Ludlam tells Conroy: Australia is standing up right now


Greens senator Scott Ludlam has delivered a blunt rejoinder to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s statement this week that Australians would stand up against a future broadening scope of the internet filtering project, saying: “We are standing up”.

In an interview with ABC television show 4 Corners broadcast on Monday night, Conroy had said Australians should stand up and say ‘just a minute’ if future Parliaments wanted to broaden the filter’s scope beyond Refused Classification material. “I’ll be one of them,” he said.

“The time for Australians to stand up is right now, and we are standing up,” Ludlam, who has been a strident opponent of the filter, said in the Senate this afternoon, adding that the Greens would definitely vote against the filter legislation when it was introduced.

Ludlam said in response to Australia “standing up” against the filter over the past several years, Conroy has spent that time “vilifying anybody who criticised the proposal — including digital rights organisation Electronic Frontiers Australia, Google and Reporters without Borders.

“And every time the government shoots the messenger, more messengers arise,” he said.

Ludlam said — although he has long been a critic of the filter — that he had held back from declaring the Greens’ voting intentions on the filter issue in “the faint hope” that when the legislation arrived, Conroy might have accommodated some of the concerns put to him by those against the project.

“But, on the back of the Four Corners piece the other night, it is pretty obvious that this is a false hope. So let me remove that ambiguity once and for all. If the government presents its mandatory internet censorship scheme to the parliament in the form that the minister has been describing to us, the Australian Greens will vote against it,” he said.

According to Ludlam, the filter proposal should not be judged against the scope of the current blacklist of banned sites administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, but against what future governments would do with the technology.

“The installation of a physical choke point on every internet service provider in the country, filtering against a growing secret list of material, ranging from illegal to unwanted, establishes hard-wired censorship architecture, which future governments will almost certainly be unwilling to dismantle,” he said.

The senator also reiterated a number of other points that he had previously claimed about the filter — that it would not do anything to protect children online and that it was technically unworkable.

Instead of pursuing a mandatory filter, Ludlam said, the Greens is proposing a three-fold strategy to tackle objectionable content online — education, law enforcement and tailored, optional filtering solutions. His full speech is available online.

Image credit: David Howe, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence


  1. Maybe one day Senator Ludlam will explain how Australians can truly trust the Greens on this issue when they chose filter mastermind Dr. Clive Hamilton as their candidate in the Higgins by-election last year? Or at least assure voters that Dr. Hamilton’s rabidly anti-sex & pro-censorship agenda has no place in the Green Party, and that they will not be standing him as a candidate again?

    • I think it’s safe to say that the Greens are pretty much against the filter ;) But I do also think the Greens are a pretty democratic party and that they would discuss all options within their membership — there are some pretty wildly divergent views within the party, as there should be. A party with just one view on everything from all members would be pretty boring and not dynamic.

    • The Greens are actually democratic in how candidates are selected- they are selected 100% by Greens members in that electorate. So “The Greens” as an entity didn’t select Clive Hamilton, the electorate in which he was a candidate choose him- presumably they thought he was appropriate to them and that electorate (quite possibly for reasons other then filtering).

      I’m not saying they got it right (it seemed odd to me) but its important you understand how it comes about. They don’t issue orders on candidates from HQ like most parties :).

      In terms of trusting their view, the Greens have a pretty goos track record of voting sensibly and in line with their public statements, particularly in recent years.

      • What a shocker — a political party which actually allows its local members to elect their candidates … unheard of!

        From what I saw of Clive Hamilton on TV, he looked like a fairly sensible chap that had just got his head around the whole filter issue wrong — so quite likely there are a lot of issues on which he would have good opinions that would resonate well with Greens voters.

        And I would agree, the Greens seem to be a good example of a party that has strong internal debate but good external cohesion — pretty much what every party ultimately would want to aim for. It means you get new “green shoots” of energy within the party, but that you can act as a whole etc.

        However, they are obviously fairly small compared to the other major parties — would be interesting to see how they would handle the party dynamics if they got much larger.

  2. Maybe the can have a “Take a Number” ticket system on parliament for all of us voters who want to stand up. Conroy is covering his ears going lalalalalalalalalala. Labors ignorance and arrogance reminds me of the liberals at the end of their reign a few short years ago. Go the greens I say.

    • Yeah, from my point of view I am surprised that it has taken Labor only a few short years to go sour — they had so much momentum at the end of 2007. Although looking at the filter policy even back then, you could probably see the future coming eventually etc.

  3. Mr. Ludlam do you have children? Unfortunately in this society there are many children who have parents that are not responsible parents and don’t really care that much what their kids see on the internet. I think anything we do to help protect these kids is worth it regardless if we lose a bit of our own freedom as you suggest. Who really cares and I am standing up and saying go ahead government and install the filter and while you are at it support the parents who do not want a R18+ classification on video games and as investigation has revealed that the majority of the 60,000 people who signed a petiton wanting this were males aged between 18 and 34. Even if the filter saved 1 kid from seeing filth would be a good thing.

    • Hi Leslie,

      your policy aims would still be solved if the government implemented an “opt-out” style filter that responsible parents who do monitor their children’s internet use could opt out of, while by default it would be turned on for everyone else. This is the option that Labor Senator Kate Lundy is espousing. Have you heard of this option?

      And yes, what Bryn says as well. But in the short term I encourage you to check out the “opt out” option.

    • Ms O’Callaghan,

      Can you explain to me precisely what the “filth” is that you believe will be so powerful in its cognitive impact on your child? Surely given the rights you are prepared to surrender so willingly, it must be powerful stuff.

      I’m expecting that this filth is so potent that by just seeing it accidentally, it’s going to turn your child or someone else’s into a depraved or depressed human being and damage your child and society forever.

      I’ll tell you what scares me though. It scares me that there are so many scared people out there like you who believe what you have written.

      It seems to me none of you have even read George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” as examples of what is likely to come if we do not entrench our basic civil liberties into our Constitutions and vigilantly protect those rights.

      Today I read that the young whistleblower Assange who published the ACMA’s black list is being harrassed by the Australian Government and has had his passport confiscated. This seems to be a punishment for Assange revealing to the public the lie in Conroy’s initial claim that the proposed filter was only to filter against child pornography. The exposure of that blacklist demonstrated that Conroy’s agenda was wider-reaching than what he was telling the public.

      So it surprises me that people like you have more faith in those so power hungry that they dedicate themselves to ascending to positions in government. These are people who thirst for power, it consumes them and they devote their lifetimes to it.

      Such words from an anonymous person may seem a little unhinged, but bear in mind the words of Voltaire, “the price of Liberty is eternal Vigilance”, or of the recently retired High Court Justice Kirby who warned that regulation of the internet is “the thin end of the wedge”.

      You state that “even if the filter saved 1 kid from seeing filth [it] would be a good thing”, but you don’t really explain precisely what the “filth” is and realistically what effect it is that viewing it would have on any child. You are nevertheless willing to entrust successive members of future governments with regulating the freedom of speech the very freedom we rely on to make our own contributions to public discourse and to express our creative freedoms. These things seem less important to you than whether your child risks seeing something ugly.

      Unfortunately we can’t regulate you or any other parent in the way you bring up your kids. However, I say this with reasonable confidence and faith: the success or failure of your child as a member of society hinges on your parenting, not on whether they glimpse or even gawk at an image depicting ugliness of any sort.

      This communication, as for yours to which I am responding, just by the way, is an exercise of a freedom of speech, the very same freedom you are happy to risk curtailing. Either of us may be right or wrong, but I am certainly glad we all get to express our views. But that right is today, and it might not be tomorrow if we do not all vigilantly protect it.

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