The Intenet filter, Human Services and probably Telstra

The timing of the filter decision has a terribly coordinated odour about it

Smells a little bit doesn't it? A bit off. A bit pungent. A bit too strategic. And that's being nice.

This week, as the kiddies headed off on school holidays and the Christmas silly season really got into the swing, the Federal Government decided it was time to announce its intentions to go ahead with the controversial ISP-level Internet content filter.

If you haven't been watching the online backlash and furious debate that has ensued then take a look at any news or forum site at the commentary — it's fascinating and rightfully passionate. (Here's just one example.)

The ISP-level Internet content filter story has been running for some time and the decision as to whether to go ahead with the much-maligned plan has been heavily anticipated. Especially since it was known the Federal Government, and in particular Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, had received a report conducted by Enex Testlabs on a trial of the filter by nine ISPs.

So why wait? Well, Conroy is a very busy man and the government has had several other important issues to attend to, not least an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Copenhagen conference on climate change.

But the cynic in me says that's not it. The delay and timing of the filter announcement in my book has been cunningly coordinated.

Wait till many are already heading off on holidays, if not physically then at least mentally.

Wait till the world's attention and that of a lot of the mainstream press is focused on the gathering of global leaders in Copenhagen for the United Nations COP 15 on climate change.

Wait until a day before the Department of Human Services announces a major reform project, including the merge of Medicare and Centrelink’s IT platforms.

And right before an announcement on Telstra's future as far as its involvement and relationship to the National Broadband Network (NBN) is due.

Then hope it gets buried and fades into the background.

So far, the filter has continued to be front of mind and in my view it should stay there while the debate continues. There are far too many questions around the scope of the plan and its technical feasibility, particularly with the potential introduction of the NBN and the greater speeds and throughput that will entail.

The question now is: Will the expected Telstra announcement drown out the discourse?

It is, after all, likely to be one of the biggest announcements in Australian telecommunications and business history and deserves our full attention whether you agree with whatever transpires or not.

Not that I blame Conroy; I would have done the same thing in his place. Aside from not announcing anything at all, what better way to try and bury what could potentially be the noose that hangs his political career then by waiting until just before a massive announcement on the future of Telstra and the NBN?

Being as doggedly aggressive as he is, it was always unlikely Conroy would ditch the filter plan and you have to acknowledge his gumption for continuing down this path.

But that doesn't mean the decision — whether intentional or otherwise — to announce the go-ahead just before the holiday season and the Telstra / NBN situation doesn't stink.

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Tags Telstrainternet content filteringmandatory internet fiteringDepartment of Health and Ageing (DoHA)

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