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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6230


Mr PERRETT (MoretonOpposition Whip) (19:15): I rise to speak on the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 and I thank the member for Griffith, my next-door neighbour, for her great contribution. I know that the member for Griffith is a wonderful musician and an author, so I think she does have some skin in the game or a dog in the fight when it comes to looking after the rights of people who create. I thank the member for Griffith for her creation.

I say up-front that, from the outset, Labor has supported this bill. It is a balanced measure that will benefit educational and cultural institutions without compromising the commercial creative arts market or the public interest, but not at the expense of the creator's living. As I'm sure the member for Wakefield would agree, artists must eat. We must look after our artists and those who create, but also make sure that we look after educational and cultural institutions.

Mr Champion interjecting

Mr PERRETT: I'll take that interjection from the member for Wakefield, who is making the point that I'm glad I have a day job rather than relying on my endeavours as an artist! I'll come back to that later, time permitting. This bill extends the scope of the safe-harbour provisions already contained in the Copyright Act. The current provisions were designed to protect carriage service providers from copyright infringements by their subscribers. They limit the remedies available against those providers, where the carriage provider does not control, initiate or direct the primary infringement. Certain circumstances must be present for the carriage service to have the benefit of these provisions, including that the provider must implement reasonable policies that provide for terminating the accounts of repeat infringers—they can't turn away from the poor behaviour. Also, they must comply with industry codes. We have a focus on self-regulation here, so they must do the right thing. Also, they must expeditiously remove infringing material and they must not receive a financial benefit that is directly attributable to the infringing activity. These are commonsense approaches, as I'm sure you would agree, Deputy Speaker Hastie. The remedies are limited and include orders to disable access to infringing copyright material. Remedies do not extend to damages or an account of profits.

These are important safeguards for carrier services such as Telstra and Optus, who provide internet services to their customers—or, maybe, in turning my mind to Optus I should say that they try to provide internet services to their customers. I'm just kidding, Optus, and I'm sure you'll reply to the tweeted question I asked of you the other night about the World Cup game where the commentary was two seconds ahead of the vision, which is quite disconcerting when watching a game of football. Nevertheless, I'm sure Optus will be looking to improve what they're providing to the Australian public.

This bill extends these provisions to include other institutions, such as educational institutions, including universities, schools, technical colleges, training bodies and preschools, and to libraries that make their collections available to the public or are parliamentary libraries. I'll just give a big shout-out to the Parliamentary Library here. I'm sure everyone in opposition would agree that the library in this building is the opposition's best friend—maybe a backbencher's best friend, as well. They do their job impartially. They do great research and provide a great service to the democratic institution that is this building.

We also extend these provisions to archives, including the National Archives of Australia—and I mentioned the Queensland archives, which are located at Runcorn in my electorate of Moreton. The provisions are extended to key cultural institutions, including specific archives and libraries that are not open to the public, and to organisations assisting persons with a disability.

Labor supports this bill because it embodies the principle that passive carriers with no control over the material carried on internet services should not be liable for copyright infringement provided they take reasonable steps to remove infringing content when notified of its use. It is important that our schools and universities who operate in the digital age are protected from unnecessary financial legal burdens if they are operating in a responsible manner. All of the institutions that will benefit from the extension of the safe harbour scheme in this bill do not receive financial gain from the use of content on their networks, which is a good framing mechanism for how we approach this balancing of the public interest with the creators' rights.

In his second reading speech the Minister for Communications foreshadowed further broader reforms to the safe harbour scheme. The Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee reviewed this bill. Their report concluded that the government's incremental approach to safe harbour reform was appropriate. The committee supported the approach that educational and cultural institutions and organisations assisting people with a disability will be afforded protection immediately. I particularly mention those organisations assisting people with a disability. I'd like to say hello to Braille House in my electorate of Moreton, who provide a great service throughout Queensland and, on occasion, throughout Australia. They are taking an artist's work and providing it to people that would not normally be able to access it. Hello to all those at Braille House who were so welcoming when I visited during May.

The committee also supported continued consultation with stakeholders. I note that the Greens political party tabled a dissenting report to that committee inquiry. I think some of their inner-city base would have a couple of artists, musicians or creators. The Greens political party, who often like to think of themselves as champions of the Australian arts, bizarrely put in a dissenting report to the committee, ignoring the concerns of artists, musicians and creators. In the face of the vast majority of rights holders and their umbrella organisations in Australia, the Greens political party backed the position of Google, a multinational giant, to extend the safe harbour scheme in line with the current United States scheme, which has been highly criticised and is currently undergoing a review by United States lawmakers. Radical changes to copyright laws, as advocated by the Greens political party and Google, would have the capacity to undermine the ability of Australian artists, musicians, authors and other rights holders to negotiate viable commercial arrangements for the distribution of their work.

As someone who makes a very meagre living from the books I write, I declare a slight conflict of interest. I hear snickering from the member for Brand behind me. I do have three books published by Boolarong Press: The Twelfth Fish, The Big Fig and The Solid Rock. I'm working on a new book at the moment.

Mr Irons: Is that a comment for cash? You've said that four times.

Mr PERRETT: I'm sure the member for Swan has read or bought these books. They're available at the bookstore here. I'm happy to sign them for his next fundraiser—Lord knows he'll need one! They're very valuable.

Ms Collins: They might've gone up in value.

Mr PERRETT: I'm not sure if they've gone up in value, but they're certainly rare.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hastie ): I would direct the member back to the point of the bill.

Mr PERRETT: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; that's very kind of you. As I said, I declare that conflict of interest. It is hard for authors and artists to make a living in Australia. With a smaller population of 24½ million it's hard, even for the great musicians we know and listen to every day, to make a viable income. Nevertheless, let's go back to this: there are a range of stakeholder views about these complex issues. Labor believes extreme caution should attend any entertainment of a further extension to the safe harbour scheme. The incremental extension in the bill before the House is a measured and reasonable approach.

I note that we have a thriving creative arts community in Australia. Just last week here in parliament, with Western Australia's Senator Reynolds we co-hosted an event for the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Books and Writers. The event was to honour the short-listed Miles Franklin Literary Award nominees for 2018. It was a great opportunity to meet the authors, the publishers and others involved in the Australian literary industry, including booksellers—we went to a dinner the night before. Deputy Speaker Hastie, I know you would agree that it is bizarre that I have not made it to the Miles Franklin short list yet! But it was a great night to meet some of the fair dinkum authors who have devoted themselves.

I do have some understanding of the creative process in writing. It is much more than an occupation; it is a calling. But monetary rewards are often not substantial. In fact, the rule of thumb in the publishing industry is that half of books published will not break even. So it's tough for editors, publishers and booksellers. Listening to that calling, that compulsion, that itch that can only be scratched by creating, by writing and by doing what artists do, I understand how they have so much skin in the game. You do expose yourself by writing.

In another life many, many years ago, I was also part of a rock band. We still get together every three years, but that's only to fundraise for my re-election—and thank you to all members of my band. The lead singer, John Carozza, who is also actually a painter, a great artist, similarly has that calling, that need to create. Talking to John Carozza and talking to other artists, I see that experience and what it takes to create. The experience has given me a valuable insight into the creative process, whether it be of writing music, making films, writing books or whatever artistic endeavour it is. So I understand the need to protect rights holders in Australia. As I said previously, the artist must eat.

This legislation is a measured response, not too crazy. It looks after the interests of the artist but also recognises that in the digital age there will occasionally be platforms where people publish artistic works without recognising the creator. As I said, this legislation says that the provider must do reasonable things to crack down on repeat infringers. They must comply with the industry codes, they must expeditiously remove the infringing material and they must not receive a financial benefit that is directly attributable to the infringing activity, because that money should, obviously, go to the creators of the artistic piece.

The piece of legislation before the chamber, the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017, is something that that the Labor Party is happy to support. We know that the continued prosperity of our creative arts community is dependent on supporting our creative artists, and this is something that the parliament can do to make sure that we protect their original work and negotiate appropriate compensation for its use. The artists do have a particular calling whatever that artist be, whether it be poor old Tom Collins, or Joseph Furphy, slaving away at night on his writing after working in his brother's foundry down in country Victoria, creating one of the greatest pieces of literature, Such Is Life, or whether it be someone like Stella Miles Franklin, who never really made much money as a writer but was still able to put away a few dollars—enough to create that lasting legacy of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, something that's now been added to and is now able to support artists to be able to turn their mind to their work, to have a space away from the workplace to create their piece of literature, their piece of film or whatever it is that the artist is creating.

Obviously, we're all keen to support artists, and this is a legislative response that is measured, that is appropriate and that is able to support the creative arts community, because so many of our artistic efforts are also used to increase our links with other countries, particularly with Asia. Some of our musical talents are over there ahead of DFAT, creating lots of contacts with China and South-East Asia, and that's why I recommend this legislation to the House.

Debate interrupted.