02 September 2010

Dark Day at the GPO Extends IP Deadlines in South Australia

A blackout at the Adelaide GPO on 31 August 2010 allowed South Australian residents an additional day to complete any official IP transactions due on that date.

By way of background, commencing in 2009 IP Australia outsourced its state-based lodgement services.  Prior to this, it had operated its own sub-offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart. 

Starting with Hobart in September 2009, and ending with Brisbane in April 2010, the lodgement function of each sub-office was taken over by Australia Post.

Under the new arrangements, lodgements may be made at the GPO in each capital city, by post or in-person to the IP Lodgement Point.

In the positive side, the Northern Territory now has, for the first time, its own state lodgement point at the Darwin GPO.  The down side for many practitioners has been the loss of a reliable capability to complete same-day paper filings via courier.  The Australia Post procedures require attendance in-person at the lodgement points, and collection of a receipt, in order to secure a confirmed filing date.  While this may be practical on a regular basis for firms located in the CBD of each capital city within walking distance of the GPO, it has forced most practitioners to use online lodgement facilities (which do not currently provide adequate coverage of all lodgement needs) or facsimile (which has obvious disadvantages for large volumes) for urgent filings.

We anticipate that the situation will improve as IP Australia provides more extensive electronic filing services (some of which may require legislative or regulatory change).  Our own preference would be to do everything electronically via secure web-based interfaces, and we understand that this is what IP Australia would like as well.

In any event, we were interested to see an Official Notice from IP Australia announcing that:
 
...the Director General has declared the South Australian sub-office (IP Lodgement Point in Adelaide) not open for business today. This close down is effective for 31 August 2010.
This action is a result of a blackout at Australia Post’s Adelaide GPO which has closed the facility for several hours.
We wonder whether, once IP Australia has facilities enabling all transactions to be completed electronically, it will be possible to do away with state-based services altogether, along with all associated "official closures"?  Even with the provision of a state lodgement facility in Darwin, the current system discriminates against clients located outside of the state and territory capital cities.  In a country the size of Australia, this is hardly acceptable in this day and age, and is yet another argument for the National Broadband Network.

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