Is the filter truly dead?

It hasn’t been 24 hours since Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey let slip on JJJ’s Hack program that the Coalition won’t back the Labor Government’s plan for mandatory ISP-level internet censorship. Whether they win or lose, they have stated categorically that they will vote against such a scheme.

Does this mean the battle of the last three years has ended in victory? Can we all pack up and move on? Yes and no – but there’s cause for plenty of optimism.

It’s clear that the mandatory internet censorship policy requires a new law to be introduced. That legislation, of course, has to be voted on in the House of Representatives, where the Government has the numbers, and in the Senate, where they don’t. As things stand, to get a law up they need seven extra votes – which can either come from five Greens, Steven Fielding and Nick Xenophon – or the opposition.

With both The Greens and Opposition now saying they won’t back the law, there’s now no way for the Government to get the numbers to pass this law, and so it is effectively dead on arrival in the Senate (and that’s assuming the Government doesn’t change at the election). Your internet connection is safe for now.

It’s not quite the end of the saga, however. As the saying goes, it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings, and that fat lady is our own Stephen Conroy. As long as the censorwall remains the stated policy of the Government, it could always find a way to come back to life. Some possible scenarios include:

  • The Greens don’t achieve the balance of power and the ALP have control of the Senate.
  • The policy is renamed and changed just enough to wedge the opposition outside of an election campaign.
  • Support for the filter is used as a bargaining chip in negotiations over other legislation.

We’re going to take this as a victory – thanks to the public education campaign carried out by many organisations and individuals including GetUp, Google/the Safer Internet Group, Mark Newton, the ISPs and Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam inside Parliament, many of you were inspired (or angry enough) to write letters to those same politicians who have finally seen the light.

Thanks for your support. We couldn’t have gotten this far without the community supporting us and more importantly, making lots of noise yourselves. However, we at EFA won’t let our guard down until this policy is, in the language of the campaign, “dead, buried and cremated”.

And is it too much to ask for the Government to simply acknowledge they made a mistake? I suppose I’d better not get carried away.