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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15514


Mr ENTSCH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) (10:28 AM) —in reply—In summing up on the second reading debate on the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2002, I would like to thank those members who contributed to the debate on this bill. I would particularly like to thank the member for Dunkley for his comments in support of the bill and, in particular, his comments on the patenting of genetic material. The government is certainly looking forward to the ALRC report due to be completed next year. I would also like to thank the members for Rankin, Blaxland and Stirling, who have supported this bill and spoken about innovation and industry policy. I take this opportunity to respond to some of the statements made by the speakers from the opposition and to highlight some of the government's more significant achievements in the areas of industry, innovation and intellectual property policy.

`Science and innovation' is one of the government's nine strategic priorities. Industry and innovation policy are an area in which this government has been particularly active—notably, under our five-year, $3 billion innovation statement, Backing Australia's Ability. In that statement, we announced the fund managers for the $78.7 million competitive pre-seed fund for the commercialisation of public sector research, which will encourage universities in the public sector and research agencies to further develop their discoveries and create new business opportunities. We will be providing R&D Start with further funding of over $520 million until 2006 to encourage companies to undertake R&D and its commercialisation.

We will be establishing two centres, costing $130 million over five years, in information technology, communication and stem cell research. We announced funding for 30 cooperative research centres and committed an additional $227 million to the CRC program, topping up the pre-existing funding of approximately $145 million per annum. Also, we established 125 Australian Research Council Federation fellowships, each worth over $1.1 million, to retain Australia's leading researchers and to attract outstanding international researchers to work in Australia.

We also provided funding for up to an additional 2,000 university places each year, with the priority given to information and communications technology, mathematics and science. By the end of 2003-04, the federal government will have spent 41 per cent of the total $3 billion committed, not the 20 per cent, or one-fifth, claimed by the member for Rankin. The remaining 59 per cent is allocated for the final two years of the program.

The government's continuing commitment to the creation of new knowledge and innovation is reflected in the record allocation of $5.4 billion in the 2003-04 budget. Of that, $644 million is allocated for 2003-04, which represents an increase of around $217 million on the 2002-03 budget commitment. Labor's knee-jerk response to increasing expenditure on R&D is to increase the R&D tax concession to 150 per cent or even 200 per cent. The Productivity Commission study in 1997 indicated that the government's current tax concession does generate net economic benefits, especially at the 125 per cent rate. Contrary to what the member for Rankin has said, business investment in R&D jumped 18 per cent in 2000-01, and, given the record number of registrations for the R&D tax concession for 2001-02, it is expected to increase even further.

I also point out that there have been no cuts to the R&D Start program. On the contrary, R&D Start, the government's flagship innovation program, has been extended to June 2007, with an additional $41 million. The R&D Start program has assisted more than 1,000 innovative Australian companies to increase their R&D levels and the commercialisation of outcomes since 1996. More than 90 per cent of the grant recipients under this program are small and medium enterprises. Because of the unprecedented demand for R&D Start funding, it was necessary to inject an additional $40 million from uncommitted R&D Start funds in outyears into the program to meet an unexpected call on funds in the 2002-03 financial year. As a consequence of the high take-up rate, it was also necessary to suspend the consideration of new applications for a short time until uncommitted funds became available.

Under Backing Australia's Ability, we have also announced two significant reforms of the intellectual property system. A bill for the new Designs Act was introduced into the parliament on 11 December 2002. The Designs Bill 2002 provides for stricter eligibility and infringement tests, a more streamlined registration system and a better enforcement and dispute resolutions process.

The Patents Amendment Act 2001 strengthened Australia's patentability standards to more closely align them with international standards. This act implemented the key recommendations from the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property's review of enforcement of industrial property rights and the Intellectual Property and Competition Review Committee's review of intellectual property legislation under the Competition Principles Agreement. We have established the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia at the University of Melbourne. The institute will provide high-quality research to improve policy advice to government, the use of IP by Australian organisations and the debate about IP issues in the Australian community.

We have implemented a range of initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of IP in both the public and private sectors, with particular focus on tertiary education and research industries. Clearly, this government has implemented very vigorously an extensive array of well-targeted and effective measures in the areas of industry, innovation and intellectual property policy. These measures will provide an essential underpinning for a truly innovative economy that will deliver huge benefits to the Australian people.

The amendments in the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2002 will be of benefit to applicants for patent, trademark and design protection because they will ensure that valuable rights are not put at risk due to the error or omission of a third party. In addition, we have acted to ensure that the disclosure regime for patents provides an appropriate balance between the needs of applicants and those of the patent office. The new requirements are clearer and reduce the burden on the applicant without significantly diminishing the amount of relevant information that is to be disclosed to the patent office. These amendments have been arrived at in consultation with key interest groups, and I am confident that the new system will ensure that the patent office has the information it requires to ensure the granting of high-quality patents. I would particularly like to thank the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys and the FICPI—the International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys—for their assistance in this matter.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.