Wikileaks Screwup – Time for a Line in the Sand

There’s been much ado on the interwebs over the last couple of weeks about what many see as a “victory” against the mandatory filtering of the internet in Australia, with many people misinterpreting the “shelving” of the policy by Senator Conroy and/or Prime Minister Rudd as being the end of the policy forever. Alas, this is not the case.

The main culprit here is Wikileaks, who badly re-titled the above article to “Australian Government Drops Internet Censorship Proposal” – and it spread like wildfire online through channels such as Twitter. Their re-titling of the article was a monumental screwup on their part, that overly excited many a casual observer of this debate.

One must remember that Wikileaks is both a foreign “organisation”, and already an enemy of the Australian government for their leaking of the ACMA blacklist. A blacklist that purportedly contains material from Wikileaks. Wikileaks has a defined bug to bear with this policy.

As much as their support is appreciated, this does not directly effect them – as they are foreign, the Australian government has no jurisdiction for the removal of any material in their name. The Australian government actually has at this time no jurisdiction against them inside of Australia either, because the filter is currently not in place to block their material within Australia.

This debate should be primarily a debate for Australians and Australian interests – not foreign entities. The filter would certainly bring foreign implications upon Australia, but that is a second level argument.

The Wikileaks response is probably welcomed by the government as it further clouds the waters, however this event has highlighted a perfect opportunity for supporters of the defeat of this legislation. It is time to draw a line in the sand.

The reality is that the Rudd Government has “shelved” this policy in time for the upcoming federal election. There is so much opposition to the plan, that they have correctly identified it as a vote-loser. This means several different things:

  • They are hoping above all that they win the upcoming election – however, with the polls starting to turn dramatically against them over a range of issues, they must be at least privately starting to become nervous as to if that will occur. A successful retainment of government will be used by Rudd and his cronies as a “mandate to deliver their suite of policies”, currently shelved or otherwise.
  • In the event that they do win the federal election, they are hoping for a better set of party numbers in the Senate, with the vision of railroading this (and other) policies through on weight of numbers. With the Greens openly against the filter, and the Liberal Party seemingly split, any increase in opposition numbers in the upper house will make it harder and harder for a returned Rudd government. A lower house defeat for the Rudd Government – (although now looking more possible than in recent months) – will still be a massive turnaround, even on today’s numbers.

Yes, the policy is “shelved” for the moment – a clearing the deck of controversial policies in time for an election. The plethora of recent policy backflips will probably see the election pushed out as far as possible, to give them time to try and repair what damage has already been done.

While this all looks damaging for the government – and it is – it is certainly not time for anti-filter campaigners to celebrate. It is not a time to even back off and take a breath.

If the government want to hide this policy in the shadows, in search of another way to get it passed both houses of parliament, it is time for us to drag it back into the light. If they want to hide it to save face, we need to keep throwing it out there so more and more egg is deposited on their faces.

We do not need to compare Australia to China or Iran, or any other country with internet filtering policies in place. We are not China, we are not Iran. Dragging their highly political censorship regimes into the debate over our proposed filter is pointless. It has nothing to do with it, and we do ourselves an injustice by making direct comparisons.

They are valuable examples of how a regime based around censorship can operate, but we can’t let those examples drive our debate. We need to win broad support and respect for our stance – and you do not win respect by being disrespectful.

Many use colourful name calling and curse words believing that will help. All it does is make this campaign look like a bunch of childish little brats complaining about the loss of their porn. That’s what the government really wants us to look like, so cut it out – do not play into their hands.

Do not let them sweep it under the carpet so people think it is off the agenda. It is not off the agenda, and this needs to be made a REAL election issue. For all our sakes.