Communications Minister Stephen Conroy should be more careful with what he says about internet kill switches if he wants to keep labelling the Coalition as short-sighted in its opposition to the National Broadband Network (NBN).
There's no arguing that the long-term benefits of the National Broadband Network are relatively unquantifiable at the moment. There is no telling what sort of applications and devices we will be using in the future that might need the NBN. And the Coalition has focused on this, looking at the network in light of its immediate benefits. Conroy was right to label their view short-sighted.
However, when asked about Egypt's recent internet blackout at a press conference in Sydney yesterday, Conroy was quick to deny any suggestions that a government in Australia would be capable of cutting off the internet connection for the entire country. Conroy said that Australian society had "free speech" and "open speech".
His statements, like that of the Coalition, show a fairly short-sighted view. Both technical and legal experts have agreed that it would be possible for an Australian government to cut the internet off for its citizens.
Sure, the current government and potentially the next government and the one after that may not want to cut off the internet, or indeed have any reason to.
But things change. Three years ago, if someone had suggested that Tony Abbott would be the leader of the opposition, most people would have laughed. If someone had told you before September 11 that there would be militant air safety checks at airports, with liquids confiscated and scans showing people's bits, no one would have believed them.
Just as technology changes over time, so does culture and society, and through the introduction of the mandatory internet filter, Australia is on a path to one form of censorship.
In the press conference, Conroy mockingly mentioned that China had sought to block searches of the term "Egypt" in its country. Sure, his filter is now only for content that has been labelled refused classification, but there's no telling what future legislative changes governments may make to extend that to content they just don't want their citizens to see.
Hand-waving the question is not the solution. Legislative restrictions, a guarantee for the right to free speech or even the establishment of internet connectivity as a basic human right would be better to subdue fears of a kill-switch scenario.