What Have We Learned Today?

Hopefully today, we on the anti-internet censorship side of the mandatory ISP filtering debate have learnt an extremely important lesson. There is no doubt that all of us wish to see the back of Senator Stephen Conroy, certainly from the communications portfolio at the very least. There has been much discussion since the rise of Julia Gillard to the Prime Ministership last week, regarding what she would do in the almost certain “cabinet reshuffle”. The question we’ve all been asking is “will Conroy keep the portfolio?”

There have been some very good articles discussing that very point. David Ramli came up with the excellent ”Why Kate Lundy Won’t Get Stephen Conroy’s Job”, and I myself went completely the other direction with my ”Why Kate Lundy Might Get Stephen Conroy’s Job”. Renai LeMay even went a completely different direction with his excellent article ”Ten Good Reasons Gillard Should Promote Conroy”.

Of course today, Gillard announced her “reshuffled” cabinet, with only very minor changes – and of course, Conroy keeping his communications portfolio. As much as we all wanted change, ultimately, this was not really much of a surprise.

So basically after months of campaigning against the filter, and the events of the last week providing us the best opportunity to see the door slam on Stephen Conroy, what has happened? Actually, nothing.

The poor showing of Kevin Rudd in the opinion polls recently, along with an apparent distaste for his leadership style within the Labor Party, saw the ALP powerbrokers make a move on Rudd while they still had time to improve their polling position before the election.

Most significantly, the massive backlash from the mining industry against the so-called “Resource Super Profits Tax” (RSPT) sealed his fate as the only sitting Prime Minister who didn’t survive his first term in office. The mining industry absolutely slammed Rudd everywhere they could. In print, on television, and on radio. Everyone knew about it, and it was costing votes. It cost Rudd his job.

So I ask the question – what have we learned, and what SHOULD we learn? Well, we need to take a leaf out of the mining industry’s book. They took a government policy they hated, put it in front of the Australian public, and created an issue out of it.

In the matter of a few short weeks, not only did they manage to oust a Prime Minister, but they managed to see a Prime Minister installed who is genuinely looking to review the entire RSPT policy!

We’ve been pussy footing around with “tell your mum” campaigns, and petitions to a government that we know aren’t going to listen anyway. I do not want to belittle these campaigns, as they do serve value towards the campaign, but people aren’t listening. Joe Public doesn’t see our plight in the media, so they don’t know about it, and therefore – ultimately – don’t even care about it.

The grassroots campaign we’ve seen up until now is important, but as the mining industry has shown us this week, unless mainstream Australia can see the mandatory internet filtering policy as an issue, the government will not see resistance to it as a “vote costing” issue for them. Remember, in the end, politicians are in office to stay in office, despite what they will tell you to your face, or in a press release.

Certainly, we don’t have the resources to mount a campaign the size of that which the mining industry pulled off, but what we are doing now is NOT working. In all the political analysis in regards to the changing of our Prime Minister, not once have I heard the internet filtering policy brought up as an issue.

So as a “vote costing” issue, it’s not an issue for the government, and until they do see it as costing them votes, the policy will still be with us. We need to change – and unfortunately, even a change in government does not guarantee that this policy will go away.