Aust & NZ
page looks at Australian bodies concerned with the management
of the network.
It covers -
is supplemented by two detailed profiles: one on Australian
history, regulation and markets (including the ISP and
ICH sectors) and a profile on the management of the 'dot-au'
part of the domain name system (including an examination
of domain name regulator auDA and the registrar and registry/reseller
Telecommunications in Australia (including radiofrequency
spectrum management) is a federal responsibility. The
communications as a federal matter, although some state/territory
legislation (eg on censorship and data protection) complicates
any map of powers and responsibilities.
Broadly, responsibility for policy and legislation regarding
the internet (along with telecommunications and broadcasting)
rests with the Minister for Communications, Information
Technology & the Arts (Helen Coonan as of 2004) -
the portmanteau 'content & carriage' portfolio.
Australia's legislative framework for the internet,
like that of other nations, has developed incrementally
and comprises a range of legislation covering
maintenance and protection of basic infrastructure
'application layer', including electronic publishing
commercial and administrative law (including evidence,
privacy, defamation, consumer protection and other trade
practices law) that covers online and offline activity
thus no discrete 'lex informatica' that treats cyberspace
as being entirely different to the offline world.
In Australia the primary 'network' legislation is the
Telecommunications Act 1997, counterpart of the
1996 US legislation and similar enactments in several
advanced economies. It is thinner than the taxation legislation
(you can take it home in a briefcase rather than a wheelbarrow)
but often as indigestible.
It is complemented by the Commonwealth Broadcasting
Services Act 1992. The Act was amended by the
Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Act
1999, essentially through requirements that Australian
internet service providers and content hosts restrict
access to offensive material - ''prohibited internet content".
That content includes graphics, animation and text.
The expectation is that Australian states/territories
will develop complementary legislation (similar to that
for film, literature and computer games) regarding publication
and transmission of proscribed content. The Commonwealth
Crimes Act prohibits use of any 'carriage service'
- including the internet - in a way that any reasonable
person would consider offensive.
The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Digital Television
& Datacasting) legislation privileges the commercial
free-to-air television networks by imposing restrictions
on 'datacasting' and, many believe, on delivery via the
internet of audiovisual or multimedia content.
The Commonwealth Radiocommunications Act 1992 and
Telecommunications Act 1997 were initially administered
by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) established
by the Australian Communications Authority Act 1997
and merged with the Australian Broadcasting Authority
in 2005 as the Australian Communications & Media Authority
The broadcasting and telecommunications regime emphasises
self-regulation or 'light touch' regulation, although
as pointed out elsewhere in these guides some touches
are lighter than others .... particularly if you own a
free-to-air television network.
A more detailed examination of the Australian content
regulation regime is here,
supplemented with background information
on the shape of censorship in Australia and New Zealand
since the 1780s
The 'content & carriage' Minister's terrain includes
the Department of Communications, Information Technology
& the Arts (DCITA)
and the Australian Communications & Media Authority
The latter results from 2005 merger of the Australian
Broadcasting Authority (ABA) and the Australian Communications
DCITA formerly encompassed the National Office for the
Information Economy (NOIE),
subsequently restructured with most responsibilitities
devolving to the Australian Government Information Management
Office (AGIMO) in the Department of Finance & Administration.
NOIE was established as an independent entity to encourage
the private sector's move online but with underwhelming
results. That was reflected in debilitating turf wars,
personnel changes (most notably the departure of CEO Paul
Twomey, now chief executive of ICANN), ongoing transfer
of functions from NOIE to other agencies and moves such
as assimilation of the less glamorous Office of Government
concerned with getting the bureaucracy onto the internet.
The ABA had day to day responsibility for the media regime,
dealing with the Broadcasting Services Act and thus with
free-to-air television and radio (inc. digital broadcasting),
pay television and internet service providers and hosts.
The ACA (formerly Austel, the Australian Telecommunications
Authority) was concerned with telecommunications, thus
oversighting the operation of Telstra and its competitors.
Amalgamation of the ABA and ACA as ACMA reflected the
model is used in many other countries, with the US for
example integrating ABA and ACA responsibilities within
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
and the UK using a single body. Arguably that's
a superior model in an era where we are concerned with
carriage and content; ie where convergence is eroding
traditional demarcations between different media.
The Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department (A-G's),
the Australian equivalent of the US Department of Justice,
includes the Office of Film & Literature Classification
- the former censors office - responsible for the 'R'
and other ratings of proscribed content.
Competition - or perceptions of the lack of it (Telstra
often being compared to the 800 kilo gorilla within a
small cage) - is of increasing concern to the Australian
Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC),
the national competition watchdog.
The 1997 telecommunications legislation reflected
a commitment to deregulate internet services within Australia,
including for example the introduction of competition
in domain name registration.
The au Domain Administration (auDA)
is a non-government body open to those concerned with
the internet industry (we for example are members).
It is discussed in more detail in a separate profile
elsewhere on this site.
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