Sep 10, 2012

What is the government up to on Australia’s internet kill switch?

The government's national security proposals may raise the prospect of a return to an issue settled in 2003. If only we could be sure ...

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

There is, if you’re not aware of it, an internet kill switch in Australia. It’s located in s.581 of the Telecommunications Act, which enables the Attorney-General, after consulting the Prime Minister and the Minister for Communications, to direct a telecommunications carrier or carriage service provider in writing to cease to supply a service if it is “prejudicial to security”, as defined under the ASIO Act.

Such a power, of course, would only be used in an emergency.

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12 thoughts on “What is the government up to on Australia’s internet kill switch?

  1. paddy

    I’m really glad you’re following this Bernard.
    Because, even as a part time geek, I’m completely befuddled by the whole process.
    What’s worse, I suspect that’s exactly how the Govt and the various agencies would like the punters to feel.
    Just too complicated to be bothered with.
    If the pollies can’t make this clearer, they’ll have to send out tinfoil hats instead of fridge magnets.

  2. Greg Jones

    “..If the pollies can’t make this clearer, they’ll have to send out tinfoil hats instead of fridge magnets…”

    hahaha..right you are Paddy.

    One minute Roxon is all fait accompli as per the cybersecurity rent seekers brief and the next minute as per Dylan Welsh’s article in the Age, she claims she is absolutely clear she is not.

    Wuh!..is this seeking order out of chaos?

    [Is Labor now proposing a power to target individuals to which it objected in 2003? Is AGD, having had its power curtailed in 2003, trying to revisit the issue?]

    If Roxon is to stand tall here, she really needs to bring clarification immediately on this issue or she will be interpreted as standing in the shadows and hiding an intent beyond public accountability.

  3. Greg Jones

    Post in moderation..cool, but it was only a bit paraphrasing. Sorry.

  4. Andrew Bartlett

    The Senate Inquiry into the 2003 version of this law may have been a “Howard-era special”, but it occurred before Howard had control of the Senate – which means they wouldn’t have got away with the inquiry being so brief without the agreement of the ALP. However, as the article demonstrates, even an inquiry which is virtually an overnight one is more valuable than no inquiry at all, and it provided the means for a major change to be made to the original Bill.

    The fact that the Bill hung around after that Senate Inquiry for six months before it was debated also shows that the claims of ‘urgency’ made to justify such a rushed Senate Inquiry was just as false as many of the other claims made about the ‘necessity’ of many of the security measures put forward by the previous and current government.

    Despite all the claims about the current government being held hostage to the Greens, the fact is that the Liberal/National Party always supports this government on legislative changes to do with ‘security’, much as Labor did when Howard was in government. They would not become law otherwise, as the Greens today – same as the Democrats previously – rarely agreed with the many extreme measures put forward under the guise of ‘security’. Although to be fair, at least Labor in Opposition occasionally insisted on some changes being made – despite some occasional bluster, Senator George Brandis, the so-called ‘moderate’ in the Libs usually ends up rolling over and agreeing with anything Labor bowls up in this area. Presumably allowing law is better in the Lib’s eyes than giving Labor even the tiniest chance to portray themselves as ‘tougher’ on security.

  5. Harry Rogers

    Maybe its paranoia building but also interesting that the headlines in the papers over the last few weeks is all about someone being abused on Twitter etc. Now any mature person must know that there will always be the small percentage of loonies out there. Im sure governments will now use these headline issues to try to get those sledgehammer solutions on security.

    I guess nobody will ask the question: How many people use Twitter and Facebook and as a percentage how many criminally abusive comments and actions have the police taken action against.

    I would suggest the answer would be in the 0001 percents.


    Your response beams of politics as would be expected . Why dont the Greens actually make an issue of this instead grabbing headlines on other selfish single minded issues.

  6. Mike Shaw

    Bingo!!! Harry.

    The moment I saw that article in the Age I knew the cyber security mob would use it as a pretext and justification for tightening controls. No one condones those types of comments, but watch for a huge beatup in the MSM. Set your clock on it.

  7. Greg Jones

    Nup! Post still mod. I wonder what it might have been?

    Hmmm, it must have been the odour ouda chios thing…in relation to the confusion of were Roxon is heading and her intentions. I twas only jokin.

  8. Venise Alstergren

    BERNARD: Is this an extension of the usual bid to bring the internet under control because of its potential to corrupt dirty old men, and protect three year old children?

  9. Andrew Bartlett

    Harry R:

    Did you actually read the article? The Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was quoted in it. The Greens are making an issue of this & have raised it regularly in Parliament and through Committees, and I’m sure will continue to do so.

    When you say “my response beams of politics”, are you asserting there is some factual flaw with it, or you just using an irrelevancy as a way of discounting the points I made?

  10. Harry Rogers

    Andrew ,

    Calm down.

    Regarding the comment on politics I immediately discount views when I know they are entirely partisan. Now and again on Crikey there are genuine free thinkers who discuss important issues and one doesn’t have to deal with dogmatism.

    I congratulate the Greens on pursuing this issue but it seems whenever I turn on the TV or listen to the radios they seem addicted to gaining headlines over (in my opinion) selfish irrelevant issues.

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