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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 116


Senator NETTLE (8:45 PM) —The Greens oppose items 11 and 13 in schedule 1 in the following terms:

(1) Schedule 1, item 11, page 4 (line 32) to page 5 (before line 2), TO BE OPPOSED.

(2) Schedule 1, item 13, page 5 (line 7 to before line 9), TO BE OPPOSED.

The Australian Greens are opposed to the provisions in items 11 and 13 of schedule 1 of the bill which were the primary subject of the inquiry that occurred last night. The inquiry was agreed to by the Senate at 4.30 yesterday afternoon and it reported back here today. It was one of those 24-hour inquiries: `If you are in Canberra and have got your lobbyists ready, in 3½ hours you can appear before the committee and have something to say.' A couple of people managed to come before that inquiry. The committee heard the concerns of the Internet Industry Association and the Australian Digital Alliance. Their requests were for the removal of items 11 and 13 from the bill. They had not seen the items before; they had not been shown the items in the consultation process the government had engaged in with them in October. Those provisions will make it far more difficult for Internet service providers to operate in Australia because of the requirements to comply with take-down notices that are handed out not necessarily by copyright owners but by third parties involved.

The subject of the inquiry that occurred last night was the way in which these two items, 11 and 13, in the bill put more onerous obligations onto Internet service providers than exist in the United States and, in view of these groups that appeared before the committee, than are required by the text of the Australia-US free trade agreement. There were long discussions and there was much consternation from both major parties—it was not just the opposition who expressed concern about these two components of the bill; there were also government senators there last night who expressed concern. They asked the question: why can't we just have the words in the trade agreement? Government senators were asking questions not just of the industry witnesses but also of the Attorney-General's Department. They asked: `Why don't we just have the words that are in the free trade agreement? Why do we need to create these new words and go further than is required in the text of the legislation or, indeed, than exists in US legislation? Why can't we just have these words?' The questions were not answered. I do not know if the minister has anything to add, but there was certainly no satisfaction with the responses or with the purpose of the Senate inquiry last night.

The Australian Greens' proposals will mean that those items are taken out of the bill that the industry is concerned about, that go further than is required by our obligations under the free trade agreement and that go further than is required in the US. I have spoken about these already in my speech in the second reading debate. I commend the Greens' proposals to the Senate.