Don’t ever assume that threats to freedom of speech only come from one side. The current federal government has dealt some serious blows to free speech, but if the opposition were given its chance, things could easily be just as bad.

At least that’s the message from a petition presented in the Senate yesterday with the endorsement of Labor’s communications and IT spokesperson, Stephen Conroy.

Conroy’s petition calls for “All internet service providers [to] be required to offer a ‘clean feed’ internet service to all households, schools and public libraries that blocks access to websites containing child p-rnography, acts of extreme violence and X-rated material.”

Leave aside the technical problems of this idea, and just look at the material he wants blocked. The uninitiated reader – including, I suspect, most of the 20,646 citizens who signed the petition – will assume that “X-rated material” consists of the same sort of objectionable stuff as child p-rn and extreme violence. But that’s simply not true.

I’ve quoted from the National Classification Code before, but I’ll do it again because Senator Conroy obviously wasn’t paying attention the first time: X-rated materials are those that “contain real depictions of actual sexual activity between consenting adults in which there is no violence, sexual violence, s-xualised violence, coercion, sexually assaultive language, or fetishes or depictions which purposefully demean anyone …”

In other words, X-rated material just involves ordinary, non-violent s-x. But Labor wants internet users to be prevented from seeing it, or otherwise have to put their names on a special “opt-in” register.

The classification code is already sending the community the message that s-x is more dangerous to children than violence. The small group of fanatics who believe that already has far too much power. Senator Conroy wants to give them more.