Australia passes anti-spam bill

The Australian Senate has given the final nod of approval to the Spam Act 2003 following a move to nix Labor and Democrat amendments in the House of Representatives earlier in the week.

The amendments, which the Howard Government said created "loopholes for spammers" and "made the legislation unworkable" - were tossed out in a bid to stop the delay of the passage of the bill.

Communications, IT and the Arts Minister, Daryl Williams, said the legislation played an important role in the government's multi-layered approach to the global nuisance of spam.

"The Australian government does not pretend that legislation alone will be the silver bullet to address this global nuisance," he said. "Spam poses a complex problem for the international community and the solution is not straight-forward."

He said the government intended to combat spam - which now accounts for half of all worldwide email - with a combination of domestic legislation, international negotiation, public education, the development of industry codes of practice and of technical counter-measures.

On the international front, Australia is developing Memoranda of Understanding between the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE), the Australian Communications Authority (ACA), and with similar agencies overseas.

NOIE and the ACA have inked their first cooperative arrangement with the Korean Information Security Agency in a bid to share information and intelligence about spam-related activities.

Chief executive of the Internet Industry Association (IIA), Peter Coroneos, applauded the passage of the bill and agreed it paved the way for international cooperation.

The US Congress passed legislation this week and EU member States were in the midst of providing similar measures, he said. This would provide legal sanctions against spammers and help build momentum.

"While no legislation is ever perfect, this Act is certainly workable and strong, and very necessary," he said in a statement to IIA members. "We are confident that it will not give rise to unintended consequences which may impede legitimate, permission-based e-commerce. On balance, we believe that the law will reinforce the reputation of Australian online businesses generally."

Coroneos said the heavy penalties, along with the provisions that outlaw harvesting (and the use and exchange of harvested email addresses), were key features of the Act.

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