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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 34


Mr ALBANESE (11:06 AM) —The government’s proposed amendments to the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Bill 2007 appear to address some of the issues raised by me as shadow minister representing the shadow minister for communications in the House during the debate and indeed in amendments that were pursued by the opposition in the Senate. There were also submissions made to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts at the inquiry into the bill.

The amendments, inter alia, exclude on-demand subscription television services from the bill, allowing subscription TV broadcasting services to broadcast MA15+ programs on the internet or 3G phones without age-verification systems; provide ACMA with the power to issue special service cessation notices in relation to live content services; insert certain anti-avoidance measures for content service providers, for example, service providers can take all reasonable steps to abate act or acts in breach of the bill; clarify that a content or hosting service will only be subject to the bill where it has an ‘Australian connection’ and clarify what an ‘Australian connection’ is; and, provide that a person does not provide a content service merely because the person provides a billing service or a fee collection service in relation to a content service.

However, the opposition believes that the amendments do not address all issues raised in the submissions or at the inquiry. For example, the amendments, perhaps most importantly, do not prevent prohibited material being accessed from overseas content providers; they do not remove or clarify the access requirements for MA15+ or R18+ content, except for on-demand subscription television services; they still prohibit content rated RC and X18+, which means that films rated X18+, which are currently legally available in the ACT and Northern Territory and can be purchased interstate via mail order, are now prohibited via the internet; they still discriminate against artists that use media technology for the creation and dissemination of their work, that is, video artwork, web and sound art and short film; and they do not clarify the definition of ‘content service’, which, with its 22 exemptions, can be quite confusing for people seeking to understand the practical application of this legislation.

Notwithstanding the above, the amendments do improve the bill, such as it is. However, I wish to inform the House that Labor considers the amendments should have gone further and should have taken into account the submissions received by the committee and evidence given at the inquiry into the legislation. Labor will be voting to support these amendments but would urge the government to consider the points raised. The opposition express some disappointment that these amendments do not go as far as we believe they should have gone.

Question agreed to.