Sunday, 2 November 2008

Building the Great Australian FireWall, brick by brick


Syd Walker strikes a blow for freedom and queries the real agenda behind Steven Conroy's plan to censor the Internet for Australians.


Like Tony Blair a decade earlier in Britain, it’s reasonable to infer that Kevin Rudd cut deals with powerful lobbies before he came to power in 2007.

These presumably helped him – and the ALP - to get elected. They may have helped secure fair treatment from powerful elements within the mainstream media in the run-up to the election. Of course, that such deals took place is speculation. If they were done, they were done behind the scenes. But perhaps on occasion they may be inferred?

A probable example of such a deal, in this author’s opinion, was the bizarre announcement made by Kevin Rudd, pre-election, that in office an ALP Government would seek to prosecute the Iranian President in the International Court of Justice.

At the time, Rudd explained the ‘crimes’ of President Ahmadinejad as he saw them. These included the Iranian President’s alleged statement that Israel should be “wiped off the map“.

This claim was based on a blatant mistranslation of the Ahmadinejad’s words. In fairness to Rudd, the same error is obediently repeated on an almost daily basis by ‘Your’ ABC and the SBS (not to mention the commercial mass media), so in Australia only independently spirited internet users were likely to know that. Such is the bias and conformism of our ‘mainstream media’ - and such is the potentially liberating force of the Internet.

Ahmadinejad’s other major alleged ‘offence’, according to Mr Rudd, was that he has queried aspects of Second World War history. Rudd did not explain why he saw this as an Australian foreign policy priority.

I wrote to Kevin Rudd before the election, seeking clarification and setting out my concerns on this matter in rather more detail. In reply, I received a re-iteration of his previous statements. It was like communicating with an answering machine. Rationality, it seems, did not underpin the policy. It left me to surmise that the policy was a done deal, probably with representatives of Australia’s Zionist Lobby. The last thing his office wanted was to provide a rational justification. There was none. The policy was a politically convenient expression of sectarian bias. Rudd and his advisers knew none of the mass media would ask hard questions about it.

Quite recently, the Rudd Government quietly dropped its bid to prosecute Iran’s President. Presumably wiser heads in the Department of Foreign Affairs prevailed, saving Australia from ridicule in the international arena. Perhaps the wheat export lobby weighed in?

Which brings me, in a round-about way, to the main topic of the day – Internet censorship.

Another quite bizarre policy that Rudd took to the electorate was a promise to restrict Internet access so only ‘safe’ websites are available in Australia (via a compulsory 'Clean Feed').

It has been put about that this remarkable censorship project is (a) largely at the behest of the Christian lobby and (b) targeted at pornography, especially child pornography.

I may be wrong, but I suspect both these claims are deceptions.

Undoubtedly there is anti-pornography sentiment within Australia’s Christian community. But is Christianity really so resurgent in modern Australia that unprecedented restrictions on Internet access – restrictions that go beyond what other western jurisdictions have contemplated – will be a popular measure here? Do prominent Church leaders really see this as a crucial issue? Anyhow, since when did Christian leaders set the moral rules and legal rubric for all Australians?


Where, one may ask, is the evidence that Internet pornography is a damaging phenomenon that does real harm to Australian society – harm that merits significant pubic expenditure (well over $100 million) and potential disruption to the free flow of ideas and communications? Where is the evidence that unprecedented censorship is merited to curb the threat of ‘child pornography’ when there are already strict laws prohibiting the abuse of children and international co-operation to enforce that?

In an attempt to find out, I first scanned relevant Government websites, then called the Office of the Federal Communications Minister Steven Conroy, as well as his Department. It took me a long time to get hold of anyone who could give me any answers at all. I finally struck gold – but as don’t want to embarrass the person in question, I won’t name her/him.

One of my questions concerned the Government’s evidentiary basis. In plain English, what research and/or other written material has the government drawn on to formulate its policy? I thought by studying that, I might glean insights into the Government’s thinking.

The answer was surprising (or perhaps not, depending on one’s level of cynicism). The Government is about to tender for consultants to do a literature review of the literature on that subject. Expect an ad any day soon on the relevant government websites…

Commissioning a literature review, in order to formulate policy, is often a good idea. But surely it should precede the formulation of policy? Apparently that’s not Senator Conroy’s style. He prefers to set policy, then spend pubic money finding good reasons to support it.

This strengthened my view that the Government’s scheme to censor the Internet was decided in advance of a serious, rational and inclusive policy discussion. That’s not Rudd’s normal style, methinks. Now Conroy is scrambling not only to find practical ways to put the policy into operation – he even has the audacity to spend our cash to dig up supporting arguments.

I was informed that pilot projects of the Government’s proposed mandatory ‘filter’ will get underway by the end of the year - through just a few ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to start.
Which ISPs? Apparently the Government is looking for willing participants at the moment. As one of the side effects of participation is likely to be significant drop in connection speed, I’m surprised any ISPs are willing to stick their hands up. Maybe they won’t?

In fact, a trial was undertaken in Tasmania some time ago, with results that have caused internet buffs a lot of concern, despite attempts to gild the lily in the official report. So why are more trials needed?

It seems that Senator Conroy is trying to get the scheme in operation, however vague, however many loose ends remain to be tidied, however technologically hair-brained. He wants to start with a few ISPs, then expand the scheme.

Is the Rudd Government about to build the Great Australian Firewall, brick by brick, right or wrong?

I remarked that many (not all) of my concerns would be allayed if the government gave a cast iron, plain English guarantee that NO sites will be blacklisted and banned on the basis of the political views and intellectual content therein. Genuine independent oversight would also be needed. In effect, it should be illegal to ban a site on spurious grounds combined with considerable transparency in implementation.

No such guarantees exist. I was told that under the government’s proposal, the list of banned sites will be maintained by the Australia Communications and Media Authority. A range of criteria will be used to prepare the list. It will not be publicly accessible.

Rudd needs to pull the government’s horns in on this – and fast.

It’s political disaster in the making.

Here's EFA Chair Dale Clapperton discussing the net filter on TV this week.





We’ve just seen in Australia how a hyped-up moral panic over sex and child safety was used to justify obnoxious, irrational, inappropriate policies in the Northern Territory intervention. That was the Howard Government’s grubby mess, which the new Government inherited. Rudd doesn’t need to taint himself in similar fashion. Does he?

While making calls about this today, I rang local MP Jim Turnour’s office. I thought I might ask him about the policy and voice my concerns directly to my ALP Federal representative.

I’ll have to wait. Jim is in China for a fortnight, checking out their Great (Fire)Wall, perhaps.

12 comments:

Fosnez said...

Thankyou for writing about this Mike, It is important that every citizen who enjoys our current access to free and unbiased information on the internet write to their local federal representative and let them know how they feel about this abhorrent policy.

Alan Gresley said...

I do think that our`Prime Minister is letting one dangerous ally (The United States) set the foreign policy for Australia. The alleged statement by the Iranian President that Israel should be "wiped off the map" came from an Israeli news source. What is the point of us having ASIO when our intelligence seems to be dictated by a foreign power?

I see the Anglo American alliance orchestrating the most hideousness of terrors by talks of Nuclear War. This also shows the double standards of our Government when at the same time Rudd is pushing for a world without Nuclear weapons. Shouldn't this road begin at Washington? When will our Prime Minister challenge Washington over it's defense posture of preemptive use of Nuclear weapons? This is true terrorism conducted on all people of this earth.

Then there the added terrorism orchestrated by governments by pretending that there are no wild conspiracy theories on the internet.

The people of this world is entitled to peace after 5,000 years of tyrannical government. I would like to echo John Lennon's simple request, Give peace and chance.

Nick said...

I'm all for peace and freedom of speech on the internet and elsewhere, but to drag the president of Iran into the debate seems rather bizarre.Iran is run by a a buch of intolerant religious fanatics and does not allow any form of free speech.It is a country that excecutes gays and allows the death penalty for "adulterous " women.While its president might not himself literally have uttered the words that Israel should be wiped off the map, Iran supports and partly finances Hamas and Hezbollah who's stated aim is the destruction of Israel.In Australia both Palestinians and "Zionists" can express their opinions freely and lobby who ever they want for what they think is right.If I had to choose between living in Israel or Iran, I know what my choice would be. I wonder how your "freedom of speech" would go in a country like Iran....

Alan Gresley said...

Nick: Was Iran always that way? Was it that way when Britain invaded Persia close to 200 years ago during the era of the Great Game? Was Iran that way when the CIA got rid of the democratically elected Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 with Operation Ajax? I guess you are not seeing the connection between Australia, Britain, America and Israel and how this relates to freedom of speech vs state sponsored propaganda or terror.

Syd Walker said...

Nick raises a good point. My initial inclination was to write a short article, deaing with the ‘Clean Feed’ issue only and linking to the main websites already up and running on this issue. They represent a powerful coming together of knowledge and experience.

The main arguments against the so-called 'Clean Feed' are set out on those sites very well. The prospect of political censorship, for most people concerned about this issue, is a minor subplot at most. Concerns are many: technical feasibility, degradation of Australia’s general internet service, ease of evasion, extra powers for government agencies to snoop personal data (including encrypted data such as banking info) and UNITENDEND consequences.

I wanted to write something rather different raising a concern – for which I have no solid proof – suggesting that political censorship may indeed be an INTENDED consequence. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s Conroy’s personal goal. He may just be the carrier of infection.

Two decades ago, living in Canberra, I was very impressed with the reasons for enacting Human Rights & Equal Opportunities legislation. I imagined a law with Human Rights in the title would promote human rights, especialy free speech.

Today I feel somewhat conned. Free speech has actually been attacked via use of this legislation - not strengthened. I doubt most of the Parliamentarians who passed the bill at the time had any more idea that was going to happen than I did. But when I notice the same essential scenario has played out in Canada too, it’s makes me a little suspicious.

As for Iran… not enough space to get into that here. But whether Iran’s Government is nice or not, why single out the (elected) Iranian President for prosecution in the Word Court above ALL the world’s many extant unelected dictators and/or political leaders who have initiated wars directly? And why is it specifically Australia’s business to take this action (Iran is not in our region). That smelt like a backroom deal to me. Perhaps someone has evidence to the contrary?

Whereas there is little evidence of an Australian lobby in Israel, there’s plenty of evidence for a very powerful Israeli lobby in Australia.

I wonder if Rupert Murdoch will explain why in his Boyer Lectures?

Alan - well said!

Nick said...

Alan,

I don't know what Iran was like 200 years ago or even in 1953, but I was there in 1978 when it was a police state and most of us back then considered the Shah to be a fascist.We applauded the revolution that took place in 1979, only to see the Mullahs take over and drag the place back into the Middkle Ages. I would hardly call this progress and it was not forced upon them by some outside power. As for Australia, America, Britain and Israel (and most of the rest of the Western world), I think we enjoy more freedom of speech and individual freedom in these countries than people do in most of the rest of the world, where voicing the sort of opinions you find on this blog would get you locked up or killed.

Alan Gresley said...

Nick: I don't call the Islamic Revolution in Iran progress either. I only say that this is the end result of Western imperialism. Iran under the Shah served the wishes of Washington and London and the big four Oil companies.

We in the west enjoy freedom of speech only when this stays in the bounds set by the elites in power. The western mainstream media at large is state propaganda telling us who to fear, what to love or hate and how to think. Our media should be more in lines with the type of independent media that John F. Kennedy talked about. We all know to well what happened to JFK.

At this point in time people in Australian enjoy much more freedoms than someone from the United States or Britain. Since 9/11 (and 5/5 2005) both of the countries have become police and surveillance states. Both countries declare that Osama Bin Laden is a very dangerous terrorist. Both countries say that their citizens must give up there freedoms for safety. Does the western mainstream media tell us of American imperialism or are we just reminded continuously how the world has forever changed since 9/11?

NoSense said...

A web filter by the name of WebSense is used on many corporate and public servers to deny access to all manner of sites that might be deemed to convey "racism and hate".

Access to this webpage is restricted at this time.

Reason:
The Websense category "Racism and Hate" is filtered.

URL:
http://www.savethemales.ca/




Any site that questions the intent of the interaction of the pro-Israel lobby in Australia's immigration and defense direction is fitted into this category and is unavailable. Henry Makow of savethemales.ca is apparently a promoter of "racism and hate". Indeed, any information that might threaten to change the public perception of Israel from a persecuted victim state to something else, is deemed "racism and hate".
WebSense would likely be initmately involved with the allocation of censorship targets and we can expect it to remain thematically consistent in intent and deed.

We can expect any website that surrepticiously advocates open War fare against "IslamoFascism",under the pretext of "eliminating terrorism", to be available to the collective public psyche via the internet. We can also expect any idea that counsels the public mind as to the benefits of universal cultural destruction via "Multiculturalism" to be freely available for consumption.

If the purpose of Life is to discover "Truth" then we can expect that those who define "truth" as a simple minded, animalistic function of public consensus will deny the opportunity for open inquiry to those they feel to be somewhat lesser beings than themsleves. And this in itself says much about what these fearful Narcissistic individuals stand for.

Von Curtis said...

Von Curtis

I am a farmer , wife , mother in southern Q'ld and we have been talking a lot about this on http://www.agmates.com/blog/2008/11/23/internet-filtering-is-dangerous-because-australians-have-no-constitional-right-to-freedom-of-speech/

I have sent about 20 letters to politicians and there are protests in capital cities coming up.

Von Curtis said...

"I wonder if Rupert Murdoch will explain why in his Boyer Lectures?"

The first lecture was about putting us into an EU like Asian Pacific Union and the second one was about putting corporations in schools to educate our kids.

Murdoch is brilliant but EXTREMELY DANGEROUS and I'm afraid to say he ran Howard, he is running Rudd and he is now attempting a create the CORPORATE POLICE STATE of Australia.

He has 4 more brain-washing softening up lectures to go.
He is hideously e##l

Syd Walker said...

Great to see more well-informed comments on this subject.

I've written a longer (!) new article about this for my blog. See Clive Hamilton & I: Getting Personal about Sex, Lies, Hate & Censorship.

It includes a rebuttal of the oft-repeated argument "we already censor TV< newsappers, books etc - why not the Internet?"

Von Curtis said...

I agree with everything you say Syd except the global carbon tax - it is a nonsense and part of the globalist control.
Our zionist/nazi controllers are very worried they might lose control of the western world 'cos they have lost the east.
On ABC TV tonight it was very obvious that they wanted to talk endlessly about the so-called moslem attack on Mumbai but they hardly mentioned the huge protest by young people and women in Bangkok. So called free trade is dying as ordinary people hate it .
The protest in Thailand is a big threat to the zionists.