Time is running out

Mandatory ISP filtering in Australia continues to rear its ugly head. In his first address to the IT industry, Labor’s Communication Minister, Stephen Conroy, continued to talk up the filtering plan.

“Labor has never argued that ISP filtering is a silver bullet solution, but it is an important step in the overall strategy to make the internet a safer place for children,” Conroy said.

Although he acknowledged ISP level filtering could potentially affect Internet speeds, Conroy added little else to quell concerns surrounding the issue, other than to say there would be a trial process to iron out any technical anomalies.

“I can assure you that we will go forward through an informed, consultative and considered process to ensure that a workable solution is found,” Conroy said. “This evening, I ask the industry to continue engaging with the Government and with my Department to ensure that we achieve an outcome for ISP filtering that meets the needs of industry and the wider community.”

And then there are these excerpts from the Hansard on 18th February 2008:

(page 119)
Senator FIELDING—Perhaps I could direct a question to the minister in parallel with that question while they are coming back with that. The question revolves around the communications powers in section 51(5). The question was about public libraries in Australia, local libraries. It was referred to as being a state issue, of which I am fully aware. But the department has used, I think at maybe even the minister’s request, section 51(5) of the communications powers in regard to gaming when looking at states’ online gaming industries, and the federal government stepped in and used those powers. I asked a range of questions about why the minister could not direct the use of those same powers in directing local libraries to those at state level to use filters, rather than their saying they could not do that. In other words, at the federal level we intervened on internet gaming, but we seem reluctant to use those same powers to address internet filtering at the state library level. The advice came back that, yes—
Senator Conroy—I appreciate the answer given by the previous government. As you would know, our policy that we have been advocating is that these would be mandatory in libraries. We probably have a different approach from the previous government’s.
Senator FIELDING—Will you be using those communication powers under section 51(5) of the Constitution that were used federally, not by this government but by the previous government, on gaming? Will you use that to ensure that the state libraries use the filters?
Senator Conroy—As you know, this is a process that we are developing at moment. We will be consulting the state and territory governments about the implementation of our policy. We will be taking advice on the best way to achieve the mandatory filtering in libraries. That is an option that will be part of that consideration. Unlike the previous government, which was opposed to this aspect of the policy, as you know well, it is certainly something we are prepared to consider.
Senator FIELDING—The federal government can intervene, as we have seen in the last few years, where there is a matter of urgency and when the states may not have been able to do things themselves. We have used those powers before. I do not think it is acceptable even at federal level to assume that kids can walk in off the
street and go to their local library and have access to internet pornography. I think that is absurd. Most families would find that confusing. I placed a question on notice and got an answer back that, yes, they did rely on those constitutional powers under section 51(4) for gaming. I thank the government for those answers, albeit it that they were awfully late. We should be directing the states and using those powers to filter internet pornography.
Senator Conroy—As I have said, we are pursuing a different approach. And we will certainly consider that as part of our deliberations on the best way to achieve the outcome of our policy.

(page 125)
Senator BARNETT—Would you confirm your commitment to mandatory ISP filtering?
Senator Conroy—That is the stated policy. As you have seen, I have been out there campaigning for it.

(page 128)
Senator BIRMINGHAM—We have obviously covered the testing that is taking place already on mandatory ISP filtering. What work is being done on the scope of blacklist?
Ms O’Loughlin—We are currently looking, in line with the government’s policy, to expand the ACMA blacklist. We are currently investigating ways in which we can do that. At the moment we are talking to our international organisations that we deal with, particularly hotlines that deal with child pornography sites, and we are discussing with them the capacity to get some of their international sites on to our blacklist as well.
Senator BIRMINGHAM—How wide is the brief for this blacklist?
Ms O’Loughlin—At this stage, that is where we are looking at, but we are also talking to the government about how wide they want the blacklist to go.

How wide they want the blacklist to go. Given that Labor’s stated policy is to “prevent Australian children from accessing any content that has been identified as prohibited by ACMA”, and that ‘prohibited’ has a specific legal meaning, I’d say it’s, oh, fairly wide. Bodes well for us, huh? I think it’s well past time I got off my own butt and started contacting my representatives.

If you need more information about Labor’s plans for playing unwanted net-nanny to the entire nation, libertus.net has a very good write up, and has good articles about censorship in Australia in general.

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Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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