Internationally acclaimed Australian authors, Thomas Keneally and Mem Fox gave rousing and inspiring keynote addresses to launch the new Parliamentary Friends of Australian Books and Writers (PFABW) last month, uniting senior MPs and Senators at Parliament House in Canberra.

Supported by the Copyright Agency, the event also celebrated the inaugural 2017 Australian Reading Hour.

The Parliamentary Friends group has been established to provide a forum for MPs and Senators to discuss important issues affecting the publishing industry, especially a copyright regime that supports Australian writers and publishers.

Co-chair of the group, Senator Linda Reynolds, said, “Our writers give a voice to the Australian experience across generations and around the world.

“The Australian publishing industry consists of more than 1,000 businesses employing 20,000 people including writers, editors, publishers, printers and booksellers. The industry generates more than $2 billion in annual revenue. Indeed, Australia has the healthiest and largest independent book seller sector in the English-speaking market.

“The publishing industry also produces high quality educational books for Australia’s five million students and generates $165 million in annual export revenue. It is clear that investing in a dynamic book culture is an investment in high standards of literacy and education, as well as a culture of ideas and innovation.

“This parliamentary friendship group will allow us to better support and engage with the whole Australian book industry. It will also help us highlight the significant contributions this industry makes to many facets of Australian life.”

A rousing and witty keynote address was given by author Thomas Keneally, reflecting on the evolving ecology of the Australian publishing industry. “The proposition that goes around now is that copyright yearns to not exist. That products of the mind are free. There are many things that I think yearn to be free,” he continued, “One of them is petroleum. But it’s not!”

“We all brush our minds with a different book every night. Long may Australia remain a place where there is a vivid literary culture and a culture of letters and a profession of letters.”

The Hon Tony Burke MP, acting co-chair of PFABW closed the evening by recognising the importance Australian stories play when developing policies and regulations for Australian society.

“Whether you pen the story, type the story, print the story, distribute the story or sell the story, thank you. We do our job better if we understand and know the stories you tell,” he said.