On 28 July, the Australian Communications and Media Authority released its report which sets out the findings of the closed environment testing of ISP-level filters conducted in 2008. The Closed Environment testing report followed hot on the heels of the Developments in Internet Filtering Technologies and Other Measures for Promoting Online Safety report released in February 2008. The latest report shows that the filtering technology has definitely improved in terms of the accuracy of what it blocks and the impact it has on network performance since the NetAlert Ltd trial conducted in 2005. The conclusion, though, is that the filtering technology has not developed sufficiently to be able to tell the difference between legal and illegal and/or inappropriate content carried via non-web protocols (such as peer-to-peer and instant messaging).

Here’s the latest activity regarding communications related national security legislation brought to you courtesy of the Senate Bills List dated 15 October…


Further to my previous posts, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 was passed by the Senate on 20 September 2007. It went through without a definition of ‘telecommunications data’. The Democrats and the Greens expressed their concerns about the bill generally and its impact on privacy and the vagueness of the term ‘telecommunications data’ but their suggested amendments were negatived. See Natasha Stott-Despoja’s speech and Kerry Nettle’s speech for details.

The Communications Legislation Amendment (Crime or Terrorism Related Internet Content) Bill 2007 was introduced into the Senate at the beginning of this week. Senator Eric Abetz had this to say in his Second Reading Speech:

“The Government’s recent review of the E-Security National Agenda found that the e-security landscape has changed significantly with the emergence of sophisticated, targeted and malicious online attacks. Many of these attacks are associated with websites used by criminals to perpetrate fraud or circulate malicious software.

This Bill proposes to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to expand the black list of Internet addresses (URLs) that is currently maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to include crime and terrorism related websites hosted domestically and overseas. Black listing cyber crime and terrorism websites is part of the Government’s comprehensive NetAlert – Protecting Australian Families Online initiative.”

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee report on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 was tabled in parliament on 7 August. Get the report here. The legislation was intoduced into the Senate on 16 August 2007. Given the changes that this Bill introduces to the current arrangements for interception capability, and access to ‘telecommunications data’, the recommendations of the Senate Committee will have a relatively low impact on the shape of the final Bill. There was an interesting response put by the A-G’s Department in the committee inquiry in respect the nature of ‘telecommunications data’ (see page 10 fo the A-G response). If RFC 2822 is of interest to you, read on…


The commercial FTA networks, through Free TV, are pushing for a change to the Commercial Television Code of Practice in advance of the imminent Federal election. The changes, which are the subject of public consultation, would allow the commercial FTAs to sell an additional minute of political advertising…


The much anticipated judgment in the C7 matter has been handed down today…it’s a wopping 1230 pages/7MB. Get it here. In a very small nutshell, Channel 7 did not prove its pleaded case and was thus unsuccessful. The issue of costs is still to be worked out. His Honour Justice Sackville estimates costs in excess of $200million. The obiter on ‘mega-litigation’ will be especially useful to the readers of this blog who teach litigation and legal professional ethics.

Here’s the latest from Cth AG Phillip Ruddock in respect of the agreement he was trying to broker with the States on the “Material Advocating Terrorism” terrorism changes to the classification regulatory regime. Only NSW and SA agreed to support the changes. As the AG makes clear in the press release set out below, he intends to press ahead with Classification Amendment (Terrorist Material) Bill 2007 despite the lack of agreement at the meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys General in Hobart today.

The ‘war on terror’ has created the conditions for a new era of content regulation in the form of censorship of film and literature, broadcasting content standards and restrictions on the media in respect of national security matters. This week David Marr commented on the Attorney-General’s recent daubing (sorry I am sticking with the “unifinished canvas” metaphor) – the Material that Advocates Terrorism Discussion Paper released in May 2007 and the upcoming meeting with the States in Hobart at the end of this week. The Discussion Paper attracted many submissions from a diverse group of interested parties. See the submissions. The comments of Maureen Shelley from the Office of Film and Literature Classification Board echo the sentiments in many of the submissions made to the Attorney-General on the terrorism materials paper – that the new regulatory framework is “a significant departure from current practice”. The thrust of many of the submissions and the gist of Marr’s piece is that the changes sought by the A-G will have far reaching, potentially absurd, possibly discriminatory, unintended negative effects on the creation of and access to a broad range of films and literature which “might” fall within the new classification category. Led Zepplin comes to mind “oohh…it makes me wonder”…

In my last post I referred to the Electronic Frontiers Foundation rather than Electronic Frontiers Australia, Inc (EFA). Electronic Frontiers Australia made the submission to the Senate Committee reviewing the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007. My sincere apologies for any confusion caused – it was a typo on my part.

Following on from Kim’s last post, if there was ever a time when national security and anti- terrorism legislation wasn’t a tech-law issue, that time has passed. The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 is currently before a Senate Committee. There are 26 submissions . The industry will have to get its head around the new framework. National Security is now a tech law issue and I think it is going to get complicated.

I mentioned Ben Quilty and Caroline Rothwell in my last blog. Qulity is Australian and Rothwell is English but lives and works in Australia. They are both in Grant Pirrie’s stable at the moment. Their works are interesting…Quilty’s latest is Pride and Patriotism. Rothwell’s The Law of Unintended Consequences

Back in 2005, the Commonwealth Attorney-General described the national security legislative framework as an ‘unfinished canvas’. The ‘unfinished canvas’ metaphor still has currency. Why? Because it’s still not finished. See the latest (courtesy of the Bills’ List of the Senate). Not quite the Ben Quilty style strokes of the 2005 canvas…perhaps a little more in the style of Caroline Rothwell(more…)

The Fairfax press reported a couple of weeks ago that TiVo, the “time-shifting digital video recorder” is coming to Australia in early 2008 courtesy of a deal struck with Channel 7. On the surface, this seems like a good thing for everyone – that is, everyone who cares about TV- competition between service providers, choice, flexibility and further integration with on-line media services and sources. These digital TV services are evolutionary and it’s good that they seek to move their audiences beyond the one-way flatscreen TV experience. Still, I’ll be interested to see how it pans out, given that the wrangle over the electronic programme guide (EPG) has been foreshadowed, including the “one EPG to rule them all” argument being raised yet again…now the EPG debate has been around for a while, both here and abroad, in respect of access to the subscription tv EPG…hmmm, interesting times ahead…

There’s been quite a bit of activity over the past few weeks with respect to Australian press freedom and the impact of the anti-terrorism legislation passed back in 2005.

Fairfax’s Chairman, David Kirk, recently addressed the Australian Press Council. Mr Kirk had quite a bit to say, including announcing that Fairfax will join News Ltd, the ABC, Free TV Australia and SBS in the recently formed coalition “to preserve, protect and promote press freedom in Australia”. The campaign is called “Australia’s Right to Know” (I’ll call it ARK) – it’s a lobby group which is Canberra bound. There was some chat about it on ABC The Media Report yesterday with Lucinda Duckett of News Ltd on-air to explain the reasons behind ARK. Seems source material is harder and harder to get these days. Clearly no news is not good news. (more…)