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Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr SPEAKER - May I, at the commencement of this sitting, call the attention of honorable members to the fact that it is grossly unfair to the honorable member addressing the House to carry on conversations in a loud tone of voice. I would ask those who wish to converse either to go outside for that purpose, or else to do so in such low tones that honorable members who desire to follow the debate will not be prevented from doing so.

Mr CONROY - In this Bill an attempt is being made to amalgamate the laws of six States into something like a harmonious whole. The fact that the measure has been discussed at some length in another Chamber is not sufficient in itself to enable me to form any conclusion with regard to it. So far as I have been able to gather from a glance at the Bill, the laws of the States have been partly embodied and partly discarded, whilst new provisions have been adopted, which are at variance with international law. I see great difficulty in dealing with this very complicated question at the close of the session, and I had hoped that the Minister would consent to allow the Bill to remain over until next session. The public now know where they are under the States laws, but it is proposed to hurriedly bring into operation 3 measure which will alter the whole of the conditions affecting copyright in Australia. It is urged that we shall be able under the Bill to take advantage of international copyright law, but any benefit that may accrue in that direction will not compensate for the injury that may be inflicted upon individuals by passing a measure without full discussion. If this Bill had been introduced at the beginning of the session, its consideration would have occupied at least a month, and I fail to see why we should be asked to pass it without subjecting it to criticism, which, when not carried to extremes, is always in the interests of the public, and" affords one of the best safeguards against slovenly law-making. The Bill appears tome to foe framedupon two conflicting principles. When the Electoral Act was before us, I pointed out that it had been framed upon two conflicting principles, but I was laughed at for my pains. What has been the result? We have had to devote our attention during this session to no less than three Bills relating to matters which should have been effectively dealt with in the original measure. I refer to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Representation Bill, and the Census and Statistics Bill. If the original measure had been properly considered, these Bills would not have been necessary. I have no hesitation in saying that if we pass the measure now before us with undue haste, it will lead us into trouble. I would point out that, whereas in the case of the Electoral Act, our action resulted merely in depriving persons of rights, which, in many cases,. they had no special desire to exercise, we shall, by passing a faulty copyright law, deprive a number of people of their bread and butter. I understand that it is intended to strike out the provisions in the Bill relating to newspaper copyright.

Mr Groom - We intend to strike out clause 34.

Mr CONROY - There can be no doubt that that clause contains a proposal to entirely alter the law of copyright as it exists in Great Britain, and although it is desirable that its consideration should be deferred, I would point out that no radical alteration such as is proposed can be made in the measure without affecting a number of other clauses. The Bill has been framed as a harmonious whole, and if we adopt the course proposed by the Government,

Ave shall considerably vary the incidence of copyright as dealt with in other parts of the Bill. I strongly protest against the measure being proceeded with under present circumstances.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 -

In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - "Pirated book" means a reproduction of a book made in any manner without the authority of the owner of the copyright in the book. . . .

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