Thursday, 20 June 2013
Economics Legislation Committee; Report
I want to make some very quick comments around the Economics Legislation Committee report on consideration of time critical bills—the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill and the statement in there that there are 'no substantive matters which require examination'. The opposition referred this piece of legislation to a House of Representatives committee, and, unfortunately, in the drafting of that report none of the concerns which were quite legitimately raised around this piece of legislation were actually reflected in the report.
I think it is worth quickly putting on the record the concerns of an organisation that was not consulted in the development of the legislation—an organisation which you might have thought might be consulted in the development of the legislation—the Institute of Patent and Trademark Attorneys of Australia. We are, after all, talking about an intellectual property bill. The group was not consulted. They have serious concerns about the drafting of this piece of legislation. Their complaints are quite legitimate, but they have not been reflected in any of the processes of the parliament. The Senate's legislation committee has basically given this piece of legislation a tick and flick, and in the House members were given one hour for an inquiry and that process did not provide an opportunity for even dissenting comments on the report. The institute is quite legitimately concerned that none of their concerns have been reflected in this process. I would like to read into the record what they said:
We, the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia (IPTA), are extremely disappointed by the mischaracterisation at the public hearing of our concerns in relation to the TRIPS Protocol amendments, and by the Report itself which recommends passage of the Bill by the House in a form which contains significant drafting errors. We have previously drawn IP Australia's attention to these significant drafting errors, and it is of particular concern to us that [the department] did not relay our concerns to the Committee when given the opportunity. While some of our concerns did relate to the question of compliance with our International obligations it is not true to say, as [the department] said to the Committee, that all of the issues raised the question of compliance with international treaty obligations.
There is nothing in the transcript of the Public Hearing or the Report which gives us any reason to believe that our concerns in relation to the erroneous drafting of the Bill were considered by the Committee before they recommended the Bill for passage. We first drew attention to the drafting problems when we commented on a draft of the Bill in September 2012. When we reviewed the Bill as introduced to Parliament we were dismayed that our concerns had not been addressed. We therefore sent an email to IP Australia on 5 June 2013 expressing again our concerns in relation to the drafting of the Bill.
Their email correspondence is part of the record. They further state:
In summary, we remain of the view that, at the very least, the Bill should be amended to correct the erroneous drafting before it is passed. There should be no reference whatsoever to cross licences and ancillary licences in the TRIPS Protocol implementing provisions. We also remain of the view that an important Bill of this type deserves closer scrutiny before passage through Parliament. The errors in the Bill are of such a nature that they are likely to interfere with the ability of the legislation to achieve its worthy objectives.
I just wanted to put that on the record. I think it is an important point to make in the context of the development of this legislation and the way that it has been passed through this parliament.