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Wednesday, 27 July 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) ji5.3'7i). - The functions of a 'Board such as this and of an Arbitration 'Court, are entirely different. A manufacturer using a -secret process may be making large profits and paying lower .wages .than he should, and the Arbitration Court should have the right to know .it. I was .once the champion rabbit skin-man in Australia in handling rabbits that were wanted for export by the British Government, mostly for hospitals, and on one occasion I had a dispute .with a 'hatter... I suggested that we should go -to the Denton Hat Mills to settle the point; but when we. got there they said to me, " We will gladly admit you, senator, and give you any information at our command, and even let you see one of our machines for treating rabbit-skins - a machine that no other hatter in Australia possesses."

The otherhatter recognised- that that was quite fair, and' waited until I, had inspected themachine and seen itworking. We ought not to publishbroadcastinfor- mationto secret processesofthatsort among hundreds of trade rivals. The Patents.Actgivesinventorsallsortsof privileges to, protect them . An the useof now and secret processes. . The protection given: to, a man. who makes, an original discovery inchemical lines is wonderful. A manufacturer who. has. greater enters prise than his rivals, and. invents ways to increase his production, ought not to be compelled to . publish the details, to all his trade rivals.

Senator Lynch - What is done in the Arbitration Court, where power is given to the Court to ascertain trade secrets ?

Senator RUSSELL - Only so far as they relate to the question of wages. If a man, by the use of a machine, reduces the cost of production of an article from 20s. to 14s., the other side has aright to ask for particulars of the cost of production in relation to wages. If a man makes a big profit in that way, he should consider his employees. This is an entirely different matter. The object is to prevent information reaching trade rivals through loose publication or disclosure by individual members of the Board.

Senator Elliott - What about a further provision about publishing, information which may affect a man's business?

Senator RUSSELL - The members of the Board, will not do that ; they will be pledged to secrecy.

Senator Elliott - They may disclose it in their report. (Senator RUSSELL. - The honorable senator should look at clause 9.

Senator Wilson - If. they are pledged to secrecy, you must accept their report without question.

Senator RUSSELL - Not necessarily. The report goes officially to Parliament. Senator Wilson. - You can call on traders to give this information to Parliament. Parliament is not very likely to treat itas private, is it ?

Senator RUSSELL - I shouldsay not ; but the Minister would probably ask that certain things should . not be publiclyreported, and Parliament would respect his wishes.

Senator Lynch - There is. in the Bill no power to enable the Board to get a tradesecret.

Senator RUSSELL -Under . clause 9 the members of the Board pledge: themselves not to divulge any information furnished to them or to- the Department,except in the course of their duties, in connexion with the matters, which are being, or may be, dealt with by the Board. The exception is made to enable, the members of the Board to discuss the information across the Board table, but that is very different from publishing it broadcast for the information of business rivals. The Minister is free to do what ha likes; but I have never known any Minister to be charged with such lack of discretion as to drag a man's secret principles of manufacture into open discussion in Parliament. I do not believe Parliament would tolerate such conduct from any Minister. I hope no amendment will be made in a clause which, after all, . seeks to do the fair thing by protecting the progressive and inventive citizen. The established practice of all civilized countries is to- encourage the inventor and the man of enterprise.

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