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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26426


Senator BROWN (10:22 PM) —`The Australian patent law is not significantly affected ...' That is a great word to watch: `significantly'. The adjective `largely' in `the fears ... are largely unfounded' is there to let the minister and the government off the hook, but all it does is confirm people's concerns. There is no categorical assurance in this at all. As ever, it will go to the faceless people in the tribunal set up outside the reach of this parliament to determine. There has been no countermanding of that argument all the way through here. It is a very difficult and complex area. Other speakers have pointed to the Ross Gittins article, and the Democrats have come forward with this amendment. In an awesomely complex area where some people feel they will gain and others feel they will lose, the one thing we know is that this does not protect the interests of Australia. It is not watertight; it is `largely'—`you can largely feel okay about it'—and `significantly' without worries. The words there point to the fact that there will be arbitration on this. As soon as it goes to arbitration, let the Australian industry know that nothing in this parliament can save them. There is not even a report-back here.

By the way, if there are citizens who want to join in that suit when it occurs, they can write a letter. The tribunal might deign to look at their letter; it might not—it does not matter, because they cannot go and take part in it. If the matters are confidential—and which company would say that they are not?—nobody will be able to know what went on. What is more, they are beyond the reach of freedom of information. So there we are.

We will be supporting the Democrat amendment. We know there are difficulties for some people in it, but the reality is that the Labor Party is going to make sure that the government does not allow this to be amended or fixed at all. See you in the faceless court. Or read about it somewhere down the line. There is nothing more hopeful that can be said about this. We are dealing with imponderables which will be sorted out under the weight of the huge American cartels and the most powerful IP and IT industry in the world—by a long shot—going to court over matters that are not defined in this legislation. It is the government selling out the Australian interest.