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National Party Response 20/05/99


14 May 1999

Question 1: Access to the Internet

What policies do you have to ensure an open, competitive environment for the provision of Internet services?

There are no indications that there is a need for the Government to take any specific activity in relation to promoting access to the Internet. In electronic commerce, as with other areas of the economy, the Government is concerned to ensure that there is an open, competitive market, that there is protection of consumer and intellectual property rights, privacy and security. In line with the National's general commercial sector policy, the role of government should be to create a stable and certain environment in which commercial activity can take place. This environment is characterised by broad regulatory rules for economic activity, which facilitate the constructive participation of private interests, rather than narrowly focused or command and control regulation.

In general, barriers to entry to the Internet are low in New Zealand and there is significant competition in all areas of activity. The democratic nature of the Internet has allowed individuals, small to medium businesses and large corporations alike to easily participate in electronic commerce. The uptake of the Internet in New Zealand is one of the highest in the world and gives some indication that the Government's policy is effective.

Question 2: Government use of the Internet

What policies do you have to ensure that both central and local government agencies move towards the effective use of the Internet to communicate with the public?

National's policy is that departments, where possible, should make information available easily, widely and equitably to the people of New Zealand. How this should be done is a matter for departmental chief executives to decide on the basis of need, cost effectiveness and other considerations. Many departments have decided that the Internet does provide a cost effective and efficient means of providing information to the public. Use of the Internet by local governments is not a matter for central government.

Question 3: Access to legislation over the Internet

What steps will you take to ensure that New Zealand legislation and relevant case law can be accessed on the Internet?

Uncompiled statutes are available on the Internet now, however access to legislation generally could be improved. To this extent, the Parliamentary Counsel Office is looking at the question of how access to legislation can be improved over the Internet and, if so, how this should be done. A public discussion paper was published in late 1998 which generally received strong feedback that legislation and regulations should be published on the Internet. Before access can be improved there are a number of issues to be resolved, including the ownership of copyright over the digitised text of legislation.

Question 4: Information "rich" and "poor"

What strategies do you favour to ensure that New Zealand society does not become divided into the 'information rich' and 'information poor'?

National believes that encouragement of competition in the telecommunications sector is the best means of ensuring that the cost of access to communications services for the domestic user is minimised. The "Kiwi Share" retained by the Government in Telecom has ensured that domestic telephone rentals have remained at or below the rate of inflation.

Question 5: Schools access to the Internet

What strategies do you favour to ensure that schools can readily access the Internet for learning and other needs?

The Minister of Education has announced that he wants to see every New Zealand school with an Internet connection by the end of 1999. In addition to the Government's Interactive Education strategy, which will provide information "on line" for schools through the Digital Resource Centre, the Government is providing assistance and incentives for schools to connect to the Internet.

The government is supporting the national NetDay99 initiative through the direct personal support of the Minister of Education and the Minister for Information Technology. Schools can now use the Financial Assistance Scheme to obtain a grant covering up to 50% of the cost of NetDay kits.

The Minister of Education has indicated that the Government will be making further statements of key education policy issues such as IT in education in the near future.

Question 6: Professional development for teachers

How do you plan to ensure that teachers have the technical skills and knowledge to utilise Internet services, once they're connected?(For example, provision of professional development for teachers, development of curriculum content, etc.)

National agrees that professional development so that teachers can make effective use of information technology in the classroom is a high priority. For this reason, the Interactive Schools strategy has established 23 lead schools to provide support for clusters of schools, and provided for a special training day for all principals, recognising the key leadership and planning role that these people have in their schools.

The Minister of Education has identified information technology and professional development as being the two key issues he intends to address this year.

Question 7: Maintenance of a stable secure Internet in New Zealand

What policies do you have relevant to the maintenance of a stable, secure and adequately serviced Internet in New Zealand?

The role of government is increasingly focused on setting higher level or more general rules, and monitoring compliance. The Government would only seek to intervene in any aspect of the economy where there was evidence of market failure and where it was apparent that such intervention would be effective and beneficial.

The Internet is subject to standard commercial legislation and regulation. The Government has a monitoring role to ensure that the market is operating effectively. For example, the Ministry of Commerce is responsible for ensuring that legislation in areas such as commerce, consumer protection and intellectual property protection is adequate. The Commerce Commission provides an avenue for ensuring that competition policies are effective.

Given the rapid uptake of the Internet in New Zealand, there is no evidence of market failure and therefore there is no present need for the Government to intervene or regulate any aspect of Internet service provision.

Question 8: Need for legal underpinning for electronic commerce

Do you see a need to provide a legal underpinning for electronic commerce in New Zealand? If so, what areas require legislative attention?

National recognises that in order for electronic commerce to develop, there is a need to provide clarity and certainty in the law. The New Zealand Law Commission is currently assessing existing New Zealand legislation in the light of the UNCITRAL model law for electronic commerce and continuing work in areas such as support for digital signatures. The present view is that our domestic law is generally consistent with UNCITRAL principals. In some circumstances, legislative amendment may be considered to clarify that the law applies to electronic commerce in order to provide certainty to users. It is anticipated that some further work will be necessary on international issues. National is supportive of moves to achieve this through international bodies such as the United Nations, the OECD, and APEC.

Question 9: Computer crime

Do you support legislation under which crackers/hackers can be prosecuted for computer related crime?

The Minister of Justice has announced that the Government will be introducing legislation to Parliament later this year to deal with the issues of computer hacking, deliberate distribution of viruses and other issues relating to the misuse of computers with criminal intent.

Question 10: Use of strong encryption

Do you support the unrestricted use of "strong" encryption by e-commerce to provide secure Internet trading?

There are at present no restrictions on the importation and use of any cryptography products within New Zealand. National has no plans to introduce regulations which would restrict access to such technologies. The Government has adopted the OECD guidelines on electronic commerce and cryptography and is fully supportive of any moves by legitimate users to use cryptography for the purposes of electronic commerce or the protection of personal information.

New Zealand does however abide by its obligations under the Wassenaar Arrangement to scrutinise export of encryption products to ensure that they are intended for legitimate use. New Zealand will endeavour not to impose any controls on cryptography that places its exporters at a disadvantage compared to other providers of cryptographic products, consistent with our commitment to the Wassenaar Arrangement.

Question 11: Development of a public key infrastructure

Do you see a need for Government involvement in the development of a New Zealand Public Key Infrastructure?

There are two key issues:

  1. The development of an infrastructure for commercial and public purposes. National is keen to see this happen. Currently there is evidence that this is happening without the need for Government intervention. In line with general National policy, this is the preferred option.
  2. Government control of PKI in order to retain access, for various reasons, to public keys. National has no plans for this.

Question 12: Taxation

Do you see any need to introduce changes to present tax laws so as to take into account Internet transactions and electronic commerce?

The Government has endorsed the OECD taxation framework for the digital market place which includes as a key statement that taxation in relation to electronic commerce "should be guided by the same taxation principles that guide governments in relation to conventional commerce." There are no plans at present to introduce any changes to the taxation legislation as a result of increasing use of the Internet to transact electronic commerce.

Question 13: "Porn" on the Internet

Do you support self regulation [of porn and free speech] by the Internet Industry or do you propose government intervention through legislation?

New Zealand legislation does not distinguish between different types of storage or communications media and is fully applicable to any material stored on computers or in magnetic or optical forms. There have been a number of successful prosecutions in the New Zealand courts resulting from attempts to distribute offensive material copied over the Internet.

National, in line with its policy of encouraging industry self-regulation, is keen to see the adoption of an Internet service provider code of practice which includes reasonable measures aimed at the protection of children and other vulnerable groups from objectionable content such as pornography and racist or hate material.

Hon Maurice Williamson, Minister for Information Technology, the New Zealand National Party

© 1999 The Internet Society of New Zealand
Last updated 24 May 1999

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