The Commonwealth government will introduce legislation to ban electronic junk mail (spam).
It will ban the sending of commercial electronic messaging without the prior consent of end-users unless there is an existing customer-business relationship.
The ban will then be enforced through the Australian Communications Authority.
A spokesperson for the minister for Communication and IT, Senator Richard Alston, said the laws would apply to spam received in Australia. The government had no control over spam from overseas.
The proposed laws were supported by the Opposition and expected to come into effect from the start of 2004, the spokesperson said.
They include provisions for an infringement notice scheme, a ban on e-mail address 'harvesting' software, the requirement for all commercial e-mail to contain accurate sender/address details, and an opt-out option.
Businesses which use email for direct marketing in accordance with the Privacy Act would be safe from spam penalties, according to Alston.
A 120-day 'sunrise' period from the enactment of the legislation will allow businesses to ensure their email practices comply with the laws.
The spokesperson said the National Office for the Information Economy was liaising with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to gain international support against spam.
The Government would discuss the new laws with the Australian Direct Marketing Association and launch a cross media campaign.
(Cameron Roberts contributed to this article.)