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I was alerted to this by “Nameless” on the IRC. I felt everybody else would find this a good read too.


Written by: Mark Newton, Internode.
(Posted as a citizen, not an employee).

I think the fact that you can’t talk about this without making it clear that you aren’t a child abuser says a lot about the way that Senator Conroy has debased the public discourse on this topic.

I was talking to a journo today while he was reading my letter ( and he got to that bit near the end where I point out that I’m not an extremist or child abuser, and he chuckled and said something like, “Ah, it’s funny, someone else I talked to about this today said the same thing.”

Senator Conroy lowered the tone again in Senate Estimates on Monday, when on Hansard page ECA 76 he said to Senator Ludlam from Western Australia:

Senator Conroy — Illegal material is illegal material. Child pornography is child pornography. I trust you are not suggesting that people should have access to child pornography.

It’s outrageous that a Minister of the Crown should make such hysterical, irresponsible references. How dare he imply that a Commonwealth Senator could think that “people should have access to child pornography,” merely because his questioner asked about whether censorship should be opt-in. He’s debased the public dialogue so much that nobody can participate in it without being labeled as a child abuser.

Ludlam was offended too:

Senator LUDLAM — I am just wondering if I can put these questions to you without being accused of being pro child pornography. That would assist.

Too right it’d assist. It’d assist all of us, and thank you Senator Ludlam for bringing it up.

In the same Estimates session, Conroy also cited Sweden, the UK, Canada and New Zealand as examples of other countries who have done what he has proposed. If you look at you can see some well-referenced factual data about each of those countries:

  • UK: Government specifically excluded from online censorship by the Communications Act. British Telecom has implemented a private, voluntary clean feed system which its customers can use if they wish;
  • Canada: Eight ISPs, without any Government coersion at all, run a voluntary parental control tool. The project’s FAQ specifically states that “There is no legal obligation to do this; it will be entirely voluntary. ISPs may have technical or other reasons for not adopting the system;
  • Sweden: One ISP, Telenor, runs an optional blacklist. It was embroiled in controversy last year when the police tried to add P2P trackers to the list as child pornography sites, demonstrating how pernicious “scope creep” is in these systems: As soon as they exist, there’s always political pressure to make them block more;
  • New Zealand: Examined the BT Cleanfeed system from the UK in 2005, and concluded that it was only 10-15 per cent effective in a fitness-for-purpose study launched by the Department of Internal Affairs Censorship Compliance Unit. The Government abandoned the idea as something too stupid to pursue; I contacted the President of InternetNZ today to confirm that there’s no NZ censorship system whatsoever, and they don’t expect that situation to change if there’s a change of Government in their election later this year.

All four of Conroy’s examples delivered under oath to the Senate were wrong. None of those countries do anything like what he’s proposed. All of them perform variations on what various Australian ISPs have already done! Every time this guy opens his mouth he discredits himself.

The web page I referenced above was written in February this year, widely publicized, and made available to the Minister — And here we are, eight months down the track, and he’s still using the same discredited examples he used last December when he launched the scheme. He’s either ignored Irene Graham’s research and misled the Senate about his examples; or he’s too stupid to understand that Irene Graham’s research cuts the legs out from under him.

He’s supposed to know this stuff. He’s paid a lot of money to be the leader in this field, and to either know what he’s talking about or take advice from other people who know what they’re talking about. What the hell is going on here?

If I was Senator Ludlam, I’d be asking Conroy to name his examples again, only this time accurately and honestly.

Kevin Rudd ought to be ashamed of himself. He went to the last election saying that he’d have a Government of new ideas, and almost the first idea out of Conroy’s mouth after the election was to resurrect Sen. Alston’s ten-year-old censorship debate; Rudd has repeatedly said that he’d run a “Government for all Australians,” and here’s Conroy launching personal attacks to malign Australians with opposing points of view, and running this censorship process in a way that excludes the voices of ordinary voting citizens; Rudd went to the election with an NBN as one of his crown jewels, and the first thing Conroy did was cancel the OPEL contract, meaning the most significant contribution he’s made to broadband since he came to power has been to prevent its deployment.

The man is a total embarrassment, and a poor reflection on Kevin Rudd’s lofty ideals for the current parliament. This particular private voter wants to know what the PM is going to do about it. How much longer will he be willing to leave the dumbest guy in the room in charge of Broadband?


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