Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has described a protected online forum used by the federal broadband department to discuss the internet filter project with the industry as typical of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's approach and again called for the whole project to be scrapped.
Scott Ludlam(Credit: Delimiter)
Conroy's office yesterday confirmed the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy was hosting the forum to discuss controversial issues about the filter with internet service providers — including the lack of a complete draft of the planned legislation as of several weeks ago and the possibility of making it an offence to promote methods of circumventing the filter.
Ludlam said yesterday that the initiative was "consultation, Conroy-style" and that the department had gotten industry engagement "half-right". "But then, of course, they just open themselves up to the kind of criticism they're going to cop now ... by trying to hold those consultations in secret," he said.
In a statement yesterday, Conroy's office appeared to reject forum suggestions from departmental officials that the government could make it an offence to promote methods of circumventing the filter.
"They're finally confronting the logical inconsistencies in what they're trying to do," said Ludlam, adding Labor faced a difficult decision — if it became an offence to circumvent the filter, it was likely the legislation would actually trap legitimate as well as criminal activity, whereas if it wasn't an offence, the government would face institutionalised circumvention.
He said if the government didn't make circumvention an offence, the generation of web browsers might have a "click here to circumvent" button built in.
Ludlam also called for the government to re-examine the filtering policy as a whole after Conroy's office said that the legislation was unlikely to get a hearing in parliament's May sittings, creating the possibility that it may be shelved until after the next Federal election.
"I am delighted to hear that the Prime Minister has put Senator Stephen Conroy's unworkable plan on the backburner, but they need to go a step further and just hit delete," Ludlam said in a statement.
"Merely putting it off because it's massively unpopular is a cynical pre-election clearing of the decks. The government needs to clearly indicate that it's going to scrap the idea completely and work on a new policy in collaboration with all stakeholders."
"Opposition against the internet filter is widespread because it will do precisely nothing to curb the distribution of illegal material online, while establishing the architecture for greater government censorship in the future.