Tuesday, 24 August 2021
[by video link] The wheels of government, like justice, turn slowly, and never more so than when the privileges of special interest groups are threatened. We see this with the government's copyright reforms. In 2015, the Abbott government directed the Productivity Commission to review Australia's intellectual property arrangements. The commission found the policies were deficient and it made a series of recommendations that will capitalise innovation and growth in a stagnant economy. It took the Turnbull government a year to respond to the review, and they supported many of those recommendations. Now, four years later, we're still waiting for implementation by the now Morrison government. It is unbelievable that changes to make Australia more dynamic and innovative have been stalled for so long.
One minor but worthy recommendation was to end parallel import restrictions on books. While Australian consumers can freely import books from sellers overseas, Australian bookstores do not have the same freedom. They must purchase from a monopoly publisher, who can hike prices as high as they like. These restrictions hurt Australian retailers and consumers who support their local bookstore. The Productivity Commission recommended these restrictions be abolished. The government supported the recommendation, but absolutely nothing has been done in four years.
Other worthy recommendations have also been ignored, such as ensuring free access to publicly funded research, legislating a fair-use exception and limiting liability for orphan works. Each of these changes would benefit Australians. But, again, the government has given in to special interest groups at the expense of the public interest. It is well and truly time for government to do better by Australia.