Re: POL: Australia Internet Law

Damien Broderick (
Mon, 26 Apr 1999 11:46:41 +0000

Here's some more grisly details:

From: Kimberley Heitman
Subject: [Oz-ISP] Action over the Bill

Having examined the draft bill, kindly placed online in html by Heath Gibson at I have to say that it's far worse than the original press release would have suggested.

As foreshadowed, it censors the Internet as if it were cable-TV and gives the ABA power to issue takedown orders. However, Alston has gone much further in the detail, to the extent that the hysterical rhetoric from his office to date now appears to have been an attempt at sugar-coating.

The EFA Board is yet to examine the Bill in detail, but on my reading of the way the prohibitions will be administered by the ABA and the tamed industry association there's several issues that Alston has not been frank about to date. EFA will be releasing a considered reponse to the Bill when sending its submission to the Senate IT committee by the end of next week, but for the time being some points have to be made.

First new feature is the licencing of ISPs, and compulsory trade unionism under the IIA. Daily penalties of $27,500 should be enough to bring small ISPs into line, if the threat of being shut down by the Federal Court doesn't.

Second, the ABA will write the IIA Code, and tell ISPs what hardware and software to use. Oh, and from now on ISPs work weekends as takedown orders issued by email or fax will have to be complied-with within 24 hours. Same penalties natch - $27,500 daily for merely allowing "adult themes" material.

Third, people can complain about ISPs as well as sites, for permitting access to "adult themes" material anywhere in the world. The ABA has power to investigate any ISP, any time, under s.25(1)(a) if the ISP allows end users to access material prohibited in Australia from anywhere else in the world. Is there any doubt that proxy filters are to be compulsory?

Fourth, less censorious State and Territory laws are over-ridden, and no-one under 18 is allowed to own an account. Free speech is dead coast to coast, and the ABA has the power to outlaw dual membership of WAIA and SAIA through its control over the IIA Code.

And finally, everything archivable is covered, not just web sites. As technology improves, the industry and the public will pay for smaller and smaller sieves down to the RAM caches, IRC and newsgroups.

With the depth of bastardry in the detail, it's fairly plain that the Minister hates the Internet and all who sail in her. All live email addresses on Alston's recent spam should understand that they're on the enemies list.

Obviously the Government considers that a future where Australians use Big Pond to go to slow overseas sites is the only plausible scenario in which they get a good price for Telstra ;-)


By all means submit to the Senate IT Committee - submissions close April 30 - see Otherwise, join the campaign. Details and links are at and , or contact Darce Cassidy (EFA Executive Director) or myself. The campaign mailing list is available to coordinate regional protests, and to agree wording of form letters and means of making these available to the public. Act locally and think globally - while you can!

Kimberley Heitman,
Chair, EFA