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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26427


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (10:30 PM) —I hesitate to say it but, again, the Democrats are looking at these issues somewhat negatively. It is true that we are a net user, but some of us have great confidence in the intellectual capabilities of Australia and the opportunities to build strong, internationally-competitive business based on intellectual property. I believe that, the more we can encourage that and support it, the better off we will be. We have looked to a dynamic economy that grows particularly at the intellectually demanding end. It is interesting to see that between 1996 and 2000 Australian copyright industries grew annually by an average of 5.7 per cent. I suspect that, particularly with greater opportunities to sell into the largest economy in the world, that can be further accelerated. But to encourage Australians to invest in intellectual property is going to require giving them reasonable protection for their investment. With regard to the short term, I think I understand what Senator Ridgeway is saying, but that is a concession that is made in order to have the opportunity to grow, which is provided through this agreement.

In relation to third countries, yes, I can see that with different systems throughout the world that provides difficulties. Greater harmonisation would benefit all. That is obviously going to take time but, as the number of bilateral agreements around the world accelerates—and they seem to be occurring everywhere at the moment—we might find that harmonisation in these areas or movement in that direction occurs much faster than we would otherwise think.