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Establishing consumer confidence in the online environment is a critical element in Australia's transformation to an information economy. Government has a key role in creating a safe and secure environment online and setting the legal framework for e-commerce growth.
While recognising the inherent technical and jurisdictional difficulties in regulating conduct and content on the Internet, the Coalition is firmly of the view that where action can be taken to apply existing community standards, or apply appropriate legal frameworks, to the Internet, this should be done.
For example, in 1999 the Coalition established a regulatory framework giving Australians an avenue to take action over illegal and highly offensive content online without impacting unreasonably on the Internet industry. The scheme applies existing offline standards set by the Office of Film and Literature Classification for film and video products, and is complaints driven. The scheme was finalised following consultation and input from a range of industry bodies, including ISOC-AU.
The Howard Government has based its Internet regulatory regimes on the principle that third party Internet infrastructure providers such as Internet service providers and content hosts should not be liable for content that they are not directly responsible for, and of which they have no knowledge. The Coalition has not, and will not, impose any mandatory technological blocking or filtering devices on the Internet industry, and will not require ISPs to monitor content.
The Greens stongly agree with ISOC-AU and its affiliates on these issues. All need to be addressed urgently, not only to support future development of the Internet, but generally as matters of public policy. We feel that the right first step is an inquiry (as mentioned) which will allow voices other than those of entrenched interests to be heard.
The Greens are very supportive of the aim to increase internet access equity, to reduce the "digital divide", and to further Australia's role and standing in the Internet community.