Opposition mounts for Gillard’s filter push

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Opposition mounts for Gillard’s filter push

Liberals slam ‘bloody minded’ pursuit.

Members of the parliamentary cyber-safety committee have criticised new Prime Minister Julia Gillard for standing behind her party's controversial internet filtering proposal.

Yesterday, the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-safety met with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and content providers to discuss how best to protect Australians from online risks.

Representatives from Internode, Yahoo!7, the Australian Information and Industry Association (AIIA) and the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), opposed the proposal, recommending the use of commercially available software and educational initiatives instead.

Other industry witnesses, including representatives from Symantec, Netbox Blue and Telstra, rallied behind a more coordinated approach that involved improving law enforcement and education.

Symantec Australia's managing director Craig Scroggie supported the filter initiative and "the Government's noble intent".

However, a content filter would not protect internet users from cyber-bullying, identity theft, the spread of malware, and risky online behaviour like 'sexting', the committee heard.

Liberal MP and committee deputy chair Alex Hawke said the evidence "ought to spell the end" of Labor's plan to introduce a mandatory, ISP-level internet filter.

"All of the evidence from key affected groups before the Committee has been that a filter is too simplistic, will not achieve the objectives the Government is seeking, and will do nothing to prevent illegal and inappropriate online behaviour," he said.

Committee member and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam urged the Prime Minister to "put the net filter on hold and take the time to review the evidence that it simply won't work".

"Prime Minister Gillard should have taken time to hear the evidence before throwing her support behind the unpopular net filter," Ludlam said in a statement.

"The Greens congratulated Ms Gillard upon taking over the top job and hoped it would usher in a more consultative approach to decision making - one that carefully listens to stakeholders and experts.

"Why establish a cyber-safety committee if you plan on ploughing ahead regardless of the evidence it receives?"

Earlier this week, Gillard told ABC Darwin that while there were concerns about censorship and network speed, she was "happy with the policy aim".

"The policy aim is, if there are images of child abuse, child pornography, they are not legal in our cinemas," she said.

"Why should you be able to see them on the internet? I think that's the kind of moral, ethical question at the heart of this."

"I understand that there's a set of concerns; technical concerns about internet speed and also concerns that somehow this accidentally doesn't move into taking away legitimate use of the internet."

"It's not my intention that we in any way jeopardise legitimate use of the internet, but I think all would share repulsion for some things that can be accessed through the internet."

The Joint Select Committee on Cyber-safety was established on 25 February. It was asked to present a final report to parliament by 11 February 2011, and its call for public submissions closes today.

At a contact centre launch in Sydney on Wednesday, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy revealed plans to introduce filter legislation before December 2010.

"I expect that we will tackle the legislation this year - sooner rather than later," he said. "I wouldn't think it would be December, but there could be intervening events which I'm not in control of."

But the introduction of the filter would be delayed until at least the middle of 2011, the Senator said today.

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