A Coalition Government will spend $90 million on PC-based Internet filtering software and the expansion of Australian Communication and Media Authority’s (ACMA) cyber-safety outreach program.
Speaking at the Australian Computer Society’s (ACS) ICT Policy Forum with Labor Senator Stephen Conroy and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, shadow communications minister, Tony Smith, announced the program for the first time in retaliation to the Government’s proposed mandatory ISP-level filter.
Smith said a Coalition Government would provide funding of $60 million over four years to reintroduce the PC-based filtering software previously implemented by the Howard Government.
The $85 million NetAltert scheme, introduced in 2007 by the Howard Government, was widely criticised by the industry for being easily surpassable, and promptly dropped by the Rudd Government following the Federal election.
“We don’t say PC based filters are foolproof but we do say they offer a more comprehensive and sensible solution for parents,” Smith said.
On the topic of cyber-crime issues, Smith said there was no substitute for active engagement and education.
He described ACMA’s cyber-safety outreach program, which delivers face-to-face presentations to audiences of students, parents and teachers free of charge, “a great success”.
The Coalition will commit $30 million dollars in additional funding to extend and expand the program and provide an advice hotline, "so parents have a first point of call when they have technical issues or queries,” Smith said.
After months of keeping quiet on the topic of the net filter, Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, pre-empted news of the Coalition's policy by saying the parties would jointly block Labor’s mandatory internet filtering policy in parliament, potentially killing the project even if Julia Gillard wins the Federal election.
In July, Senator Conroy, announced a deal between Telstra, Optus, iPrimus and the Federal Government, that would see up to 70 per cent of Australians receive filtered Internet access for child pornography material. The Government's initial plans to implement a mandatory ISP-level filter for all Refused Classification material would be delayed for a year, pending a review of the system by the Classification Board. The decision produced mixed reactions from politicians, industry and lobbyists.
In the same month, telecoms providers and Internet advocate groups criticised the proposed ISP-level filter, calling for more funding to educate the Australian Federal Police and state law enforcement on lawful data interception and cyber-safety instead. Conroy told the ICT Policy Forum this week that those elements were at the top of his agenda on cyber-safety.
The Cyber Safety Committee roundtable, held in Melbourne in July, also saw evidence provided by the Greens and the Opposition as further reason for the Federal Government to drop its controversial mandatory ISP-level filter.