Ransomware, economic accelerator and patent box bills lapse


Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Legislation introducing a ransomware penalties regime, a $1.6 billion economic accelerator and the long-awaited patent box are among the bills which have now lapsed after failing to be passed before the announcement of the May federal election.

A number of tech-focused bills remained in Parliament upon Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling the election for 21 May over the weekend, meaning they have lapsed and will have to be introduced by the new government.

These include the federal government’s ransomware bill, which would have introduced tougher penalties for ransomware criminals and mandatory incident reporting for larger businesses subject to an attack.

These reforms were announced in mid-October, but the bill never made it past the lower house.

Legislation launching the $1.6 billion Australian Economic Accelerator, announced as part of the commercialisation package in February, has also lapsed. The accelerator will issue grants to support arrangements to increase industry-led study and post-graduate research, and to assist universities to undertake research.

The accelerator will function as a three stage program aiming to transform early-stage research into viable businesses.

The Coalition also failed to pass legislation launching a patent box after first announcing the scheme in last year’s May budget. The patent box would have initially only applied to the medical technology and biotech industries, offering tax breaks on IP commercialised in Australia.

While this legislation has now lapsed, the government did announce a series of updates to the scheme in this year’s budget, including to expand it to the agricultural and low-emissions technology industries.

The government had also been attempting to cap the amount the Medical Research Future Fund can disburse each year, but legislation facilitating this has now lapsed.

Under the Coalition’s plan, the fund would be limited to disbursing $650 million annually from 2022-23, down from the $1.2 billion withdrawn in 2020-21.

This plan had been slammed by the Opposition, which said it would “undermine medical research”.

A bill which would allow business communication documents to be signed or executed electronically and other additional categories of documents to be sent electronically, has also been left to lapse.

The Coalition had been planning to introduce an enhanced critical infrastructure security regulatory regime for the transport sector, but legislation paving the way for this failed to pass in the last Parliament.

This bill served to expand the definition of unlawful interference, establish an additional purpose of safeguarding against operational interference, expand the existing security protection power to include making directions in relation to specific threats of operational interference.

A controversial bill labelled as being about “anti-trolling” but actually serving to reform defamation laws in relation to comments on social media also stalled in Parliament and has lapsed.

The bill was introduced to Parliament earlier this year but was not debated in the lower house until after the Senate had risen for the last time, despite the Prime Minister saying it would be “dealt” with in February.

Legislation increasing the penalties for data breaches by social media firms and giving new powers to the privacy watchdog also failed to pass before the election, and wasn’t even introduced to Parliament despite being first announced more than three years ago.

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