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[Internet content legislative scheme]

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Acting Minister for Communications,

Information Technology and the Arts

6 January 2000


The Government today branded criticisms of the new Internet content legislative scheme, which commenced operation on 1 January 2000, as unfounded.


‘Claims that the new legislation is aimed at censorship are completely untrue. It merely applies to the internet the same classification systems as apply to other forms of media’ the acting Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts,’ Mr Peter McGauran said.


‘The legislation uses the existing classification categories that are applied by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, and does not seek to expand these categories in any way.


‘Claims that local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that do not filter out R and X rated material face automatic criminal charges and fines of $27,500 a day are untrue. The scheme recognises that ISPs are often not in a position to be aware of all material accessed through their service, and cannot reasonably be held responsible for material unless it is brought to their attention. Before the sanctions apply, several steps need to occur: the ABA must receive a complaint; it must find the complaint to be justified; it must issue a notice to an ISP to remove offending material, and the ISP must fail to remove the offending material.


‘It is also a misconception that access to R-rated material is prohibited. The scheme permits the provision of R-rated material over the Internet provided that an adult-verification system is in place. This applies the same restrictions that exist for access to R-rated material in other forms of media.


‘As for the Eros Foundation’s claim that the legislation is unconstitutional, the Government’s legal advice is that the legislation establishing the new scheme is clearly within Commonwealth constitutional power. While the Eros Foundation has the same right as any other citizen to challenge the constitutional validity of the legislation in the High Court, the Commonwealth is confident that such a challenge would not succeed.


‘The new scheme strikes an appropriate balance between community concerns about illegal and offensive online content and the interests of industry and all Internet users. It reflects moves by the Government and the Australian internet industry to help protect Australian citizens, especially children, from illegal or highly offensive material on the Internet.


A recent survey conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation found that over 70 per cent of Australians believe there are risks with using the Internet and that Government, industry and users all have a role in managing access to Internet content.


Additional information can be found online at .


Media Contact: Sasha Grebe, Minister’s office 02 6277 7480






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