Late last week, the New South Wales parliamentary committee examining the sexualisation of children released its long-awaited report. Perhaps owing to the more conservative members of the committee — such as Damien Tudehope, Greg Donnelly and Paul Green — the committee’s report recommends the New South Wales Attorney-General “advocate for the adoption of opt-in internet filtering” through the Council of Australian Governments.

The model they want to adopt is the UK standard, which makes people register with their telcos if they want unfettered access to the internet. Of course, the filter is also easily avoidable by using a virtual private network (VPN). But calls for such a filter will likely continue as religious groups like the Australian Christian Lobby — which also complains about “censorship” via anti-discrimination laws — continue to lobby to force people onto a register to access adult websites online.

Look out for a similar report to be tabled in federal Parliament on Wednesday from the inquiry set up by Labor Senator Joe Bullock in one of the only things he did in his time in Parliament. But even if it is recommended that opt-out internet filtering be adopted, the government has absolutely no appetite for pursuing it. And apart from anything else, it would be difficult for the government to run a censorship campaign while also pursuing its big “freedom of speech” issue: 18C.

The most recent documents released under FOI about it suggest that the controversial filtering option is not on the table, even though the government flirted with the policy idea for two days in opposition before the election in 2013.

Peter Fray

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