Hon. J.W. Shaw, QC, MLC
Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations
Level 20, Goodsell Building,                    Facsimile  (02) 228 7301
Chifley Square, Sydney NSW 2000                 Telephone  (02) 228 8188        


The Attorney General Mr Jeff Shaw, QC, MLC, today explained the draft internet regulation legislation to members of the internet community who had apparently misunderstood the plans.

"Despite their protests, those who support total freedom on the internet have yet to explain to me why material involving paedophilia should be readily available and encouraged on the internet", he said.

"Those who assert that the proposals are a knee jerk reaction are completely wrong and appear to have been totally uninterested in the issue until very recently. For on 7 July 1995, a consultation paper on internet regulation was released both on the World Wide Web and in paper form.

"That 'Consultation paper on the Regulation of On-Line Information Services,' has now been available from the Federal Attorney General's Department for almost a year.

"When it was released, submissions were requested, and 121 submissions were received by the closing date of 1 September 1995.

"Following unanimous endorsement of the proposals by all Attorney's General, the NSW Parliamentary Counsel drafted legislation based on the discussion paper and the consultation process. This legislation will be discussed by the Standing Committee of Attorney's General in July.

"Those protesting about the proposed offences and penalties are conveniently ignoring half the story - the fact that the draft legislation creates broad defences that encourage compliance with approved codes of practice or the taking of reasonable steps to ensure the proscribed behaviour does not occur.

"Why should a Government not prosecute a service provider who supplies the Internet to schools, yet refuses to install appropriate firewalls to screen out material involving explicit sex and violence or child sexual abuse?

"The broad defences recognise, as I do, the impossibility of monitoring all data that goes through service providers systems, but encourage providers to maintain maximum awareness, not maximum ignorance, about the material disseminated.

"Criminal sanctions are only aimed at operators and users who culpably breach the standards that are set out regarding material that they transmit or advertise, or those who fail or refuse to exercise any effective controls over material that is publicly available through their information services.

"For example, people who have objectionable material placed on their bulletin board without their knowledge could argue that they are not liable as they had obtained undertakings from users that certain types of material would not be posted or posted inappropriately. They may also be able to demonstrate that they had conducted random checks of material available through their information service.

"I do not believe that the community condones the easy availability of material encouraging paedophilia and other sexual abuse. The impossibility of absolute regulation does not justify a complete failure to do what we can to meet reasonable concerns.

"I would hope that organisations like the Electronic Frontiers Association are interested in assisting the State and Federal Governments formulate workable proposals that will protect children while allowing adults freedom of expression on the internet. If they in fact are, detailed proposals about how this could be best achieved would be useful."