Sixteen Bits Online

MAY 1996

EFA Protest

Electronic Freedom March, Sydney 27 May 1996

Electronic Frontiers Australia is a non-profit national organisation incorporated under South Australian Law. Their major goals are to support, encourage and advise on the development and use of computer based communication systems, and related innovations, and to ensure that people have the same basic freedoms ‘within’ computer based communication systems as without.

In the wake of draconian new laws presently being drafted by the NSW State Government, a protest march has been planned on 27 May, 1996 in Sydney starting 12:00 Noon at Hyde Park.

The following press release was recently issued by the office of the New South Wales Attorney-General Jeff Shaw, QC MLC. We reprint it here in full:


The NSW State Government today revealed its plan to crackdown on the proliferation of offensive material -- such as pornography and sexually explicit material. Shaw said the NSW legislation was tougher than that proposed by Western Australia, as it contained an anomaly allowing the legal transmission of a computer game that contains material that includes violence and sexual activity.

“The measures approved by NSW to protect children and others from intentionally or accidentally accessing abhorrent and objectionable material go further than this. I submitted the legislation drafted by the NSW Parliamentary Counsel to the Standing Committee of Attorneys- General last week in Darwin. I believe this to be the best and most effective model. However, negotiations are continuing in order to achieve the aim of a national standard.”

“NSW recognises that national uniformity is desirable in the regulation of the Internet. However, the failure of some states to agree to these proposals will not stop NSW enacting comprehensive protective legislation with tough penalties.”

“The planned legislation will target those putting the offensive material on the system. These offences will catch any person who introduces offensive material to the system -- both users and service providers. The provisions will cover all transmissions which use a public telecommunications system. They will apply to all on-line services, such as the Internet, bulletin boards and e-mail.”

“Types of material covered will include:

“The planned legislation will also promote the development of industry codes of practice in consultation with on-line service users and providers, creating guidelines that service providers will need to meet.”


Asked to comment, the PC Users Group (ACT) Communications Spokesperson, Karl Auer, provided the following notes:

“The activities of the NSW State Government most certainly do not reflect the views of the PC Users Group.

"Far from it - the PCUG is deeply concerned at the profound ignorance displayed by the NSW Government with respect to the issue of online regulation.

"The press release reads like the voice of sweet reason, but the draft NSW legislation (which has not as yet been released for public scrutiny) is apparently based on legislation proposed by the Department of Community and the Arts last year in a ‘Consultation Paper’, which itself arose out of the largely discredited (Federal) Attorney-General's ‘Report on the Regulation of Computer Bulletin Board Systems’.

"The legislation described in the Consultation Paper was offered for comment only. The PC Users Group and many others have offered detailed criticisms of its proposals - criticisms which seem to have been ignored by the Carr Government. You can read the paper at:
and some responses to it at

"Australian legislators are rushing to pass laws that make online communication far more restricted than other forms of communication. The publicity makes much of material which forms a tiny percentage of the total information available online. The penalties threatened are large. Ordinary citizens would be powerless to prevent attacks from malicious pranksters or for that matter from corrupt law enforcement officials. The lack of protection offered for carriers would cause massive scale-backs in the number and quality of information services available to Australians.

"The irony is that none of the laws so far proposed, State or Federal, will in practice have any real effect on the activities they seek to curtail.

"We urge you to join your voice to the protest: Participate in the march, write to your local member, write to the Attorney- General, write to Premier Carr.

"Make no mistake - laws such as the NSW Government is seeking to enact will directly affect YOUR free speech, YOUR children’s education and YOUR country's ability to compete in the global information - economy of the twenty-first century.”

The EFA maintain a very informative WWW site located at They can also be reached by email at or PO Box 382 North Adelaide, SA 5006. :

“...laws such as the NSW Government is seeking to enact will directly affect YOUR free speech, YOUR children’s education and YOUR country's ability to compete...”

Sixteen Bits Online - May 1996