More Stumbles For Internet Filter

In recent days we have seen more bumbling and stumbling from the government in regards to its proposed mandatory internet filtering plan, further suggesting that it might just be on the outer from the government’s policy agenda.

Last week, it became clear that without fanfare, the branch of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) with the job of administering and developing the policy, had been quietly closed down.

Whilst the government publicity machine insisted that this didn’t mean the policy was cancelled or was in the process of being cancelled, clearly the importance of the “project” had been watered down.

Now we have seen that the Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety (JSCC) in its latest report has played down the need for the policy to be implemented:

“We have found no evidence that the relevant websites, these large multinational websites, are reluctant to take this sort of material down. Their user policies are actually very broad in terms of the kinds of materials they can take down compared to, for example, what is covered in the Broadcasting Services Act. They cover a much wider range of material that they describe as inappropriate than is described in legislation. So the breadth of the policies is broader, and we have not seen any evidence of a reluctance on their part to take it down.”

Of most concern to the government and its plans for the filter is the change of the numbers in the Senate from July 1st, when the Australian Greens take up the balance of power.

The Greens went to the last election with a clear position against the policy. The Coalition opposition also held that policy position before the election.

Assuming no change in policy from either party – (which may or may not be the case) – the ascension of the Greens to the balance of power in the Senate means the government would likely need to do a deal with either the Greens or the Coalition to reverse their position, to get enough votes to pass any filtering legislation.

At this stage, there has been no indication of such a change from either political party.

One must remember that even Stephen Conroy himself admitted that he didn’t believe the filter could be brought in outside of any parliamentary process:

“Genuinely, I don’t believe we can, I don’t think there’s a backdoor way we could do it. I think the only way we could do it is through Parliament.”

I always qualify my articles on the filter with the “never say never” mantra, but unfavourable numbers in the Senate and a continual erosion of the basis for the policy makes it look more and more unlikely to ever come into being.

We cannot give up the fight against this policy – but there is some light at the end of the tunnel.