Opposition grows to internet filter
ARI SHARP COMMUNICATIONS CORRESPONDENT
February 25, 2010
Senator Conroy has won the backing of cabinet and is awaiting debate about the internet filtering plan in the party room next month. Photo: Andrew Meares
BACKBENCH MPs on both sides of politics opposed to the government’s internet filtering proposal are vigorously lobbying their colleagues, creating a potential roadblock to the plan backed by the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy.
A group of four young Liberal MPs – Simon Birmingham, Alex Hawke, Michael Johnson and Jamie Briggs – are leading the charge against the filter within the Coalition, while the Labor senator Kate Lundy is putting a case to her colleagues in favour of an optional filter.
Senator Conroy has won the backing of cabinet and is awaiting debate in the party room next month, while the Coalition is waiting for more detail. With the Greens indicating their opposition, the Coalition’s position is likely to decide the filter’s fate.
The government’s proposal involves internet service providers blocking access to websites that appear on a blacklist because of content that falls foul of Australia’s classification guidelines, including portrayals of sexual violence and instructions on committing crime.
Mr Hawke said his biggest objection was that the mandatory nature of the filter took control out of the hands of individuals, while he also had doubts about filtering’s effectiveness.
”The government’s stated aim of filtering child pornography is not something that many people could disagree with, but the point is it won’t achieve that end,” he told the Herald. ”People will still be able to access that illegal content … and it will do all sorts of other things such as slow down the internet, plus potentially there will be lists of things censored that we don’t really want censored.”
One Liberal MP said older members of the party room were more sympathetic to the government position, while another claimed the issue was resonating with the electorate.
Despite the vocal opposition, McNair Ingenuity research released a fortnight ago found support for the filter running at 80 per cent.
On the Labor side, Senator Lundy has put forward an alternative ”optional filtering” proposal, by which households will be able to indicate to their internet service provider whether they want a filter rather than having one automatically put in place.
Senator Conroy remains resolute in his support for the filter, and through a spokeswoman noted the legislation was scheduled during the autumn session of Parliament, which runs until next month.
”The government believes this content has no place in a civilised society,” the spokeswoman said, noting the filter would bring overseas hosted internet material in line with Australian internet content and offline material such as DVDs and magazines.
The shadow communications spokesman, Tony Smith, said the Coalition supported measures to protect children from inappropriate online content.