I spoke last night at the Fellowship Of the Round Table forum last night at parliament house in Sydney on the forum topic "Cyberhate? Censorship on the Internet", as did Fiona Patten from the Australian Sex Party. Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby and Angela Conway (formerly of the Australian Family Association) were also in attendance and spoke on a different topic, entirely one of their own choosing.
It was a fantastic opportunity to have more detailed debate on the issue of Internet censorship in Australia, unfortunately an opportunity that went begging. While Fiona spoke from her experience with the adult entertainment industry in Australia and I from the technical policy perspective, it was upsetting to see Jim Wallace's further rhetoric in this debate illustrate that he knows substantially more than he is saying, and somewhat embarrasing to see Angela Conway say much more than she apparently knows.
Mr Wallace chose to ignore the topic at hand, instead focussing on the harm that pornography in general does on society; the occasional brushes with relevancy were contemptible misrepresentation.
Mr Wallace still blatantly misrepresents the government's proposed plan. In a public speaking engagement such as this it's ill-advised to stand after he has returned to his seat and systematically pull his words apart; he is a respected member of the community and has rendered considerable service to our country (prior to his retirement from both the Australian Special Forces and an ethical obligation to the tell the truth). I instead advised those in attendence to read the relevant policy documentation and legislation.
Jim lead with a heart-rending story of a five year old child subjected to such significant trauma from neglectful parents that he seemed to develop a personality disorder and was observed by caseworkers to be acting entirely inappropriately towards his brother. Mr Wallace cited an imaginary body of evidence, backed by experts referred to only as "we" and "they". Ms Conway also chose to engage the audience with horrifying stories of the damage pornography does to children, identifying that this occurs "in the suburbs" (neglecting to identify which ones) and that her stories were backed by "experts in the field", "healthcare professionals", "those who work with children" and presumably a further imaginary majority. Weasel-words ran rampant from those who were pro-censorship, and they yet had the temerity to accuse EFA and the anti-censorship movement in general of using "smoke and mirrors" to obscure the facts of the issue - somehow, still fluidly talking about how proof is not required to take action.
I explained last night that it was not neccessary to re-articulate the facts because they are as they are. Despite Mr Wallace and Ms Conway's malleable truths about what their unnamed and presumably unnamable sources, the plan remains as the minister initially proposed after the 2007 elections, and the plan is thus;
The Government's election commitment was that filtering would block content using a blacklist of prohibited sites maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in accordance with legislation. The ACMA blacklist is a list of internet web sites, predominantly comprising images of the sexual abuse of children, which are defined as 'prohibited' under Australian legislation which has been in place since 2000.
Source: Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Sept. 2009 (link)
The ACMA blacklist is, despite Mr Wallace's remonstrations to the exact contrary;
Content (other than an eligible electronic publication) is prohibited content if:
(a) the content has been classified RC or X 18+ by the Classification Board; or
(b) the content has been classified R 18+ by the Classification Board and access to the content is not subject to a restricted access system; or
(c) the content has been classified MA 15+ by the Classification Board, access to the content is not subject to a restricted access system, the content does not consist of text and/or one or more still visual images, and the content is provided by a commercial service (other than a news service or a current affairs service); or
(d) the content has been classified MA 15+ by the Classification Board, access to the content is not subject to a restricted access system, and the content is provided by a mobile premium service.
Source: Schedule 7, Broadcasting Services Act 1992. Sept. 2009 (link)
Mr Wallace misleads and this is unfortunate. With his story last night of fighting for Australia in wars, asserting his credentials as someone with the stomach to face what he believes in. This in mind, I am increadulous that he continues to promulgate that adults will have access to X rated material under this scheme when it is quite patently intended to be erased from the Internet, and he knows that this is the case - contrary to Christian rejection of deceit as wrong.
Glossing over reality is something that those of us who argue against this hair-brained plan are used to. I take from last night's forum that we are seeing more public conversation and interest in the issue, I just hope that those in attendence took my suggestion to read schedules 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act and the policy documentation that is available, vacating Mr Wallace's abject lies.