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Coalition to bring back NetAlert

Coalition Communications spokesperson Tony Smith has announced that if a coalition government is elected on 21 August, the party would reintroduce the former Howard Government's NetAlert program in place of Labor's mandatory internet service provider (ISP) level filter policy.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

Coalition Communications spokesperson Tony Smith has announced that if a coalition government is elected on 21 August, the party would reintroduce the former Howard Government's NetAlert program in place of Labor's mandatory internet service provider (ISP) level filter policy.

"We will not proceed with Labor's planned mandatory ISP-level filter, we will instead provide funding of $60 million over four years to re-introduce free PC-based content filtering software to Australian families who want it," Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith said at an Australian Computer Society debate with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Greens spokesperson Scott Ludlam. "We will put back what the minister took away."

Smith responded to previous criticism of the ease of which the software could be bypassed, stating that education and active involvement from parents was key.

"We don't say PC-based filters are foolproof, but we do say they offer a more comprehensive and flexible solution for parents."

Smith said the Coalition would also extend the Australian Communications and Media Authority's cyber-safety outreach program with an additional $30 million in funding and also provide an "advice line so parents have a first port of call when they have technical issues or queries".

In response, Conroy mentioned Parliamentary Hansard from 1999 (PDF) when the then-Coalition Government led by John Howard attempted to introduce a ban on refused classification content online.

"I've got here the Hansard from 30 June 1999, when the Liberal Party moved to ban on Australian ISPs the refused classification," he said. "They actually went to ban it themselves. Mr [Tony] Abbott and Mr [Joe] Hockey both moved to ban it themselves."

"And how did you vote in the Senate?" Smith responded.

"We voted against it, there were issues then that have now been resolved on a technical basis," Conroy fired back. "The speed issue is no longer an issue."

Ludlam said he was not concerned about technical issues but was concerned at what high-traffic websites would be affected by the filter and that continuing on the policy when both the Coalition and the Greens oppose the filter would be a "waste of resources".

"I'm a bit surprised to hear the minister say that commonwealth public servants will still be working on a mandatory censorship proposal into the next term of parliament if you are re-elected when you know you no longer have the numbers or the support of parliament."

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