Draft pro-forma letter to Attorneys-General
Last Update: 24 June 1996, 19:50 EST


Address Block
(Refer to Modes of Addresses for correct addressing format.)

Dear Minister


I write to express my concern regarding the direction the debate on
Internet regulation has taken over the past twelve months, particularly
the NSW Government's draft legislation. 

I am aware that the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) will
meet in July to discuss the NSW draft bill which has been proposed as a
national model. 

As a regular user of on-line services and a reasonable adult, I am
disturbed that the NSW proposals will result in ineffective and 
unworkable laws.  The laws will do nothing to achieve their stated 
objectives but will instead place innocent Internet users and access 
providers at risk of prosecution for events beyond their control.

The Internet is the most valuable information resource ever developed.
It singularly has the potential to provide more beneficial information
to students, teachers, business people and others than any other 
resource in the world. 

It has been recently reported that over 1 million Australians now have
access to the Internet.  The vast majority are everyday people whose
interest in illegal activities is non-existent, yet the legislative
proposals currently being mooted would place these ordinary Australians 
at great risk of being wrongly prosecuted. 

It is simply not good enough that common law or other defences exist. 
The mere commencement of legal proceedings against an innocent citizen, 
the confiscation of equipment and private records for an extended period,
and the expense and trauma of fighting a legal case against the power 
and might of government are experiences that ordinary citizens should 
not be expected to endure.  Yet this is what will happen if these 
haphazardly-prepared proposals become law. 

Having read the draft proposals I conclude:

  - that those who drafted it have no real understanding of the internet; 
  - that they undertook no consultation with users, providers or
       technical experts in developing this proposal; 
  - that the proposed laws provide little protection of children; 
  - that the legislation is not workable;
  - that laws like this will be responsible for the closure of many 
       small businesses (Internet Access Providers) and the relocation 
       of technological businesses off-shore.

The proposed law will:

  - make service providers liable for any unsuitable material that 
       children might access, irrespective of the location from which 
       the material originates.  This will effectively make it legally 
       impossible for any IAP to operate in NSW or any other State which 
       enacts such laws.
  - make it illegal to transmit material via the Internet that is
       legal to transmit by mail.
  - invite malicious or vendetta actions by failing to take account of 
       how easy it is to assume another identity on the Internet.
  - redefine the everyday meaning of the word "transmit" to
       mean "send or receive" thus making criminals out of people
       who innocently download objectionable material.
  - force service providers to monitor their users activities, including
       reading private E-Mail.  This is equivalent to forcing the Post 
       Office to randomly open letters, or Telstra to listen in on phone 
       calls, both of which are serious offences.

I hope that you will take note of my concerns, and help to ensure that
Australia does not become the police state that these proposals will
surely introduce.  The adoption of industry-developed technologies such 
as PICS will do far more to achieve the objectives than ill-conceived

Yours faithfully,