IP Australia recently released a new version of its patent database, AusPat beta. The new version allows users to retrieve patent specifications from 1904 to the present. Approximately half of the 1.4 million AU patent specs have been loaded. The complete collection is expected to be available in March 2011. Pre-1980 documents appear to be searchable only by patent number. Not sure if or when other bibliographic data will be added. See AusPat beta users guide for search tips and other.
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.