Last Updated: 2 July 2002
Alert! New S.A. law would criminalise Internet material unsuitable for children
Contact S.A. State politicians and urge them to reject proposed new Internet censorship laws.
S.A. Parliament likely to vote on Bill in the session commencing 8 July 2002.
Please redistribute this alert, but only before 14 July 2002 and only to appropriate newsgroups, lists and contacts.
URL of this alert: http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/alertsa200207.html
On 4 June 2002, proposed new Internet censorship laws applicable to ordinary people who use the Internet to communicate were introduced into South Australian Parliament. The Bill is effectively the same as the widely criticised law proposed by the prior SA Government in November 2000 (which had not been passed by both houses of Parliament before the February 2002 election).
Almost identical proposed NSW laws were unanimously rejected by the NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues on 6 June 2002.
For more detail, see the Background section below.
What You Can Do Now
Please make personal contact urgently with South Australian Members of Parliament and urge them to reject proposed new Internet censorship laws. More information about what you can do, and S.A. politicians' contact details is below.
Proposed new Internet censorship laws were tabled in the South Australian Parliament on 4 June 2002 by the Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson. The Bill is titled Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (On-line Services) Amendment Bill 2002.
The Bill is effectively the same as the widely criticised law proposed by the prior SA Government in November 2000 which had not been passed by both houses of Parliament before the February 2002 election.
Almost identical proposed NSW laws were unanimously rejected on 6 June 2002 by the NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues (which has a majority of ALP/Government members), following a six month inquiry conducted at the request of the NSW Attorney-General.
The NSW Parliamentary Committee found, among other things, that "the regulatory scheme proposed...does not strike the right balance between the need to protect children and the right of adults to communicate freely", "is neither effective in meeting the policy objectives of the Act nor enforceable without the allocation of an unrealistically high level of resources", "could have a significant effect on the legitimate use of the Internet and may affect the fair reporting of news and current affairs" and "would be likely to restrict law-abiding content providers while doing little to deter those with malicious motives".
Serious criminal justice issues arise from the provisions of the proposed S.A. law. The Bill should be rejected outright. At the very least, massive amendments are necessary to ensure that ordinary people who use the Internet to communicate are treated no less fairly under criminal law than offline commercial publishers. Briefly, the Bill:
- covers text and images placed on the web, including text of email sent to mailing lists that are archived on the web, messages to newsgroups, etc.
- makes it a criminal offence to make matter available to adults if it is unsuitable for minors. This is inconsistent with SA law applicable to offline material, produces an anomaly in the laws relating to the communication of information, and sets an inappropriate balance between freedoms and controls,
- enables a prosecution to be commenced against an Internet user prior to the material at issue being classified. This is contrary to SA law applicable to a proposed prosecution concerning offline material,
- reverses the onus of proof in relation to access to material being restricted. This is unlike SA law applicable to offline publications,
- criminalises inability to foresee a non-unanimous decision of the Commonwealth Classification Board,
- makes it an offence to publish material online that is legal to broadcast on free to air television,
- invites constant enquiry as to the particular State or Territory laws at issue as the Bill does not specify in which jurisdiction an offence (making available or supply) takes place, i.e. the location of: the host server; the content provider; or the person who downloads the material, each of which may be in different States.
The Bill criminalises making available content unsuitable for children online, even if the content is only made available to adults. (While a defence is offered, this unjustifiably reverses the onus of proof and requires an Internet user to defend themself in a court of law. The defence is also problematic for other reasons). The maximum penalty planned is $10,000 for making available "objectionable matter" or "matter unsuitable for minors". (The maximum penalty for sale, delivery or exhibition of a film/video, classified unsuitable for minors, to a minor offline is $5,000 and there is no penalty for making such material available to adults offline.)
The proposed legislation subjects ordinary Internet users to criminal proceedings for failure to foresee the classification that "would be" granted, from time to time, to particular material by a non-unanimous decision of members of the Classification Board of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, or that police guess "would be" given a particular classification. The recent controversy over the film 'Hannibal' highlights the fact that the OFLC Board members disagree over the boundary between MA and R content, as do many other members of the Australian community. The 'Hannibal' case is not an isolated one.
Moreover, documents released to EFA under Freedom of Information law in May 2002 show that the ABA has difficulty applying classification guidelines designed for movies to Internet content, including whether web pages and images "would be" classified PG (parental guidance) or RC (banned). PG content is not even near the borderline of content prohibited online under the Commonwealth law the ABA administers, let alone near the borderline of RC. The film classifications are: G, PG, M, MA, R, X, RC. Given the ABA is unsure of the borderline between 'not prohibited' and 'prohibited' online, it is clear there is high potential for Internet publishers to self-censor to a far greater extent than probably intended by the S.A. Government/Parliament.
For more detail about the Bill, and why it should be rejected, see EFA's comprehensive reference source on the Bill at:
1. Contact Members of South Australian Parliament urgently
2. Write letters to the editors of newspapers
1. Contact Members of South Australian Parliament
- Names and contact details for key members of South Australian Parliament are listed below.
- The effectiveness of means of contact from most effective to least effective are:
- face to face meeting
- phone call
(See also: why email is the least effective means and tips for maximising the probability of your email being read.)
- General Points
- Keep letters brief and no longer than one page.
- Urge S.A. politicians to read the Report of the NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues: "Safety Net? Inquiry into the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Amendment Bill 2001" and re-consider the proposed SA law in light thereof.
- When writing to politicians, you may wish to raise some of the points from:
- Tips for writing letters and sending emails are available on EFA's page: How to Get Politicians' Attention.
2. Write letters to the editors of newspapers
Published letters raise awareness of an issue among readers who would not otherwise know about it. Also, politicians and/or their staff generally monitor the letters pages of newspapers. Even if not published, your letter could be instrumental in drawing to the newspaper's attention that the issue is of public concern and should be reported on by their staff.
The Advertiser: email@example.com
Other addresses for emailing letters to editors of newspapers are at:
A comprehensive reference source on the bill, including links to
critiques of the bill, is available at:
Political Party Positions
The prior version of the SA Bill was passed by the SA Legislative Council on 1 November 2001 on a vote of 15 to 5 (it was not voted on in the House of Assembly prior to the February 2002 elections).
Members of the Legislative Council who sensibly voted against the Bill were: I Gilfillan (Democrats), M.J. Elliott (Democrats), S.M. Kanck (Democrats), T.G. Cameron (SA First), T.G. Roberts (ALP). The ALP allowed their members a conscience vote. Reportedly, ALP members of the new Government elected in February 2002 will also be given a conscience vote on the 2002 Bill.
Contact Details for MPs
It is important to contact your electorate's representative, particularly if they are a member of the ALP, as well as the key members below.
Each Member of the House of Assembly represents one electorate, while every Legislative Council Member represents the whole State.
You can find which electorate you live in using the S.A. Electoral Office map:
South Australian MPs contact details are available at:
Mail address for all persons listed below: Parliament House, Adelaide SA 5000.
Government - ALP
The Hon. Michael Atkinson, BA (Hons), LLB, JP, MP
Attorney General's Department:
Address: GPO Box 464, ADELAIDE SA 5001
Ph: 08 8207 1555
Fax: 08 8207 12520
Address: 574 Port Road, Allenby Gardens, SA 5009
Ph: 08 8346 2462
The Hon. Michael Rann, MA, JP, MP
Ph: 08 8258 0480
or his electorate office:
The Hon. Jane Lomax-Smith, BSc, MBBS, PhD, FRCPA, MP
Minister for Science and Information Economy
Ph: 08 8269 1838
The Hon. Terry Roberts, MLC
Minister for Correctional Services, Regional Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation
Ph: 08 84636560
Fax: 08 82071856
(Note: Terry Roberts voted against the prior SA Bill.)
The Hon. Carmel Zollo, MLC
The Hon. Rob Kerin, MP
Leader of the Opposition
Ph: 08 8633 1229
The Hon. Robert Lawson, MLC
Shadow Attorney-General, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council
Ph: 08 8237 9500
The Hon. Rob Lucas, MLC
Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council
Ph: 08 8237 9313
(Voted against the prior SA Bill.)
The Hon. Ian Gilfillan MLC
Ph: 08 8237 9278
Fax: 08 8410 4171
The Hon. Mike Elliott MLC
Ph: 08 8237 9276
Fax: 08 8410 4171
The Hon. Sandra Kanck MLC
(Voted against the prior SA Bill.)
The Hon. Terry Cameron, MLC
The Hon. Peter Lewis, MP
Ph: 08 8531 1144
The Hon. Bob Such, MP
Ph: 08 8270 5122
Mr Rory McEwen, MP
Ph: 08 8724 9944
The Hon. Nick Xenophon, MLC
Fax: 8231 0525
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