Australia and the Internet

Current Issues

Australia and the Internet

E-Brief: Online Only issued 13 April 2000

Dr Kim Jackson, Analysis and Policy
Social Policy Group

Commonwealth Government Sites

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.

The Online Council is a Commonwealth, State and Territory ministerial body which:

  • examines issues affecting the development of the information economy; and,
  • promotes consistency in the use of information and communication services in government.

Online Australia is a Commonwealth Government initiative designed to:

  • 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 Australia.

Internet Content Regulation

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 page.

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 page.

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 this page.

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.

Electronic Frontiers 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 Regulating the Net (maintained by Roger Clarke).

Internet Gambling

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 page.

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 gambling.

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 Commission.

Show Hand 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 regulation.

Internet Commerce

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 medium enterprises.

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 privacy issues.

E-commerce today is an independent magazine containing news and analysis on developments in electronic commerce in Australia.

Privacy and the Internet

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 this page.

The Australian Privacy Commissioner maintains a web page on IT and 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:

Internet Statistics

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 this page.

  • 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 technology.
  • 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 site.

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).

Internet Ratings/Charts

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 relative usage.

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 the following:

  • 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 Australian site 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.

Other Sites of Interest

The web magazine provides news, information and analyses on Internet developments in Australia.

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 hundred ISPs.

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.

The Internet 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 statements;
  • 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 issues.

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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