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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 128

Mr Oakeshott asked the Minister representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, in writing, on 26 November 2008:

(1)   Is the mandatory restriction of access to information on the Internet by its very nature, a political process; if not, in respect of the creation of any mandatory filtering policy within Australia, can he guarantee that the ‘reasonable citizen’ test on what is not appropriate Internet content is not transferred from the individual citizen to the Government authority.

Mr Albanese (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —The Minister representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

(1)   Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society. For many years however, most Australians have accepted that there is some material which is not acceptable, particularly for children, to view. The Commonwealth State and Territory Parliaments have passed various laws about this material. The scope of the definition of ‘prohibited content’ cannot be expanded without changes to legislation being passed by Parliament. ‘Prohibited content’ is defined under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) as content which has been classified by the National Classification Board as:

  • Refused Classification (RC);
  • X 18+;
  • R 18+, where that content is not subject to a ‘restricted access system’ which limits its access to adults; or
  • MA 15+, where that content is provided commercially and is made available for a fee, and not subject to a restricted access system.

   Content which has not been classified but which would, if classified, be prohibited content is known as ‘potential prohibited content’ and is determined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

   If prohibited content is hosted in Australia, ACMA must under Schedule 7 of the BSA issue a ‘take-down’ notice requiring the content be removed or blocked from public access. It is an offence for a content service provider not to comply with a take-down notice.

   If prohibited content (or potentially prohibited content) is hosted overseas, ACMA must under Schedule 5 of the BSA notify the content to providers of filter software products which have been tested and accredited for participation in the Internet Industry Association’s Family Friendly Filter program. This arrangement is set out in an industry Code of Practice. The compilation of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) referred to filter providers is known as the ACMA blacklist.