This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the
Contact Officer and Copyright Details
Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online
Services) Bill 1999
Date Introduced: 21 April 1999
Portfolio: Communications, Information Technology and the
Commencement: On Royal Assent
To establish a
framework for the regulation of the content of online services. The
legislation seeks to:(1)
- provide a means for addressing complaints about certain
- restrict access to certain Internet content that is likely to
cause offence to a reasonable adult and
- protect children from exposure to Internet content that is
unsuitable for children.
Reports and Investigations
The proposals to regulate Internet content which
are currently embodied in the Bill are not new.
In October 1993, the Senate Select Committee on
Community Standards (SSCCS) acknowledged the 'complex regulatory
problems' involved in the availability of pornographic and
ultra-violent material on bulletin boards, accessed from overseas
sources via telephone lines. The Committee urged 'censorship
Ministers to give consideration to immediate remedial
In 1994, the Attorney-General and the Minister
for Communications and the Arts formed a taskforce (the BBS Task
Force) to investigate the regulation of computer bulletin boards.
This Task Force reported in October 1994. Industry bodies strongly
opposed the BBS report and in April 1995 the SSCCS held hearings to
discuss the reports findings. In July 1995 the Government published
a consultation paper on the regulation of on-line services.
In August 1995 the SSCCS launched its own
inquiry in the regulation of computer online services. In November
1995 it recommended that 'it should be an offence to use a computer
service to transmit, obtain possession of, demonstrate, advertise
or request the transmission of material equivalent to the RC, R and
X categories.'(3) The Committee also recommended that a system of
self-regulation involving codes of practice (including an
independent complaints body) be instituted.(4)
In July 1995 the Minister for Communications and
the Arts directed the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) to
investigate the content and possible regulation of online services.
The ABA reported in June 1996. It recommended that industry codes
of practice be developed by on-line service providers within a
self-regulatory framework. The main elements of this framework
- the identification of matters to be included in the codes of
practice which would provide community safeguards, including
- the registration of codes with the ABA after a period of public
- the monitoring of the codes and their effectiveness by the
In 1997 the SSCCS assessed developments since
the ABA report and made the following recommendations:
- that it be an offence to use a computer service to transmit or
possess material that would be rated RC (Refused Classification) or
restricted under the National Classification Code
- that there be an independent complaints handling body
- that the industry be required to develop codes of practice
- that a taskforce for on-line labelling be instituted
- that pin numbers be mandatory for those who wish to access
Regulatory Principles and
On 15 July 1997 the Government announced the
principles for a national approach to the regulation of the content
of on-line services. In their Media Release on the subject, the
Attorney-General and the Minister for Communications made the
- material accessed through on-line services should not be
subject to a more onerous regulatory framework than 'off-line'
material such as books, videos, films and computer games.
- The framework will balance the need to address community
concerns in relation to content with the need to ensure that
regulation does not inhibit industry growth and potential
- On-line service providers were often not in a position to be
aware of all material transmitted through their service, and cannot
be held responsible in every case for material they have not
The Ministers noted that the principles were
consistent with the ABA's recommended approach to on-line
In June 1997 an amendment to section 171 of the
Broadcasting Services Act 1992 was passed by Parliament.
This enabled the ABA to expand its work in the area of on-line
services. In August 1997 the Minister directed the ABA to
investigate matters relating to the future regulatory arrangements
for on-line services. It reported in December 1998 on progress in
the following areas:
- draft industry codes of practice
- the establishment of hotlines to enable the reporting of
illegal content to regulatory authorities
- research on community concerns about on-line services
- content labelling in Australia and overseas
- educational strategies for effective use of on-line
- international developments regarding the regulation of the
content of on-line services.
In June 1998 the CSIRO Division of Mathematical
and Information Sciences released their report Blocking Content
on the Internet: a Technical Perspective, which was
commissioned by the National Office for the Information
This report examines the technical feasibility
of preventing consumer access to on-line materials. Blocking may
occur in two ways:
- by specifying the location address or news group identifier at
web sites ('application level blocking'), and
- by examining individual transmissions (packets) to exclude some
The report studies these techniques and
concludes that the former proposal, while feasible, is easily
circumvented. The latter method is too indiscriminate and would
serve to isolate Australia from global highways. Note that while
telephone systems involve dedicated line circuits, data systems
like the Internet operate by the transfer of separate information
In the former case of 'application level
blocking', Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would prevent client
access to some services by directing access through a proxy server
to vet requests. ISPs use proxy servers to store commonly accessed
web pages in order to reduce network usage. However, clients may
use non-standard addresses, access renamed sites, utilise
translation services or some other means to bypass the proxy
server. As well, not all users access the Internet through ISPs.
The use of proxy servers creates some unreliability to service
levels and some software programs and may involve ISPs in
additional and ongoing monitoring costs. The report noted that with
over 600 ISPs across Australia, the task of maintaining a site
black list would not be trivial.
The second technique of packet level blocking
would require action by Backbone Service Providers that provide the
limited number of international Internet gateways to Australia. Use
of this means necessarily blocks access and e-mail to an entire web
site and not just individual web pages, eg. a large American ISP
with many clients would not be accessible here. The individual
information packets may actually originate elsewhere for transit
through Australia, so any blocking could affect foreign
transactions. There are also techniques for clients to bypass
packet blocking or through the use of dedicated lines. Note that
all of the above mentioned techniques require some agency to
identify objectionable materials in the first instance, which,
given the dynamic nature of the Internet, is no small task,
especially as most content resides overseas.
As an alternative, the report suggests the use
of clean proxy filters or rating services. The clean service
includes a list of permitted location addresses for consumers to
access. A best effort service rates sites according to some
prescribed criteria. Both involve ISP costs or some joint agreement
to pursue established rating criteria.
The CSIRO report is now almost one year old, and
it is possible that it may be superseded by technological or
The Internet in Australia
In its latest release on the subject the
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that in November
- 18.6 per cent of all households had home Internet access
- 27.3 per cent of those households consisting of a married
couple and children had access, as did 41.5 per cent of households
with incomes greater than $66 000, and
- within the last 12 months, 31 per cent of Australia's total
adult population and 61.6 per cent of those aged 18-24, accessed
Figures for the use of the Internet by children
are less recent. In February-May 1998 257 000 children aged 5-17
years (or 15 per cent of children who regularly used a home
computer) engaged in Internet based activities. This was an
enormous increase from February-May 1996, when only 35 000 children
were engaged in such activities.(10)
The most recent ABS figures for the Internet
services industry relate to 1996-97. It should be noted that the
number of households accessing the Internet has since doubled and
it is now estimated that there are about 600 ISPs in Australia. In
1996-97 there were 306 businesses operating as Internet service
providers: they employed 1646 people, had a net worth of $ 46.9
million and generated $ 160.4 million in income, of which $ 97.4
million came from households.(11)
The principal amendment is to the
Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA). Item
10 inserts a new schedule 5 to that Act
for the purpose of regulating online services.
An important working definition for the purposes
of the new schedule is that of 'Internet Content'. Internet Content
is defined in Clause 2 as 'information that is
kept on a data storage device; and is accessed or available for
access, using an internet carriage service but does not include
information that is transmitted in the form of a broadcasting
service.' It has been suggested that this definition is too broad
in that it can potentially capture private e-mail.(12) The
Government has said that it was not possible to put in a specific
exclusion for e-mail because of the difficulty of defining
one-to-one e-mail separately from e-mail with wider distribution.
Newsgroups and bulletin boards will be captured by the definition.
The Second Reading Speech(13) asserts that the inclusion
of one-to-one e-mail within the regulatory scheme is of little
practical significance because it is 'highly unlikely to come to
the attention of the ABA because of the private and usually
password protected nature of the communication.'
The proposed regime utilises the National
Classification Board guidelines for film to classify Internet
content. Clauses 10 and 11 ensure that Intent
content is to be classified in a corresponding way to the way in
which a film or computer games would be classified under the
Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games
Act) 1995. The approach is driven by the view that convergence
is occurring between the Internet and television.(14)
'Prohibited content' is defined in Part
3 of the proposed new schedule. The definition of
prohibited content varies depending on whether the content is
hosted within Australia or overseas. Clause 8
defines prohibited content as Internet content hosted in Australia
that has been classified RC or X by the Classification Board or
Internet content that has been classified R and where access to the
content is not subject to a restricted access system.
A restricted access system is defined in
clause 3. Essentially, it is a specified access
system declared to be a restricted access system by the ABA.
Pending action from the ABA, all R-rated material hosted in
Australia will be prohibited content. This treatment is designed to
be consistent with R-rated material that is available through
If the Internet content is hosted outside
Australia, it is prohibited only if it has been classified RC or X
by the Classification Board. If R rated content is hosted overseas,
it will not be prohibited content for the purpose of the new
schedule. Commentators have questioned the effectiveness of the
legislation in that it provides no controls at all on R-rated
content hosted overseas.(15) The narrower scope would seem to be
driven by a concern to limit the workload of the ABA and allow it
to focus on material rated X or RC.(16)
The legislation also gives the ABA powers over
'potential prohibited content'. That is, Internet content that has
not been classified by the Classification Board but where, in the
view of the ABA, there is a substantial likelihood that the
Internet content would be prohibited if it were classified
Who is Regulated?
The regime applies to Internet Service Providers
(ISPs) and Internet Content Hosts (ICHs). While these services may
be provided by the same entity, the activities can be distinguished
in that ISPs offer access to the Internet whereas an ICH may only
host content available on the Internet on behalf of other parties
without providing an Internet connection. State and Territory
legislatures will have primary responsibility for regulating
content providers (proposed Part 9).
An ISP is defined in clause 6
as a person who supplies or proposes to supply an Internet carriage
service (that is a listed carriage service under the
Telecommunications Act 1997 that enables end-users to
access the Internet) to the public. The definition would appear to
exclude institutions such as libraries, which provide access to the
Internet through the provision of computer terminals from being
captured as ISPs. However, the clause does provide the opportunity
for the Minister to extend those covered by the definition by
The Role of the ABA
Part 4 deals with the role of
the ABA in the proposed content regulation regime. The regime is
largely driven by the complaints procedure in Division
1. Clause 20 provides that a complaint
may be made to the ABA if a person believes that an ISP is
supplying an Internet Carriage Service that enables end-users to
access prohibited content, or potential prohibited content. A
complaint may also be lodged if a person believes that an ICH is
hosting prohibited content, or potential prohibited content. No
complaints about Internet content may be made until 1 January 2000
to allow the industry and the ABA to prepare for the new regulatory
Clause 21 enables complaints to
be made by a person if an ISP or ICH has contravened an industry
code or online provider rules. Clause 27 protects
complainants from civil liability that may arise from making a
complaint or statements to the ABA. A complaint may be made by a
resident individual, a body corporate carrying on activities in
Australia or the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory
Division 2 governs ABA
investigations. Under clause 24, the ABA must
investigate all complaints unless the ABA is satisfied that the
complaint is frivolous, vexatious, not made in good faith or made
for the purpose of undermining the regulatory regime. Complainants
are notified by the ABA of the results of the investigation.
The ABA's role in regulating online content need
not be passive. Clause 25 provides that the ABA
may investigate whether there have been breaches of the regulatory
framework on its own initiative. However the Explanatory
Memorandum(17) states that it is not intended that the powers
bestowed by clause 25 will be used actively.
Rather its intent is to ensure that the ABA has the capacity to
follow up on information received outside the complaint process in
division 1. The ABA may for example, wish to
commence an operation based on information provided by foreign
regulators. Clause 26 gives the ABA broad power to
conduct investigations as it sees fit.
Division 3 deals with the
action the ABA is required to take against prohibited content that
is hosted in Australia. Under clause 28, if the
ABA is satisfied that Internet content hosted in Australia is
prohibited, the ABA must give the ICH a final take-down notice
directing the ICH not to host the prohibited content. In the event
that the material has not been classified and the ABA believes that
there is a substantial likelihood that the content would be
classified as RC or X by the Classification Board, the material in
question will be potentially prohibited content. In such a case,
the ABA must issue the ICH with an interim take-down notice and
request the Claissification Board(18) to classify the Internet
content. The Bill does not require the ABA to issue an interim
take-down notice in respect of material that it believes would
receive an R classification. This decision appears to be motivated
by a desire to limit the ABA's workload.(19) Nevertheless
clause 28(2)(b) does require such material to be
referred to the Classification Board.
If the Internet content is found to be
prohibited the ABA must issue the ICH with a final take-down
notice. Final take-down notices in relation to R rated content must
be revoked if restricted access system is subsequently implemented
It has been submitted that the Bill denies
content providers natural justice. There is no provision requiring
the notification of content providers and they are not given an
opportunity to respond before material is subject to a take-down
notice. While it is the Government's intention that content
providers should continue to be regulated by State and Territory
law, the IIA has asserted that take-down notices should in the
first instance be directed at content providers.(20)
As the ABA complaints process is public, there
is a danger that ABA investigations could prejudice a criminal
investigations. To deal with this possibility, clause
29 provides the ABA may defer action on prohibited content
on the advice of a member of an Australian Police force.
Clause 34 is an anti-avoidance
provision. The ABA may issue a special take-down notice where it is
satisfied that material is substantially similar to content which
is subject to an interim or final take-down notice. This provision
is designed to accommodate the possibility that Internet(21)
content may be modified in a minor way in an attempt to defeat the
Clause 35 is related to the
enforcement provisions in Part 6. It provides that
an ICH must comply with an interim take-down notice, final
take-down notice or special take-down notice 'as soon as
practicable or in any event within 24 hours of notice being given'.
It also provides that an ICH must comply with an undertaking given
and accepted under clause 31. The four subsections
of clause 35 constitute part of the online
provider rules (see below). Breach of these rules renders an ICH
liable to the offence provisions in clause 78
and/or clause 82. Concern was expressed before the
Senate Select Committee on Information Technology (SSCIT) that the
24 hour deadline is unrealistic and that large content hosts would
not be able to remove material from their servers in time.(22)
The focus of division 4 is most
significant in terms of the volume of potentially prohibited
content on the Internet. It deals with regulatory activity
following from complaints about prohibited content hosted outside
Australia. The regulatory focus of this division is on the ISP
section of the Internet industry. Under clause 37
if the ABA is satisfied that Internet content hosted outside
Australia is prohibited content or potential prohibited content,
the ABA must:
- if the content is sufficiently serious, notify an Australia
Police force, or another body that the ABA is authorised to
- if a code is registered or a standard is determined ISPs should
be notified of the content, or
- if neither a code nor a standard is in force, the ABA must
issue a standard access-prevention notice directing ISPs 'to take
all reasonable steps to prevent end users from accessing the
The issue of what was required by the phrase
'all reasonable steps' was addressed extensively during the
hearings of the SSCIT. The Chairman of the ABA, Professor Flint
stated that 'in the absence of a code or a standard, we (the ABA)
would expect that provider to apply the latest technology to take
action.'(24) While the Minister's media release(25) states that
'reasonable steps' should be 'technically feasible and commercially
viable', these words do not appear in the Bill. The Explanatory
Memorandum(26) suggests that guidance should be drawn from
proposed new subsection 4(3) of the BSA.
Subsection 4(3) provides that regulation should
not impose 'unnecessary financial and administrative burdens' on
ICHs and ISPs; readily accommodate technological change; and
encourage the application and development of Internet technologies.
This statement of Parliamentary intention is supposed to inform not
only the meaning of reasonable steps in clause
37(1)(c) but also provisions regarding filtering in
industry codes and standards.
Clause 38 mirrors
clause 29. It provides that the ABA may defer
action in relation to prohibited content or potential prohibited
content hosted outside Australia if it is satisfied that it would
prejudice a criminal investigation.
Clauses 44 is an anti-avoidance
measure. The ABA may issue a special access-prevention notice where
it is satisfied that an ISP is allowing end-users to access
Internet content which is substantially similar to material subject
to a standard access prevention notice under clause
37. Under clause 45, ISPs must comply
with access-prevention notices within 24 hours.
The role of the industry
The Bill adopts to a co-regulatory approach to
content regulation. ISPs and ICHs are encouraged to develop codes
of practice that address the community concerns about Internet
content. If these codes are not developed or are deemed inadequate,
the ABA is empowered to develop mandatory standards for the
industry. Part 5 of the schedule deals with these
Clause 55 states the
Parliament's regulatory policy with respect to industry codes. A
single code should be developed by the ICH section of the industry
and no more that than 2 codes should be developed by the ISP
industry. However one of these codes should deal exclusively with
matters raised in clause 56(2). This section deals
with procedures to be followed by ISP's when notified of overseas
hosted content that is prohibited or potentially prohibited. The
clause also instructs the ABA to make reasonable efforts to ensure
that an industry code is registered before January 1 2000.
Clause 56 defines the matters
that are to be dealt with by ISP and ICH codes and ABA standards.
- procedures for ensuring that online accounts are not provided
to children without the consent of a parent or responsible
- giving parents and responsible adults information about how to
supervise and control children's access to Internet content
including information on the use of Internet content filtering
- procedures to be followed in order to inform producers of
Internet content about their legal responsibilities in relation to
- telling customers about their rights to make complaints under
clause 20 or 21
- action to be taken to assist in the development and
implementation of Internet content labelling technologies, and
- procedures directed towards the achievement of the objective of
ensuring that customers have the option of subscribing to a
filtered Internet carriage service.
Clause 56 (2) provides that
there should be an ISP code or standard which makes provisions in
- the formulation of a 'designated notification scheme' that will
deem an ISP to have been notified of a notice through, for example,
its publication in a national newspaper or on the Internet,
- technical procedures to be followed by ISPs to filter
prohibited Internet content following notification.
Codes must be registered by the ABA if they
comply with the checklist of matters contained in clause
58. These matters relate to whether there has been
appropriate consultation in the development of the code and whether
the code addresses the issues required by the legislation. Industry
codes are enforceable by the ABA under clause 62.
If an ISP or ICH fails to comply with an instruction by the ABA to
comply with the relevant code, they will be gulty of an offence
under clause 78. Individuals can be fined up to
$5500 and corporations up to $27500. Clause 82
provides that these fines accumulate for each day that a person is
The Bill provides for a number of circumstances
where the ABA may impose an industry standard, namely where:
- a request for an industry code is not complied with
- where no industry body or association exists (clause
- an industry code is found to be totally deficient
(clause 66), and
- an industry code is partially deficient (clause
Standards made by the ABA are disallowable
instruments. Contravention of an applicable standard renders a
person guilty of an offence under clause 78.
Evidence presented before the Senate Select Committee indicates
that it is highly likely that an ISP industry code will be in place
by January 1 2000.(27)
Part 6 deals draws together the
requirements of ISPs and ICHs under the Bill as 'online provider
rules'. The purpose of this is to tie them in with the enforcement
The online provider rules are set-out in
clause 75. They require that:
- an ICH must comply with take-down notices within 24 hours
- an ICH must comply with undertakings given to and accepted by
- an ISP must comply with access prevention notices within 24
- ISPs and ICHs must comply industry standards or ABA directions
to adhere to the relevant industry code, and
- ISPs and ICHs must comply with online provider determinations
made by the ABA under clause 76.
The ABA may, but is not required
to, issue a formal warning to a person contravening the online
provider rules (clause 80). The ABA has the
additional power to apply to the Federal Court seeking an order
that an ISP or ICH cease operations if it believes that the entity
in question is not complying with an online provider rule
Clause 84 protects ISPs and
ICHs from civil proceedings (eg breach of contract, defamation)
arising from activities done in compliance with an industry code,
an industry standard or ABA notices to cease hosting Internet
content or take reasonable steps to prevent end-user access.
Clause 85 protects the ABA, the
Classification Board and the Classification Review Board and
associated staff from criminal proceedings in relation to
information or material used in connection with the performance of
duties under the schedule.
Part 9 of the new
schedule seeks to draw demarcation lines between matters
of Commonwealth, State and Territory responsibility. Clause
87 establishes a regime where the Commonwealth will
regulate ISPs and ICH, while the States and Territories will have
responsibility for content providers and users. Clause
87 protects ICHs and ISPs from State and Territory law or
Part 10 provides for the review
of ABA decisions under the proposed new Schedule 5
by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The Crimes Act 1914 already provides a
modest form of regulation of Internet content. Section 85ZE(1)(b)
prohibits the use of a carriage service in such a way as would be
regraded by reasonable persons as being, in all the circumstances,
offensive. In recognition of the detailed regime put in place by
Schedule 1 of the Bill, Schedule
2 provides that paragraph (1)(b) does not apply to the use
of a carriage service to carry Internet content.
The Cost of the Regime
Clause 18 provides that the ABA
is liable to pay fees in respect of the classification of Internet
content. The Explanatory Memorandum(28) estimates that the
ABA will have to pay around $1.5 million p.a. to the Classification
Board(29). In addition, the government has undertaken to establish
a community advisory body. The Second Reading Speech(30)
states that this body will 'monitor material, operate a `hotline'
to receive complaints about illegal material and pass this
information to the ABA and police authorities, and advise the
public about options such as filtering software that are available
to address concerns about online content.' The community advisory
body is not established in this legislation however the
Explanatory Memorandum(31) estimates that it will cost
$0.2 million to establish and require $0.5 million in annual
Evidence given before the Senate Select
Committee indicated broad support for the objective of protecting
children from Internet content that is unsuitable. The development
of industry codes in particular received strong endorsement. Many
submissions however questioned whether the Bill was technically
feasible, while others said that it would impose 'collateral'
damage by censoring acceptable sites or degrading the Internet by
slowing it down(32). It is beyond the scope of this digest to make
an assessment of these technical issues. Several points however may
be made about the regulatory framework proposed by the Bill.
R-rated material is treated inconsistently. If
it is hosted in Australia it will be deemed prohibited content
unless it is subject to a restricted access system. If it is hosted
overseas it will not be prohibited. Although it not possible to get
precise numbers, the contention that the majority of R rated
material is hosted overseas seems reasonable.(33) The distinction
appears to be motivated by a concern to limit the financial and
administrative burden on the ABA and the industry.
The cost of running the regime is difficult to
quantify because it is largely dependent on the number of
complaints received by the ABA. The explanatory memorandum admits
that $1.5 million is a conservative estimate.
Finally, it is not clear that this Bill will
address community concerns about Internet content. This is because
the Bill does not indicate with any degree of certainty whether
ISPs will be required to filter foreign prohibited content. While
the legislation requires ISPs to take 'reasonable steps' to prevent
end users from accessing prohibited content, these steps are not
defined. While the Bill does provide a flexible framework to employ
appropriate technology as it becomes available, it remains to be
seen what level of cost or degree of Internet degradation will
render a filtering technique 'unreasonable'.
The regulatory framework provided by the Bill is
to be reviewed in three years.
- These three goals are to be inserted into the objects section
(section 3) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
- SSCCS, Report on Video and Computer Games and
Classification Issues (October 1993).
- The Office of Film and Literature Classification's Cinema and
Video Ratings Guide describes the characteristics of material rated
R, X and RC in the following terms:
Material considered likely to be harmful to
those under 18 years and/or possibly offensive to some sections of
the adult community warrants an R classification.
Language: There are virtually no restrictions on
language on R films.
Sex: sexual intercourse or other sexual activity
may be realistically implied or simulated.
Violence: highly realistic and explicit
depictions of violence may be shown, but not if unduly detailed,
relished or cruel. Depictions of sexual violence are acceptable
only to the extent that they are necessary to the narrative and not
Other: drug use may be depicted, but not in an
advocatory manner. Extreme horror special effects usually warrant
No depiction of sexual violence, co-ercion or
non-consent of any kind is permitted in this classification.
Material which can be accomodated in this classification includes
explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adults and
mild non-violent fetishes.
Any film or video which includes any of the
following will be refused classification:
depictions of child sexual abuse, bestiality,
sexual acts accompanied by offensive fetishes, or exploitative
unduly detailed and/or relished acts of extreme
violence or cruelty; explicit or unjustifiable depictions of sexual
violence against non-consenting persons;
detailed instruction or encouragement in:
i matters of crime or violence
ii. the abuse of proscribed drugs.
- SSCCS, Report on Regulation of Computer On-Line Services Part 2
(November 1995), p iii.
- ABA, Investigation into the content of on-line services (June
1996). See ABA Update (No.45, July 1996) for a summary of the
- SSCCS, Report on Regulation of Computer On-Line Services Part 3
(June 1997), p. iii.
- Joint Media Release, National framework for on-line content
regulation (15 July 1997). A complete copy of the principles can be
obtained at http://www.dcita.gov.au/.
- This section was contributed by Matthew L. James of the
Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Group.
- ABS, Use of the Internet by Householders November 1998 (March
- ABS, Household Use of Information Technology1998 (November
1998), p. 15.
- ABS, Telecommunications Services 1996-97 (January 1999).
- Mr Patrick Fair, Chair Internet Industry Association, Senate
Select Committee on Information Technology (SSCIT), Evidence, 27
April 1999, p. 38.
- Senate Hansard, 21 April 1999, p. 3462.
- This notion is subject to some debate. Technological
developments, such as Telstra's recent launch of a high speed
Internet carriage service that promises smooth delivery of video
and sound, give support to the proponents of convergence. See K.
Crawford, 'Telstra revs up its copper network', Sydney
Morning Herald 5/5/1999. Others however, argue that access to
online content is discretionary unlike television and that the
classification regime for publications would be more appropriate.
It is also contended that the Internet has more in common with
postal and telephone systems. See Electronic Frontiers Australia,
'The Internet is not Television', Media Release, 25 April 1999 and
J Casmir, 'Stop Police' Sydney Morning Herald, 8 May 1999.
- Electronic Frontiers Australia, 'The Effects on Content
- Before the SSCIT, Ms Holthuyzen, Deputy Chief Executive Officer
of the National Office of the Information Economy stated that 'the
government made a judgment in relation to the R material. I think
it was a balance between the nature of the R material and the
potential, I guess, administrative costs if there were many more
complaints about R material because it is of much greater volume.
It was considered to be a less bad category and so the effort was
put into the RC and X categories', Evidence, 3 May 1999, p 318.
This comment was made in a discussion about the fact that the
legislation does not contain interim take-down orders with respect
to R-rated material. However it also appears to explain why R-rated
content hosted overseas is not prohibited.
- See page 34.
- The Classification Board is bound by clause
28(3) to comply with the ABA's request.
- The Explanatory Memorandum states that 'if interim take-down
notices were to apply to
R-rated material, this would be likely to greatly increase the
ABA's administrative costs and industry's compliance costs.'P. 35.
- Internet Industry Association, SSCIT, Evidence, 27 April 1999,
p. 35, 39.
- Internet Industry Association, SSCIT, Evidence 27
April 1999, p. 40.
- AOL Bertelsmann Online Services, SSCIT, Evidence, 3 May 1999,
p. 245. Internet Industry Association (IIA), SSCIT, Evidence, 27
April 1999, p. 40.
- Presumably this may include foreign regulators.
- Australian Broadcasting Authority, SSCIT, Evidence, 27
April 1999, p. 20.
- Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the
Arts (Senator Alston), 'Legislation introduced to protect children
online', Media Release, 21 April 1999.
- See page 41.
- The Internet Industry Association has already produced three
drafts of a code of practice. The ABA Deputy Chair expressed the
view that the IIA code '75 per cent to 80 per cent there as an
industry service provider code' and that he was very confident that
a code would be in place by Jan 1 2000'. SSCIT, Evidence, 27April
1999, p. 11.
- See page 2-3.
- The OFLC is required to recover the costs of providing
- Senate Hansard, 21 April 1999, p. 3641.
- See page 3.
- J Reilly and D Tebbutt, 'Filtering holds back economic
benefits', The Australian, May 4 1999. L Martin, 'Eros hops into
bed with anti-porn senators' Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May
- A recent Sydney Morning Herald article asserted that more than
90 per cent of online material is generated overseas. L. Martin,
'Alston uploads Internet porn-blocking law', Sydney Morning
Herald, 22 April 1999.
Mark Tapley, Kim Jackson and Matthew James
12 May 1999
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services
This paper has been prepared for general distribution to
Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care
is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the
paper is written using information publicly available at the time
of production. The views expressed are those of the author and
should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services
(IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in
this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for
related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional
legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an
official parliamentary or Australian government document.
IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with
Senators and Members
and their staff but not with members of the public.
© Commonwealth of Australia 1999
Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the
Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including
information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior
written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members
of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official
Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library,
Back to top