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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3427


Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innnovation and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (18:24): I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate. I would also like to take a moment to thank all the stakeholders who contributed their thoughts and suggestions on this bill. The proposals in this bill have been the subject of extensive consultation; three separate rounds of public consultation stretching over the last two years. Innovators, researchers, small businesses, big businesses, academic experts, lawyers, patent and trademark attorneys and users of the products of the IP system have all offered their thoughtful comments. These have undoubtedly led to a better bill, and if the bill is passed they will lead to better law. I note that there have been some suggestions that the bill does not go far enough and that further amendments might be required to address the issue of gene patents. Gene patents have been the subject of a number of recent inquiries by two Senate committees, the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property. Most recently, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquired into the Patent Amendment (Human Genes and Biological Materials) Bill 2010. This was a private member's bill which sought to ban patents for gene and biological materials. The majority report of the committee recommended that the private member's bill not be passed.

Before that, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee conducted a comprehensive review into gene patents and their impacts on access to medical treatment and research. Last November, the government released its response to the committee's report. The committee did not recommend a ban on gene patents, and the government agreed with this. The committee also recommended amending the Patents Act to raise patent standards and introduce a research exemption. These amendments will be implemented through the raising the bar bill. They have widespread support from stakeholders, the research community and industry, including those on both sides of the gene debate, who see the changes as an important step in improving the patent system. The government also agreed to further measures recommended by the committee to address concerns about gene patents. Central to these are a review of existing compulsory licensing provisions and amendments to patents legislation to reword the legislative test for patent-eligible subject matter, using contemporary language, and to introduce a morality exclusion. These measures will be the subject of the same considered and comprehensive full public consultation as the raising the bar bill.

A strong intellectual property system is essential to drive the innovation and research that benefit so many Australians. Robust patent standards ensure that broad patents do not clog the innovation landscape, preventing competition for better ideas and better inventions. By aligning standards with our major trading partners, the bill makes it easy for Australian inventors to take their good ideas overseas. The bill gives clarity and certainty to our researchers so they can experiment free from the shadow of litigation. The bill speeds up the process of resolving patent and trademark applications so that applicants and the public know where they are free to operate and innovate. The bill assists the IP professionals who assist our innovators, making it easier for them to continue to provide quality advice. The bill deters imitators and fakes, with better border protection systems and stronger sanctions for counterfeiters. Finally, the bill simplifies the more technical aspects of the current IP system so that innovators can spend less time prosecuting applications and more time producing innovations.

These measures raise the bar. They raise the quality of our innovation system and so raise the quality of the innovation that benefits all Australians. That is why we need this bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

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