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Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr REID (East Sydney) - Under subclause 2 I take it that no English author can secure copyright here.

Mr Groom - The right honorable member must read that provision in conjunction with clause 63. We do not override Imperial legislation on the matter. If a man registers in the United Kingdom his rights run throughout the British Empire. If he wishes to obtain the benefit of this Act, he has merely to register in accordance with the terms set out in clause 63.

Mr REID - Then the sub-clause is not intended as a restrictive one?

Mr Groom - Certainly not.

Mr REID - I am very glad to hear that, and I am perfectly satisfied.

Mr. BROWN(Canobolas). - I ask the honorable and learned member for Corio not to again submit his amendment. 1 recognise that this Bill can be made a fairly workable measure, but it is impossible, at this stage of the session, to deal' with contentious matters. Under the circumstances, I think that the honorableand learned member will be well advised if he does not persist in his proposal. He will have an opportunity to bring the matter forward next session, when we shall have more time to deal with it.

Mr. REID(East Sydney).- I confess that I think a Legislature occupies a very extraordinary position when it absolutely shirks giving proper study to the provisions of a Bill upon the ground of the lateperiod at which it is being considered. I quite recognise that in view of my own attitude in the past, I must deal with a matter of this kind with exceeding tenderness. But in spite of my manifold iniquities, the suggestion that the Bill should be passed without proper consideration is really a reflection upon us for dealing with it at all. The observation of the honorable member for Canobolas proves that we are legislating under conditions which are not proper to parliamentary government. We have no right to pass measures without due consideration, upon the ground that we can subsequently improve them. That method of legislation is open to very serious objections. If there are debatable questions involved in this Bill, it would be infinitely better to defer its' consideration until next session. If we have not the time at our disposal, to scrutinize measures thoroughly, it is infinitely better that their consideration should be deferred.

Mr Brown - Is it not advisable that we should deal with that portion of the Bill upon which we are agreed ?

Mr REID - I do not think that the honorable and learned member for Corio is likely to have a better opportunity to submit his proposal. I quite see that there are complications in this matter which require consideration. My sympathies, however, are entirely with the object which the honorable and learned member has in view.

Mr Brown - So are mine.

Mr REID - Then why cannot we extend more than sympathy to the honorable and learned member by supporting his proposal ?

Mr Groom - Its adoption would create complications.

Mr REID - There is nothing new in that situation. The case put by the honorable and learned member for Corio seems to be one which is well worthy of consideration. The attitude of the United States with reference to copyright has been the source of unfavorable comment in every civilized country in the world. So far as I can, I am willing to assist any honorable member who desires to mark in an Australian Act our disapprobation of that policy. The only question to be considered is whether by so doing we should accomplish more harm than good. I do not think that the existence of such a provision would debar us from entering the Berne Convention.

Mr Groom - It is very hard to say what the effect of the honorable and learned member's proposal would be.

Mr Crouch - If the amendment would have the effect, so would sub-clause 2.

Mr Groom - No; that applies only to Australia. We preserve all the international relations.

Mr REID - There is 110 doubt that the provision referred to by the Minister removes the obnoxious effect of this clause, so far as the Berne Convention is concerned. I should like to know whether the adoption of the amendment would impair our position in reference to the Convention. I do not think that it would, because it would apply only to the United States.

Mr Groom - The United States is outside the Berne Convention.

Mr REID - I am strongly inclined to support the honorable and learned member for Corio. I think that we should place upon record our disapproval of the wretched policy of the United States in connexion with this matter. By so acting, our position in reference to the United Kingdom and the countries which' are parties to the agreement would not be affected, because those countries are not open to the criticism which has been levelled against the United States. Since the United States remains outside the Berne Convention for selfish reasons, we should not be aiming at any country represented in that Convention. I think that in this Bill we should embody an expression of opinion which ought to' have some good effect. "I 'fail to see why in legislating for the Commonwealth we should be compelled to slavishly follow the Imperial Statute, as long as we do nothing to create confusion.

Mr Groom - But the intention of the honorable and learned member for Corio is that supposing a United States author obtains a right, as he is entitled to do, under the Imperial Statute, he shall not be allowed the benefit of that right in Australia.

Mr REID - To my mind it is rather an argument in his favour. The only way in which we can show the United States that we think they should act fairly by authors in other parts of the world is by passing, so far as we can, a provision that will teach them their duty by the only lesson they are prone to accept- the lesson of self -necessity.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Does the right honorable member think that 80,000,000 people would take much notice of the opinion of 4,000,000 ?

Mr REID - They might do so. But in any event the 4,000,000 people have a right to look after themselves in a manly way.

Mr Groom - Does the right honorable member think that we should try to take away rights granted under an Imperial Statute?

Mr REID - I think that rights granted under an Imperial Statute have nothing to do with an Australian law. The idea that they have requires to be suppressed.

Mr Groom - I think it requires to be discussed.

Mr REID - Certainly ; but too much attention should not be paid to it. We are passing an Australian copyright law, and we are absolutely free to frame that law in the most beneficial shape. My first con- sideration is whether or not the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corio would prejudice our position with reference to the Convention agreed to_ by Great Britain and many other countries. If i* would, that would be sufficient justification for my opposing it. I should be sorry to do anything that would interfere with the entrance of Australia into that Convention, but as the amendment is aimed only at a country which stands obstinately out of that Convention, I see no difficulty in supporting it.

Mr. GROOM(Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I must ask the honorable and learned member for Corio, not to press his amendment without full consideration of the position.

Mr Crouch - I have considered it very carefully.

Mr GROOM - We must naturally sympathize with the desire to protect Australian interests, but the position seems to be that as far as possible an attempt is being made to come to some understanding with the United States.

Mr Reid - If the United States enters the Convention, this proposal will not affect lt

Mr GROOM - The desire is that we should not take any precipitate action. It is doubtful whether we can affect rights conferred upon American authors under the Imperial Act.

Mr Wilkinson - We can assert our own rights.

Mr GROOM - But the honorable and learned member for Corio wishes to insert in the Bill an amendment affecting the rights of others. It is a complicated question, and I ask the honorable and learned member not to press his amendment.

Mr Brown - We are trying to secure fair treatment for Australian authors.

Mr GROOM - Whilst I fully sympathize with that desire, I would point out that there are various ways by which effect can be given to it, and that I do not think that that proposed by the honorable member for Corio is a desirable one.

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa).- I would remind the honorable and learned member for Corio that the Imperial Copyright Act applies to the Commonwealth.

Mr Crouch - But my amendment does not affect any friendly rights; it affects unfriendly rights.

Mr CONROY - I cannot follow the honorable and learned member, but I would remind him that, so far as the extension of the Imperial Act to the Commonwealth is concerned, we could not alter the position by any Act we might pass. This is a non-party measure, and remembering that the Imperial Copyright Act applies to Australia, it seems to me that by agreeing to the amendment, we should add to it something that might have no effect.

Mr Reid - Surely we have power to pass laws relating to copyright.

Mr CONROY - -Certainly we have.

Mr Groom - Rightly or wrongly, the Canadian Acts have been questioned. In the case of Black versus The Imperial Book Company, in 1903, the Court emphasized the opinion that Canada possessed no copyright' legislation which ousted the Statute of 1842.

Mr CONROY - We can legislate in respect of matters within our own jurisdiction ; whilst we enjoy all the advantages of the Imperial Act - -

Mr Wilkinson - And suffer all the disadvantages,

Mr CONROY - The Imperial Act enables Australian authors to secure the protection of their copyright throughout Great Britain, India, and other parts of the Empire. If the sale of an author's works were confined to the Commonwealth, he would reap no great profit from them. I should like to preserve for those Australian authors whose genius secures for their works a sale in other parts of the Empire, all the benefits of the Imperial Copyright Act, and we must be careful that we do not exclude ourselves from the advantages of that Statute.

Mr Webster - Does the honorable member mean to infer that we might do so?

Mr CONROY - At the present moment I am not prepared to express a definite opinion on the point. I am inclined to think, however, that the proposal is to insert a provision which is inconsistent with the Imperial Act, and which might, therefore, jeopardize the whole Bill. If the Governor-General were advised that any provision in it was in conflict with the Imperial Act, he would be bound to reserve his assent to it. I confess that I do not anticipate that the amendment would give rise to all the dangers that have been suggested, but I must decline, without opportunity for full consideration, to support any amendment in such a highly technical Bill. I think that the Ministry are adopting a safe position ; but I should have been glad to see the Bill held over until next session. That would have given us an opportunity to thoroughly consider its provisions. But, even if the amendment be rejected, the honorable and learned member for Corio will have an opportunity, within the next six months, to bring forward his proposal in a way that will allow of its full consideration. If, at a later stage, it were shown that this measure needed to be amended in several important directions, and in such a way that it would not come in conflict' with the Imperial law, I should be ready to support such a proposal, feeling that the matters in question had been clearly overlooked when the Bill itself was being pushed through the House.

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