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.

7 comments

  1. Well, there doesnt appear to be too much good to say about Jim Wallace or Angela Conway here. Actually, there's nothing good of either (possibly apart from Mr Wallace's service to his country). Doesn's sound like a very balanced review of the evening at all. Mr Wallace and Ms Conway obviously hit a bit of a raw nerve. There must be something more credible in what they're proposing than the 'rhetoric' (to quote gguy) posted here. I guess the last ditch effort was to raise the issue of a Christian attitude to deceit, using the 'enemy's' weapon against them. Sorry gguy, I'm not buying it. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, we just need to give people what's good for 'em, even if they don't think so. I think this is one of those times but I don't expect you to think so. Funny about that.

    Comment by Steve on 16 September 2009 at 9:28 am
  2. @ Steve,

    Where does this misguided call for balance come from. Why must there be balance in the reporting of the event. Do we give equal airtime and credence to those who advocate holocaust denial? What you are calling for is for gguy to find some good in what Wallace had to say. That's not balanced reporting, not by a long shot.

    Wallace and Conway hit a nerve because they willfully misinterpret and misinform the public. They ignored the topic for discussion and instead went off on their own tangent.

    Comment by Sean the Blogonaut on 16 September 2009 at 10:10 pm
  3. BTW: I understand that Dr. John Kaye of the Greens was somewhat miffed about not being given the opportunity to express his views. He arrived at the forum about 20 minutes before 8pm but had to leave at 5 minutes before 8pm due to Parliamentary obligations. It seems a decision had to be made as to tapping Angela Conway on the shoulder or allowing her to continue.

    It was seemingly a difficult decision to make.

    Comment by Bob Bain on 21 September 2009 at 3:47 am
  4. It's a constant frusteration when pro-censorship politicians get to scare parents out of their seats by letting off a tangent of stories about pornography's "damage to children" in order to make them so scared they'll give up all their freedom for safety. Changing the topic with weasal words is the first sign that the politician has no idea about the subject at hand or is unsure of how to answer the question in a way that will promote the topic.
    I think it would've made a big difference if Dr. John Kaye had gotten a chance to speak. I haven't checked their policies on censorship, but I'm already pretty sure they would've made the right choice.

    Comment by Josh on 24 September 2009 at 9:25 pm
  5. I came to your site accidentally but felt a need to comment (not something I do often). I worked in Child Protection as a caseworker for a number of years and did see the end result of the abuse of children - horrible, dreadful and MUST be stopped. It was NOT caused by pornography but by selfish freaks who made a conscious choice to sexually assault small vulnerable people who were not able to fight back. This must be stopped but does anyone really believe that this will stop it??? I do not believe that the Nannying of our world is assisting in the protection of children - if all "pornography" is removed from the internet it also removes a release valve that may be assisting some people to not assault children. There has been such limited studies by Australia into the probable outcome of this censorship that it frightens me how underground it will all go. I am heartily sick of knee jerk reactions to any form of danger by trying to hide it from the public. Maybe some of this time and effort should be aimed at the actual perpetrators of child abuse and find out WHY they do it. Most of us are not aroused by a child so why are they and how do we stop it... Sick of governments treating us all like imbeciles who are "probably" going to do something wrong unless our Nanny hides the bad things from us..
    I am not a fan of violent or abusive pornography but I do haunt artistic nude sites - I am a painter and these are wonderful for me as it can be difficult to find models in the country - now I am to consider myself a pervert???
    I am a 53 year old woman and think we all need to make a stand and not just listen to the pap we are being fed - OK thank you for listening to my rant.

    Comment by esmeralda on 29 September 2009 at 1:13 am
  6. Here's the video of the event for those who are interested: http://vimeo.com/6812474

    Comment by Bill on 1 October 2009 at 10:28 am
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy

    That a copy of that with you next time and quote argument fallacies.

    Look at the Labour Party. They ticked off to Uranium leaching in SA and got the king Australian Nuclear protester to do it.

    This issue isn't about censorship it's about protection of porn IP.

    http://www.news.com.au/technology/story/0,25642,2...

    How much is it worth to the porn industry to drive porn back onto the DVD? Millions! Porn is being used to set a precedent which will lead to copyright material being banned from the internet. These choices are not made in a vacuum but are the result of perceived political value and party donations.

    If it were really about children you would allow a family to 'get filtered' and set up an ISP run by the Jehovah's Witnesses. That gets a result and don't require anything from government including spending our tax dollars on something that clearly puts us on equal footing to China.

    Comment by Jon Haigh on 25 November 2009 at 12:21 pm