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Thursday, 18 June 2015
Page: 6884


Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (16:49): We are living at a great time of economic liberalisation where the way we live and work is being transformed largely through the internet. It is seeing the way that we produce and distribute goods and services in our economy alter right before our eyes, and this is a good thing. It presents challenges. Obviously a lot of the jobs of today will not be present tomorrow, and we need to get ready for that, but it is providing opportunities particularly for our young who want to be able to change the way that we live.

I got to see some of this earlier this week in Sydney at a forum that was held by PwC on capital markets and innovation which looked at how we can support greater innovation in this country. There was a lot of energy in the room, a lot of terrific people across the private and public sectors, very focused on start-ups, digital disruption, improving the links between superannuation and venture capital to drive further innovation. It was a terrific effort and I want to commend, in particular, Jan McCahey and PwC for hosting that forum.

The forum was one of the reasons why I could not participate in a debate that was occurring in this place in relation to the government's proposed reforms on copyright which will propose site blocking. I consider that that bill reflects an ethos that tries to limit the liberalising force of the internet to the extent that it tries to skew benefit to producers, rights holders and certain entrenched interests at the expense of others. On the surface, it aims to tackle piracy; you cannot argue with that. But, in the wider context, it demonstrates an absence of commitment by this government to having a coherent approach to dealing with piracy. To paraphrase an expression, it is tough on piracy and not on the causes of piracy. For years, consumers of content have been forced to accept that content later than overseas consumers, at higher prices. It is a business model that helps to prop up profits of rights holders, and consumers have been cynically forced to accept a business model that simply fleeces them.

Technology has been able to apply a vice-like amount of pressure on this model, and we have all seen what established interests have done to respond. It has been a massive resistance against change. That has been best reflected in site blocking legislation debated in this place. I do not like it, I did not like it and I fought against it

I lost this round but I view it as a battle that is part of a broader campaign for change that will be championed by younger generations of MPs who will accept what the community does, which is what they want to see changed. I am not against the bill per se. I am against a lopsided attempt to deal with piracy—one that attempts to clamp down on piracy and not deal with a business model that is broken and that is in part being used by some improperly to download pirated material in a way that is inappropriate but does not deal with the way of getting that content to people by much more efficient means.

What this bill does is get government to help business to keep fleecing consumers or to support that type of ethos. You have not once heard a rights holder say that if they get major gains in reducing piracy this will flow through to better prices and better accessible content. I dare them to actually say it. They will not do it. They will not respond to consumers. They will spend their time lobbying for legal responses to market failure, and the legislation reflects a government attitude and an attitude of extreme rights holder attitudes that will not respect that consumers, when they are given choice with content, will pay for content and will pay for better content.

If this government are pro consumer and pro liberalisation, why haven't they responded to the Australian Law Reform Commission's report titled Copyright and the digital economy, delivered a year ago—no response. Nearly two years ago, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communication delivered its report into IT pricing. No government response. This week we moved amendments to the legislation to get the government to act on these two matters. They voted against it. The concern is that the bill itself will in time prohibit the use of VPNs and that this could block the use of VPNs for consumers to get access to content. It has ignored calls to lock down those protections on VPNs. It has added to ISP costs. Rights holders need to accept that a globalised market should work just as much to benefit consumers as it does producers. We cannot remain insular by imposing a quasi form of protectionism to prop up profits at the expense of consumers. This should be fair for all, not for some.