Communications Minister Stephen Conroy tonight said he had not had any direct contact with US Government officials over Australia’s controversial internet filtering plans, despite reports the US had raised the issue directly with the Federal Government.
News Ltd blog The Punch has reported that US State Department spokesman Noel Clay said the US has raised concerns on the matter with Australian officials. The US has been broadly critical of countries implementing internet censorship regimes.
“Well, I’ve seen those concerns, [but] I haven’t had any direct contact with the US State Department,” Conroy said on the ABC’s Radio National Australia Talks program tonight.
“I saw the reports in the morning papers. My department I don’t believe has been directly contacted. They maybe are speaking to the Department of Foreign Affairs — but I was unaware until I saw this morning’s news reports of any approaches at all at this stage.”
Conroy said Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith hadn’t raised the issue with him. “It could be that it just hasn’t been passed through,” he said. “I haven’t had a briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs.”
The news comes as Conroy has increasingly appeared in the media — on TV and radio shows particularly — in recent weeks to talk about the filter issue.
Legislation on the matter has been postponed, and some, such as Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, believe the associated bill will not be introduced into Parliament until the next Federal election.
Labor Senator Kate Lundy has been attempting to convince Labor figures to back an amendment to the bill that would make the filter opt-in instead of mandatory.
However, Conroy appeared to pour cold water on the idea tonight, saying the Government didn’t provide opt-in measures to other forms of media, and that the internet was not a special medium.
Image credit: Office of Stephen Conroy