Australian Christian Lobby urges Coalition rethink on internet filtering

The group purporting to represent tens of thousands of Australian Christians has called on the opposition party to rethink its quick abandonment of an opt-out internet filtering policy.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Coalition was too hasty in abandoning its internet filtering plans, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.

In what has been viewed as the Coalition's biggest backflip in this election, just less than two days before Australians are set to vote, the party abandoned plans to implement an internet filter blocking "adult content" in Australian homes and on mobile devices, which would only be opt-out when a user called their internet service provider (ISP) to have it switched off.

The Australian Christian Lobby, which purports to have tens of thousands of members and represent a number of Australian churches across the country, is possibly the largest religious-based lobby group in Australia. The organisation is frequently quoted in the media in opposition to same-sex marriage, in favour of allowing religious organisations to discriminate, in favour of religious freedom of speech, but also in favour of internet censorship.

The group has long lobbied the government to implement a mandatory filter, and had cheered the Labor government on when it considered the mandatory internet filter that was ultimately abandoned at the end of 2012.

Undeterred, the Australian Christian Lobby has continued its push for internet filtering, and although it would not like Australia to follow the UK in same-sex marriage legislation, it would like to import the UK's proposed opt-out internet filtering system.

Seeing a brief glimmer of hope in the news of the Coalition's policy, only to have it quickly taken away, the ACL's managing director Lyle Shelton said the Coalition should not be too hasty to abandon internet filtering plans.

"Initially, we were heartened to hear that the Coalition had come to the position that only two months ago that British Prime Minister David Cameron had come to — that internet filtering was a necessary government intervention to protect children from exposure to pornography," he said in a statement.

"For a fleeting moment last night, it looked like the Coalition was in agreement with its colleagues in the UK."

Shelton said internet filtering should not become a "political football".

"In criticising the Coalition's backflip on ISP filtering, Labor has ignored its own culpability on the issue — only last year did the Labor government renege on its 2007 and 2010 election commitment to introduce mandatory filtering of illegal content such as rape porn and bestiality porn from overseas."

On the other side of the spectrum, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) said that the Coalition's policy error around the internet filter has put the issue of open internet back on the agenda, and said that internet filtering of any kind, even opt-out, is a "major affront to the rights of freedom of speech and press".

"While we welcome the Coaltion's backdown on this policy, EFA is concerned at the apparent lack of cohesion within the party on the issue of an internet filter," the organisation said.

Editorial standards