Spam law in front of House this year, Cunliffe hopes

An anti-spam law for New Zealand is still working its way through the rarely-speedy machinery of government.

An anti-spam law for New Zealand is still working its way through the glacial processes of government.

“It's a matter of space in the government’s legislative programme and the availability of officials [to draft the legislation],” says a spokesman for associate IT minister David Cunliffe.

“We’re hoping to get something in front of parliament this year,” he says. “The minister is still keen on an opt-in law similar to Australia’s.”

Cunliffe has taken personal charge of the spam initiative, which may be suffering from his low position (one from bottom) in Cabinet; but IT minister Paul Swain is only six places higher. Higher-ranking ministers tend to get the legislation they sponsor through more quickly.

Last year Australia passed an anti-spam law, which was slated by lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia as likely to be ineffective and perhaps even counterproductive. Its enforcement is due to begin in April. The US had earlier passed an act that came in for even more criticism, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) law.

Australian Communications Minister Daryl Williams said last month that the Australian Communications Authority is in the process of "setting up mechanisms to investigate breaches of the legislation", adding that for the act to work, the government requires "technical countermeasures and partnerships with key industry sectors".

It's estimated that around half of email traffic across New Zealand is unsolicited commercial material.

A website of resources for combating spam was launched this year, largely the work of InternetNZ councillor David Harris, the Dunedin developer of Pegasus Mail. Harris backs anti-spam legislation, and has said the Australian law on spam is a good model – apart from “sneaky anti-privacy clauses”.

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