Institute of Public Affairs Submission To The Statutory Review Of the Online Safety Act 2021

21 June 2024
Institute of Public Affairs Submission To The Statutory Review Of the Online Safety Act 2021 - Featured image

Dear Director,

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) welcomes the opportunity to share research and analysis as part of the public consultation into the statutory review of the Online Safety Act 2021.

The IPA’s research on anti-free speech legislation such as section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation conducted by Roy Finkelstein, and the federal government’s Draft Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 has been vital to informing the Australian public and shaping the direction of policy in Australia.

In this submission, the IPA seeks to provide research into the operation and effectiveness of the Online Safety Act 2021 (“the Act”). It is the view of the IPA that the current operation of the eSafety Commissioner’s Office constitutes a dramatic and immediate threat to the freedom of speech of Australians. The recent episode of the eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, attempting to compel X Corp to remove footage of the stabbing of Assyrian Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel in April 2024 from the global internet is instructive, revealing the excessive powers of the eSafety Commissioner, and overall function of the Online Safety Act 2021.

In particular, the IPA finds:

  1. The Act contains no presumption of free speech.
  2. The Act contains ill-defined concepts and grants the eSafety Commissioner overly broad powers.
  3. The powers of the eSafety Commissioner lack democratic oversight.
  4. If the eSafety Commissioner is granted ‘business disruption sanctions’, it would amount to a policy of government sanctioned ‘cancel culture’.
  5. Online regulation should be narrowly prescribed and emphasise objective standards, free speech, and the protection of children.

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