Opening the kimono:
Apple agrees to Husic meeting


news The managing director of Apple’s Australian division has reportedly agreed to meet with with Federal Labor MP Ed Husic, almost five months after the politician complained in Parliament about price markups on the company’s products when sold in Australia.

The member for Chifley first raised the matter in Parliament in late March, noting he would write to Apple Australia managing director Tony King on the matter. However, in a follow-up speech last night (Hansard PDF), Husic noted Apple had not responded.

“Amazingly, at the time, I was quietly warned by IT journalists and consumers not to expect a response,” he said. “Chase them up I did; my office followed them up a number of times. They promised that by 16 July, Apple Australia’s managing director Tony King would personally respond to the concerns raised in March once he returned from leave. July 16 came and went. Apple refused to respond, and I am staggered by their behaviour; they’ve snubbed consumer, media and parliamentary interest in this matter.”

However, this morning the Sydney Morning Herald reported that King had finally agreed to a meeting with Husic. “Apple did suddenly find my telephone number and rang me yesterday and we are trying to find a time because I’m in Canberra next week [and] Tony King’s in the States,” Husic reportedly told the newspaper.

It won’t be the first encounter King has had with a local politician, despite the fact that the reclusive Apple executive is rarely seen in public.

In August 2010, then-Tasmanian Premier and former IT consultant David Bartlett hosted a roundtable in the state involving King, on the topic of how Tasmania could boost the development of its technology sector — especially the mobile application area which Apple has a strong position in.

Apple isn’t the only vendor to have been targeted this week by Husic this week on the issue of technology pricing.

Husic also noted he was concerned about the issue of what he described as “glaring price differentials” with respect to other “culprits”, naming Lenovo, which slugged Australians with a $560 markup on its ThinkPad X1 laptop when it was released locally in May, Microsoft, which heavily marked up its Office 365 product in Australia when it launched several months ago, and Adobe, which has regularly marked up its Creative Suite products substantially upon launch in Australia, describing some of the prices as “incredible”.

In response, Adobe stated that the pricing issue was complex, and that it wasn’t just the technology sector which was affected. A Lenovo spokesperson said: “Lenovo’s product pricing structure is based on the local market, not exchange rates, and we ensure our prices are competitive with local market offerings.” Microsoft has not yet responded to a request for comment on the matter.

As has long been chronicled, Apple takes somewhat of a “think different” approach to external relations. More so than any other company, relationships with public figures such as journalists, politicians and executives from rival companies are conducted centrally from Cupertino in the US, with very little autonomy granted to executives like King.

To illustrate this, I’ve never personally met King, or virtually anyone else inside Apple Australia, over the better part of a decade that I’ve been a technology journalist in Australia. The company does not respond to calls, rarely responds to emails and won’t even let you borrow review units to conduct reviews on its products unless you sit through a demonstration process of the products’ features first.

Because of this, I really don’t expect that King even has enough power within Apple to substantially change the way Australian prices are set. I would expect that Australian prices are set globally — and that King’s role locally is more or less just to keep things humming along according to the global plan. So while he has obviously decided it’s worth meeting with Husic — given that five months have passed and the MP appears determined to make this a national issue — I don’t expect any real hard outcomes from the event.

Furthermore, I would expect that King will make some effort to ensure that Husic doesn’t simply broadcast the full content of their conversation to the world.

I would characterise this meeting as something like an irresistable force meeting an immovable object. Apple is perhaps the most stubborn company in the world when it comes to getting its own way. But federal politicians — especially those with Husic’s deep history in the Labor movement — know a thing or two about being stubborn themselves. Husic has faced down Telstra countless times in his previous union roles. Will Apple be able to placate the MP? Only time will tell.

Image credits: Shane Fullwood (CC2.0)


  1. “Lenovo’s product pricing structure is based on the local market, not exchange rates, and we ensure our prices are competitive with local market offerings.”

    Read as “If everyone else is screwing you, why shouldn’t we?”

    It’s the same kind of not quite collusion as you see in the fuel industry and I don’t quite get it.

    Sure, it’s probably expensive to ship things over, sure people have to mark things up to have distribution channels – but the mark up on software that is sent via the web, or other offerings is ridiculous.

    You’ve got to wonder if it’s not just the need to remain competitive in the US market where they face much larger backlash and issues on pricing, that they decide that the quieter countries, away from the head office and without the consumer power can be shafted to produce the profit they can no longer get from the US, if they want to remain competitive there?

  2. I hope the Federal Labor MP Ed Husic has plenty of time to also have a sit-down with Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Honda, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate, etc etc etc etc etc etc. No wonder Apple didnt want to meet you, what a waste of their time, and yours!

    • Why on Earth would you side with the biggest corporation in the world ripping consumers off? So what iof they all do it? They do it WORSE, and any of them who are called in should do so without complaint and at least answer valid questions. Idiot consumers backing companies like Apple in situations like these deserve to be ripped off.

    • Rumbo73, I know that when it comes to companies like Toyota, Nissan, Honda etc.. their cars are HEAVILY taxed by the Australian Govt to promote you to buy ‘Australian cars’ like Holdens and Fords (I’ll never understand how people consider Ford to be Australian..).

      At least those companies have an excuse.. Apple and Adobe charging more for the same product, delivered online, with no additional tax charged on it is inexcusable..

          • Pretty sure the article’s referring to Apple’s actual products, not their virtual wares. Even so, they’ve already adjusted prices for the App Store, and their music prices are totally out of their hands (they don’t own the music after all).

  3. Yep… last thing corporations want is government meddling with their profit machines. Why should they sit down with government on the issue? In fact, while they aren’t breaking any laws, they could probably just tell the government ministers to “sod off”.

  4. Yep… last thing corporations want is government meddling with their profit machines. Why should they sit down with government on the issue? In fact, while they aren’t breaking any laws, they could probably just tell the government ministers to “sod off”.

  5. The car prices here are largely to do with our import taxes and tariffs to promote local business not the manufactures marking up.

  6. This is really weird – all that Tony King will do is point to the pricing change that Apple recently performed and say… STFU.

  7. Maybe Husic’s negotiating a price for a shipload of macbooks to install in people’s roofs as insulation. Would be a nice symmetry to the bricks they have provided to the kiddies.

  8. Assume the Aussie OR assume the possie ? Thats why internet shopping is booming. These wank yanks haven’t figured out that their are businesses set up to get around their bs.

    • Dear Disgusted,

      I’d like to point you to the recent price changes performed by Apple here in Australia. An App from the Apple App Store that costs .99c in the US now costs .99c in Australia. When you take into account that online prices in Australia include GST and they DO NOT include sales tax in the US (yet are applicable in most states) this makes buying Apps in Australia cheaper.

      Additionally – Apple lowered the cost of most of their hardware as well. However, there is a slight price difference – probably due to the cost of shipping things to here in the relatively small numbers that Australia represents over the US.

      Please consider understanding what you are complaining about before you sit at your keyboard (or, as is more likely the case, release your 10,000 monkeys to the Olivetti typewriters).

  9. Assume the Aussie OR assume the possie ? Thats why internet shopping is booming. These wank yanks haven’t figured out that their are businesses set up to get around their bs.

  10. i hope the meeting is held at Tony King’s office and the only “chair” for Ed Husic is that “kneeling apparatus” used in that iSelect ad.

    seriously, the best way to get Apple is not through the ACCC, but via the Tax Office. if Apple’s selling prices here are so much higher, then Apple Australia should be booking fat profit margins and paying lots of taxes. if not, then it’s a potential “transfer pricing” issue the ATO can look at.

    2013. get these clowns out of office. way too many union officials occupying positions of power and running this country.

  11. To all the whiners complaining about “Apple ripping us all off”: it’s unfair to get the price charged in the US and compare it here. We’re a smaller country, with a tiny fraction of the customers compared to one STATE of America, and we’re much further away from everything else.

    Even regardless of the above, my own experience disproves any nonsense about “overcharging”. I purchased a computer while it was on sale in the US, had it shipped for free to my cousin in the US, then had it shipped to me – and guess what? The price ended up costing more than if I’d purchased it in Australia at full price!
    So shut up and stop whinging.

    • Well ive done the same and saved hundreds of dollars, they where compaq laptops purchased from best buy, carried back through customs.

      I did look at getting them posted over here, but at $130 (or something) postage for a $300 laptop would have eaten all the margin.

      • Thats all very well if you are in the country to carry them back here (or know someone that can do so for you), but its not really an argument to prove Apple could/should sell theirs cheaper here. You even admit the postage would’ve eaten up the margin – so what’s your point?

        BTW did you declare them to customs?

  12. Once you allow for taxes, the price difference isn’t all that much on Apple hardware these days. $50-$100 is pretty negligible on a $1500 computer, especially given the higher cost of doing business in Australia – more expensive domestic freight, cost of hedging currency risk, and so on. It’s not like the prices are double, as they are for everything else – cameras, books, blurays, video games, clothes, shoes, etc etc.

    On the other hand, iTunes store prices seem high, not to mention the annoyance that they *still* don’t have HD videos.

  13. We love chopping down those tall poppies.

    You want cheap and nasty… buy cheap and nasty. Some of us believe the reason why Apple produces the innovation and consistent quality it does is because of the whole Apple ethos.

    Let the market decide.

  14. Let me get this straight up front.
    I am not on the vendors side in this issue.
    Personally I’m jack of getting screwed on D/L content both on price and local “availability” (sorry free-to-air, but the writing is on the wall).

    But for the sake of fair and balanced….I can’t belive I’m doing this….., let’s consider this situation in a historical context.

    Mass content distribution via the internet is a relatively new phenomenon.

    Go back far enough and you needed a one to one relationship between art/artist and consumer.
    The invention of the printing press changed all that and created the concept of “distribution”, to largely separate creator and consumer. Since that day distributors have held all the power, but that’s starting to change.

    So you have a model that’s lasted……um….. a long time. And under that model content made available through distribution channels in Australia was more expensive than in other parts of the world. There were reasons for that, many of them articulated here and nobody seems to be really questioning them.

    Then one day when nobody is really watching, presto! The Internet comes along and makes a mess of the whole system. Suddenly artists can get back to that direct relationship, and content manufacturers have the option to cut out the middle man.

    Distributors/channel partners promptly shit themselves. In corporate IT we see a sudden push for “services”(groan Cloud), in consumer-land AFACT goes on a blitzkrieg.

    Then the aussie dollar goes through the roof (arguably well above where it belongs) and the savvy shopper gets a nasty surprise when they compare vs

    Because, here we run afoul of a sales maxim possibly as old as Adam and Eve.

    “Charge what the market will bear”.

    The vendors have precedence on their side and now are getting pretty much all the pie.

    Lets be honest, the CEO who said “ahh stuff it, we don’t really need the dosh, let’s cut the skips a break”, would be sacked by his shareholders in a heartbeat. Particularly with the downturn in the US.

    So we have what we have
    A dying paradigm, a rough deal and thankfully an evolving situation.

    Of course as a consumer I don’t really give a rats ass about any of the above.
    I just want to legally watch tv shows the same day my relatives in the US get to; and pay the same for the software I just downloaded.

    So stop screwing me!!!


    P.S It’s late and I’m a bit tired and I don’t feel this rant’s quite as articulate and well-constructed as some others. Sorry Renai, will try better next time ;-)

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