Ed Husic: Why Focus On Piracy When The Australia Tax Issue Still Rages On?

IT Pricing champion and Federal MP for Chifley, Ed Husic, is mad. Mostly he’s mad that while the Government fiddles with an anti-piracy scheme the Australia Tax issue still burns holes in the pockets of this country’s gadget lovers.

It’s been a year since the Parliament’s IT Pricing Inquiry handed down a report to the then-Labor government on how it could tweak consumer and competition law to kill the so-called Australia Tax.

The theory behind the Australia Tax was and still is that Aussies are gouged for gadgets and digital content simply because of the geographic location in which they live. Companies like Apple, Adobe and Microsoft were all compelled to testify before the Parliament to justify their behaviour.

Normally when a report gets posted, the Government responds in a timely fashion with how it plans to take up to the Parliament’s findings. This report was sadly swept under the rug of governmental transition before the election that saw the Labor government replaced by Tony Abbott’s Coalition government. Since it took power, PM Abbott’s government has been focussing on issues like anti-piracy programs and data retention rather than issues surrounding the price of gadgets and content.

Regardless, we’ve since been able to confirm that a response exists in Malcom Turnbull’s in-tray, we just can’t see it yet.

According to Ed Husic MP, that’s just not good enough:

Today, nearly a year after this government of slips, trips and fumbles, pats itself on the back for launching yet another review – this time into competition law – let’s look at its track record in the freeing up the restrictions of digital products. The report – “At What Cost” – delivered recommendations to fight this consumer rip off.

Both the electronic and paper version of that report – which urged competition laws be strengthened to better arm consumers – has sat in the office of the new Minister for Communications.
He agrees that these type of practices are unfair, stating last year: “I think that as we move into more of a . . . global digital economy, the ability to have different limits on rights and licences from one jurisdiction to another are becoming more futile” Given his apparent supports for liberalisation, he’s been nudged for a response on the report.

Both the Australian Financial Review and The Australian’s IT section have asked when he’ll respond and he said he would do it before the first anniversary of the report being brought down. That anniversary was on July 29. We don’t have a response.

Husic, who champions the cause of consumer rights and denounces the Australia Tax, believes that the government is focussing on the wrong issues in digital policy, and should kill the Australia Tax if it wants to effectively combat piracy:

The government’s busy doing the bidding of big business – obsessed with internet piracy while not taking a serious look at why Australia tops the charts for piracy.
Why not take a look at another chart we top: digital product prices? As Communications Alliance advised the IT price inquiry artificial barriers to content, such as geo-blocking, are a ‘classic generator of online piracy’.

Where the big players have made products easier, safer and price sensitive you’ve seen ample evidence of positive changes in consumer behaviour. The best response is to piracy is a market led response – but consumers stand aghast as the market skews towards business.

Business will always give full throated calls for deregulation as long as it can game competition and copyright regulation in its favour. Considering this, my message to the government – on behalf of millions of frustrated Australian consumers – is to stop seeing every one of those consumers as an internet pirate.

Respond to the IT Pricing Inquiry Report, ensure competition and copyright law can unshackle the digital handcuff off Australian consumers. The time for a fairer deal for the consumer is well and truly here – because Australian consumers have suffered long enough.

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