QUALIFYING COMMENT BY SENATOR BRIAN HARRADINE The Broadcasting Services Amendment (On Line Services) Bill 1999 will, if enacted, be an improvement on the current largely unregulated environment and thus deserves support. The commercial on-line industry has for at least six years been aware of growing concerns within the community and in the Parliament that an unregulated environment could be exploited by entrepreneurs transmitting extremely violent or pornographic material into Australian homes. It has done very little to address those concerns. However the Bill falls considerably short of recommendations made by this Committee and its predecessors. For example, the first recommendation of the Committee in its November 1995 report was 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''. In essence this was repeated in its first recommendation of June 1997. This Bill does not follow the recommendations in respect of either the content to be regulated or the method of regulation. The Bill is designed to generally operate on the basis of industry codes or in the absence thereof on standards and on a complaints procedure to be supervised by the Australian Broadcasting Authority. The question arises as to whether such a proven passive regulator as the ABA is the most appropriate institution. Only time will tell. An area which will need to come under closer scrutiny is the ready accessibility of graphically violent interactive on-line computer games. Available figures indicate their growing popularity amongst teenagers, children and young adults. It cannot reasonably be denied that internet services providers, internet content hosts and content creators do have an obligation to the end users of their services. These obligations would include, amongst other priorities, the right of users to be properly informed, to content labelling and to the identification and removal of unsolicited mail. They are also entitled to expect technical standards of excellence and to properly accredited filtering technologies including within the carriage infrastructure. It may well be that internet service providers should be licensed and that license conditions apply. Issues of privacy are of special interest to our Committee. Last year the committee conducted a number of hearings and on the issue of privacy it was assisted by the views expressed and information provided by the industry and users. The Chair's draft report is now being considered. Finally, parents should not be lulled into a sense of false security by the passage of this Bill. Clearly parents and others responsible for children will need to exercise vigilance and to be empowered to do so through a massive education campaign and technological support. This in conjunction with an effective regulatory environment would ultimately ensure an environment in which computer use would grow and the exploiters diminish.
Senate Committee 1999 << Federal Net Censorship << Internet Censorship/Free Speech << Danny Yee