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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1502

The PRESIDENT (3:00 PM) —I have further information in response to Senator Allison’s question but I must firstly say that I did say during my answer that it was the Procedure Committee when it was the Appropriations and Staffing Committee, which was my mistake. In March 2008 the Senate Appropriations and Staffing Committee—not the Procedure Committee, as I stated previously—considered the matter of the parliamentary computer network and internet filtering. The committee noted that the parliamentary network computers of departmental staff—that is, for the Department of the Senate, the Department of the House of Representatives and the Department of Parliamentary Services, but not for the Parliamentary Library—are filtered for inappropriate internet content, including pornography, illegal drug references, gambling, games, racist or hate sites, violence, illegal weapons of manufacture or procurement, but the computers of senators and members and their staff are not. The committee also noted that the current filtering mechanism is a black list supplied by the vendor but the Department of Parliamentary Services is currently engaged in identifying a replacement filtering system.

Members of the committee expressed the view that senators should not be treated differently from others who use the parliamentary computing network and therefore their computers should be filtered. I note that the Australian Democrats were represented on that committee.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! I am on my feet. I suggest you look at the standing orders. Having sought further advice from the Department of Parliamentary Services on the filtering system and consulted with the Speaker on the matter, I made the decision that, in accordance with the view of the committee, the same filtering should be applied to senators and their offices. I remind senators that this filtering provides a message to users that the site they are seeking to access has been blocked because it falls within one of the areas on the black list of subject matters used by the software. It is open for any senator or staffer who needs to pursue access to a particular site for work related matters to have that access provided by contacting 2020.