Danny Yee >> Internet Censorship/Free Speech >> Federal Net Censorship >> Senate Committee 1999

Harradine Qualifying Comment


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