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Wednesday, 5 May 1915

Mr WEST (East Sydney) .- I was rather surprised at the heat displayed in the debate by certain legal gentlemen, whose training ought to have shown them that it is a great advantage in argument to keep cool; nor could I quite understand the heated manner in which the honorable member for Balaclava endeavoured to discuss the question. It struck some of us that there must be some underlying reason for this display of temper and enthusiasm over a Bill of this character. I take it to be a Bill necessitated by the present disturbed state of the patent rights law, owing to the war. Certain patentees, being enemy subjects, have been deprived of their rights under their patents, and, as there is no legal authority to carry the patents on, the Government have brought in the measure to enable licences to be issued to persons willing to do so. The Attorney-General has repeatedly stated that the licensee will have no more privileges than the original patentee. A patent is a monopoly, but honorable members on the other side have been endeavouring to impress on us the enormity of the offence of monopoly. We on this side know quite as much, and a little more, about monopolies than they do, and have taken a little more interest than they have in the various monopolies from which the people suffer. In Great Britain a number of patentees, especially German patentees, have had a great monopoly over certain scents, dyes, and patent medicines. This caused the British Government some trouble, but they overcame the difficulty by enacting that, unless the patentee manufactured the article in Great Britain within two years, he forfeited his patent rights. Some of these German patents are absolutely essential in trade. The honorable member for Flinders referred to one connected with the laying of rails for tramways and trains. Some provision would have to be made to meet cases of that kind. Under the Patents Act, the patentee has the protection of the civil law, but if I understand this Bill aright, the protection afforded to the licensee is a maximum fine of £500 for any infringement of his licence. In view of the enormous expenditure involved in creating industries, it is essential that licences should be protected; that is what this Bill does.

Mr Boyd - That does not apply to the particular patent referred to. No enormous capital is required for that.

Mr WEST - Whether that is so or not, I have always endeavoured to encourage people to put their money into investments. The honorable member for Flinders, ably supported by the honorable member for Balaclava, seemed to display exceptional eagerness, determination, and perseverance to impress on the House that it would, by this Bill, be creating monopolies, detrimental to the interests of those represented by us on this side. The facts, however, are plain. The honorable member for Flinders was in quite a new role in taking up the cudgels on behalf of the oppressed. The whole of the honorable member's argument is met by pointing to the circumstances of the times, which demand a Bill of this character. But for the war the measure would not be before us. The complaint of some honorable members that it is oppressive and tyrannical might be justified in ordinary times, but it has no weight now. We have had a number of ornaments of the legal profession disagreeing this afternoon, but the AttorneyGeneral has maintained his ground, and, applying to the subject that business capacity which I think I possess, I have come to the conclusion that the Bill will not have the harmful effects predicted by the Opposition. It will do what is urgently wanted towards keeping the wheels of industry going, and I shall support it.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - It will do something to create monopolies.

Mr WEST - Many silly things are said by way of interjection. I have just explained that no monopolies will be created by the Bill. A licensee will undertake certain obligations, and ought to have some protection.

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