blog We gave Senator Stephen Conroy a pretty hard knock early in his stint as Communications Minister due to his incessant and occasionally offensive defence of Labor’s mandatory Internet filtering plans. However, in the years since Labor put the filter broadly on ice, Conroy has more or less redeemed himself in the eyes of many in the technology industry, due primarily to his energy pushing the National Broadband Network project. This morning more good news for Conroy fans and those concerned about Government transparency in general has arrived. According to Computerworld (we recommend you click here for the full article), Conroy has asked his department what can be done to provide more transparency around the government use of Section 313 notices under the Telecommunications Act (you know, the ones which financial regulator ASIC recently used to unilaterally block a cluster of websites). Computerworld quotes Conroy:
“I think there’s a good argument that people are putting forward [that] there should be a greater transparency about what’s happening to ensure that mistakes, like ASIC have made in this example, don’t happen. I’ve asked my department to put some suggestions to me about how we can strengthen the transparency.”
While we applaud Conroy’s quick action in this regard and support pretty much all of the measures he has discussed in Computerworld’s article, we would also note that we suspect that the Government won’t go far enough in its actions. There are agencies in the Federal Government — such as ASIC, ASIO and the Defence Signals Directorate, not to mention the AFP — who politicians such as Conroy consider it very bad form to mess with. We believe it would be relatively easy for the Communications Minister to force many of the normal agencies (the ATO, Human Services etc) to engender transparency around the use of Section 313 notices to block websites. But when it comes to the law enforcement agencies, we suspect Conroy will find it very tough indeed to control their activities in this regard. And this is where the real danger in the shadowy use of these notices lies.