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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- I can see the force of the argument of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) that it is undesirable that Australia should be the source of premature information on patent applications. I can readily see the disadvantage to Australia of people withholding the lodging of specifications in Australia, which, in effect, means withholding their technical know-how from Australia, for fear that their rivals in other countries can get the jump on them. But if this is to be an interim measure, to be replaced by another act in the autumn session, I do not see why the Attorney should not defer this general matter.

If our amendment is carried, then the present six months' delay of publication after lodgment will remain. Therefore, if we have an act passed in the autumn session on any date before 8th June, any specifications lodged between now and the time of that act coming into operation will, in fact, be covered by the permanent provision which the Attorney-General is going to sponsor in the next sessional period. There can be no disadvantage to us in respect of specifications which have already been lodged, because we have' got the advantage of them already.

People clearly have not been deterred from lodging such specifications in Australia by fear that they would be prematurely revealed to their rivals in other countries. This is obvious, because we have already got them; people were not deterred from lodging them. If prospective applicants need reassurance, then it is given to them by the fact that any specifications lodged from now on will not be published until the period provided by the Attorney-General in the continuing bill to be brought in next session. We need have no fears whatever; we have already got those which could be revealed - and we have not been denied them - and any which we would get if we were to increase the period we will still get, because the Attorney-General will increase the period before six months elapses. He promised that on several occasions in his latest statement.

The Attorney-General's argument, 1 suggest, falls down also on this score: He says that in other countries, such as Great Britain and the 'United States, specifications are not published until they have been accepted, and the work is so far behind in those countries that specifications cannot be accepted, and therefore -published, until a period of more than two years has elapsed. Even if the provision for two years' delay between lodgment and publication, which he is proposing in this bill, is accepted, any specifications lodged in Australia will still be published in Australia, to the world, before they would be published by the applicants who reside in the United Kingdom and the United States. Therefore, if we do not desire to publish our specifications before they would be published in convention countries, we ought to fix a period longer than two years.

There will be no continuing protection for Australia by an interim alteration.

Applicants from convention countries will still be prejudiced in the way suggested by the Attorney-General, if in any case Australia permits publication prior to publication in the particular convention country concerned. The Attorney-General's other argument, that we should hold the line until the next sessional period, falls to the ground, in that the present period of six months provided in the act will more than carry us through the next sessional period of the Parliament.

I have not expressed any view as to what period should be provided in our legislation next year. I have deliberately refrained from criticizing the Attorney-General's proposal of September. I would think it is an imaginative one which should cover the objections of manufacturers in this country. I do not know their objections to that proposal. Nevertheless, there can be no objection, I submit, to extending the present provision until we come back next year, because we will make a continuing provision within less than the period of six months which is already provided for in the principal act.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Whitlam's amendment) stand part of the clause.

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