Gillard: Conroy will get filter into shape


update New Prime Minister Julia Gillard today said she understands concerns about the Government’s controversial mandatory internet filtering policy, but Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was putting effort in to get the policy into shape.

Just yesterday Gillard’s office ducked a series of questions about the filter policy amidst speculation her ascension to the Prime Ministership could signal a change in the policy.

But this morning the politician was less taciturn on ABC local radio in Darwin, responding to what the presenter said was “quite a few listeners who want me to ask you about the proposed internet filter — time to get rid of it, or at least an opt-in or opt-out system”.

“Well look, I know that there is some concern here, and I believe that the Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has been trying to work through to get a resolution,” Gillard said. “I think the competing tensions are we obviously want, you know, a fast internet that meets people’s needs, that’s why we’re rolling out the National Broadband [Network].”

“But there’s also a set of concerns about the dark side of the new technology, if I can use that expression, and, you know, clearly you can’t walk into a cinema in Australia and see certain things and we shouldn’t on the internet be able to access those things either. So, Stephen Conroy is working to get this in the right shape.”

One listener — named Stuart — emailed the ABC stating that it was hard not to draw parallels between China’s oppressive internet regime and the filter policy. In response, Gillard said she was “happy with the policy aim”.

“The policy aim is, you know, if there are images of child abuse, child pornography, they are not legal in our cinemas. You would not be able to go to the movies and watch that, and you shouldn’t,” the new Prime Minister said. “I mean, no-one should want to see that, but you’re not able to go to the movies and see those kinds of things. Why should you be able to see them on the internet? I think that that’s the kind of, you know, moral, ethical question at the heart of this.”

However, Gillard noted there was a set of “technical concerns” about internet speed, and also concern that the policy could affect 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 of would share repulsion for some of the things that can be accessed through the internet,” she said.

The comments represent the first time Gillard has commented publicly on the filter policy since winning the Labor leadership several weeks ago.

Her predecessor Kevin Rudd had publicly defended the policy several times, on one occasion noting he would not apologise for the policy.

Labor Senator Kate Lundy has previously said she believes the change in leadership could present an opportunity for the policy to change, and is lobbying the Labor caucus to insert opt-in or opt-out provisions into the filter legislation. But Communications Minister Stephen Conroy did not respond directly when asked last week whether he had spoken to Gillard about Lundy’s amendments.

Gillard also took the chance in the radio interview to sideswipe the Opposition on the National Broadband Network policy. “We’re committed to it, obviously [Opposition Leader] Tony Abbott’s committed to taking it away,” she said.

Image credit: Adam Carr, Creative Commons


  1. Mmm so it’s vote for Labor and get fast broadband but internet filtering or vote for Liberal and get slow, badly implemented internet but no filtering?

    I’d rather go with the former as the filter can be bypassed and it can always be switched off with enough pressure.

  2. “Stephen Conroy is working to get this in the right shape,” Gillard said

    If that quote is accurate it may represent a shift in policy. Previously, there has been one immutable “shape”. Gillard is implying further work is needed.

  3. I would love to talk to her one-on-one as a parent and internet user and explain how it “really” is.


    C’mon Julia, don’t make Rudd’s mistake of starting off great and then falling at the next hurdle.

    • The problem is, I think a lot of ‘ordinary people’ have tried to do just that and got nowhere … I think the power goes to these politicians’ heads, and they forget why they are really there — to represent the electorate, not pander to special interest groups.

      It would also help if we had a few politicians who actually understood technology and how it is an enabler of outcomes for people — not a great devil that must be chained to the Government’s will.

  4. What a waste of tax payer money… 705,000 results for a search “hack internet filter”… Why spend billions waving the Child Pornography flag when any police officer will tell you they’re not traded through websites but through technologies the filter can’t filter…

    Not to mention it’s easy to circumvent, and completely legal too according to Conroy. Would you wast money on building a barbed-wire fence on 1 side of your property? Is it for looks? Is it suppose to gain votes? Maybe it would if you didn’t advertise you couldn’t fully fence the yard. Or perhaps Conroy and Gillard take us for idiots? Oh my children are safe now we have a filter, praise the lord, amen… Luckily kids theses days aren’t smart enough to get around that… (sarcasm)

    Surely everyone else has noticed Conroy is looking after too conflicting projects too.. maybe he hasn’t? I mean the National Broadband Network (faster internet) and the Internet Filter (slower internet).. maybe after spending billions on both projects we might just come out the same as we started?

    • To be honest, I kind of believe Gillard and Conroy when they talk about wanting to achieve the policy aims they are going for … it’s just that I don’t think they understand that their implementation will not actually allow them to reach the aims. The problem is not that they don’t understand how to create and manage policies. They get that bit. They just don’t understand that it is not within the remit of politicians to govern whether a certain technology works or not. These things are forces of nature — not within the bounds of political discussion.

  5. Just in case you didn’t realise Julia, the internet is not a movie theatre. (shakes head in disbelief…)

    • It is certainly disappointing to see Gillard waving the exact same rhetoric as Rudd — just in slightly different clothes. I really would like to somehow get her to understand that this is an issue that the Australian people care deeply about … why else does she think that there were “quite a few listeners” of ABC Radio in Darwin, of all places, that were interested in technology policy?

  6. The internet isn’t the cinema, Julia. Besides – isn’t the idea to stop such abusive material from being ‘screened’ in the first place? The crime has long since taken place by the time the material is exhibited. Distributors and perpetrators should be targetted, not everyone else. Yes, they will get around whatever filter the government puts in place. Especially considering the protocols that will be the focus of the filter filter aren’t even of primary use to them. How about spending the money on creating a task force to infiltrate these despicable rings, to the point that you are invited to their perverse, private FTP and Usenet sanctuaries and then can bring the full force of the law down on them? You can’t filter out what you don’t know exists. In fact – if the government is aware of what sites are hosting child porn, why aren’t they actively working with other nations and organisations to bring it down instead of dropping a veil over it?

    When do any of us get a say in this?

    • True — the internet as a medium is fundamentally different from cinema, newspapers or anything else, really. Fundamentally, it is probably most similar to a bunch of guys sitting in a coffee shop constantly handing around bits of paper with a thousand bajillion things written on them. The idea that you could have another guy sitting in the coffee shop checking all of those bits of paper for *naughty things* is so patently ridiculous that it’s laughable.

      The original guys would just go to another coffee shop. And that’s what a VPN or proxy server is.

  7. Not voting labor is a good start.

    The tech will come (when I’m old and gray but it will still come). The precedent of an internet filter will stand forever.

    You hunt down and thwart the worlds evils, putting up a barb wire fence on one side of the property is stupendously idiotic as Grant Perry suggested above. Go hard or go home – this half measure will go into computer text books as an example of what not to do.

    • I am still floored that politicians don’t get that this is an issue … after forum after forum fills up with complaints, after talkback radio after talkback radio session gets dozens of calls from people against the filter … after many publications run polls which show 97% of the population is against the idea.

      It’s like screaming into a vacuum.

  8. If its so appalling, 1- don’t go looking for it, the internet is not a passive medium and 2 get your own goddamn ffilter, plenty of free options out there, some ISPs will do it for you!! Even the government used to provide a free opt in filter, canned DUE TO LACK OF UPTAKE

    • I think this is a salient point. The only demand for this policy is coming from extremely conservative groups — and even some of them think it’s a bad idea. Certain fringe ISPs have been providing filter options for some time. Nobody took them up. Why? Because this technology is better installed on home PCs, and very few people really want it anyway.

      I still can’t believe that this is a mainstream policy, when there is no mainstream demand for it.

  9. I agree that the cinema analogy is flawed but I would also like to add that if a cinema was to screen illegal material the police do not cordon of the streets around the cinema (also blocking access to other
    legitimate businesses) what they would actually do is go to the cinema, seize and then destroy the material.

    The source is what needs to be addressed, not the method of access.

  10. @renae from what I have read on Kate Lundy she sees both sides and ultimately knows enough about the subject not to go on about “spams and scams” VOTE LUNDY I say, or at least apply the filter to the appropriate channels this junk inhabits and make the blacklist open.

  11. Honestly … talking to the government about changes to the internet filter is like talking to a brick wall. Conroy is arrogant and has really no intention of listening to anyone, even though there is wide-spread objection within Australia (and around the world) to the whole thing.

  12. All those interweb spams have come back to haunt Conboy it seems. I wonder what he will do after the election…

Comments are closed.