Australia and the Internet
E-Brief: Online Only issued 13 April 2000
Dr Kim Jackson,
Analysis and Policy
Social Policy Group
The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the
Arts (DCITA) provides access to a wide range of policy, information
and research documents on the Internet in Australia. These can be
accessed from the DCITA home page by
selecting "Internet" from the Easyfind facility on the site.
The National Office for the
Information Economy (NOIE) develops and coordinates policy for
the regulatory, legal and physical infrastructure needs for online
services (including electronic commerce) in Australia.
The Office for
Government Online aims to ensure the integration of Government
online services into the information economy and to make the
Government a leading user of online technology.
Council is a Commonwealth, State and Territory ministerial body
- examines issues affecting the development of the information
- promotes consistency in the use of information and
communication services in government.
Australia is a Commonwealth Government initiative designed
- help Australians succeed online;
- build Australia's online communities; and
- involve Australians in determining and participating in the
nation's online future.
It provides access to an extensive range of news stories, media
releases and other resources concerning online developments in
The legislative basis for the regulatory regime for online
content is the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online
Services) Act 1999. This legislation was preceded by a number
of reports from the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) and
parliamentary committees. A good description of this background,
together with access to the reports, can be found at this ABA
The Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to
the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies,
Report on Regulation of Computer On-Line Services is in
three parts. Part 1 (September 1995) described the
proceedings of a public seminar convened by the Committee to
examine the computer industry's concerns about regulatory
proposals. Part 2 (November 1995) examined the nature of
online services and outlined regulatory options. Part 3
(June 1997) looked at regulatory measures, filtering devices and
overseas developments. Copies of the latter two reports are
available from this
The Senate Select Committee on Information Technologies report
on the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill
1999 (May 1999) examined the regulatory regime for online
content that the Bill would introduce. The Committee is currently
conducting a review of the regulatory regime. Details of this
review, as well as a copy of the earlier report, are available from
The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) is responsible for
administering the Commonwealth's Internet censorship regime. The
ABA web page
'Online services content regulation' provides an overview of
the scheme, together with details on :
- the complaints mechanism under the scheme;
- community education programs;
- research studies on online service regulation, attitudes to the
Internet, and technological developments;
- Internet Codes of Practice;
- Information about the scheme for ISPs and Internet hosts;
- International liaison on Internet content regulation.
The Australian Family's
Guide to the Internet was established by the Commonwealth
Government to provide:
- information about filtering software and special ‘safe
zones’ that children can use;
- guides for avoiding ‘stranger danger’ and advice
against giving out personal details; and
- links to sites for children of all ages, covering homework
tips, research material and amusement.
Australia is an organisation with the objective of changing
laws which restrict free speech or impede the community's access to
information. It maintains a detailed page on Internet
regulation in Australia, with information on Commonwealth and
State activities. Another page with a similar point of view is
Net (maintained by Roger Clarke).
The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) paper, Internet
Gambling (June 1998) examines the policy options concerning
this issue. Papers for the Conference on "Gambling, Technology and
Society: Regulatory Challenges for the 21st Century"
(May 1998) convened by the AIC in conjunction with the Australian
Institute for Gambling Research are also available from this
The Senate Select Committee on Information Technologies has
conducted an inquiry into online gambling. A copy of the report,
Netbets: a Review of Online Gambling in Australia (March
2000), can be obtained
here. The report recommends that no further online gambling
licences be issued until after the introduction of a range of
consumer protection measures.
The Productivity Commission's Inquiry
into Australia's Gambling Industries Final Report (December
1999) has a substantial chapter on policies for Internet
A number of overseas reports on Internet gambling are also
available online. They include Internet
Gaming and South Africa: Implications, Costs and Opportunities
(August 1999) and the work of the US National Gambling Impact Study
Gaming News is a magazine site reporting on gambling
developments (online and land based) in Australasia and Asia. It
includes online gambling statistics and reports on gaming
Access to a large range of news releases, policy documents and
reports concerning Internet commerce in Australia can be obtained
from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and
the Arts (DCITA). Go to this page and select
'Electronic Commerce' from the Easyfind facility.
The DCITA report, Australia's
e-commerce report card (1999) gives the policy framework for
e-commerce and describes those areas in which the Commonwealth is
partnering industry and other governments to increase the use of
e-commerce by Australian business. Some key State and Territory
e-commerce activities are also briefly outlined.
The National Office for the
Information Economy (NOIE) develops and coordinates
Commonwealth policy with regard to electronic commerce in
Australia. Useful NOIE sites and documents include:
The DCITA, in conjunction with the NOIE and the Commonwealth
Treasury have produced "Shopping on the Internet - Facts for
Consumers", a series of papers dealing with some of issues involved
with online purchasing. The papers are as follows:
The Australian Electronic
Business Network is a Government initiative supported by
industry to foster awareness of electronic commerce among small to
The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit report,
Internet Commerce To buy or not to buy? (May 1998) focussed on
the impact on Australian small to medium businesses, the
implications for the tax system, the Customs screen free limit, and
is an independent magazine containing news and analysis on
developments in electronic commerce in Australia.
On the 12 April the Government introduced the Privacy Amendment
(Private Sector) Bill 2000. The Bill seeks to establish a national
scheme for the appropriate collection and usage of personal
information by the private sector. The Bill and related
documentation can be obtained from
The Australian Privacy Commissioner maintains a web page on
Internet Issues which provides access to:
- guidelines for workplace e-mail and web browsing;
- guidelines for Commonwealth government sites; and
- advice on the protection of privacy.
Roger Clarke's Current
Developments in Internet Privacy paper is a detailed analysis
of the Australian situation. It argues that regulatory and
organisational responses to the privacy threats created by the
Internet have been seriously inadequate. The paper contains many
links to other papers and sites of interest.
Other relevant documents include:
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) produces a number of
publications that deal with Internet usage in Australia. It should
be noted that the ABS only provides a summary of the main features
of each publication online. These can be accessed from
- Use of the Internet by Householders, Australia
provides details of the number of households with Internet access,
the frequency of use, characteristics of users and commercial use
by householders. This is a quarterly survey conducted in February,
May, August and November each year.
- Household Use of Information Technology, Australia
1998 consolidates the quarterly Internet usage data on an
annual basis, and also includes information on household
expenditure and usage of computers and other information
- Business Use of Information Technology, Australia
1997-98 (October 1999) contains data on the number of
businesses with Internet access and web sites, purpose of Internet
usage and expenditure on information technology.
- Government Use of Information Technology, Australia
1997-98 (December 1999) has details on use, employment and
expenditure by Federal, State and local government.
- Use of Information Technology on Farms, Australia
1998-99, Preliminary (December 1999) provides statistics on
the use of computers and the Internet by primary producers.
- Telecommunications Services 1996-97 (January 1999)
includes information on the number, income, assets and employment
of Internet service providers. This survey was conducted to provide
a benchmark so that the impact of deregulation (which occurred in
July 1997) could be assessed.
Statistics on current Australian Internet usage are also
available from www.consult Pty Ltd, a
research and consulting group which also produces reports on
Internet shopping and banking. However, only the most basic data is
made available without cost.
International indicators of Internet usage and development are
available from the OECD. These include a graphical
analysis by domain and language, as well as Internet
infrastructure indicators. The OECD also produces a wide range
of policy papers on telecommunications, a number of which deal with
Internet developments. These papers can be accessed from this
The Internet Domain Survey
sponsored by the Internet Software Consortium provides statistics
on the number of hosts on the Internet. The January 2000 survey
indicated that there were 72 398 092 Internet hosts, of which 1 090
468 were in the .au domain.
Statistics on Internet commerce in Australia are available from
the NOIE web site, in particular their
Current State of Play page (a quarterly summary of statistical
and other data) and their report, stats.
electronic commerce in australia (April 1998).
Several Australian organisations have developed methodologies
for ranking the most popular sites with Australian Internet users.
These sites survey the proxy servers or logs of a sample of
Internet service providers (ISPs) to estimate which sites are most
visited by Australians. However, it should be noted that Internet
ratings are in their infancy and that significant methodological
difficulties still exist. The charts should be used as guides to
the more popular web sites, rather than as definitive indicators of
Where did we
go in Australia? provides weekly charts of web sites most
visited by Australians, including:
- the top 500 Australian web sites;
- the top 100 (Australian and overseas) web sites;
- the top five Australian web publishers;
- the most popular web sites by category;
- statistics and information on domain registrations.
Top 100 charts the
relative popularity of web sites amongst Australians across more
than 70 categories. Information available from the site includes
- weekly charts of the top 100 Australian and global sites;
- a detailed category breakdown of the most popular sites;
- a domain name watch;
- news, analysis and a search facility.
AC Neilsen/Net Ratings are also developing a global Internet
research service but there are no statistics on Australian usage
available from their
Australian site at this time. The US site provides some free data on
US usage. A similar situation exists with Media Metrix: the
global site offers
extensive ratings and statistics on Internet usage, but the
requires a subscription to obtain local data.
Another source of global information is CyberAtlas, which contains
reports on commercial usage, ratings and other statistics
(including Australian data). Nua Internet Surveys also
provides access to a wide range of news stories, surveys and
charts. The GVU
WWW User Surveys site provides details of ten Internet user
surveys conducted since 1994.
The web magazine australia.internet.com
provides news, information and analyses on Internet developments in
The Australian ISP
List provides details on Australian Internet access providers.
Access and hosting prices, network details and descriptions of
consultancy and other services offered are given for over nine
The Australian Internet
Awards acknowledge and celebrate Australian talent and
expertise on the Internet. Awards are given in a range of
categories, with the winners being selected by an independent panel
of judges. There is also an award for Most Popular Australian Web
Site that is determined by votes from the public. The Awards
commenced in 1996.
Industry Association (IIA) is the Australian national industry
body for Internet commerce, content and connectivity. The IIA web
site provides access to a wide range information concerning
Australia and the Internet, including:
- press releases, seminar proceedings, articles and policy
- the IIA Code of Practice, as well as guides to online content
for ISPs and Internet users; and,
- reports on the activities of IIA taskforces on Internet
The Internet Society of
Australia is the Australian chapter of the Internet Society
(ISOC). ISOC has more than 150 organisational and 6,000 individual
members in over 100 countries. It addresses issues that confront
the future of the Internet, and is the organisational home for the
groups responsible for Internet infrastructure standards, including
the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Architecture
Board. Both the Australian and the international ISOC web sites contain
extensive material on Internet news and issues.
The Asia Pacific
Network Information Centre (APNIC) is one of three regional
Internet registries responsible for providing allocation and
registration services which support the global operation of the
Internet. The other two registries are in Europe and the United
States. APNIC is a non-profit organisation comprising ISPs,
national Internet registries and network information centres. APNIC
serves over sixty countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific
region. The APNIC secretariat is located in Brisbane. The APNIC web
site provides access to a large number of documents, although most
are of a technical nature.
For copyright reasons some linked items are only
available to Members of Parliament.
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