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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr MAHON (Coolgardie) - I hope that the Prime Minister will not be moved from his purpose by the hysterical observations of the last speaker. In view of the repeated action of the Senate in regard to this provision, and also in view of the very close division in this House on a previous occa sion, I think that the action of the Prime Minister is a very wise one. The honorl able and learned member fo.r South Aus- 1 tralia, Mr. Kingston, and the honorable : and learned member for Northern

Melbourne are very emphatic in disclaiming the idea that any question of Tariff is involved in this proposal. But it seems to me that all their arguments point to the conclusion which they disavow. The last speaker pointed out the injustice of allowing an inventor to withhold from Australia the manufacture of any article. It would have been much more to the purpose if he had named any article which could be commercially manufactured in Australia, but which is not. Out of the wide range of human requirements he has failed to instance a single article which could be manufactured here, but which is not being made here, and is at the same time being sold here at an unfair price. I suppose that if the old order of things had been continued and he were in the Parliament of South Australia, he would insist upon putting in its Patent Act a provision that the article must be manufactured in the State even if it were being manufactured well in "Victoria. Is it reasonable to suppose that an inventor or a manufacturer would not do the best he could for himself and for his customers ? Take any complicated machine - the linotype, for instance : Does anybody mean to tell me that if the American Linotype Company were compelled to put up a plant in Victoria, they could afford to sell the machines at the present price to Victorian customers ? Nothing of the kind. The price would be increased by at least 50 per cent. There is so limited a demand for such machines in Australia that the output would be small, and it would be impossible to secure any outside market. So that the Victorian user of that, or any other machine of the kind, would be compelled to pay a much larger price than he is now asked to pay.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - Under paragraphb a machine could not be imported after four years.

Mr Kingston - How can the AttorneyGeneral certify that the absence of manufacture would be injurious to public trade?

Mr MAHON - The honorable and learned gentleman has, in clause 83, all that he and those who think with him can legitimately claim. If a commodity were not being sold at a reasonable price to the consumer a person could get an order from the Court authorizing its production in Australia. At this late stage of the session I hope that the Committee will concur in the action of the Senate. I may say that a few years ago, when this project was originally mooted, it did seem to me to wear a somewhat reasonable aspect, but on going more fully into the matter, and ascertaining the cost of producing, for a limited market, any of the complicated machinery which is being manufactured under patent, I came to the conclusion that it would be disadvantageous, not merely to the consumer, but to everybody connected with the industry, to establish that principle here. I hope that the course suggested by the Prime Minister will be adopted.

Mr. HIGGINS(Northern Melbourne). - The honorable member for Coolgardie has spoken under a misapprehension. The case of the linotype would not come under this clause at all. It is obvious that as the the market is so very limited, no AttorneyGeneral would dare to certify that he was satisfied that the breach was injurious to the trade and manufactures of the Commonwealth.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - It might be commercially manufactured here.

Mr HIGGINS - The whole point of the honorable member for Coolgardie was that the linotype could not be commercially manufactured here, and that, therefore, the patent ought not to be revoked, but if he will look at the safeguards in the clause he will see that there is no such danger as he anticipated. It must be capable of being commercially manufactured.

Mr Mahon - What does " commercially " mean?

Mr HIGGINS - It must be capable of being manufactured so as to bring a commercial profit, and the Attorney-General would only take proceedings in the event of his being satisfied that the breach was injurious to the trade and manufacture of the Commonwealth. I defy any AttorneyGeneral to take proceedings in a case like that which has been mentioned. We must trust the Government as being desirous of keeping the confidence of the House and the country, but the honorable member for Coolgardie has in his mind one particular invention which could not come under the ban.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - There are plenty of others which could.

Mr HIGGINS - I would vote against this proposal if any private person could annoy a patentee by bringing any proceeding against him. But the Attorney-General is the only person who could bring a proceeding in certain circumstances, and I am quite sure that he would be restrained by the desire to keep a reputation for common sense and common sanity. I should like this matter to go back to the Senate. At this stage of the session we have not so many Bills pending that we could not ask the Senate to reconsider the question. 1 think that on reconsideration it would be seen that there is a great deal in the provision. I hope that there will not be imported into the discussion any of the bitterness of the debates on the Tariff.

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