First Labor politician breaks filter ranks

New South Wales upper house member Penny Sharpe has become the first Labor figure to publicly criticise Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's announced plans for internet filtering legislation.

New South Wales upper house member Penny Sharpe has become the first Labor figure to publicly criticise Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's announced plans for internet filtering legislation.

In a post on her blog, Sharpe called Conroy's announcement "a backward step that if adopted will be a triumph of fear and false promise over what works and good sense".

"The Federal Government's proposals to filter the internet are a waste of time, a waste of money, a false promise to parents that will not stop kids being exposed to undesirable content online and a move towards censorship that a democratic and free nation like Australia should reject," she said.

"The proposed internet filter creates a diversion from tackling broader issues of how the online environment (which also includes mobile phones and games) is rapidly changing social norms, expectations and behaviour.

"There are urgent issues that need to be addressed: protecting children from inappropriate material, protecting privacy, cyberstalking and bullying, how to protect citizens from identity theft to name just a few.

"The solution to these issues is not a mandatory filter."

The solutions include increased education for parents and kids, more policing and investigation, more resources for families and communities, and law reform in the areas of privacy and communications, she added.

"I urge the Federal Government to consider other options rather than this proposal," she concluded.

In the comments on her blog post, Sharpe urged readers to write to Senator Conroy and make the case against censorship.

"I am not brave for speaking out about this issue," she said. "I am a state MP who does not actually have to make the decision. Without going into chapter and verse about the way parliamentary Labor caucuses work, just because there is not public dissent does not mean that there is no dissent."

Federal Labor Senator Kate Lundy, an outspoken critic of internet censorship when she was in opposition, refused to comment on the proposed legislation yesterday.

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