Monday 5 July 2010

Warren Entsch says no to compulsory internet censorship

Peace and civil liberties activist Syd Walker has just been sent a reason to consider giving his preference vote to Warren Entsch of the LNP at the forthcoming election.

Warren Entsch called me on the phone today. Mr Entsch, who's standing for the Liberal National Party at the forthcoming Federal election in the Far North Queensland seat of Leichhardt, was responding to an email I sent him a couple of days ago.

For quarter of an hour we discussed war and peace issues. It's fair to say we're poles apart on that. He still believes the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were a good idea. To say the least, I don't. For now, agree to disagree.

Then we spoke about the second issue I'd raised in my email: compulsory Internet censorship.

It's an topic that's concerned me for the duration of the Rudd Government.

I'm not alone. A recent online opinion poll in the Sydney Morning Herald attracted nearly 90,000 voters. 99:1 opposed the Rudd Government's mandatory censorship proposals.

Yet as recently as last week, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy continued to insult opponents and loftily insist this highly unpopular scheme will go ahead, despite the obvious fact that's he's failed to convince his many critics of its merits.

The Federal National Party conference voted recently against mandatory internet censorship, so Warren Entsch's position did not come as a complete surprise. Even so, I was glad he put his views on the record. This is what he emailed me today:

“..the previous (Howard) Government, of which I was a member, had a policy of providing voluntary Internet 'filter' technology, free and on request, to anyone who requested it. To me, that was a sensible position, and one that I continue to support.

“I would vehemently oppose any move to implement any form of mandatory Internet censorship, and have no hesitation in publicly confirming my position.”

A nice clear position.

It doesn't mean, of course, that back in government, the Coalition would not go down the same path as the ALP. It might. I've long had concerns web censorship is being pushed by behind-the-scenes forces onto both sides of politics. But at least in Warren Entsch I'd have a local MP who's committed to fight, in Caucus, against government censorship of the one tool I rely on to keep me well informed.

What does the sitting Labor MP Jim Turnour think about the issue?

I emailed Jim Turnour on the same subject just before I emailed Warren Entsch. I asked Jim to
(a) pass on an open letter to the Prime Minister, as her electronic mailbox last week wasn't working at the time, and (b) respond to the points raised in my letter.

So far, no response. It puts me in a dilemma. I shall vote Green 1 at the coming election. If any promising independents emerge in Leichhardt, I'll consider them too, at least for my second preference.

But in Federal elections, preferential voting isn't optional. To cast a valid vote, voters must record a preference for ALL candidates on the ballot. At some point, for every voter in Leichhardt, that means putting Labor ahead of the LNP – or vice versa.

At the last election, I supported Labor with my preference vote over the Coalition, helping to defeat the Liberal candidate and the Howard Government. I'd imagined doing the same this time - even though I haven't been much impressed by the performance of the local ALP member, or the Rudd Government's performance in general, on several issues that matter to me.

Warren Entsch has just given me a good reason to reconsider.

Here's the letter I sent last week to Julia Gillard...
  • Congratulations on becoming Prime Minister.

    As you know, one of the issues carried over from the Rudd Government is the topic of compulsory Internet censorship. I wish to bring to your attention my strong objection to this proposal and urge you to withdraw it forthwith.

    - The Rudd Government never made a convincing case for introducing this new and potentially pervasive form of censorship.
    - The case that it could possibly be effective in achieving its stated objectives has never been made to the satisfaction of most informed Australians with an interest in this debate.
    - There are concerns it would lead to misplaced confidence that appropriate parental supervision is unnecessary.
    - There are concerns it will affect internet performance for all users
    - There are concerns it will lead to the creation of insecure lists
    - There are major concerns that ‘mission creep’ will occur over time; there can be no guarantee it will not happen.

    Please drop plans to introducing mandatory Internet censorship and instead affirm your government’s commitment to net neutrality, personal privacy, data security, safety for children and individual freedom. They need not be competing objectives.

    Efforts to introduce a single uniform filter should be re-directed to reviving and building on the Howard Government’s free-offer of voluntary filters. Voluntarism, consent, education and the provision of appropriate tools to the public are the keys to making the Internet safe for the vulnerable while keeping it free for citizens as a whole.

    Please do not destroy your new government’s reputation for rationality and proper consultation by pursuing this highly unpopular and somewhat absurd measure.
    Instead, please use your role to guide Australia into a more intelligent policy debate about unprecedented and complex issues, which affect us all, concerning the appropriate regulation of telecommunications to secure multiple objectives including privacy, security, freedom, transparency and safety.


I know said...

I am not voting for jim turnour even his own party don't think he can win that is why they asked ****** **** to replace him but he would not stand down hey jim?

Jims ahead by a country mile said...

these National Party relics trying to suggest they are "in the know" in Cairns ALP.... please save us all the trouble with all this ALP wanted someone else but Jim sh.t we've stuck by him (well those of us who matter have) and the polls show why. With Jim ahead 54-46 the Stentch doesn't have a chance. As for Syd Walker, anyone who knows him would vote OPPOSITE to whatever he suggested.

Entsch Smentsch said...

Well at least the paedophiles will be voting for you Syd.

Be sure to make it clear your preferences are going to Entsch, so we can avoid you both.

OpenInternet said...

Anyone that thinks the internet filter is about paedophiles shows a serious lack of understanding in the subject. It's censorship, pure and simple, as the leaked blacklist proved. Not only that it will be totally ineffective and therefore a waste of money.

For the first time in my life I won't be voting Labor.

I know too said...

Jims ahead by a country mile ,nice try but you know and I know you are lying your arse off ,when the name of the person is revealed jim will shit himself .Even his own party deserted him now they are stuck with him watch all the labor tools pour up on the planes to convince us he is here for us . cannot wait to see him debate entsch bbbbbbbblllllloooddddyyyyy hheeelllll .

Leuco Gaster said...

By crikey, I know, you've got me on the edge of my seat - so it's 6 letters followed by 4 - now who could that be? How about W***** P***?
Obviously, you reactionary dinosaurs can't come up with anyone to replace Jim who isn't already over the hill - even in your own fevered imagination.
Well, am I right?

A Real Liberal said...

Warren Entsch courting Syd Walker for his support! Big W must be even more unscrupulous than we thought.

Syd hates Israel, claims that the 9/11 atrocity was not the work of Islamists, and now attacks Julia Gillard's partner for working for a jewish bloke!

Hopefully, Syd's support of Warren will ensure the big fella's defeat.

Syd Walker said...

@ A Real Liberal (who's apparently too terrified to give his/her real name)

I approached Warren Entsch - not the other way round.

I also approached Jim Turnour shortly before that, on the same issue.

Both approaches were by email.

Vilify, parody and misrepresent my views as you wish... that's your business. I notice you don't care to discuss any of the real issues.

@ Entsch Smentsch - your comprehension level appears to be so low you haven't even understood that I'm not a candidate - merely a voter expressing a view. Yet you bandy around the most revolting insinuations. Pathetic.

Cairns Resident said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
I know said...

No miles off but the amount of letters are correct.

A Real Liberal said...

Sorry Syd, I don't mean to be unkind, but you are irresistable. After reading your blog for a few months I can only say that you have a knack for seeming rational.

And I'm not terrified - this is not Parliament, nor is it a peer-reviewed journal - it's a blog, and it's meant to be fun, and irreverent. Perhaps you should stop taking yourself so seriously.

As for the issue of mandatory internet censorship - I don't like censorship either, but as a parent I want something done about the horrible stuff that infests the internet.

Would you support any level of censorship? Surely you'd agree that some things ought to be banned outright? If so, the argument is about the level of censorship, and the mechanism, not the principle itself.

Syd Walker said...

@ a Real Liberal

You write: "Surely you'd agree that some things ought to be banned outright? If so, the argument is about the level of censorship, and the mechanism, not the principle itself."

You might like to re-read John Stuart Mill's 'On Liberty', just to refresh your memory about what 'real liberalism' means in a historical sense.

Anyhow, do you have a workable plan for making rational decisions about which of the world's 55.61 billion (and counting) webpages should be censored for all Australians, how to ensure mistakes aren't made (overblocking or underblocking) - and most important of all how to guarantee that the people operating in secrecy who will control this continent's Internet censorship will never abuse that power?

If so, I suggest you tell Stephen Conroy. He hasn't been able to come up anything that makes sense to his critics in three years.

Maybe you can?

A Real Liberal said...

Gee Syd, you got me there!

No, I don't have a comprehensive plan for internet censorship - that's outside my "skill set" - but I'm in favour of our federal government having a role in determining what's not acceptable on the net.

You, on the other hand, apparently cleave to the philosophically pure, if simplistic, notion that adults ought to be able to look at(and presumably, post) whatever they like.

Nice in theory, but I live in the real world.

OpenInternet said...

@ A Real Liberal

If you think the internet is full of "horrible stuff" then be a good parent and supervise your children's internet usage.

If that's not possible then set the Parental Controls that come with your computer. Free and easy to use.

If that's too hard then use something like OpenDNS FamilyShield. Also free and easy.

If that's too tricky then you really should be taking some lessons in parental responsibility because I don't see why my internet usage should be controlled by some faceless bureaucrats in Canberra working to the agenda of a religious extremist group to make up for your lack of family skills.

PaulB said...

You don't know very much about 911 do you "Real Liberal". Do a bit of simple research, maybe starting with the word "Thermite".

JDNSW said...

For A Real Liberal. There are four questions all of which need to be answered "yes" to approve the government's internet filter.

1. Should we censor the internet? You will never get an agreed answer to this, as it is a matter of opinion. But when thinking about it, remember that the internet is a carriage service, not a "medium", and is more similar to Australia Post or the telephone system, not only in its function but in its legal status.

2. Can the internet be effectively censored? The answer to this is almost certainly No, and probably always will be. The reason for this is that it is a dynamic carriage service, not a medium like film or print. It changes faster than any censorship can possibly keep up, and the number of URLs (which is the unit the plan is censoring) is in excess of one trillion two years ago, increasing at over a billion a day. If China cannot censor the internet, why does Conroy think Australia can?

3. Will the ALP's plan work? Certainly, the answer to this is NO. For a start, there has never been a clear answer as to what it is proposed to accomplish. A blacklist of less than 10,000 out of over a trillion? Has anyone in the ALP elementary arithmetic skills? Either the problem is trivial or the solution virtually useless. As Conroy admits, it will not work for high traffic IP addresses, and there is no possible solution to this. Conroy's solution of asking Youtube to censor for Australians material that is legal everywhere else has been roundly rejected by them. The simple fact that the list needs to be kept secret is an admission that it will not work. If it works, why does it need to be secret, unlike all other censorship?

4. Will the plan's drawbacks outweigh its advantages? Obviously YES, since the plan will not work (see 3). But there are serious drawbacks - It has been demonstrated by all of history (and current leaked internet censorship lists from other countries) that secret censorship is inevitably used for political purposes. It will decrease the reliability of the whole internet for Australians. With the NBN touting 100mbps, the filter trials tested it at only 8mbps! And there seems to be a possibility that those involved in these trials are liable to criminal prosecution under the TIA - clearly showing that amendment of this act will be needed to introduce this censorship, which should be ringing alarm bells everywhere!

Cairns IT Guy said...

Cairns IT Guy here.

A few friends and I emailed Jim T and only got the Labor form letter about the censorship, I.E couldn't even give his own opinion about it.

If politicians think they can work this way, which most of them currently are, they got another thing comming.

The internet is bringing vast amounts of political information to the eyes of anyone willing to search, policies will be closely followed and tracking of how politicians react to certain policies. Eg. we can see Gillard rejected the same immigration policy she is now pushing, IN MARCH THIS YEAR, thanks to google.

Its certainly obvious, with a secret blacklist controlling the censorship, the policy would really only be good for one thing, POLITICAL CENSORSHIP, as discussed everywhere, the censorship is not going to stop anything else.

I'm glad there is more people in cairns taking notice of this ridiculous proposal.

By the way to "a Real liberal" .. you say you are a parent, and you want something done? are you aware that the government was giving away filtering software? or that you could sign up to webshield and have "morally" sanitised internet right to your home TODAY?

I'm assuming you must already have one or the other right?? if not, i don't think you really cared until you heard the government could force it on everyone else.

leucos mate said...

I most strongly object to the statement jim t does not have an opinion of his own.
He certainly has but it has not been sent up to him yet you dill hhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
****E** ****

Syd Walker said...

Some great points by JDNSW and Cairns IT Guy.

Someone's come up with a sticker for bumpers, fridges, walls - anything really.

I did receive an email today from Jim Turnour (thanks Jim). But as far as I can tell, it simply reiterates the previous policy. See

That's the flawed policy that needs to change - and fast.

Jim Turnour, MP for Leichhardt said...

Email from Jim Turnour, MP for Leichhardt

Dear Syd,

Thank you for your email concerning cyber-safety and internet service provider (ISP) filtering. I appreciate your interest in this important issue.

I understand that there is considerable community concern about the government’s plans for an internet filter and can assure you that I have taken an active interest in this issue. Some of the claims about censorship and the like are not correct and any proposal will be implemented in the best interests of the community.

The Government recognises that the internet is an essential tool for all Australians through which they can exchange information, be entertained, socialise, do school work and research. The ability to use online tools effectively provides both a skill for life and the means to acquire new skills.

Unfortunately the internet can also be used inappropriately. It has provided a powerful new medium which can be used to distribute material which is not acceptable to most Australians, particularly children.

The complexity of the issue is why the Government has always maintained there is no silver bullet solution to cyber-safety. In developing our approach we have been informed by the Government’s pilot of ISP level filtering and extensive industry feedback about the most appropriate way to improve safety online. In particular our approach has been informed by the constructive input of Australia’s four largest ISPs, who came forward with a set of principles which the Government has taken into account.

The Government’s approach involves a comprehensive suite of measures to address the range of issues and challenges faced by families when they are online. These measures build upon the Government’s existing cyber-safety plan which includes law enforcement, education and information, research and international co-operation. $125.8 million was allocated to this plan in the 2007-08 budget, which included funding for 91 Australian Federal Police officers to the Child Protection Operations Team.

The Government has also announced three new measures to enhance its existing cyber-safety program, all from within the existing funding:
* Introduction of mandatory ISP-level filtering of Refused
Classification (RC) content in order to reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure. RC material includes child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.
* A grants program to encourage ISPs to offer additional filtering services to households on a commercial basis and optional basis.
* Funding of $17 million over five years for a range of education, awareness and counselling services based on recommendations from the Government’s 300 strong Youth Advisory Group, and advice from its Consultative Working Group on Cyber-safety.

These measures tackle the issue of cyber-safety from a number of
directions and provide parents and carers with the necessary information to assist with this task.

Information on both the existing and new cyber-safety measures is
available at .

Thank you for your interest in this matter. I trust this information will be of assistance.


PS I have forwarded your letter to the PM as requested.

Syd Walker said...

Depressing news. Julia Gillard made a statement today about Internet censorship. IMO it is appalling.

She acknowledges widespread public concern - but fails to offer any policy change or even a process for resolving these concerns in a rational and fair way. That's an insult to the hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are concerned about this issue.

Imagine if she'd said to the big mining companies: "I acknowledge your concerns about the new tax, but you'll just have to cop it sweet!"

I hope Jim Turnour is reading this and I very much hope he gets on the phone to the PMs office and demands that mandatory Internet censorship is dropped forthwith from the ALP policy platform.

Positive benefit to the government from its NBN policy is tainted by this unresolved row over mandatory Internet censorship.

When Labor Parties go bad on civil liberties, they typically dive in popularity, as the British Labour Party discovered earlier this year.

It would be a real shame to have to campaign against Jim's re-election on this specific issue and I pray it won't be necessary.

Alison Alloway said...

Syd, some form of censorship is already in place. I had an intense and personal interest in the Iraq War because I had personal friends living in Baghdad (Iraqis.) During the years of the invasion 2003-2007, I was able to chat online with Iraqis in various cities...Baghdad, Mosul, Basrah, um Qasar. Sometime in 2007, I lost contact with all of these people. Some Sunnis I knew had fled for their lives, perhaps some others may have been killed. The death rate is extremely high in Iraq (to put it mildly). However, I have a friend in Sweden who is still maintaining contact with one mutual friend in Mosul. So...something has definitely happened. Who or what has imposed the blockage, we can only guess.
The Iraq War was however, the very first war of our time where huge numbers of people from all over the world were able to make regular personal contact with the population living inside a war zone, and to follow the events firsthand. (This was despite the biggest ever "entrenched" media contingent to be placed inside a military force.) I have no doubt that this huge, unprecedented personal contact contributed to Governments taking some form of action.