House debates

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Constituency Statements

Civil Liberties

9:48 am

Photo of Dennis JensenDennis Jensen (Tangney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What has become of the government’s despicable internet filtering plan? The minister for broadband, communications, the digital economy and state censorship has been strangely silent in recent weeks on his plot to demolish the freedom of Australians to access internet material without government controls. I hope that he has realised the error of his ways and will abandon the idea, as the government have done with other plans when it has become clear that they were hopelessly out of touch with those they purport to lead.

Was the minister disturbed to learn, as I was, that the brutal, dictatorial Iranian regime is employing similar technology to that he plans to use in Australia? As authorities in Iran this week moved to crush dissent over election results, there were reports it had installed perhaps the world’s most advanced system for controlling internet use by its citizens, greatly exceeding even the notorious level of state intervention in the ‘great firewall’ of China.

Perhaps the minister was also disturbed to see the same reports, then raised his plans for Australia as another example of governments seeking to exert control over their citizens through internet filtering and monitoring—Iran, China, Australia. Perhaps he is proud to see our country, which was founded on a bastion of freedom and rights, grouped with two of the world’s worst offenders on curtailing civil liberties.

I am not proud of this. I am afraid and disgusted. Trials of the internet filtering system continue, though limited, particularly since major provider and filtering opponent iiNet walked out. The minister has instead been talking of Stay Smart Online, a campaign to maintain security for internet users. He has not explained how blocking access to information will help anyone stay smart.

The reality is that the free flow of information stimulates learning and new ideas. It feeds the growth of knowledge. Restricted growth of information has the opposite effect. The government has been told that its plan will not work. It will fail to prevent access to child pornography and other offences linked to internet use. The government is planning a $43 billion high-speed broadband network. One plan increases speeds while another reduces them. Why not save all that money and leave the matter alone? Then we will not be out of pocket and our right to view information of our choosing will not be curtailed. Then we will not be placed in the same basket as China and Iran, which is destined to be the sad outcome if this plan goes ahead.