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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2841


Senator HILL (Leader of the Opposition) (5.21 p.m.) —Our position, upon consideration of the Copyright Amendment Bill, is that eight of the 10 amendments that we moved or were involved in supporting in this place now seem to be basically supported by the Government. Although the Government, as is its wont, has changed the odd word or two so that the Bill can be re-presented to this place as Government amendments, that is something we are used to. The Government in some way feels embarrassed if it has to concede Opposition amendments and return here with support after it has opposed the amendments in the Senate. Nevertheless, we are pleased that the Government is now supporting eight of our 10 amendments because that will significantly improve the legislation.

  The issue that the Government has not agreed to relates to amendments Nos 5 and 10, which were the Australian adaptation provisions. The Committee will be aware that we supported Senator Spindler in these amendments on the basis of the argument that had taken place in the hearings of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. It seemed to us that there was an argument to support this exception from what was our general principle, and that was looking for a more open market in printed works. However, we accepted that exception on the basis that we were concerned that works which might otherwise be adapted for Australian use might not be adapted and that that would be to the disadvantage of Australian consumers.

  As I indicated, we acknowledged at the time that our position was somewhat inconsistent with our overall theme. Nevertheless, in these issues where it is a matter of balancing merit sometimes that inconsistency can be outweighed by the benefit of the amendment we are seeking; that is, to ensure that there is not a loss of textbooks that might be adapted for use within Australia, which is something we obviously want to encourage.

  Further debate has taken place in the meantime in the other place and outside this place on whether the loophole that would occur by the acceptance by the Government of our amendment would outweigh the benefit that we were seeking. Those who have read the speech in the other place by the shadow Attorney-General, Mr Peacock, will be aware that in the end he was persuaded that the loophole that would be created by the position that we were nevertheless pressing in this chamber was such as to outweigh the benefit that we wanted.

  Therefore, in a spirit of believing that eight amendments out of 10 is better than none, and since we want to get this piece of legislation through because we think it is significantly to the benefit of the Australian consumer, we determined that we would no longer press the amendments relating to Australian adaptation. Our position, therefore, it might be said, is more consistent with the whole line that we developed both through the Committee and through the consultancy process.

  On that basis, we will accept the amendments with which the Government has come back, which were basically our amendments, and we will not press the two that it decided to refuse in the other place.