Anti-Censorship Protest in Brisbane May 28, 1999
About 250 people turned up at the rally, held in the Roma Street Forum, a small park in downtown Brisbane.
The rally commenced at 12.30pm speakers covering a range of viewpoints, all pointing out the sheer lunacy of the government's proposed Internet censorship legislation. There was an interested media presence, with most television stations represented. Speeches were well received, and a number of people from the audience got up afterwards to speak. Speakers included:
During the rally we took up a petition which was presented to Senator Bartlett with a request to table it in the Senate. The meeting also passed a resolution to the Prime Minister condemning the Bill.
When the rally finished at 2pm, about 150 of the crowd marched through the city (along the footpaths, in accord with the march permit) to Waterfront Place, an office building about 1km from the rally venue. All the way the crowd chanted "Internet Censorship - No - Way", handing out flyers to passers-by.
At Waterfront Place the intention was to go to floor 36 where the Commonwealth Parliamentary offices were, with the objective of presenting the resolution to Senator Parer from the Liberal Party. A delegation filled several lifts but we found that the security folk had sealed off floor 36 when they saw us approaching the building. This was captured by a television cameraman in the lift with us, especially pressing 36 and getting no response, and the comments "They've locked us out, so much for democracy".
Upon returning to the ground floor we encountered Bob Katter (National Party MP). He gave us a good hearing for about 20 mins. He seemed to understand our concerns and said he opposed censorship generally. Patricia Peterson pointed out to him that societies which hold restrictive attitudes towards sexual issues tend to breed child abuse.
Mr Katter offered to bring up our concerns in the joint party room but said he
was only one voice. He took our resolution, which we asked him to pass on
to the Prime Minister.
The Hon. John Howard, Prime Minister
Parliament House Canberra
Dear Prime Minister,
A public meeting of 250 people in Brisbane today Friday 28th May resolved as follows:
That this meeting opposes the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill and urges the government to reject the legislation.
Every other Western democracy has rejected content regulation of the Internet. Even developing countries such as Malaysia have seen the folly of interfering with private communications.
The Internet is a global medium and it makes the concept of censorship obsolete. Governments will eventually have to live with that.
The Bill is s threat to freedom of speech and an affront to personal privacy. It is asking ISPs to take responsibility for censoring their customers' communications. This is akin to making the telephone companies responsible for monitoring telephone calls. This is an offence against our human rights.
The Bill threatens the very economic engine of the next century - the information industry.
This Bill will not protect children but it will destroy their future.
Already we have seen that before this has even become law, information providers and developers are setting up equipment off shore and making plans to move their development offices in the near future. This is just the start of the kind of economic damage that Canada wisely foresaw when it announced just a week ago that it would not regulate Internet content.
This is the stuff of China and Saudi Arabia and Iraq and the Old Soviet Union. People are leaving Australia because of oppressive government regulations. This isn't the expected way of life in a free and democratic society.
We urge your government to reject this Bill.