Minister confirms Internet election plan

The Special Minister of State, Senator Eric Abetz, today confirmed he was examining election law reforms that would require Australian Web sites to include the name of a person responsible for political comment.

The Special Minister of State, Senator Eric Abetz, today confirmed he was examining election law reforms that would require Australian Web sites to include the name of a person responsible for political comment.

Interviewed after the launch this morning of a new Australian government business-to-government e-authentication framework, Senator Abetz said he was giving "very active consideration" to reforms which would bring Web site authors into line with election laws that presently apply to more traditional media. "I am looking to see if we can do anything in practice," he said. At present, the Electoral Act does not refer to the Internet, making the legal enforceability of existing laws on Web sites unclear.

Senator Abetz cited the example of a Web site posting information that could tip the vote in a tightly-contested seat in a close election as a reason why existing legislation should be changed.

However, several parties -- including a joint standing committee -- would need to approve the legislative change before it was enacted.

Senator Abetz told the Marcus Evans Fourth Annual Identity Forum in Melbourne the e-authentication framework was designed to increase the security and reduce the cost of online transactions between business and government.

In the later interview, he said while the e-authentication framework was an Australian government initiative, there had been "informal collaboration" with state governments on its development. The Senator said the framework was specifically designed to lower costs for small-to-medium enterprises as well as giving them a level of confidence in dealing with the government online.