Libs short-sighted? Pot kettle Conroy

Libs short-sighted? Pot kettle Conroy

Summary: 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).

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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.

Topics: Censorship, Broadband, Government, Government AU, NBN

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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Talkback

8 comments
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  • Conroy's normal response mechanism is to simplify a complex issue and mock people for raising it. If you raise the issue of not supporting the filter, then you support child pornography. If you raise the prospect of a kill switch, he compares us to China. If you are against his version of an NBN, then you are against the benefits of broadband generally.

    I don't think it's short sightedness, rather his technique of minimising debate and getting a good sound bite.
    mwil19-a34f7
  • There is what I can only think of as a "category error" in your critique and conclusion. In relation to the filter you note it is only for RC material but "there's no telling what future legislative changes governments may make."

    But then you say "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." But that too is just legislation and a future parliament could overturn it.

    Ultimately Conroy is right when he says that our ultimate defence isn't the laws but the values of a pluralist democracy. We need to learn to respect, defend and enhance those values.
    Verity Pravda
  • Sounds like he should be an anti-NBNer then... according to the FUDsters if you support the NBN you are a lefty, geek, who doesn't understand finances or the meaning of white elephant.

    But he doesn't contradict himself nearly as much as the desperate FUDsters, so maybe not!
    RS-ef540
  • In regards to Conroy, If you look at his background, I don't think anyone could acuse him of being Leftist in his leaning. He's hardcore Labor right and counts the ultra conservative christian right among his support base. His explanations of technology certainly don't make him a geek and whilst I disagree with his financial optimism, I'm sure he can count.

    The thing about Conroy is he's actually doing a good job of what he's been asked to do with the NBN. I can't think of anyone else in Labor who would have gone toe to toe with Telstra. Unfortunatly the right wing doginess that makes him good at that task shows it's ugly side when it comes to things like freedom of information and the filter.
    mwil19-a34f7
  • Ummm, exactly my point, mwil19... I'm not accusing Conroy of being a lefty (quite the opposite). I'm saying he should be a far right NBN naysayer, with his silly generalisations!

    Because anyone (apart from Conroy) who supports the NBN is considered by these idiot NBN naysayers, as leftists.
    RS-ef540
  • LOL, I don't think you are leftist, anymore than I think I'm an idiot naysayer.
    mwil19-a34f7
  • Freedom of speech already is a basic human right: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

    As for a kill switch, if you paid for Internet access then you have the right to have and enjoy what you have paid for: "(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property."

    Pretty simple stuff, does require people to read it, otherwise it won't work.

    As far as I'm concerned, given that NBN is paid for out of taxpayer's money, to kill it once operational would be to illegally deprive Australian citizens of their property..

    Internet connectivity as access to some particular service is not a human right, nor should it ever be... you have the right to either pay for it, or build your own, but not the right to expect someone to deliver you services for free.
    Tel-7bdca
  • "Conroy said that Australian society had "free speech" and "open speech"." Que? Isn't Conroy a member of the Labor government, two of whose ministers would happily collude with that other bastion of free speech, the US, to throw Julian Assange in the cooler? Preferably indefinitely and probably not being too fussed by the small matter of having a trial? David Hicks revisited.
    Listohan