Report on status of NSW Internet censorship Bill

Date: 5 December 2001

EFA is pleased to advise that the NSW Attorney-General, Bob Debus, has today (5 December 2001) referred the NSW Internet censorship Bill [the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Amendment Bill 2001] to a Parliamentary Committee for inquiry and report by 7 June 2002.

The Attorney-General's office has provided EFA with a copy of the Minister's letter referring the Bill to the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues. A copy of the letter, including the Terms of Reference of the inquiry, is available at:

This move follows EFA's meetings with policy advisors to the NSW Attorney-General, as well as Legislative Council Members and advisors from the Democrats and The Greens, last week. EFA understands that since the launch of EFA's campaign seeking improvements to the Bill three weeks ago, NSW politicians have been receiving an increasing number of expressions of concern about the Online Services section (Schedule 2) of the Bill.

EFA was advised that the Bill would be referred to a Committee for inquiry when it was brought up in the Legislative Council. However, even the best laid plans and intentions can go astray in the hurly-burly of politics and the Bill was passed by the Legislative Council last night (4 December). Although the Bill had previously been passed by the Legislative Assembly, a Bill does not become law until after it has been sent to the Governor for assent and proclaimed.

In his letter of 5 December, Mr Debus said:

"...I have been approached by a number of interested parties from the media and the internet industry, among other groups, expressing concerns in relation to the Bill, in particular the scope and enforceability of the online provisions contained in Schedule 2.

Given the unique nature of the internet it would appear that further consideration and consultation on the provisions of the Bill is desirable. In the circumstances, I consider that it would be appropriate for the Standing Committee on Social Issues to give further consideration to the provisions of the Bill and their legal and social impact..."

It seems apparent that the NSW Government has been willing to listen to the concerns expressed by many individuals, organisations and businesses.

EFA commends and thanks the NSW Attorney-General and the NSW ALP Government for their decison to enable the Bill to be scrutinised by a Committee over the next six months. EFA also thanks the NSW Democrats and Greens for their part in the outcome of referral of the Bill.

While the outcome of the Committee's inquiry cannot be foreseen, EFA considers there is now a significantly greater prospect of legislation in NSW that is, at the least, more fair and just than the current Bill.

EFA understands that public submissions to the Inquiry will be invited shortly. We will advise further information as it comes to hand.