An open cyberspace is interoperable across borders and accessible to all; it facilitates unrestricted participation and the free flow of information, driving inclusive online collaboration, innovation and growth.
A free cyberspace means people are not burdened by undue restrictions on their access to and use of cyberspace; and their human rights are protected online as they are offline so that cyberspace remains a vibrant force for economic, social and cultural development.
A secure cyberspace is safe, reliable and resilient; it fosters an environment of trust so that individuals, businesses and governments can engage online with confidence and realise the opportunities and minimise the risks of the digital age.
Reflecting its collaborative development, governance of the Internet is shaped by a multi-stakeholder approach. This approach allows the private sector, academia, technical experts, civil society and governments to contribute equally to discussions on the policy and technical management of the Internet. The multi-stakeholder approach is a proven model for responding to complex policy and technical challenges associated with the development of the Internet. These policy challenges include security concerns, consumer protection, maintaining legitimate competition and the management of cross-border data flows.
However, the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance cannot be taken for granted. As the strategic importance of cyberspace increases, so too will strategic competition over its future development.
The multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance is a decentralised governance model that places individuals, industry, non-commercial interests and government on an equal level. The multi-stakeholder approach allows for community-based policy-making.
Australia is a strong supporter of an open, free and secure Internet, and advocates for policy settings that support this position. The multi-stakeholder approach recognises that all stakeholders have a valuable contribution to make. Importantly, and by its very design, the multi-stakeholder approach prevents any group (including governments) from exerting undue influence over the future of the Internet. The multi-stakeholder approach offers a set of tools and practices that allow diverse stakeholders to participate alongside each other, share ideas, and develop consensus-based policy in the interest of all users of the Internet.
Multi-stakeholder consultations and discussions on the Internet's technical and policy frameworks are conducted at international, regional and national levels through Internet governance forums. Australia will continue to ensure that its contributions in these forums are centred on well-reasoned policy positions. We will also continue to work in close coordination with the private sector, academia, technical experts and civil society.
Australia is committed to negotiating in good faith to reach consensus with other countries and non-government stakeholders about the Internet's policy settings.
Australia will continue its engagement in key international multi-stakeholder organisations and forums. This includes the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and global and regional Internet Governance Forums (IGFs). ICANN is responsible for coordinating the global domain name system and is the major decision-making forum within the current Internet governance framework. The global IGF provides a platform for discussion of Internet-related public policy issues and idea sharing around maximising opportunities and minimising challenges associated with the Internet.
Australia is committed to strengthening domestic multi-stakeholder mechanisms for Internet governance and cooperation. We are committed to consulting with a wide range of both government and non-government stakeholders domestically, regionally and internationally to develop public policy positions across the full spectrum of cyber affairs.
Consultation with the local Internet community has identified a need for more opportunities for multi-stakeholder discussion in Australia on cyber policy issues, in particular Internet governance and cooperation.
Australia will support annual community-led Internet governance dialogues run by a voluntary steering committee with focused and topical agendas. These dialogues will include government and non-government stakeholders including consumer groups, technical experts, private sector stakeholders (such as registries and hosting providers) and, critically, users of the Internet.
Better multi-stakeholder cooperation in Australia will help inform the positions of all Internet stakeholders, including the Government. This will contribute to coordinated Internet governance efforts domestically and internationally.
Australia will continue to work closely with private sector partners to ensure their voice is represented in international discussions on the future of the Internet. Most of the infrastructure on which the Internet runs is owned or managed by the private sector. The private sector has also largely driven the innovation at the heart of the Internet's success. Therefore, including the perspective of the private sector is critical to the longer term growth and sustainability of the digital ecosystem.
Australia is a strong advocate of an open and competitive Internet. Internationally, there has been a focus on telecommunications companies gaining commercial advantage by giving priority to certain types of data, or data from certain sources, rather than applying the principle of 'net neutrality', that is: treating all data equally.
Concerns about net neutrality have not been as prominent in Australia as in other countries because our market structure fosters strong retail competition and provides significant consumer choice. This allows consumers who are dissatisfied with their provider to take their business elsewhere. In the absence of a demonstrated problem, Australia has taken the view that regulation on net neutrality is unnecessary. Our telecommunications regulations, in addition to our general competition law – the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 – provide mechanisms to address competition concerns.
Australia supports measures that deal with anti-competitive conduct in the supply of services on the Internet. Anti-competitive conduct on the Internet includes blocking websites, intentionally slowing bandwidth speeds (bandwidth throttling) and, in some circumstances, data prioritisation. These practices can disadvantage certain businesses, such as over the top service providers and content providers.
However, care needs to be taken to ensure that legitimate competitive conduct and traffic management practices aren't prevented. Transparency around traffic management practices can help assure customers in this regard.
5.01 - Advocate for an open, free and secure Internet, underpinned by a multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance and cooperation
5.02 - Support an annual community-led Australian Internet governance and cooperation forum
5.03 - Outline Australia's strong commitment to fostering fair and effective competition online, emphasising a preference for general competition law
Australia recognises that there is an appropriate role for governments to play in Internet governance, but it is not one of control. Some states pursue a state-centred model of Internet governance in response to new public policy challenges raised by the advent of the Internet.
A state-centred model of Internet governance would restrict and fragment the network, inhibit innovation and constrain the enormous potential of the Internet. States should resist policy responses that put at risk an open, free and secure cyberspace.
Australia opposes moves to bring governance and technical management of the Internet under the control of governments or into the United Nations (UN) system, for example within the UN International Telecommunications Union. Instead, Australia advocates for the improvement of existing mechanisms of multi-stakeholder governance. This approach will ensure that governance of the Internet remains inclusive, consensus-based, transparent and accountable.
This will be particularly important as the Internet continues to evolve and support a range of emerging technologies. Governance of the Internet of Things, rules for the use of data, and privacy and trust online are all issues demanding a collaborative approach to Internet governance.
5.04 - Oppose efforts to bring the management of the Internet under government control
Australia is working to foster closer engagement with our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific on Internet governance issues so that we can work together to shape the Internet of the future.
Australia will provide practical support for Indo-Pacific countries to engage in international Internet governance and cooperation discourse. Australia will continue to build relationships with regional Internet governance stakeholders and coordinate our policy positions with others in the region.
Australia will also support regional Internet governance forums, workshops and events. We will explore opportunities to collaborate with private sector stakeholders to achieve greater awareness of, and interest in, Internet governance issues across the region. Internationally, Australia seeks to raise awareness among international stakeholders about the unique Internet governance and cooperation challenges faced by Indo-Pacific countries.
5.05 - Build the capacity of Indo-Pacific partners to engage in regional and international discussion on Internet governance and cooperation