The Department of Parliamentary Services has blocked access by Australia's parliamentarians to some 5.2 million websites with a .info domain.
The block, put in place on October 22 last year, was put in place on the advice of the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).
“The advice was that the domain is generally considered to be a source of more than its fair share of attacks and malicious software,” the department's acting secretary David Kenny told a Senate Committee in Canberra today.
Since being instituted, the department has unblocked access to 68 .info sites on request.
Senators are unable to opt-out of the block on .info domains for network security reasons.
“More than a year on from the defeat of the Government’s proposed mandatory net filter, Australia’s parliamentarians have instead elected to heavily filter their own web access,” Senator Scott Ludlam said after the meeting.
“I could walk to the nearest public library and access a .info website but they are banned to people working within the Commonwealth parliament.
"I spent two years campaigning to prevent a filter being imposed on the general public, who might now appreciate the irony of a vastly more expansive filter being imposed on MPs.”
“Hopeless” Parliamentary Website upgrade
The Estimates Committee also probed why the launch of a new Parliamentary House website had slipped by about a year and incurred additional costs of over $614,000.
“That’s pretty hopeless, isn’t it?,” Senator John Faulkner commented.
Outgoing Parliamentary librarian Roxanne Missingham blamed the slippage on the complexity of the project.
She said business requirements changed and further delays to ensure the security of the site.
It is scheduled to launch on Friday February 17.
The original prime contractor, Fujitsu, no longer supports the site.
Further maintenance for the website will be through a labour and materials contract with SiteCore, the company that provides the content management system for the site.