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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 14

(Question No. 1354)

Senator Puplick asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 16 September 1986:

(1) Is Australia a party to any of the following international conventions-

(a) Rome (Neighbouring Rights) Convention, 1961;

(b) Brussels (Satellites) Convention, 1974; or

(c) Madrid (Double Taxation) Convention 1979;

If not, is Australia currently giving any consideration to becoming a party to any of these Conventions.

(2) Does Australia's apparent failure to become a party to any of these Conventions mean that Australian artists, authors or performers have lesser rights and protections under international copyright conventions than those accorded to similar people in Nations which have become parties to the Conventions.

(3) Is there any particular reason or reasons why Australia has so far declined to become a party to each or any of the Conventions in question.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Attorney- General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) (a) Australia has not acceded to the Rome Convention. The issue of performers' protection is currently being considered by the Copyright Law Review Committee. The Committee hopes to complete its report on this reference by the end of this year or early in 1987. Consideration of Australia's accession to the Rome Convention will be made in the light of the Committee's Report.

(b) Australia has not acceded to the Brussels Convention. The question of accession to the Convention is a matter for which my colleague, the Minister for Communications, has primary responsibility. He advises that the question is kept under periodic review.

(c) Australia has not acceded to the Madrid Convention. The Government is not, at this stage, convinced that accession to the Convention is justified.

(2) & (3).

Rome Convention

Adoption of the Rome Convention would result in certain protections for performers beyond those which are presently available under Australian law. As indicated above, the issue of performers' protection, including the possible adoption of the Rome Convention, is presently being examined by the Copyright Law Review Committee.

Brussels Convention

The Brussels Convention does not establish copyright in programme-carrying satellite signals. It merely requires member States to prevent piracy of such signals made from one country by distributors in another country. (In this context `piracy' means unauthorised interception of the signal and subsequent broadcast of the programmes received.) As a result of Australia's size and geographical isolation, there is no problem of piracy in Australia of signals from other countries. The risk of piracy in other countries of Australian signals is very small, compared with the position in Continental Europe, or the Americas, for example. Further, there are only 11 members of the Convention, of which one is the U.S., and 3 only are from Europe. None of our near neighbours is a member.

Madrid Convention

That Australia has not acceded to the Madrid Convention does not mean that Australian artists, authors or performers are disadvantaged. The treaty is not yet in force as there has been accession by less than the required 10 States. Only 4 countries-Egypt, India, Iraq and Czechoslovakia-have ratified the Convention. In any event, there are strong arguments that the existing bilateral double taxation agreements, together with the existing unilateral provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, provide a more precise and efficient means of eliminating the problem of double taxation. In this context, the number of Australia's bilateral double taxation agreements is growing rapidly and already covers Australia's major trading partners.