"You can’t walk into a cinema in Australia and see certain things and we shouldn’t on the internet be able to access those things either." Does this sound reasonable to you, or does it sound a bit nonsensical? In either case, it probably won't surprise you to know that  the speaker was a politician - in fact, our new Prime Minister. With those words, the PM dispelled the thin hope that a change in leadership might lead to a welcome rethink of the internet filter policy.

Speaking on Darwin radio yesterday, the PM said in full on the subject of internet censorship:

But there’s also a set of concerns about the dark side of the new technology, if I can use that expression, and, you know, clearly you can’t walk into a cinema in Australia and see certain things and we shouldn’t on the internet be able to access those things either. So, Stephen Conroy is working to get this in the right shape.

By invoking the dark side, Gillard has no doubt unleashed a torrent of Yoda-themed jokes. Unfortunately, a change in rhetoric from a newsagent to a cinema hardly represents a revision in policy. What it really represents is a continued failure of imagination.

When the prime ministership changed, there was some speculation in the IT community that Conroy could or should be replaced by Kate Lundy, who is well respected and well liked in industry circles. This was never likely to happen, but it shows the frustration many in the industry feel at the communications minister, and his predecessors - they could hardly be described as internet savvy. We recently had a field day with Conroy's gaff about "spams and scams coming through the portal", which is no doubt seen by many people as vindication of this. Clearly, with Gillard as PM the status quo will remain.

Technical leadership aside, there was some hope that the politics would work against the filter. Perhaps "clearing the decks" for the election, which has so far attempted to dispose of the mining tax, refugees and climate change as electoral issues, would lead to the shelving of filter. It appears not. Every chance the Labor government has had to distance themselves from this, they have passed up, this one included. It has always surprised me. If you've followed the debate, you know that the filter has a very shaky rationale and no clear policy goal - it amounts to interfering in the internet for censorship's sake. It is a vote loser amongst internet users and young people. Is it such a vote winner amongst other demographics?

In any case, if the Government is returned the filter will soon have its day in Parliament, and with a claimed mandate from the people. Given the stated opposition to the filter by the Greens, the filter's only chance to pass through the senate remains with the Liberal and National parties. Can we hope they will block it? Some signs are good, some signs are worrying. As the election campaign begins in earnest, we will do our best to present the tech policies of all the parties so that you can get the facts and decide how to weight these issues in your overall voting intentions.

12 comments

  1. > Unfortunately, a change in rhetoric from a newsagent to a cinema hardly represents a revision in policy. What it really represents is a continued failure of imagination.

    Unfortunately the change in rhetoric was due to the fact that it was humiliatingly false. You actually can walk into newsagencies in Australia and continue to purchase actually Refused Classification (as opposed to ACMA's best guess without referring it to the ACB) material - http://www.refused-classification.com/news/2010/0...

    Comment by . on 9 July 2010 at 10:10
  2. Is this what you wanted?
    http://fluffles.bigbighuge.com/wp-content/uploads...
    Half assed shop didn't quite pull it off properly hah!

    Comment by Tom on 9 July 2010 at 10:16
  3. I think the line about "new technology" gives away what the real problem is. There us now a whole generation of Australians who have never known of a world WITHOUT

    Comment by Womp on 9 July 2010 at 10:41
  4. I think the line about "new technology" gives away what the real problem is. There is now a whole generation of Australians who have never known of a world WITHOUT the Internet. Calling the Internet "new technology" shows Gillard to be a throw back to last century. She seems so out of touch that she probably IS worried about spams and scams in her portal.

    Comment by Womp on 9 July 2010 at 10:47
  5. sorry about repeating post above, must learn to type quicker.

    Comment by Womp on 9 July 2010 at 10:49
  6. This is a good government that has lost its way. In less than a fortnight.

    Comment by Alan on 9 July 2010 at 18:27
  7. >It is a vote loser amongst internet users and young people. Is it such a vote winner amongst other demographics?

    Are there other demographics?

    Comment by Ben on 9 July 2010 at 20:27
  8. Demand a referendum, we must.

    Comment by George Bray on 9 July 2010 at 20:31
  9. Other countries spend their energies trying to harness the power of the internet. Australia spends its energy trying to turn it into the Muppet Show.

    Comment by Simon on 9 July 2010 at 22:17
  10. die gilard die dose she even understand what she's on about if she did she would relise that statement dosent make much sense movie ciname and internet difrent things bitch die die die gilarg die plz

    Comment by JACKSON on 10 July 2010 at 08:39
  11. Almost as bad as the interview with Koshe this morning. The filter will stop the demand for child abuse materials? rly? It's hard to have the debate about this when the other side needs velcro shoes.

    Comment by Scootah on 13 July 2010 at 19:11
  12. Fair dinkum, isn't the internet filter dead yet?? Has anyone else noticed that neither talk about the internet filter or any appearance by Senator Conroy must be considered too toxic by labor party strategists?? When are these idiots going to listen and kill off this filter before it possibly ruins everyone's life?? The PM has proven once again that she's just as clueless as Conroy is, idiots the lots of them.

    Comment by Ross on 2 August 2010 at 04:39