Communications minister Richard Alston has received a report that could strengthen his case for imposing a total ban on interactive gaming.
According to Canberra rumour mills, the study reports favorably on the possibility of blocking interactive gaming using filtering technology. Alston's office confirmed receipt of the report but declined comment on its conclusions.
Commissioned last year from the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE), the study assesses the feasibility of blocking Australian Internet users from accessing online gaming sites.
No decision has been made on when to make the report public, said Alston's information economy advisor Annabelle Herd.
Concerning any legislation to transform the current moratorium on new interactive gaming services into a complete ban, "we would like to have a clear decision on where to go next before the moratorium expires (May 19)," Herd said.
Meanwhile, the Internet Industry Association (IIA) is shaping as an increasingly pivotal player on the issue. Success or failure of a government campaign to bring in a total ban "may be reliant on the Internet industry agreeing to a code of practice as it did with the Online Services Act," said Kate Lundy, Labor party spokesperson on the digital economy.
"If the IIA holds out or campaigns against a ban, that will be a key determinant for a government that is in an election year and is trying to position itself as being in tune with the new economy."
Lundy said rumors about the report "confirm our worst fears that it mandates use of filters along the same lines as originally put forward for the Online Services Act." Civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia has not yet waded into the interactive gambling moratorium controversy.
However if speculation about installing filtering technology on ISP sites to enforce a ban is true, "it will be exactly the same situation as it was with the censorship debate," said EFA chairperson Irene Graham. "The linchpin will be whether ISP's would be willing to do what the Government asks."
"Everyone needs to put pressure on the IIA. A lot of people think it didn't take a firm enough stand on the Net censorship issue and there was a lot of criticism that it was too conciliatory."
IIA executive director Peter Coroneos could not be contacted for comment.