ISP Filtering

I might surprise you today.
For someone who is a confirmed conservative and has an internet reputation as ‘the man who wants to ban swearing’ – thanks to my Senate inquiry into the broadcasting codes of practice – I want to share my thoughts on Labor’s ISP filtering proposal.

It will likely surprise many readers that right now, I cannot support it.

Let me confirm that a big part of me wants to support it. Surely anything we can do to prevent access to illegal material is a lawful and moral obligation.

However, the proposal that is being debated in the blogosphere is so devoid of detail that no one can form a considered opinion of the policy or reasonably become an advocate for it.

Strong words, but true.

Firstly, even the Minister, Stephen Conroy, could not or would not provide any detail of the scheme, or the trial, or what content would be banned when questioned by me in the Senate.

Already we have a filter on the internet for all Parliament House computers. It blocks some political sites, alternative lifestyle sites and other sites that, while not to my personal taste, are hardly grounds for censorship.

Imagine if such censorship was extended to every computer in the country through mandatory ISP filtering. Who would be the ultimate arbiter of what is permissible content?

I have recently met with some advocates of this scheme and frankly have not had any of my concerns allayed.

In some cases, advocates believe illegal content should be extended to all nudity and even stories featuring consensual relations between adults. (I had to describe it like that because the word s_x would likely prevent this message from getting to you!)

t has been suggested that there should be a rating system for internet content similar to how ACMA rates media content.

When I have asked how this could work, no one that I have spoken to has any clear idea, yet they all maintain that ‘it needs to be done’.

That may be so, but at what cost?

There is no stronger supporter of families than myself. My political life is a commitment to strengthening families and changing our nation through the development of our children. However, I also believe that families know better than government what is best for their children.

Parental responsibility cannot and should not be abrogated to government – if it is, our society will only become weaker.

Yes, illegal content should be banned from the web. It is illegal after all, but it is wrong to give the government a blank cheque to determine what is appropriate for us to view on the internet. That is a job for families, working with government.

And until someone can fill in the detail that is so sadly lacking in Labor’s latest ‘shoot first, aim later’ policy proposal, I remain a mandatory ISP filtering sceptic.

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