Legislation to address the growing menace of spam, estimated to cost business around $900 per worker per year, will be introduced to Parliament today.
Under the legislation, software used to harvest addresses and generate address lists for the purposes of sending spam will be banned. Courts will also be able to award compensation businesses that have suffered from spamming, while also being able to recover profits made by spammers.
The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) will administer the new laws and will have the power to issue formal warnings, seek injunctions and seek court warrants to investigate and monitor suspected offenders.
Science Minister Peter McGauran said infringement notices for minor transgressions would be efficient and cost effective, while substantial penalties - including damages of up to $1.1 million per day - were available in severe cases.
The bill includes exemptions for messages sent by government bodies, political parties, religious organisations and charities.
"[But] this in no way gives governments a licence to spam - we remain bound by, and committed to, the Privacy Act," McGauran said.
The government plans to review the legislation after two years and is also working with governments internationally to address the problem as more than 90 per cent of spam in Australia is sourced from overseas.