Internet filter remains alive and well: Conroy

Minister refuses to back away from controversial policy

Communications minister, Stephen Conroy, has refused to back down on Labor’s mandatory ISP-level filter, despite the near impossibility of the controversial policy passing the lower or upper houses of Parliament.

Speaking on the ABC’s Q&A program overnight, Conroy fought for the filter, arguing the claim that the filter would slow the internet down had been “thoroughly discredited.”

“In practice in Europe, all over Europe, where a filter is in place that blocks child porn, it has no impact [on speeds],” Conroy said.

“Here in Australia, three telecommunications companies – Telstra, Optus, and Primus have said they will introduce one to block child porn and it will have no impact.

“If you were an engineer you’d say it’s one seventieth the blink of an eye, but no noticeable effect. Many people have been told that [the filter] will slow down the internet. This is not true.”

Conroy would not address whether the current make-up of parliament – with the Coalition, Greens and Independent MP, Rob Oakeshott, all opposed to the filter – meant it was impossible to pass any filter legislation in the next three years.

“No legislation has come forward yet as what we undertook to do was originally, when all those people claimed that [the filter] would slow the internet down, we did some trials,” he said.

“[Australian Sex Party leader, Fiona Patten] has made a number of good points about the breadth of what is called the Refused Classification category. We have said we will have a look at that. The independent Classification Board, independent of the Government, will review the terms of RC.

"If people have a view like Fiona does, then everyone in Australia now has an opportunity to put that forward. So the legislation will ultimately reflect the outcome of that review… so for people who say ‘oh, it definitely won’t be passed’… the legislation hasn’t been drafted and that review hasn’t taken place yet.

“You don’t, simply because you get a lot of criticism, say ‘well, I’m going to run away from that policy.”

Along with strong criticism from the ISP and wider ICT industry, the filter has also come under criticism from the Australian Sex Party, with Patten telling <i>Computerworld Australia</i> prior to the Federal Election that a complete overhaul of censorship was needed.

“The different ranges of censorship for different types of technology [means] we need a total overhaul of the way we deal with classification and censorship in Australia,” she said. “Currently how we censor a book is different to how we censor a film and how we censor a computer game which is different to how we censor the Web. We need a total overhaul of that.”

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