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Mutiny on the bounty: Labor refuses to let Howard government destroy Australian book publishing industry

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30 JANUARY 1998

Mutiny on the bounty: Labor refuses to let Howard government destroy Australian book publishing industry

The Opposition Leader, Mr Kim Beazley, today announced that the Australian Labor Party would seek to reinstate the Book Bounty scheme, abolished under the Howard Government from 1 January this year.

Speaking in Bendigo, Victoria after a Shadow Ministry meeting in the regional centre, Mr Beazley sad he was pleased to announce that his shadow ministry had endorsed a plan to secure up to 1500 jobs in the Australian book publishing industry threatened by the Howard Government's decision to cease payments under the Book Bounty scheme from 1 January 1998.

"The endorsed plan would also provide the environment to increase jobs and investment in the industry," Mr Beazley said.

"The Book Bounty scheme operated by providing book publishers with payments - bounties - representing a percentage of the publisher's production cost incurred in Australia for every book produced which qualified under the scheme.

"The system proved to be immensely successful for the industry, particularly in terms of its international competitiveness. Exports of books, for example, rose by approximately 200% over the last 13 years of the scheme's operation.

"Production of books which qualify for the bounty totalled about $270 million in 1995-96 (excluding bounty payments of $21.9 million), an increase of over 50% in real terms since 1992.

"The scheme has brought significant benefits to Australia, ensuring the survival of vibrant local industries, particularly in regional centres, and the availability of books published in Australia for Australians and for export."

Mr Simon Crean, the Shadow Minister for Industry and Regional Development, said the Australian publishing industry employs hundreds of highly skilled people around Australia, many in regional centres, such as Maryborough in Victoria, which would be devastated by major job losses in the industry.

Mr Crean said he had been consulting with industry representatives about the effect the abolition of the book bounty would have on the industry, and the outlook was bleak.

"But retention of the bounty would create an environment for further expansion," Mr Crean said.

"Without the Book Bounty, the industry is effectively receiving negative assistance from the Howard Government.

"That is, unlike many other industries, it is receiving no favourable assistance specific to that industry, but it is paying import duties on a wide range of raw materials used in the publishing process, thus paying for the assistance of other industries.

"In the Australian context alone this is illogical, but this is not the only relevant comparison.

"The industry is competing in export markets around the world with publishers from many other countries. These countries provide incentives in a wide variety of forms to their own industries. Australia should not unilaterally reduce assistance until other countries do so."

Mr Crean said the Industry Commission recognised that the Book Bounty scheme 'expanded the market share of local book printers ... [and, by adding to their revenue, the [scheme] is likely to have facilitated industry investment development. Conversely, taking that assistance away could lead to a contraction in market share, adversely affect employment, and reduce future investment by book printers' [Industry Commission Report No. 54 - Book Printing pages 48-49].

"It also recognised that a justification for assistance could be that the scheme 'would offset market failures or impediments to the development and growth of book printing activity' and recognised 'assistance given to inputs into book printing such as paper' as such an impediment," Mr Crean said.

Mr Beazley said Labor was not willing to see the Australian publishing industry destroyed by Howard Government inaction.

"Labor supports the reinstatement of a book bounty scheme for the publishing industry, pending a full and comprehensive review, taking into account the government assistance received by international competitors and the effects of the bounty on regional Australia. We will be working with the industry to determine how best Labor in Government can assist its growth, in return for commitments from the industry for investment in Australia and employment growth," Mr Beazley said

"Labor will continue to work for the industry, and will campaign on the issue to force the Government's hand in support of the industry."


For further information:

John Flannery, Kim Beazley's Office, 0419 695 435

Alison Roy, Simon Crean's Office, 0411 491 185