Australia - have reached a very high standard indeed. Some of them are now exported and have achieved satisfactory circulations against pretty strong competition in the United Kingdom. I think members of the House will be interested to know that many Australian magazines, to-day, are gaining a market in South Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and, of course, in New Zealand. The national publicity value of these publications must be rated very high and is one excellent way of letting people overseas understand and appreciate this country. The future of the whole of this industry is menaced by the complete lifting of the restrictions on the imports of publications.

The American Government clearly recognizes the importance of disseminating the American way of life and many American magazine exports obtain favoured treatment. In some cases, they actually receive sponsorship from the State Department of the United States Government. There are, indeed, Australian magazines which would be suited to tell the Australian story in other countries. But Australian publishers have had no encouragement and, in fact, have had many difficulties to overcome, especially currency difficulties.

Up to April of last year, magazines were prohibited from entering Australia except in the case of subscription copies. This measure, designed to conserve dollars, was changed in that month and magazine imports from dollar sources were divided, into two categories. In one, some titles were allowed almost free entry. These are what are known as the " better " class magazines and included many in the popular field. Thesecond - the B class magazines as they are known: - fiction, comics and escapist reading, were still prohibited. Apparently thoseauthorities in the Federal Government understood that many of the magazines in the prohibited field were, already being published in Australia and providing considerable employment.

Then, so far as I can see, for no apparent reason, the Budget freed all periodicals from dollar restrictions and, overnight, the important Australian publishing industry was faced with a most difficult situation. The honorable member for Parkes reminds me that we have already been flooded with American television films. Our attitude to life is being greatly influenced by the importation from America of TV films in large quantities, and it will be regrettable indeed if this Australian publishing industry, which is one way of keeping the Australian way of life healthy, should also be overcome by a flood of dumped American cheap, escapist literature.

American publishers who had been quite satisfied with the arrangements they had made for the printing and publication of their magazines in Austrafia acted immediately the Budget decision was announced. They gave 90 days' notice of cessation of their agreements with Australian publishers and made arrangements to export their own printed copies to Australia. Whatever may be the individual opinion of the quality of some of the publications which are reprinted here - and my opinion of some of them - including some of the American comics - is not high, it is an important fact that they gave widespread and well-paid employment.

What is to happen? The Australian bookstalls will be flooded with material formerly printed here by Australian workmen. By allowing these publications to enter the country without restriction the Government has gained nothing. In fact, the Government has lost because many Australians will lose their employment and taxation revenue will fall.

The grim fact is that almost: every Australian publisher who has been reprinting in

Australia under licence now faces the imminent danger of ceasing publication altogether. Unemployment in the publishing industry is occurring as a result. It is occurring also in the block-making industry because the demand for printing blocks is greatly diminishing. Among other things, of course, as a result of this lifting of the restrictions, there will be a considerable falling-off in the demand for paper, much of which comes from Australian mills, as well as for inks, printing metals and so on.

A further very interesting aspect of this situation, but a very dangerous aspect of it in view of the lifting of the restrictions, is that all Australian publishers using this cheap American material under agreement have had to edit it heavily to make it conform to good taste and the laws of the various Australian States. [Extension of time granted.] Some of the stuff which comes from America to be reprinted in this country is outrageous by Australian standards. The Australian publishers have had the good sense to recognize this and have heavily edited it before publishing the Australian editions of these publications. But the material which will now flood in from America will doubtless contain many features which are antiethical to the Australian way of life and would previously have been edited or even discarded.

Although the Department of Customs and Excise will, no doubt, closely watch the censorship angle, the inescapable fact is that much of the material appearing in many American magazines now beginning to flood into this country is of a considerably lower standard than that which would be permitted by an Australian publisher of what could be described as the Australian version. The Australian reader has not been deprived of the material which will now enter freely from America. He has been able to get, through the Australian publisher, the magazines he wants to buy. But the Government has created a position in which Australia has now to spend unnecessary dollars and, at the same time, many workers who have been engaged in the production of these magazines, stand to lose their jobs.

There is another important point affecting the Australian writer and artist. Many of these publishers being forced out of business also produce Australian books using local material. Because of the lack of this important source of additional revenue, that is the money that they receive by the republishing of American publications, they will now have to give up their Australian publishing activities also. Thus, the Australian writer and artist will have a diminishing market for his creative skill.

One Australian publishing company employs more than 250 people. It uses more than £90,000 worth of block engravings a year. The new import policy will reduce the amount spent with engravers by about £40,000 a year, will cut paper usage by nearly 100 tons a month and involve reductions in staff. The Australian Journalists Association and other organizations concerned with the employment and wellbeing of their members, are naturally seriously concerned by these threats to their prosperity. The newsagents' federation is also anxious and recently issued a circular to members referring to the great number of magazines which will now come in from the United States of America. It tells newsagents -

Australian publishing must be kept well and truly alive. Domestic publications must continue to be channelled through newsagencies - and to sell them you must display.

That is a very fine, healthy and patriotic attitude on the part of the Australian newsagents. It is hard to find a reason why the A and B categories of periodical imports which applied since April last year should not be re-applied. Under these categories, Australian readers had access to every publication, whether the Australian edition or the original imported edition.

A most serious thought is the certainty that, unless restricted by prompt action by the Australian Government, back-dated American periodicals will be allowed unrestricted entry. Many of them are of a very low class indeed. This will be completely destructive to the Australian industry.

Mr Cash - Many of them are good class, too.

Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, but not the kind I am now referring to. Already chain stores in this country are bidding for American news-stand returns - that is, the magazines the American public did not wish to buy - at fantastically low prices. Comics are being bought for one cent a copy and ordinary magazines at eight cents. This will enable them to sell in Australia these cheap American pulp magazines at less than the cost of the paper they use. This is quite clearly an impossible competition for the Australian industry to meet.

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