Gillard: Filter is a “moral question”

Gillard continues defence of mandatory ISP-level internet filter

Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday took the high ground in defending Labor's mandatory internet filtering project, describing the issue of how to ensure Australians didn't get access to the wrong content as a "moral question".

Both the Coalition and the Greens have confirmed plans to block legislation associated with the controversial project when it hits parliament, leading many Australians to believe the project is dead in the water due to a lack of support in the Senate.

However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has vowed to push on with the project, and Australian Sex Party President Fiona Patton has warned the Coalition's policy may not be rock solid.

Yesterday Gillard was questioned on the issue at an event in Brisbane at the Queensland Media Club by a student, who asked why Labor was pushing the issue when polls had showed the overwhelming majority of Australians were against the policy. The full transcript is available online.

The Prime Minister reiterated comments made over the past year that it was unlawful for adults to watch certain types of content in a cinema – for example, “child abuse, incredibly violent pornography”. “We say that's wrong and we don't show it in Australian cinemas,” said Gillard. “That's unlawful and we all accept it.”

The Labor leader said that if Australians accepted that principle, then “the moral question” was not changed by the medium that was used to publish content.

“If no-one in this country can lawfully go and view such things in a cinema then I don't believe it should be lawful to view such things over the internet, and in those circumstance I think the internet filter is appropriate,” she said.

Gillard acknowledged there had been technical concerns raised about the filter, and said it was much more complex to block content on the internet than it was in cinemas. She noted Conroy had been involved in consultations with internet service providers to work through the “how” question so that the filter didn't block legitimate material or slow down internet speeds.

“But the underpinning moral question, I think, is exactly the same,” she said.