Last Update: 21st July 1996

The STOP! Campaign

As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion.
On 9th June 1996, Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. (EFA) initiated an Australia-wide campaign aimed at preventing the introduction of poorly conceived laws regulating the Internet in Australia. EFA mounted this campaign in order to convince the Attorneys General of this country that their proposals were badly drafted, unworkable, economically damaging and would do nothing to achieve their stated aims.

The Attorneys General met in Sydney on July 11/12 and have decided to put the proposed legislation on hold. They have effectively handed over responsibility to the Australian Broadcasting Authority who will initially develop Codes of Conduct in consultation with the Internet industry.

Further activity in the legislative area is now uncertain. The Attorneys General will meet again in October to reconsider the situation.

What's New

11th July 1996
The Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG), following intervention by the Federal Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Alston, decided to put the proposed state legislation "on hold". Subsequently, EFA released an Info Document outlining the situation as we currently understand it. Western Australia apparently is still proceeding independently with its own legislation.
8th July 1996
With only 3 days to go before the Attorneys General meet, Alert #3 was released, with EFA's initial comments on the ABA report. EFA also responded to the ABA report with a Media Release on 7th July.
24th June 1996
Campaign Alert #2 released.

A number of support documents released, including:

These and other documents may also be referenced from the campaign Document Repository.

The Campaign objective

To stop the implementation of Internet censorship laws at State and Federal level, on the basis that:

Why a National Campaign?

Victoria, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory have already implemented, or are about to implement, legislation regulating on-line services. Qld. has no on-line legislation yet but has existing Computer Games legislation that has already been used to prosecute Internet users.

NSW has prepared a draft proposal which was being mooted as a model for other Australian states. This legislation, a draft copy of which was leaked to EFA, went further than any existing or proposed legislation in imposing quite draconian measures. It was described as far worse than the controversial U.S. CDA law which was recently declared unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court.

The EFA STOP! Campaign resulted in wide publicity for this issue, and many supporters of the campaign contacted their respective Attorneys General to object to the proposals.

The Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG) met in Sydney on 11/12th July. They rejected the NSW proposal and referred the matter of Internet regulation to the Australian Broadcasting Authority, which had released its report a week earlier.

EFA will be offering its services to the Attorneys General and to the ABA in order to provide advice and demonstrate that the Internet is not the bogeyman that popular myth would have Australians believe.

We encourage all industry organizations to join with us in supporting this campaign.

What's wrong with the legislative proposals

The draft NSW legislation indicated that the Attorney General of NSW, Mr. Jeff Shaw, proposed to introduce legislation that would:

For a more detailed analysis of the NSW proposals see EFA's Analysis of the NSW draft legislation by Kimberley Heitman.

For a discussion of the issues and an alternative proposal which will do far more to achieve the stated objectives without draconian legislation, see Peter Merel's How to Regulate the Internet.

The Campaign so far

15th July
EFA released an Info Document outlining the current situation.
11th July
The Commonwealth and State Attorneys General referred the matter to the Australian Broadcasting Authority.
8th July
Alert #3 was released, with EFA's initial comments on the ABA report.
7th July
EFA issued a Media Release welcoming the ABA report, but criticising its apparent acceptance of complementary state legislation.
5th July
The Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston, in a speech given to an INTIAA meeting, announced the release of the Australian Broadcasting Authority's report on the regulation of On-line Services.
24th June.
A number of support documents were released to assist supporters in arguing the case with Attorneys General.
The second Alert of the campaign was distributed.
Week ending 21st June.
10 separate media stories covered the Internet censorship issue in Australia.
A number of industry organisations made public statements opposing the NSW proposals. These included: ACS, INTIAA and WAIA.
EFA representatives began to hold or arrange meetings with Attorneys General or their advisers in each state.
13th June.
EFA issued a Media Release welcoming the U.S. decision.
12th June.
A U.S. District Court declared the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional. Although not directly relevant to Australia, this decision is being studied closely here. It means that Australia could now take the lead in the most foolish legislation stakes in the global Internet censorship saga.
10th June.
The first Alert announcing the campaign was distributed. An accompanying Media Release announced the campaign to the mainstream media.
2nd June.
EFA sent a letter to Mr. Shaw offering to meet with him and discuss the problems with the legislation. No response was forthcoming as at the end of that week.
28th May.
The EFA Board agreed to extend the campaign nationally.
27th May.
After extensive discussion on the Net, 400 people marched from Hyde Park in Sydney to Parliament house. The march received extensive positive media coverage and brought the debate to the public arena for the first time.
27th May.
After receiving a number of protests about the legislation, Mr Shaw released a second press release headed Paedophilia should not be encouraged by the Internet , a sensationalist statement that angered opponents of the legislation.
25th May.
EFA obtained a leaked copy of the proposed legislation.
2nd April.
The NSW Attorney General, Mr. Jeff Shaw released the initial press release outlining the NSW Government's intentions.

What You Can Do

In the initial phase of the campaign, we were advising supporters of the campaign to lodge objections to the proposed state legislation. With the change of direction following the SCAG meeting, this action is no longer appropriate. EFA is currently analysing the situation and will recommend further direct action as and when appropriate.

In the meantime you can:

  1. Familiarize yourself fully with the facts of the situation by studying the material available here.
  2. Study the ABA report and its implications.
  3. Contact your local Member or Parliament. Lodge an objection to legislative moves, either by personal visit or letter.
  4. Stay in touch with the campaign as outlined below.
  5. If you are an Internet Access Provider, see What an IAP can do.
  6. If you live outside Australia but would like to help, see How You Can help from Other Countries
  7. Sign the Petition established by Karl Auer.
  8. See What Else You Can Do.

Documents that will Help

We have put together an extensive document repository that provides sample letters, analysis of the legislation and sources of background information.

Attorney General Contact Details

The contact details for all Attorney Generals in Australia are available. Some of these can be contacted by E-Mail using the E-Mail/fax gateway.

Keeping in Touch with the Campaign

Monitor the progress of the campaign by:

  1. Visiting this page regularly.
  2. Joining the Alerts mailing list to receive the latest alerts for the campaign. This will be a low volume list with no discussion.
    To join, send an E-Mail to [email protected] with the word subscribe in the body of the message.
  3. Joining the STOP! Campaign [email protected] discussion list.
    To join the list, send an E-Mail to [email protected]
    with the word subscribe in the body of the message.
  4. Joining the debate in the Newsgroup.
If you need further information concerning your local situation you may contact your state STOP! campaign representative:

Danny Yee [email protected]
James Nunn [email protected]
Irene Graham [email protected]
Andrew Connor [email protected]
Kim Heitman [email protected]
Michael Malone [email protected]

Contacts for Media Enquiries

Media representatives may contact the following for more information:

Kim Heitman [email protected] Ph: (09) 458 2790

Danny Yee [email protected] Ph: (02) 351 5159 (W) or (02) 9955 9898 (H)

Copyright © 1996 Electronic Frontiers Australia.