Parallel import rules: How the ALP/Greens oppose cheap books

Over the weekend, I bought five new hardcover books plus series 1-5 of The Wire plus series 5 of Boston Legal from an English web retailer.  These items came to a mere £86 (about $140).  The most expensive item was The Wire, which cost £39. 

I took a look at Dymocks bestseller list and I did a comparison with (I have converted the figures to Australian dollars)

  • Vampire Academy 06 Last Sacrifice (No. 1 on Dymocks bestseller list) – $19.95 (Dymocks), $11.80 (Amazon)
  • Life by Keith Richards (No 2. on Dymocks bestseller list) – $49.99 (Dymocks), $12.80 (Amazon)
  • The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry (No 3. on Dymocks bestseller list) – $39.95 (Dymocks), $12.45 (Amazon)

Even when including postage, purchases are substantially cheaper. 

In Australia, I've given up purchasing books or DVDs from my local store.  With services such as The Book Depository and Amazon, it became apparent that I could order from overseas (without paying postage in many cases) and I would still be saving. 

Why does Australia have one of the least competitive publishing markets in the world?

In the early-2000s, the Howard Government removed 'parallel import' restrictions on CDs and many other products.  'Parallel imports' refer to the imports of genuine products at a lower price which are produced overseas without the permission of the intellectual property producer.   The effect in the CD market was to push prices downwards (Have a look at Peter Costello's article on the issue and The Age on the parallel importation of liquor). 

The prohibition on parallel imports still applies to books.  The Productivity Commission recommended that parallel import restrictions be removed from books.  Typically, this has not happened yet because Labor/Greens refuses to support legislation removing restrictions. If you want to read more, Tim Wilson at the IPA wrote a paper on this topic several years ago.



Gillard’s creeping Share-ia Tax and how it will destroy Australia

; Dan Nolan writes about the creeping share(ia) of our income that the Gillard Government is trying to take, and how it will destroy Australia:

One of the main memes that has been popping up over the whole ‘flood levy/tax/contribution/firstborn’ tete a tete, is that those opposing the levy are in some way some ultra-randian selfish pr**ks, who seek to do naught but spit on their fellow man and then ground the spit in with a boot until the victim is crushed underfoot in a pate of sputum and despair. This is disingenuous to say the least.

Surely those to be taxed deserve the right of reply,  as it is their money in the first place. Without the right to say ‘hang on a minute, this is my money we are talking about,’ 

we approach the unacceptable situation where the wealth that private citizens hold is simply an aggregate pool for the government to tap into at their discretion.

 Colouring those who wish to have an input as to how their money is taken from them and used, particularly in the instance where this confiscation is confined in a cynically political fashion to not hurt a party’s voting base, as selfishm or even evil is just playing politics for the sake of playing politics.
Say what you will about the motives of those wishing to oppose the tax, but you have no reason to not accept or even uphold the fact that it is their money in the first place. They will, as a consequence of this ur-lien have less disposable income (up to several thousand a year for higher earners).
Arguing that higher earners as a whole shouldn’t feel the pain is an argument of fiscal homogenisation that is as painful to witness as it is to draw to its logical conclusion. We very rarely can speak to the financial circumstances of others, and rightly so; that is their private information (though the government will take a grand exception to this as you would notice RE: income tax).

I’m loathe to tread the same ground that others have, but I feel that there is a primary point to be made in this situation, namely, in a free society, we have input into how our property is used.

It is all well and good to muckrake that those who oppose this levy are heartless or irascible towards government, but it is entirely unwarranted for those who are not targeted or hit by this tax to make criticisms of those who wish to take a moment to pause and reflect on the economic and sociopolitical implications of this tax.

The primary issue of this article is not to denigrate or attack those who think people who oppose this tax are in some way antithetical to the Australian™ way of life. Again, you’re perfectly entitled to your opinions, but it is reasonable to say that the people who are paying this increase in tax already pay a substantial amount in tax already. This is not a tax request ex nihlio, it is an addendum to the already heavy tax burden middle to high income earners pay in Australia.

The primary issue is that the Government’s response to any fiscal uncertainty is to increase taxes in a politically cynical move, to appear to be on the side of those harmed in the floods. Of course funds need to be appropriated for the rebuilding, but this is the same government that spent a ludicrous amount of money in stimulus programs that the Treasury begrudgingly admitted had a negligible impact on the severity  of the recession.

I will leave the arguments regarding economic impacts and moral hazard to other writers, but the point needs to be made that this tax exists purely so the Government can keep an election promise of maintaining a manner of fiscal reliability.

This is not a point of contention: it is a point of fact. The tax increase is purely in order to maintain an election promise. Of course the government has such powers of taxation within its purview, but it seems to me and others that soaking those who already pay a substantial amount of tax is a far easier method to raise the money than actually taking a long hard look at some of the ridiculous white elephants that continue to be funded by the taxpayer.

Many proposals on how to fund the reconstruction have already been made, but here are a few others: A very simple way to fund the required damages would be to scrap the plans for the internet filter (and the ridiculous source of funds that has been). Scrap the school chaplaincy program for savings of a cool few hundred million dollars. Oh, and substantially cut our military expenditure by removing Australian soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan saving both lives and money as we try to win a battle that not even the Soviet Empire could win. Not only does reducing the amount of soldiers in battle reduce the overall military expenditure, but it also significantly impacts on the overall expenditures required for future medical and mental health of soldiers exposed to combat.

It would seem that there are countless government programs that, quite rightly, should be up for debate if Ms Gillard's claims of there being nothing else to cut in the budget are true.However, it is our right, as the very citizens that contribute to the coffers of the government through our labour, that we be able to question openly the validity of certain government programs and expenditures.

It would appear that the Gillard Government's lacklustre response to the budget imbalance in managing existing Governmental programs is one of a lack of imagination. It also would appear that those who criticise those who wish to question or protest how their money is spent suffer from a fundamental lack of understanding the concept of property rights.

Dan Nolan is a part-time Software Engineer and developer, student, economics enthusiast and a full-time troll.

Kochie says: Stop The Levy!

My interview with Julia Gillard this morning on Sunrise was a bit like an episode of Yes Minister.

But please (Prime) Minister, I’m not an idiot.

You be the judge here;

I just wanted the Prime Minister to explain why we needed a Flood Levy instead of the Federal Government simply paying for it out of the taxes we already pay.

My view, and that of most economists, is that the Federal Government is more than capable of funding the reconstruction of flood affected areas out of its own resources without hitting us with a flood levy.

But let me make it very clear that I have no issue whatsoever in spending what it takes to get Queensland and regional Victoria back on their feet. Queensland is the cornerstone of our coal and tourism export sectors so it is imperative we get infrastructure back quickly.

I’m just querying why it has to come out of a new tax.


Kochie is spot on!

On socialism’s failure; a lesson from Queensland

PCoulson1 Peter Coulson uses the failures of Queensland's solar hot water program to illustrate the failures of big-government central planning. 

In his seminal 1944 piece, The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek said that the main features of socialism were the withdrawal of the means of production from private enterprise (anti-privatisation) and central-planning to circumvent the market and defeat competition. While many believe that the evil tentacles of socialism are dead, a recent example from Queensland highlights the importance of unending vigilance.

Hayek was very clear on the dangers of these types of actions. Competition, he argued, was the most efficient method of allocating resources towards meeting needs. Furthermore the use of centralised planning would require “conscious social control” – in effect mandating the use or action by the population and forbidding the freedom to contract at will. Tying into the inefficiencies of government planning is of course the unseen effects of the particular government action. This is limited not only to the opportunity cost of those taxation monies that are applied to the particular endeavour; but also to the general cost of allowing the state to assume the right to make any intervention on the private sphere. Every small incursion grants the allowance of further government intervention, just like slicing a stick of salami, until the state assumes total control.

One example of public policy in Queensland, the solar hot water program, contains a number of lessons for further policy makers and governments to consider. This example will be considered in light of the writing of Hayek and others from the libertarian perspective.

At the 2009 election, the leader of the Labor Party, Premier Anna Bligh announced a new policy designed to foster the uptake of solar power. She used the importance of overcoming climate change as an argument for impetus to make a State foray into the private market with the result of crushing competition.

Bligh announced that if re-elected, her government would enter the market and purchase 200,000 solar hot water systems which would be made available to the public for $500 each – fully installed. It was also announced that the government would bear no cost for the systems, because the economy of scale would in turn drive down the cost.

Bligh also announced that the program would prefer local manufacturers and therefore provide an impetus to a local solar hot water/ photovoltaic manufacturing industry.

Following the Bligh Government’s election in March of 2009, the program was immediately commenced; however the first hot water system was not actually installed until late November 2009 – more than six months later. In the intervening period, the market for solar hot water systems was utterly destroyed. Orders for solar hot water systems with a cost above $500 dried up as consumers waiting for the promised systems from the Government. There were no systems at that time with a market price of $500 or below.

Meanwhile, the Bligh Government had all manner of problems with sourcing a supplier who could provide the systems at the identified price. It appeared as if the Bligh Government’s promise would fail until a German supplier who until then had no market share was prepared to supply to the program for close to the designated cost. However, the supplier the Government had contracted with to supply and install the units was not actually licensed by the Building Services Authority to contract out plumbing work. Although the sub-contractors used were licensed, they operated under a contract held by an unlicensed organisation.

According to the budget estimates in July 2009, the Government was required to make a contribution to the program, for which an amount of $39 million had been identified. However, this did not cover the cost of the bureaucracy in administering the program.

The debacle was finally put to the sword in March 2010, almost a year to the day of its announcement, when the Bligh Government announced that the solar hot water program would be cancelled, and replaced with a two-tiered grant.

The failure of this policy and its authors is complete, but the fact that the program would fail was entirely foreseeable.

As Hayek said, the allocation of resources by the Government through planning designed to undermine competition and defeat the market, is grossly inefficient as compared to the market forces allocating the same resources.  As can be seen, the announcement that the Government could defeat market forces belies the utter economic ignorance of the Bligh Government’s policy makers.

The lesson for policy makers is to beware attempts to undermine market forces while in the pursuit of social benefits. This applies in two respects, firstly, the effect on the market between the announcement of the program and its actual start, a period of some eight months saw the market for solar hot water systems paralyzed while consumers waited for the promised cheaper systems.

Secondly, the assumption that direct government intervention into the market to reduce the price of solar hot water systems was proven to be a fallacy. The policy makers in the Labor Party erroneously accused solar hot water suppliers and manufacturers of making unreasonable profits, whereas the outcome of this example suggests that there were not unreasonable profits in the industry that would allow the supply of systems for the amount they wanted.

Finally, although the program did not progress to the final stages, at some point the question of demand would have been required to be addressed. The Government simply assumed that 200,000 homes desired a solar hot water system. But what would have happened had the actual demand been insufficient? It is quite likely that the Bligh Government would have mandated the use of such systems in new homes (a suggestion which has been previously mooted by members of the government). As Hayek foresaw, at some point the central planning by government would require conspicuous social control by government over private capital. To conclude this example warrants quoting Adam Smith:

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had the folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.

Pete Coulson is a Brisbane-based student of economics at Griffith University. He is a keen observer of Queensland politics and shares his thoughts at Queensland Politics.


Flood Levy An Unnecessary Political Move

THE Prime Minister first raised the prospect of a flood levy 10 days ago. Her government wants taxpayers to believe the levy is an unavoidable consequence of the natural disaster in Queensland – imposing a special tax is regrettable, but out of the government's hands.

Yet the day she signalled the flood levy also happened to be a day when her minister Kim Carr quietly announced the start of the government's Automotive Transformation Scheme. This scheme packages up $3.4 billion of taxpayers' money and wires it directly to the dilapidated (but very well connected) car industry.

All up, the government will spend $5.6 billion on flood reconstruction in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria; $1.8 billion of that will be raised by the flood levy. The rest, certainly, will come from budget cuts. For instance, Julia Gillard announced she would cut $234 million of automotive subsidies to help pay the Queensland bill. But that is a paltry sum, considering the rest of the government's car programs will continue. Especially considering eliminating the balance of these programs would easily cover what the flood levy is intended to raise. The full New Car Plan for a Greener Future totals $6.2 billion.


Great piece.
Click the link to read the rest.

How Gillard is Undermining Our Community With Her Flood Tax

Monica-Oshea Monica O'Shea notes how Julia Gillard's flood tax undermines community by crowding out civil society.

The Government is underestimating the power of the individual and community to solve the flood crisis. 

People love to give, but they want to give out of the goodness of their own heart.

They don’t want to give because the Federal Government has told them they have no choice.

Stories are now emerging that people who were previously working hard to raise money for the floods have now decided there is no point, because the Government is going to tax them anyway.  

While people in big cities and regional towns throughout the country are dedicating their time, effort and money to helping the people of Queensland, the Government is doing nothing but talk and tax. 

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a student tax, alcopop tax, carbon tax, mining tax or flood tax – when the Government can’t balance their budget, they introduce a new tax.    

People of all kinds, shapes, sizes and worth have donated to the Queensland floods.  

It doesn’t matter if you are a small company, big company, rock star, sports star, chief executive or welfare recipient – everyone wants to help.   

I recently met a child who was seven years old. The child saw the devastating images of the flood on television and decided not only donate his entire money box to the people of Queensland, but also to encourage his friends and family to do the same.  

So while chief executives and rock stars and individuals are busily balancing their budget to account for multi-million dollar donations, the Gillard Government has decided to balance its budget with yet another new tax. 

And now throughout the country, people are asking themselves the following: if I can manage my budget, why can’t Julia Gillard?  

Monica works in the public service and is involved in the Young Liberal Movement in South Australia.

Best Of The Web


Faced with a deluge of death threats, vitriol, and abuse from the "civil, polite, thoughtful left," following his efforts with Stop The Levy, Menzies House Editor Tim Andrews decided it was time to lighten things up, and post the next installment of the weird, the wonderful, and the wacky from around the world. So here it is, the latest installment of Best of the Web! 

A marijuana firing catapult discovered on the U.S.-Mexico border. On a related note, here's the conservative former President of Mexico calling for an end to the drug war. Because apparently smoking pot actually helps prevent lung-cancer (although I suppose the researchers were just high). In anycase, law authorities have more important things to worry about, like the menace of Dungeons and Dragons.

An 82-year old Oregon barber with more than half a century of experience cutting hair is accused by government authorities in Oregon of "criminal barbering", because his government license to cut hair inadvertently expired.

Important health news: Adults who make love first thing in the morning apparently not only feel more upbeat for the rest of the day, but also benefit from a stronger immune system. Research suggests that adults who begin their day this way are healthier and happier than those who simply opt for a cup of tea and some toast before heading out of the door. (via InstaPundit)

Here's an example of free market Haiku (and who said we on the right wern't artsy!):

Markets chomp at bit 
To end global poverty 
But statists say no.

Government waste: U.S. style:


Smoking bans ruin lives and make everyone unhappy. No-one more so, I assume, than this monk in Bhutan that faces five years in gaol for being caught with some tobacco. But good news in the freedom front! In Spain, the revolution against the nanny state is triumphing

Forget your everyday backpack or bag, here's one designed to contain a drink-mixing kit!

Leftists praise Genghis Kahn: mass murder is good for the environment 

Here's an amusing clip of a kickboxing bouncers taking down a troublemaker. Trust me, it's worth a watch:


A tactic freedom fighters in Australia ought try – fighting government overspending – with beer coasters

A cost-benefit analysis of the TSA's nudie scanners. British airports, on the other hand, have decided to introduce holograms as customs agents

How to foil a nation-wide internet shutdown: dial-up! By the way, U.S. Democrats want the internet to come with a kill-switch too. =

Microsoft employees in 1978: where are they now

IKEA has been shown to deliberately trap its customers in a maze

The Chinese Government passes off Top Gun footage as a military drill. Yes, really. (Not that we should be surprised, given their track record…)

U.S Congressman Dennis Kucinich (darling of the left) is suing the senate cafe for damages of $150,000, because… wait for it… a sandwhich he bought had an "unpitted olive".

I am sure that anyone with either a long memory of a geeky interest in computer games will find this great: Wolfenstein 1-D. It's surprisingly addictive! Treasure your gaming freedom while it lasts though, Democrats want to put warnings on computer games. And in more nanny-state news, apparently jogging while listening to music is the next thing they want to be illegal, as is cycling with children. Sigh, just go read this good piece on the nanny state and the death of personal responsibility: Helmet Required

We have long resisted posting "kitteh" clips here. But this one I could just not resist posting. Why? Because it appears that this cat is possessed by demons:


What happened to the anti-war movement now that Obama is in power? Oh right, they're hypocrites.  

A thought-provoking reflection by some "best and the brightest" Yale students who attended a Jerry Springer show

Vest Pocket Guide to Brothels in 19th-Century New York for Gentlemen on the Go.

Not my cup of tea, but everyone promotes liberty in their own way, so, it's good to read that The Thiel Foundation just pledged $1 million to support The Seasteading Institute

Why can't people walk straight

Redditch Borough Council, with a "commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions" is considering proposals to re-use energy at its crematorium to heat a nearby leisure centre (h/t Andrew Bolt)

The corruption of psychiatry 

A woman was paralysed by a hickey

Ever wondered what the numbers on your credit card mean? Probably not, why would you if you were a normal person. But, just in case you wanted to know, here's how you can crack the credit-card code

Scottish activists attempt to overturn the U.S. ban on haggis

A map of London's most common surnames.

"The two roads to courage." A suitcase that holds nothing but a bottle of bourbon and a set of brass knuckles:

"The two roads to courage." A suitcase that holds nothing but a bottle of bourbon and a set of brass knuckles.


How American farmers avoided data charges in the telegraph days

Children as young as four are to be taught about homosexuality in maths, geography and science lessons as part of a Government-backed drive to "celebrate the gay community".

Ukranian croc swollows a phone. No-one believed the story before it started ringing. Inside him. 

Scotland bans extreme pornography, except they won't define what it is, apparently so that people won't change their behaviour and follow the law. Odd, to say the least. 

I suspect the Objectivists amongst us would get a lot more support if they changed the front cover to this:

Quote of the week:  "The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner hosted a dinner for the guy holding the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner in prison…"

Finally, because in this Brave New World of big-government, we all need a ray of sunshine (and apparently the ocelots from last week weren't enough), here's a baby anteater taking a ride on it's mother's back. It is, without doubt, the cutest thing you will see all week. 

Tim Andrews is  the acting Editor-in-Chief of Menzies House. His personal blog is Musings of an Australian Classical Liberal in Washington DC. 

Does the Tea Party Care about Liberty?

Frequently in the Australian media we hear stories about how the tea-party movement is comprised of radical extremist fascist conservatives. Now, as readers here would know, I classify myself very much on the libertarian end of the political spectrum, and if this were to be the case, I would be rather concerned.

The reality, however, is quite to the contrary, and, to that end, I just came across this article from David Boaz of the (libertarian) Cato Institute:

Tea Party groups have declined invitations to criticize federal court rulings on gay marriage. They have studiously avoided taking positions on social issues, even when social conservatives stomp their feet and demand that the Tea Party start talking about abortion and gay marriage.

I have said before that “The tea party is not a libertarian movement, but (at this point at least) it is a libertarian force in American politics. It’s organizing Americans to come out in the streets, confront politicians, and vote on the issues of spending, deficits, debt, the size and scope of government, and the constitutional limits on government. That’s a good thing. And if many of the tea partiers do hold socially conservative views (not all of them do), then it’s a good thing for the American political system and for American freedom to keep them focused on shrinking the size and cost of the federal government.” That still seems a valid point: Whatever views individual Tea Partiers may hold on an array of issues, as the Tea Party they are organized to constrain taxes, spending, deficits, debt, and the size of government, and that’s a libertarian direction.

Sounds pretty good to me!

You can, of course, read the whole piece here

(Posted by TVA)