Steve Fielding, the Senate choice of 1.88% of Victorians, is obsessed with p-rnography. Since he arrived in Canberra, no Estimates session has been complete without Fielding earnestly declaring that Australian families weren’t safe from the flood of p-rn ready to roll out of their PCs. His greatest direct contribution to public policy since he was “elected” was to badger the Howard Government into wasting tens of millions of dollars on the ludicrous Netalert internet filter scheme.

Now he has managed to impose the views of his bizarre monotheistic cult on other Senators and their staff. Since 28 March, Senators have been prevented from accessing “inappropriate” internet content at the request of Senator Fielding, who has convinced Senate President Alan Ferguson to impose the same filter as that in place for bureaucrats, though not the Parliamentary Library.

Accordingly, anything related to s-x, drugs, weapons or other “inappropriate content”, regardless of what it actually is, is blocked.

Senator Lyn Allison has written to Ferguson demanding to know why Fielding was permitted to impose his own reactionary view of the online world on other Senators, who determines what is “inappropriate” and how Senators are supposed to do their job properly.

Allison reels off a number of topics now blocked by the Fielding Filth Filter: reproductive health; s-xualisation of children; drug abuse and rehabilitation, the opium crop in Afghanistan, weapons trading – all issues of legitimate interest to those engaged in the policy process, and all now blocked as “inappropriate”.

Perhaps Ferguson is concerned that Australia’s Senators are a bunch of s-x-crazed, coke-snorting would-be terrorists. Of course, this only describes the Australian Greens. The only available evidence that any politician has been using the Parliament House network to look for inappropriate content comes from the culprit himself – Senator Fielding, who last year boasted of his ability to obtain p-rn from his Parliament House computer with two (presumably one-handed) clicks.

Strangely enough, Fielding will be one of the senators critical to the passage of the Government’s legislation after 1 July. But only a conspiracy theorist would think the Government had caved in to Fielding in the hope of attracting his support for its bills later in the year. After all, the Government itself wants to replace Netalert with an even sillier ISP-level filtering scheme to stop people from accessing “inappropriate sites”. Maybe the Senate is a trial run for the entire country.

Meanwhile, net nerd Stilgherrian on how to bypass those pesky filters:

As the Internet censorship wiki explains, “to bypass Internet censorship you first have to know what kind of censorship you are suffering from.” Reporters Without Borders has a good tutorial , especially their links to lists of “open proxies” — that is, websites which will relay your connection to the sites you can’t reach.

You also need to know you’re engaging in an arms race. Filter-makers will block open proxies as they discover them, but new ones will pop up to replace them. Google searches for “open web proxy list” will help you find the new ones, though you may need to run that search from an unfiltered internet connection.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW