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Conroy frantically spins Clinton speech

The debate over internet censorship has well and truly moved to the global centre stage, with the US last week drawing a line in the sand and declaring itself the champion of open access. Coming in the wake of Chinese cyber attacks against Google and dozens of other US companies, the new approach was outlined last week in a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who declared the free access to information online as critical a human right as the freedom of assembly or the right to publish.

Although barely mentioning China, the speech has roused considerable ire  in Beijing. It’s not just China that is experimenting with internet censorship, however. This speech couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Rudd government, with its mandatory filtering policy set to come before Parliament early this year. Any government would want to be seen on the side of freedom and democracy, but elevating uncensored internet access to a fundamental right is clearly problematic in the present circumstances.

It was therefore not surprising to see that the government has endorsed the Clinton doctrine, but it has done so in such an ironic and equivocal way as to elicit a wince or two when reading it.

In a media release titled “Rudd Government welcomes Secretary Clinton’s comments on the internet”, Senator Stephen Conroy spent the first half on the non-sequitur of the National Broadband Network, and the second half justifying their mandatory filtering policy. Beginning with “The Rudd government also agrees with Secretary Clinton’s observation that ‘all societies recognise that freedom of expression has its limits’,” Conroy predictably goes on to again raise the alarm about nasty content such as bestiality.

This is a cynical misrepresentation of Clinton’s words. To use a speech that includes the lines “governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other” and “censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere” to justify a censorship policy is nothing if not brazen. Clinton herself goes on to say that “these challenges must not become an excuse for governments to systematically violate the rights and privacy of those who use the internet for peaceful political purposes”. In other words, there are challenges, but the benefits of an open internet are too great to risk with government censorship.

For the sake of fulfilling an election promise, the government is now arguably on the wrong side of history. The department’s spin doctors have their work cut out for them.

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  • 1
    Michael Rogers
    Posted Monday, 25 January 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    The Liberal Party know that they only have to join the Greens in voting against this legislation in the Senate and get rid of Tony Abbott as leader for them to move to 2nd last on my ballot papers ahead of Labor.

  • 2
    michael crook
    Posted Monday, 25 January 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Fielding is a libertarian compared to the nasty right wing religious powerbrokers that Conroy and about 30 of his parliamentary colleagues owe their jobs to.

  • 3
    David
    Posted Monday, 25 January 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    The only reason Fielding could be a puesdo fake libertarian, he hasnt the intelligence to know it is happening to him. Something akin to being punch drunk getting smashed but refusing to lie down.
    Conroy is a bloody hypocrite, his day of come uppance will arrive. An hour in the same room as Hillary Clinton trying to sell his absurd internet censorship would sort the pr-k out.

  • 4
    Derek Midgley
    Posted Tuesday, 26 January 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    All I can say is thank G-D for Hillary Clinton’s stand on this .. I hope she sticks to it .. there can be no room for compromise when it comes to freedom .. if we lose this one, one day we may lose much more than we imagined we could.

  • 5
    meski
    Posted Wednesday, 27 January 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    In an ideal world, Fielding and Conroy would be on the same ballot paper, and I’d live in that electorate. Then I could show them what I think of them.

  • 6
    Bane
    Posted Thursday, 28 January 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Ok, the Greens will oppose this dangerous legislation - thats a given. I only hope (fervently) that the Libs will also oppose it, then it will be defeated. Conroy never took a compulsory, no opt-out filter policy to the election. It was sneakily “added” after the election and too late for ordinary “little” people to do anything about it. It is just such a hateful way to do things, but so typical of the smarmy and self-righteous. His barrelling ahead with no regard or care for the dangers is again typical of the above.
    I voted Labour solely because of the Libs obnoxious “Work Choices” legislation (again something that was trotted out post-election). I will vote Liberal next time solely because of Labour’s obnoxious “Censorship” legislation. Make no mistake, this type of deceitful behaviour is always an election maker and breaker.

  • 7
    meski
    Posted Thursday, 28 January 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    FWIW, a survey, on NBN and internet censorship.

  • 8
    meski
    Posted Thursday, 28 January 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Whirlpool Internet Survey

  • 9
    melanie farris
    Posted Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Melanie Farris writes: Re. “Conroy frantically spins Clinton speech” (Monday, item 14).

    Mr Jacob’s piece comes across as a little unbalanced. The Secretary of State’s speech to The Newseum is clearly a statement against political censorship and governments or regimes that suppress their people’s right to free access to information. It is against oppression. It is for political freedoms.

    When making the speech, was Clinton thinking of the Australian Government’s ban on RC content and sites containing child abuse material? It’s hard to say.

    Clearly though, she and the US government are concerned with protecting the rights of the world’s citizens — in so far as the vision of the US founding fathers prescribes. “Now, ultimately, this issue isn’t just about information freedom; it is about what kind of world we want and what kind of world we will inhabit,” she said.

    Fortunately, the founding fathers did not have to deal with an internet that allowed for child sexual abuse to be broadcast, nor did they have to determine how to maintain freedom of expression but prevent child grooming in an unregulated marketplace. How can Facebook be “urged to switch off hate sites” on the one hand, but the Australian Government criticised for implementing internet controls on the other?

    Larry Flint fought in the US Supreme Court and won his countrymen’s right to publish and buy adult magazines. Whether we like adult magazines or not, that process promoted and upheld the vision of the US Constitution. Let those who publish and profit from child abuse have their day in court to fight their battle. Let us see if they win. If they do, so be it.

    In the meantime, may the nay-sayers remember exactly what (and whose) freedoms and protections we should be fighting for.

  • 10
    meski
    Posted Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Yet again, the pro-censorship mob drag out the “If you’re against censorship you’re for child abuse” Ad Hominems, Straw man, etc.

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