The office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last night challenged the shadow treasurer to explain the Coalition's opposition to Labor's controversial internet filter policy.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has returned fire at Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey on the Coalition's plans to block the controversial mandatory internet filter.(Credit: Liam Tung/ZDNet Australia)
Hockey revealed on Triple J's "Hack" program yesterday afternoon that the Coalition would block the filter legislation when it appeared in parliament, in a move that signals the death of the controversial project if the Greens control the balance of power in the Federal Senate after the upcoming election in several weeks.
"Joe Hockey needs to explain why refused classification material hosted on overseas websites should be available, while RC [refused classification] material on Australian hosted sites is not," Conroy's Office said last night in a statement. "The current online content regulations regarding prohibited content were introduced by the Howard Government in 2000," it added, referring to laws against RC content being hosted in Australia.
Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith last night said a coalition government would not introduce a mandatory internet service provider (ISP) filter. Instead it would implement what he described as "practical and effective measures to enhance online safety and security", including returning to the PC-based filtering approach utilised by the previous Howard coalition government.
But Conroy's office immediately challenged such a proposal.
"Let's not forget the Howard Government's free PC filter program was a dismal failure, despite a $15 million advertising campaign.
"The Gillard Government does not support refused classification (RC) material being available on the internet," Conroy's Office said. "This content includes child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act."
Under Australia's existing classification regulations, such material was not available in newsagencies, libraries, on DVDs or TV or at the cinema, the Office pointed out.
"RC material is also not available on Australian hosted websites," it said. "The government's policy is to introduce ISP level filtering for overseas hosted material which is RC under the existing National Classification Scheme. There's no silver bullet when it comes to cyber safety and that's why the government has a comprehensive $125.8 million, which includes education for parents and young people, law enforcement, research and ISP level filtering."
The Coalition's policy decision is, however, already being celebrated by those who have lobbied against the policy over the past two and a half years since it was introduced — with Liberal parliamentarians, the Greens, Electronic Frontiers Australia and others all welcoming the move.