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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1496

Senator ALLISON (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (2:33 PM) —Mr President, my question is to you. I refer to the decision made last month to filter websites used by senators and their staff. Is the occurrence of the problem with senators looking up pornography on websites? If so, will you name them? Is the aim of this filter to protect the laurels of senators and their staff? If so, doesn’t it strike you as odd that we can make laws for the country but are not adult enough or competent enough to make our own decisions about what is an appropriate website?

The PRESIDENT —The decision to put filters on senators’ websites was a decision of the Senate Standing Committee on Procedure after much discussion. There were a variety of reasons for that happening. Because staff members in this place who are employed by DPS and others have filters on their computers, it was considered by their committee that it should apply to all senators and members as well. If senators choose to have the filter removed from their computers, they are entitled to request that and it can happen.

Senator ALLISON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Who decides what sites are deemed inappropriate? What are the grounds for refusal in those cases? What is the reason for filtering out websites that refer to illegal drugs or illegal weapons? Is there a problem of senators and their staff dealing with either of those? And why was it that the views of senators were not canvassed before making this decision?

The PRESIDENT —When you say that the views of senators were not canvassed, the Procedure Committee does have a variety of senators on that committee. So it was taken into account when the decision was made. I will look at the details of your question and I will provide you and the Senate with a detailed answer.