From: Draper, Trish (MP) T.Draper.MP@aph.gov.au
To: lazerzap@chariot.com.au
Subject: Internet
Date: Monday, August 23, 1999 1:06 PM
20 August 1999

Mr Lazerzap
X Xxxxxxx Xxxx
HOPE VALLEY SA 5090

Dear Mr Lazerzap (Edited)

Thank you for your e-mail, and I note your comments about Liberal Party policy and censorship of material available on the Internet.

As the matters you have raised regarding the Internet relate to the Government's new policies and initiatives, I have forwarded your e-mail to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator the Hon Richard Alston, for a response.

In the meantime, I provide the following information about the Internet legislation that was passed by the Senate recently, which I hope will be of assistance in clearing up some misconceptions you may have.

Essentially, the legislation will allow people to make complaints about offensive material to the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA). The material will then be assessed by the Classification Board and, if it is considered to be offensive, the Board will give the service providers or content providers an opportunity to take the material down.

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and The Arts, Senator the Hon Richard Alston, has indicated that if material comes from offshore an obligation is placed on the service providers to do their best to block it. At present considerable reliance will be placed on industry codes of practice, giving the industry an opportunity to work out the most effective ways of achieving the objective.

The Minister has advised that service providers will not be required to monitor the content of material on the internet, as this would not only be onerous, but an impossible task. He advises that service providers will be required to respond to complaints, but only after an independent body has determined that the material is in breach of the classification regime. Therefore if the material is hard core pornography, refused classification or illegal material, it will have to be removed or blocked.

You may be interested to learn that the ABA is the "first stop" for complaints about the content of radio and television programs and it is therefore appropriate that concerns about internet sites should be directed to the ABA. The service providers will only be required to act in relation to an internet site after the ABA has brought it to their attention and it has been demonstrated that the material is in breach of the classification regime.

The Government is aware that there are a range of measures available to assist parents in monitoring the internet in their household including subscribing to software filters or packages from internet service providers that provide a "clean universe".

In relation to claims that the new legislation will "slow the internet down" and result in increased costs from service providers, I would stress that the legislation does not require internet service providers to implement any new technology. Indeed, in working out what reasonable steps the service providers will take, issues on the speed of the internet will be taken into account.

The Government takes very seriously its responsibility to provide an effective regime to prevent the publication of illegal and offensive material online, while ensuring regulation does not place onerous or unjustifiable burdens on industry and inhibit the development of the online economy. I have appended a copy of the main elements of the framework for the legislation for your information. .

Again, thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention and I hope the information I have provided is of assistance to you. I will write to you again in relation to the specific points you raised as soon as I receive the Minister's reply

Yours sincerely

(Mrs) Trish Draper, MP
Member for Makin
...........................................
Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill 1999
A Bill for an Act to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, and for other purposes


Details of the framework are available on the internet at http://www.noie.gov.au/index2.htm. The main elements of the framework are as follows:

* a complaints mechanism will be established in which any person can complain to the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) about offensive material online

* material that will trigger action by the ABA will be defined, on the basis of current National Classification Board guidelines, as material Refused Classification and rated X, and material rated R that is not protected by adult verification procedures

* the ABA will be given powers to issue notices to service providers aimed at preventing access to prohibited material which is subject to a complaint if it is hosted in Australia or, if the material is sources overseas, to take reasonable steps to prevent access if technically feasible and commercially viable, with the "reasonable steps" to be detailed in an industry Code of Practice to be developed in consultation with the ABA

* indemnities will be provided for service providers to protect them from litigation by customers affected by ABA notices

* a graduated scale of sanctions against service providers breaching ABA notices or the legislation will apply

* the framework will not apply to private or restricted distribution communications such as intranets or communications not in a stored form; however, current provisions of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) in relation to offensive or harassing use of a telecommunications service will apply in this context

* a community advisory body will be established to 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 Commonwealth will be responsible for regulating the activities of internet service providers (ISPs) and internet content hosts (ICHs) and the Attorney-General will encourage the development of uniform State and Territory offence provisions complementing the Commonwealth legislation (including section 85ZE of the Crimes Act) that create offences for the publication and transmission of prohibited material by users and content creators.


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