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Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Page: 9143

Mr LAMING (9:42 AM) —I rise today to confess that I share something in common with Senator Conroy: I and families in my electorate and those who obviously support Senator Conroy’s side of politics would all like to see internet filtering done in a way that best serves Australia and protects our children online. We all know that, just like pool fences, we cannot expect parents to be monitoring their children every second of every day on the internet. But today we have what is effectively a failing evaluation of internet filtering and potentially a step in the wrong direction by handing over the decision making of families to government to decide what we can and cannot look at on the internet.

Internet service providers do just what posties do. They direct and redirect internet and email traffic. Asking them to actually determine what is in all of this transmitted information is a bit like asking the postie to have a peek inside an envelope before he pops it into the letterbox. Not only would it be costly and potentially slower; it would really raise the question of liberty and the ability to transmit information and to determine at one’s own front door what our families can and cannot do on the internet. That is not for one moment to say that there are not sites that need to be stopped. That merely says our focus needs to remain on funding organisations like Taskforce Argus and those doing other good work around the country to apprehend these internet villains using the resources available. They should be funded appropriately.

What is the government’s plan? First of all, they may well determine for us what is inappropriate. That raises many questions. A leaked ACMA black list revealed that half of the sites that were being proposed were not even related to child pornography. On their list were You Tube links, poker sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia and religious sites, the website of a tour operator and even a dentist.

So, with the greatest of respect, I think that, given the rights, the capabilities and the resources, families can make decisions about sites for themselves, and we need to fund the appropriate groups to deliver advice to them. NetAlert was there. The one thing that Senator Conroy did achieve was to snuff out NetAlert—the one product that was there. It was freely available to every family so that they could use the best technology provided by the government to supplement their own safety arrangements. That is gone. So we have actually gone backwards in that respect.

Let us look at the United Kingdom, where British Telecom has optional, not compulsory, internet filters. In Canada, parental controls have been returned but they are not mandatory nor are ISPs obliged to adopt them. Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand have no compulsory filters. Even the most hardcore internet cyberlibertarians would not resist the idea of an optional filter, but that is not what is being discussed here.

My final plea to the government is: support the AFP’s high-tech crime commission unit, support task force Argus and support the other efforts that are being made to apprehend the true villains who are operating outside of emails. They are operating in chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks and are completely free from the kind of technology that is being considered by the government. Let us have a real and genuine evaluation of this technology for our families— (Time expired)