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|Growing Senate opposition to internet filter (ABC PM Programme)||Email this page||Back|
|Friday, February 27, 2009||Printer Friendly Version|
PM - Growing Senate opposition to internet filter
[This is the print version of story http://www.abc.net.au/pm//files/includes/content.css/2008/s2503651.htm]
PM - Friday, 27 February , 2009 18:12:00
Reporter: Oscar McLaren
MARK COLVIN: The Federal Government's plan for an internet filter is running into increasing difficulties in Canberra.
The Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has said that he won't support the Government's current proposal, and he's not sure that the trials of the technology should go ahead either.
The Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says he's conscious of technical concerns about the proposal but adds that he's still only at the stage of feasibility testing.
But with Senator Xenophon and the Greens opposing the plan outright, and the Liberal Party expressing grave doubts, the odds of any proposal getting through the Senate are getting slimmer by the day.
Oscar McLaren filed this report.
OSCAR MCLAREN: The Federal Government is currently organising tests for internet filtering technology.
The plan is for the filter to eventually block access to all /files/includes/content.css on a so-called 'black list' of sites.
Material such as child pornography and depictions of sexual violence are cited as major targets of the blacklist.
Many internet service providers oppose the plan as being impractical; they say it will slow down the internet by as much as 75 per cent, accidentally block some innocent sites and fail to block illegal sites.
The Independent Senator Nick Xenophon now agrees.
NICK XENOPHON: What Stephen Conroy wants to do in terms of the aims of what he's trying to achieve I think are laudable.
But the means of doing it really are very problematic and when ISP, after ISP is saying that this won't work, it will slow down the internet for everyone and it won't deal with the issue of the peer to peer networks that paedophiles use, then I think we really need to rethink this.
OSCAR MCLAREN: The Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was not available for comment today, but his spokesman stressed that the Government is still only in a testing phase.
Senator Xenophon isn't even sure that that should go ahead.
NICK XENOPHON: Look if they wanted to go ahead with a trial, people shouldn't be stopped from at least trialling it, but I would have though given that a lot of major ISPs in this country aren't part of it, that there are numerous technical difficulties, that there are broader policy issues which I think are unresolved, I think that there are better ways of achieving the policy objectives of the Government without going down this path.
OSCAR MCLAREN: The Opposition's spokesman Senator Nick Minchin supports further technical tests and acknowledges that internet regulation is a difficult area.
NICK MINCHIN: Look it's not an easy issue for anybody. This we obviously joined with the Government in wanting to protect children, as I said, from inadvertent access to illicit and illegal material.
But it's how you go about doing that in a way that doesn't render the internet itself, which is so essential to commercial and social life in Australia, that doesn't do untold damage to, to the internet itself through damaging speeds or blocking access to quite legitimate sites.
OSCAR MCLAREN: But he's also questioned the usefulness of Senator Conroy's trial which does not include any of the three biggest internet service providers.
NICK MINCHIN: So far, I think Senator Conroy has a long way to go to convince us that this is an effective trial.
OSCAR MCLAREN: Senator Nick Xenophon is also concerned that the black list of sites could be misused and result in censorship.
NICK XENOPHON: The fact that it could easily be used by any Government of any persuasion to expand the black list, and that does concern me, and that's why I think it's, we need to be very careful about this in terms of the way we achieve, what I think are some quite laudable aims of Senator Conroy.
OSCAR MCLAREN: Those concerns were bolstered by revelations that an anti-abortion website was recently placed on the blacklist after an application from the public.
Senator Conroy's office maintains that the black list is only compiled with reference to classification guidelines which already exist.
The Opposition's Nick Minchin says that whatever the result of the tests, any national implementation will have to come under scrutiny from the Senate, where it would face some tough questions.
NICK MINCHIN: But at the very least, the Senate at least would have the opportunity to express a view on a disallowable instrument.
I think Senator Conroy should commit now to it being done legislatively so the Parliament can have a say in this, he shouldn't try and sneak it through the back door through a regulation or other instrument.
I think he should just come up front and say if he's going to do it, it being such a significant issue, it should be done by legislation to remove any doubt.
OSCAR MCLAREN: A spokesman for Senator Conroy says the minister is still looking into whether the filter would require legislation, or could be implemented through another means.
MARK COLVIN: Oscar McLaren.