This email has been sent today to The Hon Senator Stephen Conroy,
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE SENATE
As a fully employed, independently funded senior citizen, I am deeply concerned about the proposed Censorship of the Internet in Australia, under your proposed “Clean Feed” strategy.
Over the past few weeks, I watched with interest the tactics employed by Telstra as it appeared to try and force the Government into a corner regarding their participation in the proposed broadband installation across Australia and you, as the Minister, were very forthright in your condemnation of their apparent failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the proposed Tender. I watched you, night after night, answering Questions in the House, and making it clear that it is your intention to ensure that whoever participates in the new broadband rollout will be those who have complied with clearly stated provisions of acceptance and clearly stated provisions of their ability to provide.
This is admirable, but in the face of the proposed new censorship of internet traffic, through filtering at ISP level, flies in the face of the commercial benefits that faster broadband is intended to bring to the Australian business community and Australian households.
At a time when Australia faces the greatest recession that the world has seen since the 1930’s, we need to take every step available to remain competitive in business and especially in terms of being able to communicate through eCommerce. The internet is not just an integral part of our businesses – in some cases it is THE business.
As a financial planner dealing with large investment houses, institutions and fund managers through the internet for many hours of every day, I need to be able to maintain my dealings and those of my staff with not only the greatest security but also with great speed. In the past few months, you cannot have been unaware of the speed with which share prices have fallen, interest rates have varied and business dealings have needed to be carried out as quickly as possible. The Internet has brought a level of efficiency and cost effectiveness to financial and export markets that cannot be underestimated.
Australia cannot afford to lose even a few minutes of its commercial edge, in financial matters.
As a constant user of the Internet, I have to say that the few times I have accidently stumbled across the kind of sites your proposed Censorship intends to “filter out” have been very few and far between. In general, if one is properly educated about using the Internet, learns not to click on unknown invitations from flashy banners (most of which can be easily managed with proprietary software) and does not deliberately search for sex and pornography, it is seldom encountered.
The fact is that you will never be able to filter every (or even most) of the sites that promote pornography and violence, because they can be taken down and reloaded far faster than any filter programme can find and block them. The money can be far better spent in encouraging parents to take more responsibility in what their children see and where their children go, on the net. The money can be far better spent by helping to subsidise software that does filter at the level where it is more effective: the personal home PC.
The money that will be spent on this proposed Censorship smacks loudly of the kind of internet interference to free transmission against which we so loudly spoke during the Beijing Olympics – where, for a brief time, censorship was reduced. Now, sadly, China is reverting to its hard line rule of the past; dissidents are being rounded up and jailed; internet activity is highly regulated. How do we know? The Internet gives us the freedom and the opportunity of communication with individuals and groups outside Australia to learn and be informed.
There is also a great deal of concern as to the contagion that can spread both philosophically as well as economically, when Censorship is employed without total transparency. Where the costs of Government intervention are passed back to the private commercial and household sector and where our ISP can simply be “instructed” to block an IP address, and those either side of it, for good measure, in an effort to prevent electronic access by all individuals, (children and adults alike), we will suffer severe financial damage.
What happens when the Government of the day (Labor or Liberal or whomever) decides to “silence” its critics over some specific issues? Who then decides which IP addresses are to be blocked, because they are critical of the incumbent Government and its policies. Is this what Australia is to become? Is this what we can expect from a Labor Government? Australian Citizens must not be impeded from research, communication, criticism of Government of any persuasion, or be hampered and restrained in their pursuit of information and knowledge. We will not enter the shadowy world of Government censorship of the type seen in Nazi Germany and employed today in countries like China and North Korea.
Minister Conroy, I urge you in the strongest terms to find alternative methods to achieve your good intentions of protecting children from those who seek to harm and corrupt them. But I have not a shred of doubt that your proposed “Clean Feed” strategy is not the way to achieve your aims and will damage our economy to a degree that is irreconcilable with the need to protect us from the present Global Credit Crisis and the recession that is sweeping the world.
Please find a different answer to your concerns.