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Dec 23, 2009

Stephen Conroy: Dear Crikey, here's why you're wrong

It's fighting words from Senator Stephen Conroy as he rebuts the "disingenuous" coverage of his Great Firewall of Australia. You can't access RC-rated content in newsagencies, libraries, DVDs, cinemas or on TV, so why should it be allowed on the internet? asks Conroy.


In these times of bloggers, citizen journalism and the 24-hour news cycle, quality journalism is under threat. Nowhere is it more apparent than in Crikey.

Its coverage over the past week with regard to the government’s announcement on ISP level filtering has been nothing short of disingenuous.

The government has been clear that mandatory filtering will only be implemented for RC-rated content. This content is illegal to display, distribute, sell or make available for hire under existing Australian law. RC-rated content is not available in newsagencies, it is not on the library shelves, you cannot watch it on a DVD or at the cinema and it is not shown on television.

Bernard Keane put forward his views in his article Net filtering won’t work, so what is Conroy up to?

Clearly, Keane doesn’t think the government should try to limit exposure to RC-rated material online. He is entitled to his opinion. In arguing his position, however, he makes a number of errors that should be corrected.

Keane claims “the trial saw up to 3.4% of content wrongly blocked”. The trial showed that a defined list of URLs — which is how the mandatory component of filtering would be done — was achieved by all technologies tested with 100% accuracy.

The figure he quotes of 3.4% refers to the testing for the optional filtering of a wider range of content as decided by families. The performance of the various technologies was tested against additional lists of content developed by Enex for innocuous and inappropriate content. Many families may be prepared to accept some over-blocking to have a wider range of material blocked. This is a choice for the family or individual.

Keane argues “the trial … saw speed reductions of 30-40%”. In fact one technology tested in the trial returned this result while the remaining technologies returned a figure of less than 10%. Enex has described a result of less than 10% as negligible impact and Telstra has put it into real-time as one seventieth of a blink of an eye”.

Enex explains in the report the filter that got the higher level of degradation used “pass through” technology and the content list was maintained overseas, which may explain the higher level. The government will not mandate what technology an ISP should use and clearly it would make no sense for an ISP to choose the worst-performed product unless these issues could be overcome.

Keane argues the government’s announcement is based on “the big lie, that filtering works” because it can be circumvented. The government has never claimed that filtering cannot be circumvented and has continually explained that it is just one part of a range of measures designed to make the internet a safer place.

Yes people will use means other than the web to trade in child pornography and other vile material, and that is why the government has also committed $49 million for additional federal police officers to the Child Protection Unit and a further $11 million for prosecution.

Keane then attacks the existing classification laws, which is refreshing in that he is one of the few critics to acknowledge the internet is currently subject to censorship. Keane is wrong though when he argues that “www.childpr0n.com would be blocked under both [the RC content list and the current ACMA blacklist], [whilst] trying to inform the terminally ill about options for euthanasia online would be blocked under one but not the other”.

Such content is RC and would therefore be included on both the ACMA blacklist under the existing laws and the RC content list under the new scheme.

He argues “how would you know whether you were blocked under mandatory filtering” or under the current legislative framework? In the government’s public consultation paper on approved transparency and accountability measures — one option put forward is the use of block pages which would notify the user that the material they are trying to access has been blocked because it has been deemed to be RC content. It would only be blocked under existing laws if you were using a PC filter that filters the ACMA blacklist or some other form of self applied filtering.

I understand that people feel passionately about this issue but if you want to have a reasoned debate you need to have the facts straight. Bernard Keane could start by looking at the FAQ on the department’s website.

Then we had the case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story with Stilgherrian’s “The swift takedown of stephenconroy.com.au.

Stilgherrian wrote about a fake Stephen Conroy website having the domain deleted by the industry self-regulatory body auDA where he asked, “Did Senator Conroy or someone in his office pressure auDA for a quick result?”

Stilgherrian had the answer to this question but clearly he didn’t like the answer so he chose to ignore it. He contacted my office at 7am on Tuesday asking whether anyone from the office had asked auDA to take action on stephenconroy.com.au.

At 11.19am he was provided with the following response: “The Minister’s office made no request and took no other action in relation to the domain stephenconroy.com.au” and was referred to auDa regarding their policies.

Stilgherrian replied and made no reference to the response being close to deadline or being too late to pull the story to at least add the response. (See the full exchange here.).

Despite including my office’s response in the “Corrections” section the following day, the fact remains that, in having the answer that my office had made no request well before deadline, but still proceeding with an entire article based on the suggestion that I or my office had requested action, Stilgherrian is either calling me a liar or he has decided to deliberately ignore the response so that he can write the story he wants to write anyway.

But he didn’t stop there with making up the facts to suit his story. He then drew a correlation to allegations run by Asher Moses in the Sydney Morning Herald when he said “Conroy’s policy advisor Belinda Dennett did try to silence one of Conroy’s critics, network engineer Mark Newton.”

At the time Asher Moses, a vocal critic of ISP filtering, made these allegations my office advised him that this simply did not happen and he had been misinformed. That Moses ran the story with the allegation anyway seems to be enough of a “fact” for Stilgherrian to repeat whenever he feels it helps his story.

And then there was Colin Jacobs article Reporters without Borders: Don’t Do it Rudd.

Interestingly Colin Jacobs, who has been spruiking his views on the government’s position, blurring the lines, burying the facts and wilfully misleading the Australian public, makes the point that the international coverage is “not a good look” and that Australia is “gaining a reputation as the Iran of the South Pacific”.

The irony in this is that it is Colin Jacobs himself who has been out there whipping the media into a frenzy; with his loose use of language and most extraordinary misrepresentations it is no wonder he has managed to get global attention.

The government has made it very clear that its policy will see online content that is RC-rated according to the National Classification Scheme criteria is the only content that will be blocked.

Jacobs argues that the government’s policy will “block access to inappropriate websites”, the same language he criticised the government for using months ago as being unclear.

While much of the commentary has referred to the blocking of websites we should make it very clear that the RC content list will only include URLs. URL’s lead to specific pages on a website and only if those pages contain RC-rated content will they be added to the list.

Jacobs quotes the letter written by Reporters Without Borders to the Prime Minister that subjects such as “abortion, anorexia, Aborigines and legislation on the sale of marijuana would risk being filtered as would media reports on these issues.”

This is just misrepresentation designed to mislead the public. The elements the National Classification Board looks at to assess these include sx, violence, matters of an abhorrent nature, instruction in crime and instruction in violence. The only way these subject matters RWB have outlined would fall into the RC category would be if they included step-by-step instruction in self harm or were extremely violent. It is hard to see how legislation or websites about Aborigines would be included.

Jacobs then demonstrates just how he has managed to get worldwide attention with his outrageous claim that I have “attempt[ed] [to] deflect criticism by implying filter opponents were all card-carrying members of the Child Pornorgaphy Apologists League”. I have never made this comment and I challenge Jacobs to provide evidence of such a quote. It seems that if Jacobs makes the claim often enough, without pointing to any evidence, he will convince people — including the RWB.

If regulation or so called censorship of the internet has got Colin Jacobs so enraged with the government’s recent announcement, where has he been for the past nine years where the internet in Australia has been regulated far more heavily. The government’s filtering policy applies only to the worst of the worst content hosted overseas which brings it into line with what has been going on in Australia for the past nine years without the outrage.

Let me repeat the government has been clear that mandatory filtering will only apply to RC-rated content. This content is not available in newsagencies, on library shelves, at the cinema or on DVD and you certainly can’t watch it on TV. Why shouldn’t Australian ISPs be required to block access to such content?

I am happy to debate the merits of this policy and listen to the genuine concerns of Australians but let’s ensure people have the facts and not build campaign based on disingenuous misrepresentations. As recently as today I have read articles that claim mandatory filtering will include content that is rated X18+. I suggest people you are interested in the facts go to my department’s website where they can read the FAQ’s www.dbcde.gov.au

I wish Crikey and all its readers a very merry Christmas.

CRIKEY ED: Just to be clear, Stilgherrian did forward the response from Conroy to Crikey but the addition was missed in the production process, the fault was ours, not Stilgherrian’s. Conroy’s office has now been informed of this.



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128 thoughts on “Stephen Conroy: Dear Crikey, here’s why you’re wrong

  1. John

    I’m all in favour of blocking RC content. Sectarianism rules, OK?
    Well, maybe not, because I’d also like you to block C of E content and all other religious content as well.
    And while I’m at it, didn’t you learn in Sunday school “thou shalt not steal”?
    Well, I own Telstra and you shouldn’t steal it from me!

  2. FunkyJ

    “The only way these subject matters RWB have outlined would fall into the RC category would be if they included step-by-step instruction in self harm or were extremely violent.”

    Just one thing, Mr Conroy.

    In 2007, the videogame “Blitz, the league” was refused classification as in it the player can take drugs to boost performance. No where in this game is there a step by step instruction on how to take the drug – you just press a button.

    In 2008, the videogame Fallout 3 was refused classification, again because it involved drug use. The issue was the us of the real world term “morphine”. Again, it was never a step by step instruction, and this time it did not boost performance – it merely healed the player much like the magic mushroom pickups in Mario games.

    I realise the classification for videogames is different to the classification of books, film, and music, so can you please explain to me what, in the case of the internet, which classification scheme will be applied?

  3. David Higginbottom

    For the sake of further balance I provide this link – Crikey should have added this within the body of the article.

    The departments FAQ can be found here:


    I support debate – but the reporting in this area is often a repeat of conspiracy theories based on background briefings given by those with agendas. This is an area where strong “religious” views – whatever the flavour of those views – predominate.


  4. David Sanderson

    If you have not read the Stilgherrian article linked to above or the infamously titled “Internet filtering: first step on the path to Burma?’ from the previous day then I suggest you do so (look at the comments too).

    You will find excellent examples of would-be crusading journalism gone seriously awry.

  5. Simon Rumble

    “attempt[ed] [to] deflect criticism by implying filter opponents were all card-carrying members of the Child P-rnorgaphy Apologists League”. I have never made this comment

    Okay, you’ve done this trick many times so I call bullshit.

    “If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree” SMH earlier in the year.

    “I trust you are not suggesting that people should have access to child pornography.” Hansard earlier in the year.

    How is this not painting it that way?

  6. Jon Seymour


    In 2003 Margaret Pomeranz attempted to screen the film Ken Park in front of an audience who objected to the RC-rating this film had been given by the OFLC.

    This film is legal to possess and legal view in Australia.

    You have previously stated that your plans only target “the worst of the worst”. Are you prepared to label Margaret Pomeranz “the worst of the worst”, or will you admit that your filter also targets a broad range of legal material that is of interest to normal Australians such a Margaret Pomeranz.

    I invite you to read and respond to a blog post I have written on this subject:


    Your claim that you have never attempted to smear opponents as supporters of free access to child pornography is truly laughable, since it is so clearly documented by the ABC, by Hansard, and by this blog post of mine from January 2008.


    Your words were: “If looking at child pornography is defined a free speech then we are going to take issue with that. ”

    If this is not attempt by you to label opponents of your plan as supporters for free access to child pornography then, seriously, what is?

    You have changed your position, and then denied that you have ever held that previous position, so many times that your attempt to question the credibility of others can be judged for what it is.

    jon seymour.

  7. Andrew Wilcockson

    Could someone please point out to the Senator that he is getting it completely wrong when he says:

    “Keane argues “the trial … saw speed reductions of 30-40%”. In fact one technology tested in the trial returned this result while the remaining technologies returned a figure of less than 10%. Enex has described a result of less than 10% as negligible impact and Telstra has put it into real-time as one seventieth of a blink of an eye”.”

    This is a very disingenuous argument.

    The Telstra quote relates to DNS based filtering, which is based on blocking IP addresses, not URLs. It is also much easier to implement and has a much lower performance impact than the URL based filtering employed in the Enex trial.

    If Senator Conroy wants to accuse people of telling porkies, then perhaps he should first stop misrepresenting the facts himself.

  8. Andrew Wilcockson

    Another big straw man in Senators Conroy is this statement that he seems so fond of at the moment:

    “Let me repeat the government has been clear that mandatory filtering will only apply to RC-rated content. This content is not available in newsagencies, on library shelves, at the cinema or on DVD and you certainly can’t watch it on TV. Why shouldn’t Australian ISPs be required to block access to such content?”

    Why, Senator Conroy?

    Because although it is illegal to sell such material in Australia, it is NOT illegal to possess nor view such material.

    This filter is all about the government getting into bed with the ACL and having their right wing extremist “Christian” morality forced onto the entire population.

  9. Richard Wilson

    One man’s definition of restricted content is another man’s definition of speaking out against the tyranny of the state. Pornography may be defined as the defiling of any image of Kevin Rudd next year, no matter how pompous.

  10. David Sanderson

    “One man’s definition of restricted content is another man’s definition of speaking out against the tyranny of the state. Pornography may be defined as the defiling of any image of Kevin Rudd next year, no matter how pompous.”

    This kind of stuff is so personally and politically immature that it defies any attempt to deal with it other than by complete dismissal.

  11. Marc

    Stephen Conroy, here’s why you’re wrong.

    “The Minister’s office made no request and took no other action in relation to the domain stephenconroy.com.au”

    Sorry if I remain sceptical, but that sounds like no official request was made. We don’t know if a casual phone call was placed and I’m not sure we ever will (and no, I won’t take your word for it).

    The government has been clear that mandatory filtering will only be implemented for RC-rated content.

    We’ve already established that RC-rated content is a very wide category. Things that could easily be considered RC-rated:

    – Wikipedia entries on euthanasia.
    – Normally child-friendly websites that have been hacked (so there’s potential to punish legitimate businesses).
    – Things considered a “fetish”, like tying someone up to a bed with a silk cloth.
    – A normally child-friendly blog, because of RC-rated comments (possibly even RC-rated, automated spam).
    – Etc etc

    The fact that a path will be offered to appeal a black-listing is not good enough. It seems very possible that a legitimate business could be crippled by a spam-related black-listing (or even by an erroneous black-listing).

    This content is illegal to display, distribute, sell or make available for hire under existing Australian law.

    Two very important points:

    – Australian Law does apply to Australian companies, individuals and websites. There’s already good mechanisms in place for catching wrong-doers.
    – The web isn’t just “content”, it’s also a communication medium. Should casual conversations on the street about euthanasia also be banned? It’s pretty hard to argue that Twitter or Facebook conversations are too different to a conversation on the street.

    Here’s the strongest point though: The filer is (supposedly) needed because people stumble on bomb making sites and child pornography on a regular enough basis that something MUST be done. I’ve been using the internet for a very long time and I’ve never visited a bomb making site or seen child pornography. NEVER. EVER.

    The filter is an ill-conceived, heavy handed solution to something that’s not even a problem.

    I will not vote for an individual or party that supports this proposal.

  12. Virro

    “This is a choice for the family or individual.” Er… Stephen it is because you are hoping to take away our “choice” that the issue has become a stinking dead albatross around your neck. The real choice will come at the next election unless another petition can provide you with a sense of reality.

    Regarding the slower speeds, I refer the Senator to ‘Untangling the Net’ (Lumby Green and Hartley, 2009). Thanks to the other hero of the Internet (Nick Minchin), Australian internet speeds have remained sub standard for over 10 years. His reliance on Telstra’s “blink of an eye” explanation for lower speeds is pulling the wool over the other eye. And remember the tests were conducted at slower speeds with fewer blocked sites. Did the scalability of the solution get a good thrashing?

    As for the Minister’s office response to Stilgherrigan – it must have been worded by the legal department as it clearly leaves the way open for the Senator to admit that he acted alone and did in fact request the take-down without his office being aware of it. One of Howard’s tools of the trade. And to turn the response around in under 5 hours suggests a Grech-like panic.

    The only merit of the policy is that it provides Australia the rare opportunity to rub shoulders with other like minded countries: China, Ethiopia, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Singapore, Sudan Syria, UAE. (Source: Open Net Initiative.)

    Does the Senator wear an Amnesty International pin too?

  13. James McDonald

    In this transcript of Estimates 20 Oct 2008, Senator Conroy suggests that the mandatory filtering scheme is in line with similar restrictions in free countries Sweden, UK, Canada and New Zealand. (None of those, by the way, are listed on the Reporters Without Borders website as “Under Surveillance” as potential “Enemies of the Internet”.)

    Senator Ludlam questions whether the filtering schemes in those countries are mandatory or optional.

    Senator Conroy attempts to deflect the question as follows:
    [“Illegal material is illegal material. Child pornography is child pornography. I trust you are not suggesting that people should have access to child pornography.”]

    Senator Conroy attempts to deflect the same question two more times, saying, “I was wondering if I could get the questions without being accused of being the Great Wall of China,” and “We are talking about mandatory blocking, where possible, of illegal material-illegal material. “

    When asked the question a fourth time, Senator Conroy admits they are all optional one way or another.

    Senator Conroy also suggests, “There are calls for, as an example, banning pro anorexia websites. ”

    Senator Conroy, even if I trusted you, I could never trust that this power won’t be abused by those who inherit this power from you. And in any case, I do not trust you.

  14. Jon Seymour

    In the interests of accuracy, it wasn’t actually documented by Hansard. The conversation I was referring to actually occurred in estimates committee hearing as documeted by GetUp! here – http://bit.ly/4XQ3OC

    The Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts, Estimates, 20 October 2008 (Canberra):
    Sen. Conroy: […] I trust you are not suggesting that people should have access to child pornography.
    Sen. Ludlam: No. That is why I was interested in asking about the law enforcement side of it as well.
    Sen. Conroy: No, we are working both angles at it. We are just trying to use technology to enforce the existing laws.
    Sen. Ludlam: I am just wondering if I can put these questions to you without being accused of being pro child pornography.
    That would assist.

    Play a game of semantics if you like, but the imputation is clear – anyone who dares question the ALPs position on this filter is carrying a candle for the child pornographers.

    jon seymour.

  15. tony

    Glad to see Conroy finally admit that the filtering technology is dead easy to circumvent.
    He fails to say again what the full range of RC content is once again… surprise surprise… it also contains fetish material and any game that does not fit under ma15+. Among a raft of other content.

    As for Conroy saying people opposing this policy are twisting facts and misinforming the public… lol.




    “A Rudd Labor Government will require ISPs to offer a ‘clean feed’ internet service to all homes, schools and public internet points accessible by children, such as public libraries.
    Labor’s ISP policy will prevent Australian children from accessing any content that has been identified as prohibited by ACMA, including sites such as those containing child pornography and X-rated material.”

    “While the Government has implemented its Protecting Australian Families Online programs simply not good enough. The message isn’t getting out there, the PC filters can be bypassed and Australian children are at risk.

    This will be remedied by Labor’s Cyber-safety Policy.”
    Source: http://www.alp.org.au/download/now/labors_plan_for_cyber_safety.pdf

    “Senator Conroy: “Cleanfeed is broader than the prohibited sites. You can’t opt in or out of the prohibited material. The cleanfeed is something you can opt out…”
    Source: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=o4UGEWYf2bY

    “Senator Conroy- “…we are looking at two tiers – mandatory of illegal material and an option for families to get a clean feed service if they wish.”
    Source: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S11346.pdf

    “Antony Funnell: A lot of people will be concerned about what will be on that list of banned sites. Who will determine what are the banned sites, and will that list of banned sites …

    Stephen Conroy: There’s actually an existing list. I mean people are saying suddenly ‘Where’s this list come from?’ It actually exists today. If offensive content is hosted by Australian ISPs now, and when we say offensive, refused classification content, then it gets issued with a take-down notice today. This is an existing blacklist.”
    Source: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/mediareport/stories/2008/2405376.htm

  16. James McDonald

    What do the Australian Federal Police think about this? Last year they arrested a large number of persons who downloaded illegal underage p0rn, after tracing their IP addresses. Genuine pa3dophile p0rn (as opposed to illegal teenage p0rn, which is what most of those arrested actually downloaded) is not that easy to find, and you risk arrest if you do find and download it. The major search engines voluntarily screen it out.

    Have the AFP recommended in favour of this filtering scheme? Has their opinion been sought?

  17. tony

    “The pilot [of ISP-level filtering/blocking] will specifically test filtering against the ACMA black list of prohibited internet content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content. While the ACMA black list is currently around 1,300 URLs, the pilot will test against this list as well as filtering for a range of URLs to around 10,000 so that the impacts on network performance of a larger black list can be examined.”
    Source: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/dailys/ds111108.pdf

    “Senator LUDLAM-Can you provide for us, either here or on notice, a current breakdown of the material that is on the black list, as you have done in the past?

    Ms O’Loughlin [ACMA]-I can provide that to you now. As at 30 September there were 1,175 URLs on the black list. Fifty-four per cent of those were URLs where we had found prohibited content at the refused classification level. Of that 54 per cent, approximately 33 per cent was child sexual abuse material.

    Senator LUDLAM-Was it one-third of the RC?

    Ms O’Loughlin-It was one-third of the 54 per cent, yes. Forty-one per cent was X18+ and five per cent was R18+, which was commercial product where there was no appropriate restricted access system in place.”
    Source: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S12489.pdf

  18. Marc

    Senator Conroy, even if I trusted you, I could never trust that this power won’t be abused by those who inherit this power from you. And in any case, I do not trust you.

    Well said. I agree completely.

    For the record, I don’t see pro anorexia websites as being any less evil than extremist Christian websites. I also don’t believe either should be blocked.

    Senator Conroy, we know what you’re up to. It’s on record that you’ve been talking to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) regarding the filter and it seems like a fairly safe bet you’ve been talking to AFACT (Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft), or will at some point. Money talks and I’m sure they’ll both influence the black-list in some way. And before you say “the list will be managed by ACMA, an independent organisation”, ACMA is still a government department, so I’m sure there’s a myriad of ways your office, ACL and AFACT could influence their decisions.

  19. Hugh Ripper

    This odious proposal has nothing to do with the interests of the Australian public and everything to do with the sucking up to the moral police who hold the balance of power in the senate.

  20. Orin Thomas

    Want to watch how quickly the Conroy Filter is used to block material that isn’t smutty? Watch how quickly the Senator adds any site that publishes workarounds to his list of restricted sites.

  21. Kez

    @Funk J

    Conroy’s comment that “The only way these subject matters RWB have outlined would fall into the RC category would be if they included step-by-step instruction in self harm or were extremely violent.” is (suprise suprise) in direct reference to the subject matters that RWB brought up. Precisely he’s talking about ““abortion, anorexia, Aborigines and legislation on the sale of marijuana would risk being filtered as would media reports on these issues.”

    What Conroy is saying is that with respect ot abortion, anorexia, Aborigines and legislation on the sale of marijuana only.

    The video games Blitz and Fallout 3 were RCed because they create incentives for drug use (eg if you take drugs your game character performs better).

    As an aside creating incentives related to drugs (or other illegal behaviour) is grounds to refuse classification for both video games and films. If there was an R18+ rating for games that was a direct mirror of the film classification system then both these games still would have been banned.

  22. Kez

    Andrew Wilcockson wrote “Because although it is illegal to sell such material in Australia, it is NOT illegal to possess nor view such material.”

    Actually it’s illegal to possess RCed material in WA.

  23. ktzqbp

    The government has failed to identify a need for Mandatory ISP-Level Content Filtering.

    Even if there was a need, the government has failed to demonstrate that mandatory filtering is wanted by the Australian public.

    Even if the public wanted mandatory filtering, it won’t work.

    Even if it could work, it’s too expensive, especially in the long-term with the government having to compensate every single ISP in the country, year after year. You think $44m will cover it? HA!

    Even if it wasn’t too expensive, it will be implemented poorly. The Classification Act does not require the ACMA to seek a classification decision from the OFLC before adding overseas content to the blacklist, this really is a case of one public servant’s personal discretion deciding whether a content item should be banned in Australia, with no mechanism for notification or appeal.

    In the unlikely event that it’s implemented perfectly, it will enable child abuse. Several hundred ISPs in the country, each of which will require access to the black list.

    The black list will leak, without question. And once it does, every internet-connected pervert on the planet, and any Australian perverts who avail themselves of circumvention methods, will have access to it. With any perceived positives accompanying the scheme undermined by the fact that it won’t work, the negatives will be all we have left. Is increased world-wide child abuse an acceptable price that you, personally, Mr. Conroy, are prepared to pay for the implementation of this policy?

  24. Michael

    If regulation or so called censorship of the internet has got Colin Jacobs so enraged with the government’s recent announcement, where has he been for the past nine years where the internet in Australia has been regulated far more heavily. The government’s filtering policy applies only to the worst of the worst content hosted overseas which brings it into line with what has been going on in Australia for the past nine years without the outrage.

    Conroy still doesn’t understand. Regulating the servers is different to regulating the network. Banning RC-content being hosted in Australia is perfectly fine and feasible. Filtering the feed is an exercise in wasteful insanity.

  25. Mark Gibbons

    The RC classification has been changed by politicians several times in the past. As a result, RC is broad, eclectic, and mostly legal to possess & view. It can’t help but include political material simply because it is so broad. Movies like Ken Park, various kinds of fetish porn, and even Euthenasia material like the Peaceful Pill handbook is all within RC. (And does anyone really think the government should be censoring one side of a contraversial debate?)

    As Jon Seymour said, “It has deliberately chosen to continue down the path of ensuring that the National Classification Code is uniformly and universally applied to citizens as if each and every one of them were themselves film and literature distributors”.

    In every other western country, filtering has been narrowly defined to target child porn. There is a category for child porn within RC that the government could have used, but they just had to go after legal content as well. And in that we’re alone.

    (Every time the government tries to conflate RC with “child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence including rape and the detailed instruction of crime or drug use”, I donate $25 to the getup campaign. So I’m kinda hoping Conroy stops doing that otherwise this is going to be one expensive Christmas season).

  26. RaymondChurch

    I am in debt to the contributors to this blog. I have learned more about what Conroy is intending by reading the remarks here and going to the informative links provided in support . It may well assist the Senator in learning what a good cross section of the electorate are thinking by taking an interest in what is being written here ,rather than concentrate on advice being offered to him by those who support his point of view for whatever reason, be it political patronage, religious fanaticism, or just good old sucking up for future considerations by the Govt.
    To me it seems Mr Conroy is crying wolf, he seeks to respond to points made , by claims of attacks on his pure intentions, his well meaning, well diagnosed, well tried, well rehersed, not fool proof technology.
    Humbug Mr Conroy, nothing but humbug and porkies. Do your convictions allow you to wander from the truth or are you just pig headed and stupid, doing the masters bidding.
    This could come back to bite you, in the months ahead.

  27. cameronreilly

    Senator Conroy states: “The government has been clear that mandatory filtering will only be implemented for RC-rated content. This content is illegal to display, distribute, sell or make available for hire under existing Australian law. RC-rated content is not available in newsagencies, it is not on the library shelves, you cannot watch it on a DVD or at the cinema and it is not shown on television.”

    What he doesn’t say is how broad the RC classification is. According to the National Classification Code, the following publications can be listed as RC:

    Publications that:

    (a) describe, depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or

    (b) describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not); or

    (c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence

    The classification code does not ban, as Conroy tries to make out with his use of limited truth, merely child porn or pro-rape content. It is open to casting a much wider net, as the distributors of the film “Ken Park” found out just a few years ago.

    I think what bothers many people like myself is that, similar to what has happened in the United States over the last 20 years, our senior political ranks are today being stacked with fundamentalist Christians. Conroy, Rudd, Abbott and Fielding are all fundamentalists. Their “standards of morality, decency and propriety” are likely to be different from many people in Australia, a country that can boast one of the most secular and open-minded populations in the world. Films such as “Ken Park” might easily be defined by a small group of people hidden in a small room in Canberra as “indecent” and banned when it would be acceptable to many people.

    Conroy’s continual argument that “this content is already illegal” deliberately misses the point that the real argument for censorship in the first place is *not* to stop adults having access to content – it is to limit distribution of content so it won’t be available to children or accidentally offend people who aren’t searching for it.

    The internet is a PULL mechanism. You only get content if you go looking for it. If you type “happy bunny rabbits” or “Jesus loves me” into Google, you are highly unlikely to find a fisting site (I just checked to make sure).

    The Ruddites are trying to enforce their 1950’s sense of uber-Christian decency on the rest of Australians when we should, instead, be bringing our censorship laws into the 21st century.

  28. James McDonald

    Raymond – “… rather than concentrate on advice being offered to him by those who support his point of view …”

    Just what are those bodies that support it, by the way? Apart from churches, have any authoritative bodies supported this? The AFP, which investigates child p0rn? Any of the Police Associations? Any of the child protection lobby groups?

    Churches do not count, following James Madison’s wisdom that “Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government,” and Section 116 of our Constitution:
    [The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.]

  29. Ben

    Hash: SHA512

    Dear Senator Conroy,

    How do you reconcile the claim of 100% blocking of the ACMA list with this Watchdog International report? Since Watchdog run the New Zealand filter and since Enex worked with them for their own report, it stands to reason that the 100% success was achieved by removing URLs containing question marks (e.g. dynamic websites and YouTube videos).

    It’s a bit hypocritical to accuse Bernard Keane of mis-representing the situation with blocking items on the blacklist as part of the filtering when:

    1) Enex and ACMA, after working with Watchdog International, modified the blacklists tested to remove URLs which would be incorrectly parsed by the filter.

    2) You habitually use the term filter to describe all aspects of stopping targetted material, when it should be made clear there is a difference between blocking and filtering. A difference which is made clear in the 2008 ACMA report, which actually provided more technical detail than the recent Enex report.

    It also doesn’t help that there is still no information available regarding precisely which protocols will be affected by either blocking or filtering.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.9 (Darwin)
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  30. EngineeringReality

    The whole flaw in the process – as others have highlighted is that what constitutes RC (which in this country is a very narrow and arcane definition) and more importantly who decides what is RC. Too many films and increasingly computer games that are being watched in other countries are being banned here.

    With the current proposed filter it seems that its a few public servants in ACMA who decide.

    And where do the sites to be banned come from? Is there to be an office in ACMA’s headquarters where a few staff members sit at their computers hunting for the worst of the worst material – and only after downloading it and examining it does it make it onto the blacklist.

    Is it one person deciding – or will a group of sites be collated for a daily or weekly Bad Porn Committee Meeting where a group of public servants sit down to watch porn for a few hours and then decide if the OFLC would classify it as RC or not.

    But who oversees this? Will all of the sites be sent to the OFLC to confirm the view of the ACMA staff – or will we just have to take the government’s word that the ACMA staff are as good as the OFLC?

    Or is it, more concerningly, more dependant on radical groups such as Australian Family Association etc complaining about sites they are opposed to. Will the blacklist just morph into something that increasingly begins to look like the Australian Family Association’s blacklist?

    We won’t know of course – because the blacklist is so “vile and evil” that we can’t know of its contents. Yes I know, its starting to sound like a witchcraft trial from the middle ages…

  31. James McDonald

    And what’s going to stop a Godwin Gretch getting on that committee and using it for his own political agenda? The banned list will be thousands of URLs; trying to find anything out of scope could be a needle in a haystack.

  32. David Sanderson

    “And what’s going to stop a Godwin Gretch getting on that committee and using it for his own political agenda?”

    We have a clear winner. This is the silliest comment thus far. It may be hard to top but I’m sure there must be some triers out there.

  33. Rena Zurawel

    Dear Mr. Conroy
    Try to fight pedophiles, first!!!! Then you can get to the Internet viewers.

  34. Brian Kelly

    There are two main problems I have with all this Mr Conroy. I don’t believe you and I don’t trust you. Following on from this I don’t trust bureaucrats and given the history of politicians in this country I certainly won’t trust any of your successors unless they can earn that trust through trustworthy deeds. And this from a lifelong ALP supporter and former member of the party.

  35. John T

    Right with you Marc.

    Further, any minister capable of writing this: “nothing short of disingenuous”, and thinking it is telling, in some appealingly clever way, should be allowed nowhere near any judgment about literate matters.

    Or was the writer a ministerial staffer suffering from a schooling in post-modernist English literature?

  36. paddy

    Dear Senator Conroy, I guess Bernard Keane’s guide to writing to Ministers (16-12-09) must have really worked eh. 🙂
    Your staffers (or even your good self) have certainly come up with an absolute field of straw in reply with today’s effort.
    Others, far more eloquent and knowledgeable than I, have already torn shreds off the so-called rationale for the network filter. So why Senator, why?

    It’s clearly a dog of an idea, and we mere mortals can only wonder what madness drives you to keep pushing it……….Is it Kevin? Enquiring minds would like to know.

    All that political capital you gained for confronting Telstra and listening to informed advice on the building the NBN…….All being flushed down the virtual drain for this horrible turkey, pretending to be a magic bullet.

    Fortunately, you’re up for election next year………………Even more fortunately for you, being top of the ticket means you’re assured of winning another term. But it also means, there might be an interesting number of Victorian voters who, like me, generally support the Rudd Government……But who will take the time and effort to put Stephen Conroy last on the Senate ballot paper.

    P.S. I doubt Lindsay Tanner feels nearly as sanguine about the fallout from this mess.
    Losing one of the ablest and most articulate members of the cabinet might be a high price to pay for a no-win policy.
    After all, you and your faction have form when it comes to the law of political unintended consequences.
    (That other Senator called Steven was a great result, wasn’t he?)

  37. Peta Waller-Bryant

    “I am happy to debate the merits of this policy and listen to the genuine concerns of Australians”

    This is the biggest lie of all and I remain appalled. I do not claim to be an expert on internet filtering, RC content or the possible reduction of speed – however, not once has the government listened to and taken into account the overwhelming opposition to this plan.

    This opposition has included genuinely concerned Australian individuals, relevant industry bodies, industry leaders and spokespeople. No, Conroy – you’re neither happy nor interested in listening to the views opposing you. You are only interested in telling. This has been the case for this entire process and is unlikely to change.

    Have you even consulted internet users? What did they say? What were the percentages of support?

    Australian governments are not elected to be parental they are elected to be representative.

    As someone still in their youth and planning to spend my life a staunch Labor voter – let me add my voice to those saying they will not be voting for you until this is overturned and reassessed.

    I’m going to go see if the new Pirate Party are still taking membership.

  38. Junior

    1700 words to make a spurious point. Perhaps like his boss Elmer Conroy should take a lead from old Bill’s Polonius “brevity is the soul of wit”

  39. David Sanderson

    “1700 words to make a spurious point. Perhaps like his boss Elmer Conroy should take a lead from old Bill’s Polonius “brevity is the soul of wit””

    You just can’t win with some people. Conroy (or perhaps more likely. an adviser) writes an average size article to briefly state his case and rebut some critics and Junior found it all a bit much. If Conroy had written just 500 word Junior and others would be complaining about how terse and arrogant Conroy is.

    It is a pity that some of the contributors here, wallowing in all kinds of puerile dark speculations, are not eligible for the Arsehat of the Year Award because they would be bloody strong contendors.

  40. Norwood1997

    Another tip:
    Send your letter twice – once in english and once in a foreign language. (If you don’t speak anything other than english, use an internet translation service to translate your letter from English to a foreign language or dialect). Send one copy of the letter in English, and a second copy using the name of another person in your household, in the foreign language of choice. Getting letters translated eats up even more time and resources!

  41. October

    We have a clear winner. This is the silliest comment thus far. It may be hard to top but I’m sure there must be some triers out there.

    Sanderson, why these asinine comments? You either attack the person or ignore them. Rarely do you engage in argument.

    Could you, or that slippery chekist, Stephen Conroy, please explain why suddenly, after many many, years, the internet must now be censored? It is a fine tool that has been working for decades with no problem, and only now do you want to stick your noses in.

    As for the “we already censor TV and magazines” red herring—you don’t. You have laws in place to sue publishers. You don’t have filters and spies in publishing houses that makes things disappear without trace. You have specific items named for suppression.

    This new filter is nothing like the current system.

    It’s disgusting that our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has allowed a loose cannon like Conroy to get this far.


  42. MichaelK99

    Conroy says that it will only be URLs (ie specific pages) which will be blocked.

    I feel fairly certain that in reality they will block whole sites, and not determine which pages are ok and which are RC. Thus a large site with only one or two pages of RC material will probably all be blocked.

    For this reason I feel certain that most of the blocked content will not be RC.

  43. tony

    Funny how the argument has shifted away from ‘blocking’ access to Child pornography. Rather it is about ‘inadvertent’ exposure to Child pornography.

    How many people have accidentally stumbled upon CP? Please, I’d like to know.

    The chance of stumbling onto something like that would be so minuscule it wouldn’t be worth talking about. Let alone spending huge amounts of money trying to fix.

    Please Minister, can we see some evidence that children are ‘accidentally’ stumbling upon this abhorrent content?

    Perhaps giving that money to victims of child abuse and the Police might have somewhat more noticeable outcome, rather then erecting a shark net that’s 1 meter wide and saying its protecting the oceans!

    I can hear the comeback already!


  44. James McDonald

    David Sanderson – “We have a clear winner. This is the silliest comment thus far.”

    I appreciate the compliment, unintentional though it may be, of being singled out as being far from what you would call rational.

    There’s a part of me that occasionally envies someone of such vapid naivete, such faith that he can convert people to a different point of view simply by insisting over and over that they are wrong. Just a small part of me; but a few drinks quicky take care of that.

  45. October

    Funny how the argument has shifted away from ‘blocking’ access to Child pornography. Rather it is about ‘inadvertent’ exposure to Child pornography.

    And one of the odd things about child pornography, should one accidentally come upon it (once when checking the “Scorpions” album cover controversy, another time on the first page of “Kommersant”, Russia’s leading business paper, and so on), is that it doesn’t have any magical properties that damage one’s soul. It is completely harmless to look at, and then to look away from.

    The horror of child pornography comes from thinking of what could happen to one’s reputation if someone else saw the image on one’s own machine. What would happen if some pimply technician in the computer repair shop decided to rifle through the cache and make himself a hero by reporting unpleasant images.

    The making of the image is a completely different issue to being “inadvertently” exposed to its magical powers.

  46. daz

    This has been my experiance when we workedin the UAE.

    This is what you can look forward to, if the Australian internet filter goes ahead.

    The wikipedia entry on Muhumad is blocked. Why would a muslim society block access to a collaborative, public encyclopedia dealing with one of its most signifcant religious figures?
    Because it deals with him as a normal subject.
    You could probably worry that a similar treatment concerning christian subject matter would not be tolerated by the refused classification guidelines, or the guidelines could be easily expanded to allow restricted access.
    Restriction on normal critical evaluation, that encourages further reading and evaluation from you, the reader, that happens to be delivered via the web.

    This is the job of the censor. To prohibit and retard the process of thinking and deciding.

    How about that process of thinking and deciding leads you to an atheist web site.(www.atheism.about.com)…but atheism is not a blocked page on wikipedia!? Is that inconsistant or is it just my imagination?
    Why would you restrict a source of inquiry concerning god or gods?
    The country tolerates lots of different religious beliefs on the ground…so many diffferent people make up the work force here…there are hindus, buddhists, christians, so why prohibit people from READING about what is essentially another belief system?
    I know why, and by doing a little reading and thinking you will know why too.

    Getting away from religious issues, what about restictrictions on how to burn DVD files in certain formats??
    This information was blocked for us.
    Because some luddite thinks burning a DVD implies piracy.


    Go there and read the guidelines. They sound eerily like the things that would be refused classification by the Australian government.

    Oh…lets not forget that Flickr the photo sharing site is blocked here.
    You can expect access to Flickr to be restricted because there might be women in bikinis there, not to mention photos of sunsets, flowers, buildings and cars. So say goodbye to something you enjoyed, sharing cool photos.

    Do you feel insulted yet?Or is it just me?

    If photography is an art how about other types of art?
    I can see classic nudes on Wikipedia, but http://www.frankfazzetta.com is blocked.
    So say goodbye to classic art, and fantasy art… Norman Lindsay anyone?
    He was the bane of the wowsers back in the day.

    This proposal to rate the content of the internet according to some conservative Australians’ attitudes is insulting and in my experiance, impossible to enforce consistantly. If it cant be enforced consistantly
    then why do it?
    You do it because you are stupid… and a bit evil.

  47. James McDonald

    October – And of course the possibility of being traced by the feds and imprisoned for up to 10 years.

    But yes, “Cyber Safety”, as the plan is being called … safety for whom? For the child subject of the abuse being photographed and marketed, or for the shocked user stumbling on the site, who might then be able to alert the AFP? Or if the user prefers, to notify the ISP, who is obliged to report it.

    Of course there is a tiny number of users who will enjoy the material. But those users are going to do so anyway, one way or another. Isn’t it better if there’s a chance of tracing and charging them, and then alerting Interpol to hunt down the source?

  48. David Sanderson

    There are some on this thread who may be libertarians and therefore believe in zero censorship in all, or virtually all, media forms. They are of course entitled to their view but it is not one that has mainstream support.

    The rest presumably support at least some censorship in these other media forms but believe that media found on the web should be immune from censorship. In particular, they believe that the distribution mechanism should not be intervened in despite the fact that this is the only practicable method to prevent distribution, as most of the banned material is hosted beyond the reach of Australian authorities. It is also standard practice in other censorship regimes (eg that affecting printed materials) for disruption of the distribution system to be a major method of enforcing the censorship regime.

    Why then is it unacceptable to disrupt he internet distribution of banned materials but acceptable when dealing with banned content from other media forms?

  49. David Sanderson

    There are a number of oddities on this thread but this one stands out:

    “What do the Australian Federal Police think about this? Last year they arrested a large number of persons who downloaded illegal underage p0rn, after tracing their IP addresses. Genuine pa3dophile p0rn (as opposed to illegal teenage p0rn, which is what most of those arrested actually downloaded)”

    Since when was porn involving thirteen year old children not child porn or “pa3dophile p0rn”?
    Very curious and not the first time this person has made this claim.

  50. thedukeofmadness

    This “censorship” of the internet has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with protecting children. It is the first step in us having to pay to use the internet. I don’t mean as it paying for internet connection but paying for browsing on the internet.

    It’s very curious that this policy reared its head within days of Rupert Murdoch wanting to charge people to read News Limited content online. A person could, if so inclined, surmise that the two news items are linked. I’m not saying that the government would actively curry favor with Mr. Murdoch by allowing him something he has coveted since the Internet began in the late 80’s, the ability to make a lot of money out of it, but it’s just curious that two internet related stories should come out within days of each other.

    Even if it were just to “protect the children” then that’s what parents are for. I would hope that parents like that woman who left her child in the carpark were the exception not the norm. Protection of children should be done by parents not by governments anyway.

  51. Arethusa

    “Have the AFP recommended in favour of this filtering scheme? Has their opinion been sought?”

    Their experts wouldn’t be allowed to comment.

  52. October

    Why then is it unacceptable to disrupt he internet distribution of banned materials but acceptable when dealing with banned content from other media forms?

    Australian media is already over-censored in my view, but a couple of points:

    1. The internet has been sailing along quite nicely with no interference for years, What has suddenly changed that we need to censor this communication channel?

    2. It will actually be illegal to tell people what has been censored. The system is designed to be unaccountable to those it is designed to “protect”. Isn’t this just the kind of absurdity that Kafka used to complain about in his writings? Or is that author now some kind of neurotic joke?

    3. Your logic would suggest that China’s new whitelist plans could be a reasonable next step. In case you don’t understand, a whitelist would mean that only approved sites could be registered. All else would be blocked.

    This is just a small step from Australia’s proposed blacklist.

    Do you approve of a whitelist for Australia?

    Read about it here:


  53. James McDonald

    David Sanderson, “There are some on this thread who may be libertarians and therefore believe in zero censorship in all.”

    No, that’s anarchists. Libertarians believe the exercise of power is necessary to stop some people harming others, but that such power must be distributed across more than one agency to prevent it being abused.

    See for example the summary of other free countries’ filtering regimes in ISP Filtering FAQ number 10 “How does Australia’s approach compare with other western democracies?” The countries discussed there have power sharing arrangements between the government, the ISPs, and the users. The word for that is “liberal”, and would be consistent with the spirit of our Constitition.

  54. Scoogsy

    Great response Stephen, this has certainly opened my eyes up to what is going on and cleared some of the misinformation.

    That said, this filtering system should have been more publicly announced. A filtering system that will affect all Australian’s, that harkens back to the Great Firewall of China, should be nipped in the bud quickly. It’s obvious this is not how the filter is designed to operate, but rampant discussion has transpired in the public sphere. For that you can not be surprised and probably sholder some of the blame.

    All in all though, I’d be intersted in exploring the merrits of this type of filtering.

  55. Adam Dunsford

    I would like to thank Steven Conroy for once again saying one thing, but doing another.

    Please, please, please tell us exactly what you actually plan to do.

    Surely you have a step-by-step process by now. It’s been months and month and months.

    You talk about transparency, so Why a Secret List?

    I’ve read the FAQ, and I’d like some things added:
    * How will the filter actually work?
    * How can the list be secret and transparent at the same time?
    * Why aren’t you extending this to block telephone numbers and postal addresses too?

  56. skipjack

    ummm the title… the title ‘Secret Government Blacklist’ doesn’t sound that Christian… isn’t that the Darth Vader thing out of Episode III: The Attack of the Clones?

    This is just the start – the government wants to expand this censorship once it passes to include pirated media, and to force ISP’s to monitor for that also, as per the international ‘Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement’, which is currently being negotiated.

    In the draft agreement, there is a call for a three-strike policy – do it three times and you lose your internet connection – this is already law in France (I am not aware how vigorously it is policed). It is proposed it will also be compulsorily policed by ISP’s.

    This is nothing short of a battle for control of the Internet. The government wants control of the internet, it wants to be able to censor its content and police it like any other form of media. But it is not like any other form of media.

    What percentage of internet users have ever illegally downloaded pirated movies/music more than three times? I mean come on… who are we kidding?

    You get down to a situation where all internet users are criminalised, then it’s just up to the government who they bust for it.

    I won’t be voting Labor now, which is a 25 year first.

  57. Martin C

    David Sanderson said: “There are some on this thread who may be libertarians and therefore believe in zero censorship in all, or virtually all, media forms … The rest presumably support at least some censorship in these other media forms but believe that media found on the web should be immune from censorship.”

    David seems to be implying that there are only two positions: supporting Conroy’s filtering, and having no censorship at all. This is not the case, and indeed is not, in my opinion, what people are generally implying in these comments. Censorship already exists online, and what we object to is secret, unregulated censorship. Speaking only for myself:

    I strongly disagree with Senator Conroy’s legislation because the blacklist is secret. Despite David Sanderson rubbishing commenters who proposed dark scenarios of evil future governments adding all sorts of things to the blacklist, that is EXACTLY what I fear. No, it may not be the extreme examples listed here, but we will never know what WILL end up on the blacklist. What citizen of a democracy who is taking their responsibilities seriously would allow a government the right to set censorship standards while keeping the list of what they are censoring secret? It’s saying: “Here’s a censorship method police states use on their citizens. We’re letting you use it, because we think you probably won’t abuse the privilege.” I wouldn’t give that sort of power to ANY government in a pink fit, and if I had to, I would certainly try not to hand it to a minister who seems as loose with the truth, as arrogant in ignoring the opinions of experts, and as quick to paint any opposition to his legislation as “pro child porn” as Senator Conroy.

    And here’s another unspoken elephant in the room: if all this filtering is so necessary, why are the only countries with this sort of filtering ones you wouldn’t want to be seen dead with? Senator Conroy keeps bringing up examples of nice friendly countries that have similar legislation, but it always turns out that his research has been dead wrong: the examples he brought up always turn out to be “opt in” filters. I have no objection to “opt in” filters, in fact I did not object to the previous government’s one, which Senator Conroy helped trash. When independent assessors (especially overseas ones) look at the proposed legislation, they immediately mention China, North Korea, and Iran, not Norway or Canada. Senator Conroy does not seem to have any answers to these experts.

    In fact, how does Senator Conroy explain that the more educated anyone is about the Internet the more likely it seems to be that they profoundly disagree with his filtering legislation? Nearly everyone I have seen who SUPPORTS the legislation freely admits to almost complete ignorance as to how the internet actually works. That kind of support smells of “it’s important that we be seen to be doing something about it, because it’s bad, but I neither know nor care if the proposed solution will actually be effective.” Appealing to the ignorance of these voters may be effective politics, but it does not constitute responsible government. And it will all turn to anger when these people find out that after the filter comes in, when little Johnny types “porn” into Google, he is not going to get “no results found”.

    This is deeply flawed legislation which will have almost zero effect on child porn, almost zero effect on children accessing porn, and completely zero effect on pedophiles accessing children (which is not something Senator Conroy is claiming, but is in my opinion erroneously assumed by supporters of the legislation). The strategy has only two filtering options: to have a blacklist so small it will be almost unnoticeable in effect, or to have a blacklist so large that the 1000-site trials will be completely inappropriate in determining whether net access will be slowed.

    This legislation will do Australia’s reputation great harm, and will achieve nothing else. In fact I believe it will be LESS effective than the Liberal government’s NetAlert.

  58. Ben

    Hash: SHA512

    David, strictly speaking “paedophilia” refers to pre-pubescant children. Presumably this is why the other commenter is making those claims. I can’t remember the correct term for pubescent, but underage.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.9 (Darwin)
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  59. Nathan Jones

    Pity I wasn’t around during the day to comment: who’ll read anything down this far? 😉

    1. Thank you to Crikey for publishing Conroy’s response. Only by hearing both sides can we confirm which position is stronger.

    2. There’s (relatively) way too much focus on technical issues. Whilst important, we also need coverage of the various other issues with the plan. Here’s one: economics. That is, is it worth it? This is what I mean:

    – First, there’s a goal or a reason. God, I hope there’s a goal besides the warm and fuzzy statements like “make the internet a safer place” and “limit exposure to RC-rated material online”.
    – Implementing the blocking will come at a cost – to taxpayers, to ISPs and to consumers.
    – It will also bring benefits; I’m not clear on what these are, but they should be factored in.
    – There are also alternatives: ways to achieve the goal(s) if you don’t mandate filtering/blocking.

    Now comes the hard part: analysis. Is there a thorough cost-benefit analysis that does the following?

    – States the goal.
    – Quantifies the costs of filtering (accurately).
    – Quantifies the dollar value of the benefits.
    – Demonstrates how well the goal will be met and the extent to which benefits will be realised.
    – Provides the above information for alternatives as well (including alternatives such as doing nothing, or putting even more money into fighting child abuse, depending on what the goal is).

    I don’t like the filtering plan and I worry about unintended consequences that may arise in the future; but if there’s a compelling analysis that shows that filtering is the best use of money for a stated goal – that is, if the Government is doing its job and legislating based on rationale rather than emotion – then maybe it’s worth supporting.

  60. Dez Hoy

    I’m not convinced, Minister. In fact, I’m more suspicious than before that agendas other than those you have presented are afoot. Like others here, I have never seen a child porn site or accidentally stumbled across one. A child has more chance of a traumatic encounter with a “thumper” at a local beach or a boiled lolly trenchcoater at school or a fallen priest at church.

    If someone really wants to learn how to take drugs, they’ll get a better (more experiential) education at Kings Cross or Nimbin than on the internet. More to the point, if someone wants to learn how to take drugs they’re better off being encouraged to do it safely and being well informed.

    If some one really wants to self harm, or do violent crime, etc…….

    I’m wary of you saying this is “one part of a range of measures designed to make the internet a safer place.” But, I’ll give you the benefit if the doubt for now, so how about this? We agree to a live, full scale trial of the filter (say, 12 months?) and measure, before and after, incidences of child porn trading, child abuse, drug taking, self harm, terrorism and violent crime. If any of these incidences are reduced (by say 10%?) and it is conclusive such a reduction can be attributed to the filter, and the cost of the reduction is cheaper than other methods of enforcement, and the internet hasn’t become a real clunker, then you may keep your filter.

    Provided, of course, you can guarantee all measures and conclusions will be done by someone independent, and that this and future governments won’t seek to meddle with blacklisting criteria and stack the governing bodies of relevant regulatory authorities with “mates”.

  61. mad cow

    Let me cut through this entire debate in the following way.

    Senator Conroy has another option. That is to abandon the classification law and instead to base the blacklist on the following:

    1. The blacklist is based on laws that clearly and objectively define illegality. We know exactly what this means and if this were the case, a host of objections to the content of the list would vanish.

    2. The blacklist is compiled by law enforcement, subject to independent oversight and maintenance and subject to judicial review. This dispenses with issues of secrecy, personal taste and corruption.

    Now, what is striking about this entire debate, Senator Conroy, is the fact that given this alternative, you don’t grab it with both hands. You clearly are sacrificing your Party’s good will, and if you are absolutely honest about wanting to block ONLY illegal content, you have absolutely no escape from this proposition.

    Imagine if the Senate were to move an amendment to that effect – to divorce the blacklist from the classification system and to give it to those best able to judge illegality – the police and the judiciary.

    How would you vote, Senator Conroy?

    Dear reader, it is very obvious that this entire debate is built upon one central lie. And that is that the Senator wants to block only illegal material. No more, no less. But the reality is that if this were the case he would neither inherit from the censorship laws, nor would he hand the task to public servants whose task is to judge taste. He would have no option but to abandon classification law and to vote for the above amendment.

    The sad thing is, that to the extent that blacklisting child porn and violent web sites has any effect at all (it will have next to none – and I’ll explain why in a moment) the objective of child protection will be endangered by cluttering the same list with what is mostly harmless rubbish that does no harm at all to normal adults. Indeed, the bigger you make the list, the more you make it a target for deliberate leaks, and the more you make it easier to reverse engineer the list – and in so doing you simply raise the probability of publishing the addresses of (what were) child porn sites.

    Senator Conroy has all along tried to lead people to the inference that if something is banned, not only is it “bad” but it is “illegal”. Now that he is losing this debate, when it is pointed out that most RC content is legal to view, in most places (with some obvious exceptions), what he does instead is point out that RC content is illegal to distribute.

    What that argument actually does does is to highlight the objectionable nature of the classification law itself. That we have laws that stop adults from seeing things (and in order to see them you have to obtain them) that are not illegal or harmful but are simply what some other people don’t want us to see. This is the core of what censorship means. The internet allowed people to bypass the blocks on distribution of RC material, and this is precisely what offends those who wish protect us from impure thoughts.

    The movement to oppose gay marriage despite overwhelming public support and the campaign to extend censorship law into the internet, have something in common. They reflect the angst of those whose religion tells them to “correct” the thoughts and behaviour of non believers and if necessary to interfere with the laws of the land.

    Senator Conroy, I am sure you have read “The High Price of Heaven” by David Marr. How the Church has repeatedly tried to interfere with the State, about the victimisation of homosexuals, and about the driving forces behind censorship. I suggest you have a long hard think and realise that even if the Christian Lobby has votes, you’re still here to govern for the majority.

    Now to the technical detail. It would be a reasonable guess to surmise that within the current blacklist, those sites that are, or more correctly were, of child pornography, were submitted via law enforcement channels. Its also well known that when such sites become known to law enforcement they are promptly taken down. So to the extent that the blacklist contains child pornography or other sites that are genuinely illegal, it is also a fact that such sites are almost certainly defunct even before they even get a chance to be on the list. And to my knowledge, no URL on the leaked blacklists pointed to a functional child porn web site.

    The next absurdity in this whole debate is the fact that the blacklist as it stands is really a sample. Its based mostly on public submission. The fact is that if you were to gather together the entire content of the web and send it to ACMA (even ignoring the prompt mass resignations) the material that would theoretically be classified as RC (or in this case might merely be written up as potentially RC but not yet submitted for formal classification) would amount to conservatively, some tens to hundreds of thousands of URLs.

    No filter is capable of this task. The reason is simple. Those filters that appeared to do well in the trials rely upon features built into common routers, where traffic to certain IP addresses is directed or copied to a separate interface. The problem here is that every single IP packet address has to at least be compared to all of those IP addresses in the list. As this list grows, the router reaches hard wired limits. And without going into even further detail (my formal training is in computer engineering) you’re either going to get a massive speed degradation, or the filter will break, or the router will simply cease to function. And the limits will typically be reached at a few thousand to a few tens of thousands of addresses.

    The filter trials were purposely designed not to expose such limits.
    The filter trials were purposely designed not to expose a number of other technical limitations.

    Those of us who understand the technology know quite well that the filter will not scale. It cannot even remotely serve its stated purpose.

    Senator Conroy what you are doing robs resources from law enforcement, makes life harder for genuine child protection agencies, muddies the issue, distracts the public debate from important issues such as parental education and so poisons the well that even if you now propose to merely filter only illegal material and turn your back on the censorship law, that it will be hard for people to believe you.

    What you are doing Sir, requires an astonishing act of sheer gall. You’re trying to sell a lie to three groups of people:

    You’re telling one group of people that RC material is all illegal, and if you can’t do that you’re trying to fool as many people as possible that RC material if it isn’t illegal, is at least horribly objectionable, nasty and perhaps immoral. No, it isn’t

    You’re telling another group of people that it will be safe to leave their young kids alone with the internet. This is not only a hoax, but a cruel one.

    and at the same time…

    You’re telling yet another group of people – those who see it as their god given right to protect us from ourselves – that the filter will stamp out all the horribly morally objectionable things that a lot of us just plain enjoy. And when they finally figure out that the net is bigger, much much bigger, than your filter – you can guess what the Christian Lobby is going to do next…

  62. Malcolm Street

    First point – as has been said before, this is a Web filter, not an Internet one. The really nasty stuff is on peer-peer links, which it can’t tackle. You would have to be mad to put kiddy porn on a Web site – it would be a dirty great beacon to law enforcement agencies to say “come and bust me”. Similarly, if you were a paedophile you’d have to be mad to visit a kiddy porn Web site – if the site were busted the law would have no problems checking access stats to track users down.

    So the Web is not going to be the favoured location of child pornography for either suppliers or readers.

    So why pick on the Web?

    I’ve been using the Web since 1995 (ie in comparitively early). I have *never* come across a child porn site. This isn’t to say that they don’t exist, just that I’ve *never, ever* come across one in fourteen years of surfing the Web.

    So just how big is the danger of coming across one inadvertently?

    I just don’t understand what the problem is that this project is supposed to be solving if the worst problem is access to child pornography. The corollory of that is to ask what is the real problem it’s solving? And that appears to be to appease the control freak elements of radical Christianity.

    The baby boom generation are now getting to retirement age. They’ve radically changed society at each stage of their lives, and have continually challenged social conventions each time. Soon they’ll be dying. And you know what? They’re not going to want to suffer agonising, lingering, humiliating deaths just because some god-botherer says they must. As with everything else, they’re going to want control of the process, and that means access to information on voluntary euthanasia. I think that *this* is the big long term issue that’s alarming the imaginary friend brigade, not child porn.

    And like everyone else I’m concerned about the “coincidence” of this policy getting up at the same time as unprecedented power of conservative Christians in the political process. What would a Tony Abbot led government do with it? Would we see depictions of homosexual acts and information on abortion added to the list?

  63. James McDonald

    That’s right, the police are our instrument for fighting child s-xual abuse. It’s a ghastly, soul destroying job to do from all accounts, and yet they do it bloody well.

    If the Senator has a few lazy millions to spend on further child protection, then I want him to ask the police for advice on how best to spend it.

  64. October

    If the minister is calling to put in an action that is surely opposed by the majority of voters, could this call for a referendum?

    Threatening to vote for the opposition would be no use, as they have a similar retarded, reptilian mindset.

    A referendum might bring these idiots to their senses.

    What say you?

  65. Nathan Jones

    Ben: You’re probably thinking of the term ephebophilia, but since it’s not in wide usage, it’s really a matter of semantics. People not only think of paedophilia as attraction to underage children, but – with no regard to grammar – as the act of engaging sexually with someone underage.

    David would have a valid valid point, however, had he asked “since when was porn involving a 13 year old not illegal?”

    What concerns me about filtering/blocking, aside from my questions about effectiveness and economics above, is the difficult task of classifying content on the Internet. There are many “barely legal” porn sites where 18+ models may look younger. I doubt these would be classified as RC at this point, but down the track, who knows? All it takes is for a Government to come to power, see the blocking infrastructure, see the ineffectiveness of the current approach, then decide to push it further.

  66. minniemouse

    Like skipjack and others I am seriously considering changing my vote from Labor. This latest lie from Conroy on behalf of his leader is enough. The thought of changing to Abbott and his lineup of religious right is equally distasteful and the Greens? After 20 years of being a loyal Labor supporter, I’m now swinging. Thankyou Mr Rudd, for nothing.

  67. Martin C

    October: Having a referendum on this issue will bring it into focus in the community and allow concerned citizens to voice to the wider public the gaping flaws in Senator Conroy’s argument for the filter. As several Liberal party MPs and Senators have already expressed their opposition to the legislation, it seems unlikely a referendum would achieve the bipartisan support needed historically for any referendum to pass. The referendum would fail, probably miserably judging by the numbers in every forum except those in churches, and Senator Conroy would end up looking a complete dill.

    For all of the above reasons, Senator Conroy is not in our wildest dreams going to chance his arm on a referendum. His actions is releasing the initial draft of this policy a scant five days before the election, then releasing the amended “mandatory” bit in the pre-Christmas “news snooze” period, show he is well aware that a majority of Australians are opposed to the legislation and he needs to slide it in without opening it up to close scrutiny.

  68. EngineeringReality

    Mad Cow @ 7:39am today:

    excellent and comprehensive summary and argument of the salient points of this issue. Hear, hear!

    Senator Conroy – have a read and open your eyes!

    Howard ignored the electorate and developed such a god complex he thought he could straight out lie to the people and get away with it – and I bet he is still reeling from the flogging he got in his “safe” liberal seat.

    This is a democracy Senator Conroy – take time out this holiday season to reflect that you are there to represent the people – not dictate or impose or lie to them.

  69. David Sanderson

    There are some pretty extravagant fantasies here about what internet censorship will be like in practice but none have been able to top Stilgherrian’s contention that we may be “on the path to Burma”.

  70. minniemouse

    Its a sad observation that even on this Christmas eve, there are some as Mr Sanderson who do not have any semblance of good will. Surely on this one day personal abuse and unpleasantness can be avoided.
    Seasons greetings everyone.

  71. James McDonald

    No, referendums should only be called for constitutional changes, or we end up like California. The role of the demos is to review performance and to growl warnings about likely voter backlash.

    For that to work, we need an Opposition. Maybe this is the key to Sen Conroy’s brazen confidence that the plan will pass into law. The Coalition have been near silent on the topic. This is all Tony Abbott had to say on the subject:

    [QUESTION: Can I ask you about a couple of issues that have been… raised prominence in the last couple of days? Firstly, the internet filtering system. As a man of the digital revolution yourself, do you think that the proposed internet filter system is desirable or feasible or both?
    TONY ABBOTT: Annabel, I am not really familiar with the technicalities of this proposal. I think that it makes sense to try to ensure that the homes of Australia aren’t invaded with pornography via the internet. On the other hand I don’t want to see wider censorship and I don’t want to see the internet destroyed as a tool for people’s education or as a tool for people’s businesses. So it is question of whether this is technically feasible and I just don’t know enough about it at this stage to have an opinion on that.
    QUESTION: Does the Coalition have a position on internet filtering?
    TONY ABBOTT: We are open to proposals provided they achieve their objective without unfortunate side effects.]

  72. mad cow

    Nathan Jones, web sites featuring young looking, but nevertheless 18+ models are not only getting routinely classified as RC but feature heavily in the leaked blacklists.

  73. David Sanderson

    Like the original Minnie Mouse you did make me laugh. There was, of course, no abuse in the post you refer to. Your real objection is that I do not concur with the cosy consensus where people are allowed to believe whatever they like regardless of the facts and, more importantly, the political, cultural, institutional and historical contexts for those facts.

    I will not put the whole argument here, as I have already done so in my argument with Stilgherrian and others following his path to Burma article, but there is every reason to believe that the censorship regime will, taking into account the different technological requirements, be consistent with Australia’s history and current practice of censorship. In fact, internet censorship is likely to be much less extensive than for any other area.

    The censorship proponents are far from being the most alarmist, it is the anti campaign that is scaremongering and indulging in extravagant fantasies.

  74. NoMandatoryFilter

    In reply to a few of Senator Conroy’s remarks:

    “Interestingly Colin Jacobs, who has been spruiking his views on the government’s position, blurring the lines, burying the facts and wilfully misleading the Australian public…”

    Pot, meet kettle.

    “If regulation or so called censorship of the internet has got Colin Jacobs so enraged with the government’s recent announcement, where has he been for the past nine years where the internet in Australia has been regulated far more heavily. The government’s filtering policy applies only to the worst of the worst content hosted overseas which brings it into line with what has been going on in Australia for the past nine years without the outrage.”

    We haven’t had mandatory internet filtering in Australia before. That is the whole reason why your policy is so contentious. What was that you said about burying the facts and wilfully misleading the Australian public?

    “Let me repeat the government has been clear that mandatory filtering will only apply to RC-rated content. This content is not available in newsagencies, on library shelves, at the cinema or on DVD and you certainly can’t watch it on TV. Why shouldn’t Australian ISPs be required to block access to such content?”

    You keep implying that all other media besides the internet is treated equally when you (should) know that there are differences applicable to print media, film and television. Besides, you aren’t even promising to block access to all RC-rated content on the internet but only a subset (a few thousand web pages), because you know that you can never hope to classify all the content on the internet in its entirety. Finally, testing has shown that every filter product can be circumvented, so you’re really just wasting money on a lost cause.

    Change your policy to enable “opt in” filtering for those who think they need it and forget about the mandatory filter and I’m sure that no one will care then what you block.

  75. James McDonald

    Actually the alarm and “extravagant fantasies” are not irresponsible rhetorical tactics; they are the essential reason for the objections.

    Government in Australia has never had the authority in peacetime to stop the newspaper presses, jam a radio signal or a television signal, or even threaten a person with criminal conviction for revealing national security secrets unless that person has voluntarily signed the Official Secrets Act. The “D Notices” you may have read about are simply advisories with no law behind them–anyway I don’t think they’ve been used for years since Jack Waterford of the Canberra Times made a sport of flouting them. Films or magazines must be reviewed one by one before receiving RC classification and each decision is transparent and subject to review.

    The government has simply never had any power like this to monopolise the major medium of society’s communications in peacetime. I don’t think they’ve ever even sought such power before.

    So the question is not “should the internet be subject to censorship,” but rather, “can the government be trusted to control censorship all by itself?”

    You’ve previously made some guesses about my age outlook so let’s take a stab at yours: I think your intentions are good but you lack the knowledge of world affairs and history to understand what a dangerous brew is the mixture of good intentions and monolithic power.

  76. scottyea

    In typical politician fashion, a politician highlights the nitty-gritties, obscuring the wider picture.

    What a tool.

  77. David Sanderson

    James illustrates my point about extravagant fantasies to perfection. Thank you for a job well done.

  78. James McDonald

    Is that all you’ve got left David? Simply applying adjectives to statements you disagree with? Or, perhaps, for all the repetition of your posts here and elsewhere, that was all you had to begin with. A classic example of how the opinions of the many can be matched volume for volume by one person if he’s willing to do an impression of a jackhammer.

  79. marius

    What nobody mentions is that this filter is completely ineffective. Stopping childporn should be a top priority, but spending 42 millions dollars on something that does nothing is such a waste.

    The filter stops people typing banned urls in the top of their browser screens. Solution – go to a proxy website (lis is found at http://webevader.org/). Then type in your banned website address in the proxy website.

    It takes a single mouse click to bypass this 42 milltion dollar filter.. what a waste if it can be bypassed with a single mouse click.

    It would also be harder for law inforcement to track pedophiles, as they will then use proxy sites for viewing childporn. As they do not access the content directly there is no way of tracking down these people.

    Conclusion: This filter does nothing to stop people looking at childpornography and even makes it harder for law inforcement to monitor potential pedophiles. Its a waste of money and a bad idea this ISP filtering.

  80. David Jackmanson

    “Let me repeat the government has been clear that mandatory [censorship] will only apply to RC-rated content. This content is not available in newsagencies, on library shelves, at the cinema or on DVD and you certainly can’t watch it on TV. Why shouldn’t Australian ISPs be required to block access to such content?”

    Only about 1/3 of the current blacklist contains child porn material, which is already illegal to possess in Australia. The other 2/3 contains material that is LEGAL for Australians to possess.

    Why should Australian ISPs be required to censor material that is legal for Australians to view and possess?

    Why should Australians trust any Government to not expand censorship laws in the future. _Already_ an anti-abortion site has been censored in Australia:


    Can we trust any Government with such censorship laws?

  81. Wombat39

    Dear oh dear Mr Conroy.

    It isn’t about the filter. It is about censorship.

    Legislate our freedom of speech, and I’ll cop the filter on the chin.

  82. Funkstick

    This issue has gotten beyond arguing, he is not listening. So here’s some simplicity for Stephen Conroy. I voted Labour at the last election, do this and I will not vote Labour in the next election.

  83. chazzai

    Thank you very much to everyone who has taken time to write on this. The arguments, both for and against, are interesting.

    Instinctively I am against this filter. But when I ask myself how I can justify being against it, but not equally insulted by the general censorship laws in Australia, I find it hard to argue and even nod a bit when reading DS’s input.

    For me it boils down to this:
    1 – This is ‘issue-du-jour.’ We are not being asked to debate general censorship, but actually I think that in Australia the general censorship laws are over the top too. There may be RC stuff that does no harm to anyone, is adult, consensual, and I want to be able to view. The classification ‘RC’ seems too arbitrary to be used for such generalised censorship on the web.
    2 – I have not heard 1 technically qualified person say this filter will actually work and not be extremely easy to workaround.
    3 – If I understand this post properly, the filtered material will not be explicit, and the list will not be public. How can that lack of public oversight and accountability be acceptable in a democracy?

  84. Sean

    This is an extract from a letter I wrote to Senator Conroy following prompting from the GetUp campaign:

    Dear Senator Conroy,

    I’m writing to you today about your Internet filter. I’ve been told it’s to continue buying horse-trading votes from Family First, but it may be something else but equally pathological, who knows. It’s up to the imagination in the secret world of government horse trades, the public never finds out, we are living in Orwell’s 1984 society of course.

    It strikes me, working in IT, that if I wanted to actually put an end to ‘child pornography rings’ and so on, I would not blacklist sites on a national basis, but I would monitor instead any accesses to these sites made by people operating inside Australia, capture their Internet addresses, contact the ISPs with whom I would have an arrangement to ascertain their identities, and monitor these people closely with the aim of eventual prosecution after having discovered who they are. If these sites are blocked, you will never know who went to look at them or for what reason. Much as Customs and the AFP like to plan ‘stings’ to catch people importing drugs into the country and catch as wide a circle of people as possible by laying low and following consignments leaving the docks, one would think you would want to plan such a covert sting operation on viewers of these materials. By simply blocking the accesses, you will never be able to catch out the people interested in this material, and who knows, they may find other outlets like going overseas on holiday to physically chase vulnerable children in another country — there are several low-income countries in the region we can all name in this regard.

    Hence, I can only conclude, apart from the horse-trading you may have done with various religious Independents and small parties in order to buy their votes on more important bills you want to pass, that you have an agenda in selectively blocking other sites in much the same way that China has elected to do — that you will use it to stifle political dissent, to hush up the frequent embarassments your government will inevitably commit, to stifle free speech, and so on and so forth.

    It is for these reasons that I oppose your instatement of a national filter as anti-democratic and apparently not well designed for its stated purpose.

    I hope one day that Australia ceases to be a near-fascist state, a state with poor government and poor ministers where parties are run by overpaid elitist apparatchiks in suits, parties are run by spin doctors who instinctively lie (there’s a career for compulsive liars apart from selling used cars!), that it stops heading towards an Orwellian 1984 outcome, that it might meet the most basic expectations of democratic participation one day. I wait for that day with bated breath.

    Yours sincerely,


    I work in IT, and also have an active blogging presence, much of which is critical of the ‘Big 2’ political parties in Australia, both of which are pretty well corrupted and Machiavellian and by now quietly fit the original definition of a ‘fascist state’ i.e. an anti-democratic bundle of decision-makers made up of big business and government deciding what’s good for everyone.

    The Anglosphere Westminster system, unfortunately, inherently seems to swing to a two party preferred system, largely due to the ‘one electorate-one seat’ system, rather than a fairer and more democratic proportional voting system. However, I’d encourage everyone to vote for minor parties the next time around to try to break the stranglehold the Big 2 right wing Tweedledee and Tweedledum parties have on this country. The more votes minor parties get, the more likely to have an upset of the ruling order in the upper or lower houses. Neither big party is convincing any more, but they will do anything to stifle electoral reform and risk losing their power. The pathology we have at present is the need for one of the big parties to buy a vote from a single vested interest seat, in one of the rare cases a special interest party has managed to gain a seat in Parliament.

  85. Woomera

    Mohandas Gandhi once said “For me every ruler is alien that defies public opinion.”

    How about you Mr Conroy?

  86. happyez

    What pisses me off big time about Australia (or any country that does the same), is the 2 major parties (particularly the ALP) to control parts of Australian society based on who gives them the best deals/ in return gives them more donations and power. The most obvious ones that come to mind at the moment are the NSW ALP and developers, banning homebirths for the AMA, compromising the environment for a primary industry-friendly ETS, but the general segregation of group in society as unlistened to – greenies, indigenous – and those listened to – primary industries, farmers, business in general.

    This is an extremely average way to run a society, and this censorship decision is quite a surprising one to make, if the government really wanted to compete on an international footing.

    At the worst, I imagine that this censorship decision took ooooo maybe a week to fully process and decide upon.

    I am sure it was based upon:
    • the attention and interest those in the most important seats will pay to this issue, and vote against the government on (ie. freakin’ noone)
    • who gains them votes through this (highly religious people , which comprise quite a lot in the outer seats, where things matter to the government)
    • allows a group to be attacked, the typical way in which governments create perceived threats to normalicy (those who disagree with this love child p0rn). Don’t know if this provides actual votes, but keeps the environment on a controllable level.
    • deals this allows Rudd in the Senate (love to know what the government got in return from say, oooo, Fielding, on this one
    • getting helicopter parents/ those who collect prams/ scared of pedophiles but not putting a hat on their kid when in the summer sun …. onside through fear of something they know little about.
    • the government can control a wayward media. Whoohoo.

    I mean, its obvious to me that the government of the type we have would jump at the chance to put this through.

    How much power does anyone here have in dislodging the ALP from a host of seats, thus denying they what they really just want, power? Will the combination of IT workers, intellectuals, and ISP hosts do ANYTHING to really affect them? And they know that no mass of people are going to vote anything but the 2 major parties. They know people don’t investigate, don’t care for democracy really, just want to survive in life and not lose their job or their kids.

    Would the Rudd people have chosen this path if that was the case?

    Do people think that the average voter would do anything contrary to this?

    Just asking really. I’d love to be wrong on this one.

    What other options are there? A legal challenge? Possible?

  87. David Sanderson

    “critical of the ‘Big 2’ political parties in Australia, both of which are pretty well corrupted and Machiavellian and by now quietly fit the original definition of a ‘fascist state’ i.e. an anti-democratic bundle of decision-makers made up of big business and government deciding what’s good for everyone.”

    Can political analysis get much more simple-minded and ignorant than this? I doubt it.

  88. Sean

    ‘David Sanderson’, you avoid explaining any of your constant slurs in the comments sections, and fit the category of a troll. For this reason, I am going to ask Crikey to moderate your comments and preferably have you struck off the list of posters permanently.

  89. Sean

    David Sanderson, have you read this recent article in the SMH concerning the property-related antics of NSW Labor? Please try to reply sensibly with some sort of rationale, analysis or counter-evidence instead of dropping more empty slurs. (Just do this once before they ban you shortly for your empty posting to date.)

    You might also like to think about the justifications for Australia participating in Iraq/Afghanistan (admitted to be “the Alliance”), the reasons for purchasing huge quantities of Tamiflu when it turns out it doesn’t actually do anything, that the ALP is going to buy 12 subs in an arms race with China when it currently only has enough crew to staff 2 of the present 6 Collins class subs, and so on. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the anti-democratic incompetence, corruption and cronyism stories that are out there. Clearly it’s not appropriate to paste every single such issue in a forum discussion about Conroy’s internet filters. Certainly, you have not been prepared to provide evidence of anything to date, simply contributing a long series of slurs.

    The ALP has never been a progressive party, at best it’s a slightly ameliorative party against the worst aspects of the market society, that is, when it’s not actively going along with big business agendas. The only progressive we’ve seen for a long time, perhaps in all of Labor’s history, has been Gough Whitlam, and he was a one-off flash in the pan who chose to ‘crash through or crash’ and finally crashed, which is a real shame for the Australian people as it has turned out. At every election, the stupid rusted-on voters vote for the same big parties, and the Anglosphere one seat-one electorate system finishes the job by denying a voice to smaller representative parties.

  90. David Sanderson

    “For this reason, I am going to ask Crikey to moderate your comments and preferably have you struck off the list of posters permanently.”

    How ironic for a supposed anti-censorship campaigner.

    Anyone who spouts off about Australia being a fasc*st state and then suggests that is because the Australian people are too ‘stupid” to vote for his preferred alternative is showing signs of fasc*st tendencies themselves.

    I did not deal in detail with your views because some views are so outrageously ludicrous that they are worthy only of the dismissal I gave yours.

  91. Sean

    “For this reason, I am going to ask Crikey to moderate your comments and preferably have you struck off the list of posters permanently.”

    How ironic for a supposed anti-censorship campaigner.

    Yeah, it’s funny, isn’t it? I’ve dealt with a number of trolls on my forums in the past similarly, including taking successful police action in one case, and so I suppose I can fleetingly sympathise with Steve Conroy. Fleetingly.

    The fact hat you can’t distinguish between the two is reflective both of the superficiality of your posts so far, and of your trolling intent.

    As a poster above mentioned, they have never once in 15 years of using the net accidentally encountered a kiddy porn site by surfing, njor received spam to that effect, and I can say the same for myself. Whereas, your empty and antagonistic comments towards other posters, and other posters only, are being thrust in everyone’s faces, as a troll likes to do. (I’ve always noted that when you call a troll out, they get temporarily worse, before disappearing in a puff of bannination.)

    As per my post, the one you disparaged, I point out that the AFP would be far more successful if they tracked down internet kiddy porn surfers with the aim of prosecution rather than blocking access and letting them act out their fantasies on the local population or overseas. However the public, internet experts and child sex offender experts have had no part to play in a discussion or debate about this — hence, one reason Australia is an anti-democratic fascist state, and that people like Conroy believe in the ‘right of kings’ to do anything without consultation. This is just another example. Conroy was caught out when he could not name any other Western country who has implemented such a system, and in fact the list contains only despotic developing countries with totalitarian aims.

    ‘David Sanderson’ fits the definition of a troll in that he only criticises other posters, and contributes nothing of substance. Reasons could be 1) just a curmudgeonly individual, 2) a heavily biased ALP ‘true believer’ but not employed by the party, or 3) an adviser or
    other ALP functionary tasked to disrupt and discredit the comments being made on this thread in particular.

    For that reason, I’m going to continue to prosecute a case against you with the Crikey! staff. Tick, tock. Better make some more abrasive, ad hominem posts that add nothing to the debate, like a good troll does. If you’re an ALP functionary, you won’t care if you get banned. If an ordinary Crikey! consumer, perhaps you will.

    I did not deal in detail with your views because some views are so outrageously ludicrous that they are worthy only of the dismissal I gave yours.

    That sounds like a typical troll cop-out to me, just like all your other posts. Keep up the posts, ‘David Sanderson’, they’re just adding to the public evidence. Thank you.

  92. Sean

    ‘David Sanderson’, your posts, while extremely narcissistic and dseigned to offend, could not be more wrong.

  93. Mines a Newt

    Sean is right. You’re trolling, not arguing. Crickey’s entitled to ban you based on their rules about trolling. But don’t pretend that banning you, if it happened, would be censorship. Crickey’s just a website, it’s not the internet. Crickey’s rules apply to Crickey, and they’re free to set them. You’d be perfectly free to go and troll somewhere else.

    Now a proposal to set government control on what Australian people can view or read on the whole bloody internet, that’s genuinely extremely bloody alarming. And cut the crap: that’s what this is, and anyone who thinks a government will not abuse such a power is living in lala land.

    But tossing a tiresome troll off a thread, that isn’t alarming at all.

  94. Mines a Newt

    Crikey, not Crickey, obviously. Cricket on the brain, for some reason.

  95. David Sanderson

    Sean had the opportunity to defend his proposition that Australia is a fasc*st state but to his small credit he failed to do so. He then erased that credit by claiming that I should be censored because I upset him.

    There is a limit to how much time and space should be spent dealing with fools and I am sure I have exceeded that limit so this is the last time I will be responding to Sean or the newt on this thread.

  96. Elapses

    I have head the term “vile material” being mindlessly thrown around by Conroy and those in favor of the censorship plan. Although I do believe in taking a stance and position on the debate, it is hard to believe you are neutral when you are using such inflammatory words as “vile”to back up your argument – and using Telstra for your stats!! For a start “vile” is a subjective word, what I believe to be vile, may be acceptable for another. I can’t agree more with eradicating child porn, but I know this will not dent it’s popularity amongst those who already view/ participate in it – or those who will in the future. And the guise of ‘child porn’ is a blatantly transparent facade for the unfortunate reality: THE GOVERNMENT & CHRISTIAN RIGHT WING HAVE FINALLY FOUND A WAY TO OPPRESS AND MANIPULATE NON-BELIEVERS AND BELIEVERS ALIKE!! THROUGH OUR INTERNET!!!
    Violence is reality – Stephen Conroy’s Government actively participate in acts of abhorrent violence every day – it’s called wars. Will this mean some Government bureaucrat will be sitting in an office deciding what is too violent for the general public to view?? It is just astounding to be living in the year 2009 and having to eat this dribble from our own government. I am Pro-Abortion and Anti-Christ. Fuck you Stephen Conroy. I hope your children get aids. Censorship is oppression. “Filtering” is a euphemism for censoring. We are not morons!

  97. Sean

    I’ve actually written several paragraphs, but they have been held up in moderation since yesterday. Very well written too, if I do say so myself.

    Would you like me to paste them in 1 para at a time for your edification, David Sanderson, while you continue to post single line putdowns of each poster here as your main stock in argument?

    I must say David Sanderson’s style is the most juvenile attempt at trolling I’ve seen here to date.

  98. commonperson

    when an individual steps out of line..online… the AFP are obliged to act, whats the problem?

    when you try to control people, there is a measurable counter effect

    Just another example of the small minority at work again.. that small distorted minority who have a disproportinatley large influence on our legislative framework

  99. Martin C

    Here’s another issue that occurred to me: how will the government be certain that each ISP is filtering each of their users? Couldn’t a pedophile start their own ISP, sign up all their pedophile mates as users, and simply NOT filter those mates? Not only would those users be filter-free, but the government would be sending them the entire list of known pedophile websites … and updating it for them monthly! A goverment that introduces this legislation is going to look pretty stupid if it later turns out that the pedophiles obtained knowledge of pedophile websites by having the government regularly send it to them.

    Please note that I don’t actually think any pedophile would bother to do this, because as everyone except Senator Conroy is aware, pedophiles are using peer-to-peer connections, not websites, to obtain child porn, so the whole filtering proposal won’t concern them in the slightest. But it would seem to be another gaping flaw in the claimed logic behind the proposed legislation.

  100. Sean

    Posted Tuesday, 29 December 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
    when an individual steps out of line..online… the AFP are obliged to act, whats the problem?

    Indeed, you would think if you wanted to target the root behaviour, and apprehend these people with the intent of punishing, neutralising or rehabilitating them, you would create a very un-public system of ISP notifications as I’ve suggested above, find out who they are, keep an eye on them, try to break ‘rings’, and have the AFP and Interpol work closely together on trapping people operating on international internet sites.

    So what does this failed, cynical and hypocritical government do instead? Propose a very public filter that will simply drive these people underground and let them continue with their activities in secret through other channels — and possibly with the veiled intent of shutting down their political opponents on a whim, by ‘accidentally’ adding sites antithetical to the govt to the blacklist, something only done so far in the most despotic countries in the world. Could take months to get them back off the list once the ‘misunderstanding’ is cleared up, by which the time the political issue will have blown over. Reminds me of the sorts of controls at APEC — and the public perception of security at APEC just prior to the election I believe was a big factor that lead to the end of John Howard. Nobody wants to live in a police state run by conspicuous paid thugs and bullies — people who will attack other citizens for $50K a year and a bit of overtime pay. This is a government that has no compunctions about lying bold-facedly to the people about its intent in any area of policy, and simply cannot be trusted on any front. Replaced Workchoices with Workchoices Lite, ‘affordable housing’ strategies designed to inflate housing prices and reward developer donors, an ETS designed to do nothing, etc etc.

  101. Jillian Blackall

    I have not read the nearly 100 comments but I read the piece from Senator Conroy.

    “In these times of bloggers, citizen journalism and the 24-hour news cycle, quality journalism is under threat. Nowhere is it more apparent than in Crikey.”

    What a disgrace!

    With contempt for the internet as expressed here, why should we listen to anything he has to say about it?

  102. Rollo

    @Senator Conroy:

    As an Infinite Voter for the ALP, I have suddenly realised the Finiteness of this Infinity, thus, I shall record a Donkey Vote at the next election. I do not doubt that you may be a good geezer, I do doubt this Authoritarian Crack you are trying to make Australians live. This is Communist Crap, and like all the Communist Soups dished out before, it will taste like Effluvia Gravy.

    The faintly shill ridiculousness of the ALP has a crushing whiff of populism. The voting pangs I feel at not voting for the party I used to love has the scented pang of unhappiness. I do not understand, nor know, what it means to be part of the ALP anymore. Or maybe I do: the mendacious thirst for power in its loneliness. I won`t vote Libs with Abbott, and I won`t vote Greens with Brown. I am the lonely voter who will vote for the Onely Party.

    The ALP is a disgrace to the Australian Nation. I never thought we would turn into the People`s Republic of China, but apparently with these incompetent puritans on board we may just give that cause a run for its money.

  103. minniemouse

    Hear hear Rollo, well said.

  104. gef05


    Put your filter in place. Your political career has nowhere to go anyway so the failure wont impact you.



  105. my say

    i am with senator conroy for need to look after our children/
    us parents and grandparent s need support , we take very seriously what our children and grandchildren watch, even though the computer is in the living area it is possible for something to come on to the computer and parents not notice it for some minutes.
    e.g. my daughter busy with her back to the computer screen i was visiting and i noticed something wrong. She came running and there it was computer sex download of an explicit nature appeared on a children’s site which had nothing to do with the site he was watching.
    They are very vigilant parents and have all sorts of protection built in to their computer.
    thankyou Senator and the Rudd government for helping us be more vigilant.

  106. my say

    the opposing side tell us what you want to watch ???? or see

  107. orpheus

    In politics, when you want to push something that involves potential electoral backlash, best to dress it in euphemism. Hence, Conroy prefers to refer to his censorship initiative as ‘regulation’. Isn’t this disingenous? Come on Senator, you are a classic case of the the pot calling the kettle black!

    While elsewhere on Crikey, pollsters report limited electoral fallout from this decision, in a situation of rising interest rates in 2010 Labor may need all of the votes it can muster. Its a stupid decision in principle and may yet have greater electoral consequences than predicted. A survey of voting intentions in my social network, suggests that it is vote changing and builds on a perception of Labor as (yet again) not delivering on core values.

  108. Martin C

    “My Say”: If your child saw something of an explicit nature on “a children’s site” as you say, then Senator Conroy’s filter will do NOTHING to help you, as it only addresses a tiny number of specifically defined websites. Please don’t be misled what what you’d LIKE the filter to be; the reason almost everyone who understands the internet disagrees with Senator Conroy is because the actual filter he is proposing simply WON’T WORK. The sorts of random acts of sabotage you got – idiots putting porn on a non-porn website that children access – will NOT be addressed by any kind of filter, and certainly not by Senator Conroy’s ill-advised broken one.

    If you support “the need to look after our children” as you say, you should certainly NOT support Senator Conroy’s completely ineffective filter, because it is likely to make you ASSUME your children are safer when actually your children are NOT safer. Senator Conroy’s non-working filter will make you put your guard down.

  109. Alphonse

    Hasn’t Conroy done enough for Fielding already?

    What Mad Cow said.

  110. RaymondChurch

    I find it very difficult to believe that Rudd is not taking any notice of the obvious general public negative reaction to Conroy’s bill. Just as he is allowing Abbott and a couple of his front benchers hog the headlines over the last couple of weeks. Today the finance minister actually said something in response to Abbotts ongoing attacks over the carbon tax.
    Something is going on, behind the scenes. Just what is very tantalising. I suspect come next Monday, Abbotts free time could be over.Conroy has no time. He is a spent tosser in the eyes of the overall electorate. Good point about Fielding, Conroy really needs him to get this absurd legislation through, goodness only knows what he will be offered to get his Senate vote. Obviously Rudd has no intention of dropping the bill or even modifying it.
    Seasons greetings to everyone.

  111. James McDonald

    Raymond, I think there are a lot of non-vocal voters out there who agree with “My Say”.

    It’s just good old fashioned scaremongering. The oldest trick in the democratic book: invent or exaggerate a bogeyman, then promise to save us from it if you give them more power.

    Howard did it brilliantly in regard to boat people and terrorists coming to eat you up. Rudd does it brilliantly with evil greedy capitalists coming to sell you into slavery or whatever, and s-xual predators on the internet reaching across the network to assault your children.

    And you know what? There really are s-xual predators on the internet who may be reaching out to your children. But they are not the makers of p0rn, they are rock spiders using internet chat rooms. And you cannot protect children from that by censorship; you can only protect them by education and supervision.

  112. Jillian Blackall

    I agree James. I am sick of the endless populism – on immigration, censorship and a range of issues. Governments should be prepared to lead rather than pander to the lowest common denominator of society.

  113. Antonio

    What frustrates me is the propaganda being used to obtain online censorship by stealth.

    By saying the filter is aimed at reducing child porn, terrorism threats and cyber crime Minister Conroy and the government are pulling at our heart strings by saying “we want to protect you and your children from harm”

    When in fact, a blind freddy can work out that unless you can filter peer to peer networks all of the above will continue on their merry little way whilst the rest of us law abiding citizens have to deal with a bureaucratic nightmare just to continue to do what we are already doing.

    If the government was really serious about protecting our children from predators then why not develop an opt in filter based on age, ie under 5yrs, 5-10yrs etc.

    Again you don’t need to be terribly educated to work out education and parental support along with vigilant law enforcement is the best way to combat pedophilia and online predators not censoring the 99.5% of the people who are no threat to anyone.

    As an analogy, some people decide that they will speed in their cars, so why doesn’t the government legislate that all cars must be governed at 100kmh, surely this would save lives?? No they gives us the choice to choose right over wrong and punish those who commit the wrong doing.

    Finally, by allowing mandatory censorship, who is to say that in 10 -20 yrs a major event or circumstances will happen and the government of the time will use the proposed legislation, that states potentially inappropriate material may be filtered, to control information and news.

    We must stop this for the protection of our liberties and to ensure a free Australia for our future generations.

    Our forefathers fought ad died for this freedom.

  114. Cry Freedom

    The other day I did a little experiment with Google Images search.

    The first search I did was in http://www.google.com/images for ‘tiananmen square protest’ and as expected, images of a lone man standing in front or army tanks, and images of the massacre of Chinese civilians by it’s own Government were in the results.

    Except do the same search in http://www.google.cn/images for ‘tiananmen square protest’ and the story shown through in a different light. A filtered light that does not show any protests, nor images of massacred civilians, no tanks.

    If you want to know what an over zelous government can do with an internet filter, just do the same as I did.

    Cry Freedom

  115. Jillian Blackall

    @Cry Freedom

    I looked up the websites as you recommended and I see what you mean. Appalling.

  116. coolatai

    Dear Senator Conroy,

    I have only one real problem with your proposal to censor the internet. I don’t trust you. This is not personal, as I don’t trust any politician. Therefore I don’t believe you when you say that censorship will be confined only to refused content material. This absence of trust is reinforced by the fact that the banned list will be secret. If the list were public, it could be examined by all to ensure that only these sites were banned; making it secret simply increases the distrust felt by the public. Of course wikileaks and similar sites will try to publish the list, and I expect they will be banned as well. From memory, the list leaked by wikileaks some months ago included a dentist, euthanasia sites, and other sites that had nothing to do with refused content. Before I could acquiesce in a censorship system, I would need to be convinced that the administrators were perfect. Unfortunately, no-one is perfect. That is why I believe that the risks to society at present with no censorship are less that they would by with your censorship.

  117. Cry Freedom

    I was just wondering seeing as all our communications are going digital, radio, TV and lately mobile phones. I wonder how long it will take the government to route all these services through their wondrous filter…for the good of the people of course.

    How much is freedom worth, and how much of it are you willing to be taken away from you in the name of…safety.

    Cry Freedom

  118. Bogan

    Oi how is it possible that an idiot can make into Aussie government?

  119. Cry Freedom

    @ Bogan.
    As much as I disagree with what Mr Rudd and the would be tyrant of communication Mr Conroy but in no way could they be described as idiots. If they were idiots they would not have gotten tnto the positions of power and influence that they have achieved, with the help of the Australian public, which includes me at the last election.
    I have always voted Labor due to way too many thing I disliked about Librals, the privatization of publicly owned resources. The raising of the age of independance and of course the coup de grâce of the GST etc.

    But I will do one thing this election that I have never done before.
    I will not be voting Labor.
    I will not be a part of giving this or any future government the power of gagging the common mans media. The internet.
    It would only take a decision in government to add other categories to this Filter.

    I will not be silenced.

  120. Jillian Blackall

    Yes, Malcolm Turnbull is a better option than Labor. I trust that he will be speaking out on this issue, even if I have to go to his electorate office in person to achieve it. 🙂

  121. Sean

    um, I thought Malcolm Turnbull had been ousted by Tonu Abbott, the Mad Monk, he of flexible ever-changing views who perfectly fits the description of someone who tells the electorate what they want to hear and then they choose their dictator.

    But visit Malcolm in his Vaucluse office by all means, I’m sure he would be glad of some company.

  122. Sean

    Given a choice between Rudd and Conroy — Rudd failing to deliver meaningfully on his campaign promises, keeping Workchoices Lite, failed ETS, Conroy and his filter, etc etc — and Tony Abbott, the Mad Monk, Mr Plastic, and his right wing hordes of hell — and Family First who seem to be behind this filter in the first place as a horse trade — does voting Green this time around in large numbers and seeing what happens occur to anybody?

  123. Jillian Blackall

    Sean, you thought Malcolm Turnbull had been ousted by Tony Abbott… No, Malcolm is still the Member for Wentworth and I think we can safely say Tony Abbott never will be.

    Malcolm doesn’t have an office in Vaucluse. His office is in Edgecliff, at the point where you go down the hill into Double Bay.

  124. Sean

    ah, maybe try his house in Vaucluse then, if the maid will let you in.

    He’s a bit of a spent force though, isn’t he? Yesterday’s rooster, today’s feather duster and all that. Back to minding his $150M businesses, I would think.

    You know, I still have trouble getting my Range Rover into the Edgcliff shopping centre car park, the concrete ceiling is very low — maybe he can address that as the local member and make himself useful. Or perhaps I should just take the Porsche to the shops and leave the poor man in peace.

    Excuse me, but I have to take a bath in pearls now.

    Kevin of Double Bay

  125. Jillian Blackall

    What hilarious stereotypes!

  126. Sean

    I got a million of ’em.

    To Sol Rosenberg of Noosa comment 115. I very much doubt your friends do actually do have ink tattoos and live in my suburb. I regularly visit our local shopping centre and observe, where
    possible, how many people if any have them. If for one minute I noticed an increase I would soon be penning a letter to my local member seeking action. The reason we don’t have many
    tattooed residents is simply because we don’t have a Centrelink office, nor do we want one.

    Posted by: Kevin of Double Bay 3:43pm September 15. 2008
    Comment 207 of 273

  127. Cry Freedom

    I don’t think I could vote for any of them and still have some self respect.
    Why would I want any of them to have the power to block any content, website, media outlet and news content that they wish?

    But oh no they would never do that, as much as they would never ever introduce a GST. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixn9fFatdcs

    A good example, the Chinese Government blocks websites that show the Tianenmen Square Protest in an unfavorable way, in effect attempting to erase from history what they did to their own people.

    Although THIS government may only use this filter to block Refused Classification content. But what about the next? Or the next government after that? They would also have the power to try and erase things that had taken place that would embarrass them.

    Children Overboard – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kids_overboard
    Oil for Food – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil-for-Food_Programme

    But why stop there, when you have the power to gag the media (remember TV and radio has gone digital too)

    Governments come and go, but it’s their legacy can affect the people for generations, and the worse of them are never forgotten.

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