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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2742

Senator GEORGES(12.32) —I am grateful to Senator Jack Evans for expressing the concern which I share. It is perhaps as well that I waited until the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) made his comments. But I must express some concern at the speed with which the Copyright Amendment Bill 1984 is going through the Parliament. I express this view, having in mind the fact that there has been a court decision which re-established the copyright position and which is now the subject of appeal to the High Court of Australia. I have a suspicion-I am seeking another word-that this legislation may anticipate the result of the appeal. I would prefer to see that process completed before any legislation is passed through the Senate.

The Attorney-General indicated that there may be other ways in which one can deal with patent rights for computer software and I think that they ought to be examined quickly. I think it is extraordinary that we should be extending the copyright which applies to authorship to those who produce works of substantial art which have inspirational participation or content. I find it very difficult to accept that we should, even in the short term, give such protection to computer software. I would have preferred, of course, this matter to be the subject of considerable debate both out in the community and within the Parliament. My impression was that this Bill would be introduced into and passed by the Senate and held at that point. I would like the Attorney to tell me why that will not happen. Have I received the wrong impression that the Bill would be introduced into the Senate but would not go to the House of Representatives? We have a situation in which the Bill will be raced through the Senate in about 15 minutes and will be dealt with by the other place in five minutes.

Senator Hill —There is no urgency after the Federal Court judgment.

Senator GEORGES —That is quite correct. Of course, there is protection for the time being; there is an appeal against the decision. However, one would have thought that that process could have been followed.

It could be argued that I should have been present when debate on this matter was taking place in the Parliament. However, I was not. Therefore, I express my very deep concern about this sort of legislation. Although the Attorney-General has used the words 'short termed' in respect of this legislation, my experience in this place is that if we put something into place on a short term basis we find that it becomes entrenched and difficult to reverse. I have put on record my objection and concern. I think I have even put on record my suspicion. I will leave it at that.