House debates

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Safer Internet Day

8:49 pm

Photo of Michael JohnsonMichael Johnson (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a privilege as always to speak in this great chamber of democracy, the House of Representatives, as the member for Ryan. At the outset I want to bid a very good evening to my constituents throughout the Ryan electorate. They live in a beautiful part of Brisbane, and I look forward to meeting and connecting with, in particular, the new constituents that I will be representing in the months ahead and at the election from all the wonderful suburbs, places like Enoggera, Keperra, Ferny Grove and Grovely, in the north part of Brisbane

Today, 9 February 2010, is Safer Internet Day. I want to put on the record my very strong support of and advocacy for its theme that, whether we are business people, mums, dads or social users, we should become aware of the power of the internet. Safer Internet Day, which has operated since 2004, is organised by Insafe. It promotes a safer and more responsible use of online technology, including mobile phones, around the world, especially for children and young people. The theme for 2010 is ‘Think before you post’. Safer Internet Day has been celebrated previously through 500 events in 50 countries all over the world. It is a celebration of the power of technology but it also promotes awareness of the dark side of the internet . Insafe is a European network of awareness centres which has been created to promote the safe, responsible use of internet and mobile devices.

This gives me the opportunity to talk a little bit more broadly about regulation of the internet as well as government policy and legislation in this area. Right now the Rudd Labor government is looking at bringing in a significant piece of legislation. It is quite far reaching and it will certainly have enormous implications for Australians who use the internet safely.

I want to take the House and all those who might be listening, throughout not only the electorate of Ryan but the great state of Queensland—and indeed this wonderful land of ours—to the words of a very fine Australian, the Hon. Mr Justice Kirby, a former member of the High Court of Australia. He is someone whom I have had the great honour and privilege of getting to know and whom I respect very much. We do not see eye to eye on many issues, but he is a man who is an inspiration to me for his dedication to making our land a stronger, freer and better land. I want to read into the Hansard, for the benefit of my constituents in particular, his very wise words about the path of internet censorship. Clearly, this is the path that the Rudd Labor government is going down, through the legislation proposed by Senator Conroy, the relevant minister. Mr Justice Kirby said:

This proposal in Australia is something entirely new, and of course it is opposed in some circles, including some of the big service providers, on the basis that this is the thin end of the wedge of a government moving into regulating the actual internet itself. Once you start doing that, well, you get into the situation of Burma and Iran, where the government is taking control of what people hear and what information they get. I understand the problem that is being addressed but it is an entirely different approach to the approach taken elsewhere in the world as I understand it and I think there is going to be quite a debate about it in Australia.

He gave this interview on Radio 2UE, on 17 December last year. The interviewer said:

It doesn’t sound like you are personally keen on the idea.

Justice Kirby said:

Well, I know it a little bit because of work that I have done in connection with the internet and it is out of line with what other countries in the world do. Now that does not necessarily mean that Australia is wrong. After all, we are totally out of line with the bill of rights or the charter of rights issue. Sometimes you have to do what you think is right. I understand all that. But we are a very small player in the internet business if you look at it globally, and the internet is on the whole a marvellous advance not only of information but also freedom of ideas and ideas of liberty. So that we have got to just be careful because if just one government, our government, begins to intervene in this then there will be other governments who just want to get into it in order to control the freedom of ideas that are out there on the internet, which are the ideas that will break down the Berlin walls of the future and make sure that humanity can live together on this blue planet.

What wonderful words. (Time expired)