Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Australian censorship crisis - update

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Wed, 5 May 1999 04:57:20 -0500
From: (Greg Taylor)
Subject:       Australian censorship crisis - update

The Australian Government, which introduced the Broadcasting Services
Amendment (Online Services) Bill 1999 on 21st April 1999, now plans to
rush the Bill through the Senate before it loses the crucial vote of
ultra-conservative Senator Brian Harradine on July 1.

The Bill includes provisions to require Australian content hosts to
remove all X-rated material (explicit sexual content), and to require
ISPs to block access to such content from overseas sites if so
required by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) acting on a
complaint.  R-Rated sites, of which Playboy might be an example, if
hosted in Australia, require mandatory adult verification.

The legislation was referred to the Senate Select Committee on
Information Technologies which has been given a reporting deadline of
May 11.  The committee has held a series of late night hearings during
the past week and has encountered overwhelming opposition to the Bill
from industry and community organisations, even from conservative
groups.  49 of 50 submissions received by the Committee during last
weekend were opposed to the Bill.  Transcripts of the hearings are now
available at:

The government has now listed the Bill for debate on Thursday 13 May
and has the numbers to force the Bill through both Houses.  

Electronic Frontiers Australia has been running a campaign against the
At present our only hope is that the Senate Committee recognises that
the Bill has virtually no support in the community.  On present
indications there seems little chance that this will occur.   

We are ramping up the campaign next week with a series of newspaper

You may be able to assist by E-mailing a Senator, particularly one on
the committee.  Tell them what you think this legislation will do to
Australia's reputation, and to its participation in the Internet
revolution.  It may help.

The hardline Senators on the Committee are:  
Senator Paul Calvert  <>
Senator Jeannie Ferris <>
Senator Brian Harradine <>
Senator Julian McGauran <>
Senator John Tierney <>

The friendlies (who may need encouragement) are:
Senator Mark Bishop <>
Senator Kate Lundy <>
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja <>

The Minister responsible for this mess, Senator Richard Alston,
Minister for Communications, Information Technologies and the Arts,
has apparently disabled his E-Mail address, but it may be worth a try:

Please pass this on as you see fit, but no later than 11 May 1999.