House debates

Monday, 30 August 2021


Designs Amendment (Advisory Council on Intellectual Property Response) Bill 2020; Second Reading

12:24 pm

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) Share this | | Hansard source

I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill, and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill continues the Morrison government's commitment to improve the intellectual property system.

A well-functioning IP system fosters innovation and encourages the development of new ideas. The registered designs system aims to give the 1.3 million people working in design intensive industries the confidence to create new and innovative products. This bill will improve the registered designs system to support this important sector, estimated to contribute $68 billion dollars annually to the economy, or 3.5 per cent of GDP.

The bill responds to a report by the former Advisory Council on IP. The report considered the effectiveness of the designs system in stimulating innovation, and its impact on economic growth. The government has consulted extensively and has listened closely to the views of stakeholders. The bill strikes the right balance between the needs of designers, third parties and the broader public.

This bill provides more flexibility for designers during the early stages of seeking design protection. It clarifies and simplifies the designs system. This in turn delivers timely benefits for designers, improving confidence and certainty to invest in our design economy.

The bill amends the Designs Act 2003 to implement a grace period, or a safety net, to protect designers. At present, if a designer publicly discloses a design before applying for protection, they cannot get IP rights. The grace period will give designers 12 months to apply for protection after publicly using their design. The grace period also aligns Australia with many of our major trading partners, making it easier for our designers to seek protection overseas, and encouraging international designers to bring their work to Australia.

Australian businesses who have licensed exclusive rights for a design will now be able to bring infringement action, without needing to rely on the owner. When an exclusive licence design right is granted, it is often because the owner is based overseas. This amendment ensures that exclusive licensees can enforce the rights they paid for, as is already the case for patents, trademarks and plant breeder's rights.

The bill also simplifies the registration process for designers and reduces red tape. It will remove the rarely used option to publish a design application without a registration. It will also make requests for registration automatic, after a fixed period, unless the designer indicates otherwise.

To further streamline registration, the formal requirements for filing a design application will be moved out of the Designs Regulations and into a non-legislative instrument, made by the Registrar of Designs at IP Australia.

As well as delivering benefits for designers, the bill will also implement safeguards to protect third parties in the design sector who are operating in good faith.

A prior use exemption to the infringement of designs will be created. This will safeguard third parties that start using a disclosed design during the grace period introduced by this bill. This exemption protects businesses who have invested in a publicly disclosed design during the grace period, when they cannot know if the designer intends to seek IP protection.

The bill will also extend the current innocent infringer defence so that relief is available from any time after the design's filing date. This reduces the risk of a design right being innocently infringed in the six months between its filing date and registration. During this time there may be no way to know that the design may be protected, as it is not yet published.

Finally, the bill also makes a range of smaller technical corrections and improvements to the designs system and improve fairness.

I am pleased to introduce this bill, which will enhance our IP system and support the design sector.

12:29 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Labor clearly will be supporting this bill. However, I foreshadow that my friend and colleague the member for Whitlam will be moving a second reading amendment.

It's good to finally get here to discuss this bill, the Designs Amendment (Advisory Council on Intellectual Property Response) Bill 2020. It seeks to implement some of the recommendations of the 2015 Advisory Council on Intellectual Property report. Here we are in 2021 looking at what was done back in 2015, at the work of that council, which basically aimed to provide more flexibility for designers during the early stages of getting registered design protection.

I think it's worth noting the time line of the legislation, for the sake of the House. Nearly 10 years ago the council was tasked by the previous Labor government with investigating the effectiveness of the design systems in stimulating innovation by Australian users, and the impact the design system has on economic growth. That was in 2012, for the sake of full detail. Then, in 2015, the council made a series of recommendations, the first of which stated that the Designs Act should be amended as soon as practicable. Commissioned to do the investigation in 2012, the council came down with a report in 2015 that said that the work should be done as soon as practicable. The council report also found a clear need for increased harmonisation with international practices and recommended a number of other changes. Those changes included: compulsory examination for renewed designs, removal of the option for the publication of designs as an alternative to registration, and reintroduction of an opposition process. The report also identified clear scope to improve design protection, including the introduction of a grace period to protect against inadvertent disclosure of a design, which is an important mechanism itself. So, in 2012 a report was commissioned; in 2015 they reported; by March 2016 the coalition responded to the report, rejecting just one of the 23 recommendations made by the council; and here we are, well past the middle of 2021, finally legislating these changes.

It just reflects the complacency, the she'll-be-right attitude that's become the hallmark of the coalition in government. The pace of innovation might be quick on the world stage, but it's certainly not reflected in anything the coalition does when it comes to legislation or action with respect to innovation itself. This is yet another example of that. You can trace it in almost every other instance where there's legislation designed to support innovation in this country. It has taken an extraordinary length of time to get to a point where the draft legislation is brought to the House and then responded to and put in place, in terms of legislative action, by this government. Always, the only consistency is delay and failure to act, and we really can't afford that on an international stage, where so much is occurring, where technology is being applied through the thought and consideration given by designers to attend to problems, to boost productivity, to boost economic growth, and to improve the life of communities across countries and different parts of the world. Yet again we are seeing that only lip service is given to innovation by the coalition. There is no structured, rigorous view about how innovation will be utilised for the sake of national priority, national action and national benefit. What we are seeing right now is yet another instance of delay applied by this government.

Since 2013, the coalition government has had six industry ministers—and I note that the minister responsible for this legislation hasn't even bothered to actually give effect or speak to this in the House. There've been four departmental name changes and 250 days without any minister at all. Again, to say that the coalition doesn't care about Australian industry or the innovation that it generates is simply an understatement. Innovators, designers, businesses and industry rightly want their intellectual property protected. The design and related sectors contribute nearly $70 billion annually to our national economy—that's almost four per cent gross of domestic product. With the right policy settings and financial environment, Australian ideas will not only grow, they'll thrive, contributing more to our economy, creating jobs now and into the future, and improving the quality of life in this country.

Since becoming the shadow minister for industry and innovation, I've had the distinct pleasure of meeting incredible Australian innovators who have used their skills and smarts to address gaps in the market or, again, to meet needs in the broader community. For example, in February, the member for Bean and I visited a fantastic local Canberra startup, Goterra. Its founder and CEO, Olympia Yarger, was a local agriculturalist who saw a need and decided to do something about it, using native fauna to deal with the issue of waste. In 2016, Olympia had an idea to reimagine waste management by repurposing food waste to produce protein. She and her team developed an innovative robotics technology platform to create controlled environments that encourage insects to consume biological waste and create high-value, low-impact protein and soil. The carbon footprint of managing food waste with Goterra's method is 97 per cent lower than landfill and better than composting, and her efforts were actually recognised in the Australian's list of top 100 Australian innovators. I commend in particular David Swan from the Australian who put that list together that highlighted the range of innovative firms that have emerged in the Australian environment. These are ideas that are locally driven, supported and making a difference in ways that people think need to occur not just now, for our own sake, but in the longer term, into the future.

Further, in my own area, in the electorate of Chifley, we are home to one of the largest civil precast concrete manufacturers in Australia, Humes, part of the Holcim Group. In March, I visited their Rooty Hill operations to get an update on how they're going and the challenges they're facing as an Australian manufacturer. They create prefabricated concrete tunnelling of up to three metres in diameter, with a service life of nearly a century. Actually, it's over a century, I should point out. While I was there, Humes showed me where they've incorporated automation and new technologies in traditional manufacturing practices. They have a 130-strong workforce, many of whom live locally and who have been with the company many years. They're doing tremendous work in our part of Western Sydney and are proud contributors to Western Sydney manufacturing.

I also had the chance, with the member for Eden-Monaro, to meet with Tim and Kyran Crane, the founders of Ocean2earth in Merimbula. Ocean2earth are taking recycling waste very seriously, particularly in the area of marine waste, looking for new uses for this waste that would previously have gone into landfill. Their innovations are transforming marine waste products and compost. They collect that marine waste and transform it into premium recycled gardening products, and they're looking to expand that nationwide, creating jobs and contributing to the global war on waste. Their processes, which use the same amount of energy that is used to power a lamp, pump air into waste that is then broken down and transformed. It is truly remarkable work, and the Australian government should be doing more to support people with big ideas, like Tim and Kyran.

I also had the opportunity to visit the University of Newcastle's I2N innovation hub in Williamtown, with the member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson, where I got to meet a number of new firms supported through the university. Diffuse Energy, led by Joss Kesby and James Bradley, build some of the world's most powerful, small wind turbines, designed to service customers with off-grid energy requirements. Their turbines have a diameter of less than a metre and a service life of roughly 20 years. MGA Thermal showed me their brick technology that can store energy generated from heat in a safe and easy-to-use way. Dr Antony Martin of Hone Ag explained to me and Meryl Swanson how their technology can do time tests on the chemical properties of crops—a process that used to take weeks now shortened considerably. These were just some of the firms we met while on that visit. They've got some terrific innovations that the Hunter and the rest of the country can be proud of.

I also had the pleasure, with the member for Dobell, of visiting a firm in Tuggerah called Bioaction, headed up by CEO Larry Botham. They specialise in the design, manufacture and installation of systems to help eliminate hazardous and corrosive elements in our wastewater system. They've done that in quite an imaginative way on the Central Coast. They're working with many local government authorities and utilities across the country, deploying renewable organic resources and natural minerals that harmonise and populate nature's natural microorganisms to destroy contaminants and to debase compounds. They are doing terrific work right there on the Central Coast, with approximately 15 employees. Again, these are Australian ideas and Australian know-how that are able to do things that are different. They are making a difference, creating jobs and improving the quality of life for Australians. I just want to congratulate them.

On the issue of research and development, I think, sadly, that the coalition doesn't believe enough in Australian ideas to properly invest in them. Today's Australian investment in R&D is below that of countries such as South Korea, Iceland, Slovenia and Singapore. The cuts that started in 2014 with the abysmal Abbott-Hockey budget have seen impacts on Australian researchers, innovators and industry, who have all been suffering since. For evidence of the government's neglect, you need look no further than the 30 per cent decline in business research and development in the seven years prior to the pandemic. The government likes to tout its Modern Manufacturing Strategy, but the manufacturing industry is one of the biggest users of the R&D tax incentive. The government's continual underinvestment in R&D jeopardises Australia's manufacturing future and, importantly, the jobs it creates.

You notice now that the government boasts quite regularly about a '$2 billion injection' into R&D. You need to realise that this injection is nothing more than a reversal of nearly $2 billion in cuts that they had proposed and taken to the last federal election and had had to commit a backflip on when even those in their own party rebelled against what was being put forward as a 'reform' of R&D. To have the coalition now claim that they have injected $2 billion, when this is really a reversal of the cut that had been proposed, is quite obscene and offensive to those who fought against this cut that had been touted for quite some time. But, again, this is emblematic of the Morrison government. They're there for the announcement or the re-announcement or the spin of a cut that had been proposed by them some time ago, but they're never ready to do the meaningful work to support Australian ideas and business. After the last budget, they gave themselves, as I said, a huge pat on the back for their almighty backflip on cuts to the R&D tax incentives, but they shouldn't have undertaken this in the first place. A government that believes in Australian ideas would never contemplate such a cut.

My colleagues and I on this side of the House do lament the missed opportunities for innovators and businesses forced to leave Australia and the jobs lost because of the government's failure to act in the last five years. Since coming to government in 2013, the coalition has overseen the permanent loss of over 50,000 jobs in Australian manufacturing. Now, in the lead-up to the election, Mr Morrison will have the final say over funding decisions on $800 million worth of manufacturing grants. I can imagine the coloured highlighters and spreadsheets are being rolled out in preparation for decisions to which a lot of people would question whether or not merit has been applied. A lot of people would also question whether the government has applied political priorities to decision-making regarding the support of grants in this area. Again, this reflects the nature of the Morrison government, which has undertaken sports rorts, road funding rorts, regional rorts and car park rorts. Now we are genuinely concerned that they will use the same approach in making decisions around manufacturing grants, which simply should not be occurring. We should be ensuring that, coming out of the pandemic, any effort to revitalise sovereign capability and reduce our reliance on global supply chains is done in a way where government funds are used within a merit based system, considering the needs of Australian industry and engaging with it wholeheartedly—not in a way that furthers political interest for the coalition, but rather in a way that has the national interest at the centre of decision-making.

We have seen, as a result of the failure to prioritise innovation and to back Australian ideas, threats of funding cuts. The way in which the RDTI had been managed put a chill in investment, particularly around areas of software development. It's no surprise, then, that if you look at the Global Innovation Index Australia's standing in that index has fallen three places since 2018, from 20th to 23rd. Australia produces fewer innovation outputs relative to its level of innovation investment, despite the fact that Australia ranks sixth according to the quality of its universities.

If you look at all those issues, and the challenges confronting us, it is simply stunning that we have had reports that have driven the creation of legislation like this and that it has been dragged out; it was first committed to in 2012, the report was produced in 2015, the government response to that report was produced in 2016, and it is only in the second half of 2021 that we are looking at the legislative arrangements to give effect to that work. The failure to prioritise cleaning up design laws sends a strong message to innovators, designers, manufacturers and businesses alike that the Morrison government simply doesn't value Australian ideas and know-how and is certainly not on the side of Australian innovators.

The government's own explanatory memorandum states:

The objective of the intellectual property (IP) rights system is to support innovation by encouraging investment in research and technology in Australia, and by helping Australian businesses benefit from good ideas.

Labor supports Australian ideas and Australian know-how. On the side we believe in Australian ingenuity. We know we've got the brightest minds and the best ideas. We know proper government investment in research and development will not only grow Australian businesses but also boost jobs. But, after eight long years, it seems those opposite cannot be convinced of the value of Australian smarts unless it can be distilled into a three-word slogan or an opportunity for political advancement of their own interests.

This is not just about investing in Australian ideas; this is about investing in Australian jobs, Australian businesses and Australia's future. That is why, in his budget-in-reply speech, Anthony Albanese announced that a Labor government would offer 2,000 students what we refer to as a start-up year, to provide those students with the opportunity to partner with an accredited university accelerator to turn their ideas into future businesses. These are new ideas, new firms, new jobs and new growth that we are championing through the start-up year. Labor is confident in the potential of those ideas, particularly from young Australians, to grow new firms looking at ways in which we can reinvigorate Australia's business sector after the pummelling it has taken and the challenge that has been put on it by the pandemic.

In addition, Labor's $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund is designed to help support industries to get on their feet, to boost existing ones and to support the emergence of new ones as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also looks to support economic activity and industry growth in regional Australia and to attend to the challenges of Australian underemployment, where wages growth has stagnated and where people feel that the quality of jobs on offer is not helping them meet what they want to achieve in their lives. As indicated earlier, if we are to reinvigorate Australia's sovereign capability and reduce our reliance on global supply chains, we need to have a serious investment in Australian industry. That is why the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund proposed by Labor intends to back Australian ideas to lead the way in our economic recovery. We also want to see more Australian ideas make it on the global stage: instead of our importing the work, ideas and know-how of someone else, backing local creativity and ingenuity because it transforms businesses that can compete in international markets.

We know that innovation, research and development are essential for economic growth, job creation and industry expansion. We want to ensure that in years to come we still have a reason to stand in this place and debate a bill such as this that seeks to protect the intellectual property of Australians. But to do that requires meaningful, long-term government support for R&D in this country. Only Labor can be trusted to be on the side of Australian manufacturers, researchers and innovators.

Again, I note that the member for Whitlam will be moving on behalf of the opposition a second reading amendments. I indicate that Labor will be backing this bill.

12:50 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I remain deeply impressed that, for such a simple, straightforward bill, the member for Chifley found 21 minutes of diatribe to throw in and deliver to the parliament, including long discussions about Labor Party plans, should they come to government. Of course, he didn't mention one of the most critical factors of any Labor government plan, which is how it is that they will tax us into prosperity. When we're talking about issues like innovation there's been a constant criticism by those on the opposite side of this chamber about the government's approach to addressing one of the biggest challenges that our country and the global community face—in the space of climate change policy—where we have a focus on technology, not taxes. Their approach has been consistently to talk up technology but to impose taxes, because somehow they see innovation as a vehicle achieved by adding to the burden of those that want to invest and innovate in our country to utilise technology towards a better future.

Now, that is not what this bill, the Designs Amendment (Advisory Council on Intellectual Property Response) Bill 2020 is about, because it is a coalition proposition. It's a coalition proposition focusing on how we empower technology and innovators to help improve the state of our nation, and not just the state of our nation and the power of technology but, more critically, the cause of humanity, because we want Australian designers to be not just Australia-best but world-best, to be able to commercialise the efforts of their innovation so as to make the investments that can improve the future for all of us and to take new ideas and new innovations through to practical effect, to development and to making them commercial in the marketplace.

This bill seeks to implement recommendations from an Advisory Council on Intellectual Property report to clarify and simplify the designs system and provide more flexibility for designers. That's of critical importance because for a lot of people who operate in the space of design, truthfully, a lot of their skill isn't focused on IP law and a lot of their focus isn't actually on the commercialisation of their innovations. Their focus is on how to come up with the nucleus and the core of their designs and how they are able to use them for industrial purposes, societal purposes, environmental purposes and the like. Of course, the practical dimensions of intellectual property, and particularly the legal arrangements that operate around it, frankly bamboozle the best of us at times because of the complexity of the law, its long tradition, how it's evolved out of various international treaties and the challenge for the law to continue to meet up with and follow the pace of technological innovation and advancement.

So this bill delivers timely benefits for Australian designers and improves confidence and certainty to stimulate investment in design and innovation by making sure that our designers know that the law backs them and that it provides pathways for them to secure capital and then to be able to innovate, knowing that if they come up with an idea or design that has a practical benefit it can make a significant contribution to all of us. Already, design industries contribute around $68 billion a year to the Australian economy. That's 3½ per cent of GDP, so we're not talking small bickies; we're talking big bickies in the context of the entire Australian economy. More critically, what they do is harness the potential of creativity at the heart of our economy so that we can have an innovative nation.

The member who spoke before me, the member for Chifley, spoke specifically about the importance of innovation. We saw measures related to that in the most recent budget and have seen them in budgets throughout the entire time of the Morrison government, because our interest is always in what we need to do to back research and development and creative industries. It's one of the reasons there were such strong support measures during the pandemic for creative industries. We realised they play a critical part in the development of Australian GDP, a critical part in employing Australians, and a critical part in the conversation around the type of country that we have been in the past, that we are in the present and that we want to be in the future. We also want innovation to be at the core of the future of our country.

Some people speak derisively of traditional industries such as agriculture and mining, and people make absurd comments like, 'Australia's just a quarry and a farm.' I hate to break it to people, but it's those industries that create the wealth that can support the industries of the future. What we see is a continuum in our economy that continues to prosper and grow off not just the natural endowments we are very privileged to have inherited but, more critically, how we can harness it so that we can build new industries for the future, harnessing the power not just of physical humanity but also its intellectual capacity. Where countries do that, where economies do that, they lift all boats and they build a better future for everybody.

This legislation is but one part of the rich legislative tapestry necessary to help designers realise the benefits of their innovation and to remove burdensome red tape and needless administrative functions and obligations, as they make it impossible for people to register their designs and then commercialise them in the process, particularly around such matters as the publication of design applications without registration. Of course, it will make requests for registration automatic after six months, unless the designer indicates otherwise. So we are providing a pathway, we're providing assistance and we're making it easier for designers to reap the benefits of their innovation and design.

12:57 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

In his learned contribution, the member for Chifley said out loud, 'I'm amazed that such a simple amendment could be brought through to this House 10 years after the original report was commissioned, and some six years after it was recommended.' I find it difficult to disagree with anything that the member for Chifley says, except on this point. We should not be amazed, because a government that spent so much energy in the last election campaigning against the future is going to have very little to say on the subject of innovation.

The member for Chifley pointed out the government spent 250 days without a minister responsible for innovation. It is actually worse than that. They have spent eight years in government without a policy for innovation, and the fact that this is as good as it gets is an indication that we'll see no policy on innovation into the future either. They campaigned against the future when it came to renewable energy. They campaigned against the future when it came to electric vehicles. And not only did they campaign against the future, but, when they won government, they then did their very best to ensure that they denuded our capacity to innovate. I have in mind their response to the university sector as an example of this.

Over the course of this pandemic, a smart government, a government committed to innovation, would have looked at those institutions—whose singular purpose it is to educate, to train, to skill, to research—and invested in those organisations. But what did we see? Over the period of the pandemic, we have seen 20,000 jobs—20,000 jobs!—lost from the university sector. In my region alone, if you look at all of the occupations and how they have fared over the period of the pandemic, you see a very worrying picture indeed. You would think that, during the midst of a pandemic, the things a smart country would do would be to retool, to retrain and to reinvest. But in my area alone, the one occupational grouping that saw employment go backwards, not by a small amount but by a significant amount, was education—it was the education sector. There are fewer people employed in vocational education and training, in tertiary education and in school education at this point in the pandemic than there were at the beginning of it. Over the last 18 months, we have seen a hollowing out of that institution which is going to be absolutely essential to us rebuilding, innovating and ensuring that we are going to build back better once this virus is under control. We have seen 20,000 jobs and $2 billion taken out of the university sector—that is what has been lost. If you want to see the impact of that, have a look at what is happening across enrolments and what is going to happen, particularly in the vocational education and training sector. We have a skills shortage at the moment. We had a skills shortage before the pandemic, which was exacerbated by the closure of the borders. There are a lot of businesses right now saying, 'How are we going to do our planning, particularly our workforce planning, for building back after the pandemic when businesses are able to open up again?' This Prime Minister says we need hope, but he is not giving them much in the way of hope when it comes to workforce planning. The skills aren't there and the institutions, which will be building on those skills, certainly aren't there either.

However, if you want to see an example of innovation at work, I want to reflect again on the innovation that is being demonstrated by some organisations in my community. Yes, we want to have an eye on the future and ensuring that we can improve our economy, our capacity, after we've got this pandemic under control. Community organisations and business organisations in my electorate have got their eye on the immediate challenge, and that is how we vax the Illawarra. I want to give a shout-out to the community organisations and the businesses that have got behind the campaign to vax the Illawarra by dealing with the immediate challenges. I want to give a shout-out to Vicki Tiegs from Waples Marketing Group and a shout-out to all of the partners behind the #VaxTheIllawarra campaign. They're very innovative indeed and they include Interchange Illawarra, The Cram Foundation, Housing Trust, Wests Illawarra, Port Kembla Golf Club, the Kembla Grange Racecourse, Peoplecare health cover—and there are so many others. There are ambassadors like UFC champion Alex Volkanovski, Australian Olympic swimming sensation Emma McKeon and Professor Patricia Davidson from Wollongong university. They're joining together in an innovative community driven and community led campaign to vax the Illawarra. Their target is 80 per cent and then 90 per cent, and their objective is ensuring that the Illawarra is the first region in the country to achieve that 80 per cent target. They have my 100 per cent support, and I'm calling on all people of the Illawarra to get behind this campaign, #VaxTheIllawarra. If we back our local community, we will be at the forefront of those regions that are able to build back and ensure we can get our economy opening up. We can then be out there doing the things that we need to do and that we were able to enjoy so much before this pandemic. I want to give a shout-out to that innovative campaign, #VaxTheIllawarra, and I give it my 100 per cent support.

I want to foreshadow that I'll also be moving a second reading amendment. I know the member for Griffith, who's always forward leaning in these matters, is very keen to second this amendment. The member for Chifley said in his opening remarks that the fact that it's taken us nearly 10 years to get to this very modest amendment speaks to a government without an innovation agenda. My second reading amendment will go to the point that Australia is crying out for leadership in the area of innovation, a minister who takes it seriously, a government that takes it seriously and an agenda for innovation. I singled out renewable energy and electric vehicles as two examples, but a government that has spent so much time and energy campaigning against renewable energy can hardly be the sort of government that's going to lead us through to the sort of transformation that needs to be done to our energy generation and transmission system.

Contrast that with the plan that the Albanese-led Labor opposition has put forward to the Australian people. We're getting behind a long-term renewable energy generation policy. It's energy-certain so that investors can invest in transmission and generation, rewiring our nation to ensure that the transmission system is linking up the places where the energy is being generated with the places where it's going to be used—that's absolutely critical. But batteries are also critical to this.

We know that Australia is leading the world in terms of solar take-up. One in five households has solar panels on their roof, but without battery storage households are still reliant on the grid when the sun isn't shining. We know that less than one in 60 households which have had solar installed has battery storage because the up-front costs are just so prohibitive at the moment. That's why Labor's 'power to the people' program—a $200 million investment to install over 400 community batteries across the country—is an innovation that the country needs. It will support over 100,000 households by storing energy from solar households at the community level when it's being generated during the day and it can then be drawn down at night time during peak demand periods. It's these sorts of innovations that Australia needs; not just working on the generation of renewable electricity and fixing up the transition system but ensuring that we have battery storage at the point of usage as well.

When it comes to batteries, I want to make this point: every single item—every single mineral—that goes into the production of batteries can be found here in Australia, and they're extracted at the sorts of volumes that are necessary to make them commercially viable. So we have to ask ourselves, 'If we're able to dig this stuff up, put it on ships and send it around to the rest of the world—which then produces the batteries and sends them back to Australia for us to buy at a premium—why have we not been able to build a battery production industry here in Australia?' This is a part of the energy revolution that Australia needs. A government which was committed to innovation would have put in place the sorts of industry plans and incentives which would enable us to be world leaders and innovators, not only in the mining of the minerals which are necessary for the production of batteries but by building a domestic battery program as well.

Whether it's maximising and being able to utilise the mineral benefits that we have in this country, or whether it's being able to harness the creativity and potential of the Australian people, this government is without an agenda. It has no agenda for vocational education and training and is at war with the universities—as it's at war with so many other aspects of our society. It's at war with the university sector and it has completely vacated the territory in the area of vocational education and training, withdrawing funds and capacity when they're most needed. And it's absent when it comes to developing an industry policy around battery storage, energy generation and energy transmission. These are just two examples; I could list many, many more.

With those comments in mind, I move:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:

  (1) notes the lack of Government strategy on innovation; and

  (2) condemns the Government for its continued failure to support innovation in Australia".

That amendment has been circulated in my name and I commend that amendment to all members of the House.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the amendment seconded?

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

1:10 pm

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for the call, Deputy Speaker Dick, and can I formally congratulate you on being a member of the Speaker's panel. I wish you all the very best in the future.

I rise today to speak in support of the Designs Amendment (Advisory Council on Intellectual Property Response) Bill 2020, a bill which will improve Australia's intellectual property system and a bill critical to fostering the innovation of the 1.3 million Australians working in our design intensive industries. Intellectual property is incredibly varied, spanning trademarks, trade secrets, patents and copyrights. It is often the lifeblood of what differentiates a business offering involving great ideas built on visions—ideas which must be protected and not put at risk of intellectual property theft. But, unfortunately, when there is a great idea there will always be people wanting to replicate it and make it their own, and it's all the easier to do this in the digital age. For small-business designers especially, the risk can be so detrimental, with the potential to significantly affect their market share and revenue, not to mention derailing the hard work and effort that goes into developing their own unique business ideas.

In response to a report by the former Advisory Council on Intellectual Property, this bill seeks to protect and encourage our designers to create new innovative products with confidence. It seeks to make absolutely certain that they can benefit from their creative investment. Implementing measures from the report, this bill will clarify and simplify the design systems and provide more flexibility for designers. It will improve the registered design system to support this important sector, which is estimated to contribute $68 billion to the economy every year. Our government has consulted extensively to put the report's recommendations into effect. We are confident that this bill's measures strike the right balance between the needs of designers, third parties and the broader public.

Amongst the changes made by the bill is the inclusion of a grace period. Currently, if a designer publicly discloses their design before applying for protection, they will never be able to obtain a registered and enforceable IP right. This grace period will give designers 12 months to apply for protection after publicly using their design. It aligns Australia with many of our major trading partners, making it easier for our designers to seek protection overseas and encouraging international designers to bring their work to Australia. It will also increase competitiveness in export markets.

For Australian businesses that have licensed exclusive rights for a design, they will now be able to bring infringement action without needing to rely on the owner. When an exclusive licence is granted, it can be in circumstances where the design owner is based overseas. This bill will allow exclusive licensees to enforce their rights that they have paid for, and is already the case for patents, trademarks and plant breeders' rights.

As well as delivering benefits for designers, the bill will also implement safeguards to protect third parties in the design sector who are operating in good faith. A prior use exemption to the infringement of designs will be created. It will safeguard those who start using or preparing to use a design in good faith during the grace period before the designer seeks to register it. This bill will extend the current innocent infringer defence so that relief is available from any time after the designer's filing date. The amendments will mitigate the risk of infringing a design during this period for those acting in good faith. The defence will only be available to those genuinely unaware of the design protection. Designers will be able to advertise their design protection and take legal action against deliberate copiers.

Finally, the bill will also streamline the designs application process, reducing red tape and the administrative burden for designers. It will remove the rarely used option to publish a design application without registration. It will make requests for registration automatic after six months unless the designer indicates otherwise. This will reduce the number of dates that are needed to be tracked by applicants, and it will make it easier and simpler for them to delay publication of a new design until they are ready to launch in the market.

The bill will also make a range of smaller technical corrections and improvements to the design system, streamlining the process for updating design application filing requirements and ensuring the requirements can be easily amended to reflect changing technology and commercial practices. This bill will improve procedural fairness, clarify third parties' freedom to operate and reduce legal uncertainty. It will make sure new business ventures see their innovations and creativity transformed into market share, successfully setting themselves up for expansion, protecting what is theirs and achieving profitable returns. Our government is committed to supporting our businesses to go from strength to strength, giving them the access to the resources to do so confidently and with maximum assurance, especially during this time. That is why I commend this bill to the House.

1:15 pm

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank members for their contributions to the debate. In preparing this bill, the government heard from many stakeholders in the designs industry, including designers, design owners, industry groups and their representatives. They had many different perspectives and interests, but they were united in their passion for creating great designs and sharing them with the world. This bill will support Australians working in design-intensive industries and give designers confidence to create new and innovative products, knowing their creative investment will be protected and rewarded. This bill will improve the registered design system to support this important sector. These reforms will clarify and simplify the registered design system, reduce red tape and give more designers more flexibility when seeking intellectual property protection.

This bill responds to a report by the former Advisory Council on Intellectual Property that considered the effectiveness of the design's system in stimulating innovation and its impact on economic growth. This will deliver benefits for Australian designers, improving confidence and certainty to stimulate investment in design innovation. Thanks to the input from designers, industry groups, intellectual property practitioners and other experts, I'm confident that we have struck the right balance between the needs of designers, third parties and the broader public.

This bill will implement a grace period that will allow designers to apply for protection for up to 12 months after a design is disclosed, preventing any loss of rights. It will align Australia with our major trading partners, making it easier for our designers to seek protection overseas and encouraging international designers to bring their work to Australia. Along with this, the bill will also include a prior use infringement exemption to protect those who start using or preparing to use a design in good faith during a designer's grace period. The bill will also allow exclusive licensees to enforce the rights that they have paid for, as is already the case for patents, trademarks and plant breeders' rights, and reflects that when an exclusive licence is granted that can be in circumstances where the design owner is based overseas may be less willing to pursue an alleged infringer in Australia. The bill will also extend the current innocent infringer defence to cover the period between filing a design application and registration as well as streamline the design's application process and the process for updating designed application filings.

The Australian designer sector contributes greatly to our economy. This bill will deliver a more fit-for-purpose design and a design right to support and stimulate design activity in Australia. I commend the bill to the House.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the minister. The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Whitlam has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question before the House is that the amendment to be disagreed to.

Question agreed to.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.