Filter blocks Senators’ access to over 35m sites

news Senator Scott Ludlam, Australian Greens communications spokesperson revealed in a media release yesterday that Australia’s parliamentarians have had their Web access heavily filtered. This follows the defeat of the Government’s proposed mandatory Internet filtering scheme more than a year ago.

Ludlam was speaking in budget estimates hearings. He established that the whole .info top level domain is blocked to Parliament House, obstructing an unknown number of sites. These include an anti-war blog and sites covering energy policy and nuclear disarmament. Ludlam said that strangely, a further blocklist including over 35 million sites is blocking Senators and their staff, but not House of Reps members and staff.

“I could walk to the nearest public library and access a ‘.info’ website, but they are banned to people working within the Commonwealth parliament. I spent two years campaigning to prevent a filter being imposed on the general public, who might now appreciate the irony of a vastly more expansive filter being imposed on MPs,” Ludlam stated.

It’s not the first time politicians had been frustrated with the overly zealous web filter in Canberra’s Parliament House. In February 2010 it had blocked several unrelated sites, including News Ltd’s commentary website, The Punch. Other sites blocked included the train timetable website, a travel website, and an article about Apple’s new iPad device. David Kenny, the Department of Parliamentary Services deputy secretary had promised that his department would investigate the issue.

Liberal Senator Scott Ryan told a Senate Estimates committee at the time that he had started a folder of “printouts” when a website had been blocked, adding the problem “does not fill us with a great deal of faith in a proposed national internet filter”.

Department of Parliamentary Services deputy secretary David Kenny told Ryan the filter had been replaced in 2009 and that it blocked a list of sites. If members of parliament had complaints, he said, they should contact parliamentary official the Usher of the Black Rod as a first step. “Getting individual sites unblocked is a particularly laborious process. If you need to use a website, you often do not have time to do that,” Ryan said. “How do you oversee what this thing is picking up?”


  1. i don’t see what an organisation’s internal IT management policies have to do with the Govt’s ISP level filtering policy. Nor do I think that a particular organisation’s IT management polciies are of significant public interest such that they should be taking up the time of the Senate. Did the Greens even try to resolve this with the IT department before loading up the media release template?

    • Billy, if the Senate cannot access web sites that they may need for proper informed decisions, then it is of significant public interest. Why is the Senate filtered and not the House of Reps, why are different rules applied here? Why do the Greens need to quietly ask for access when our elected officials are being blocked, unknowingly, it appears, from so many web sites that are quite useful, like Cityrail (and having that one specifically unblocked does not resolve the issue). “Media release template”? What an odd statement, is that you, Senator Conroy?

      • jeesh – no need to get your tin foil all ruffled.

        Most mid to large organisations have IT policies in place to manage access to the Internet – Parliament House has such a policy.

        If a reasonable person encounters difficulties accessing a website that may offer information useful to the performance of his/her duties, they will generally raise that issue with someone in the IT Dept. Senator Ludlam, on the other hand, chose to vocalise the issue during Senate Estimates, suggesting that Parliament House’s IT management policies are somehow linked to Government’s ISP level filtering policy.

        This is the same guy btw that accused the Government of hacking his phone because, on some days, the battery drained more quickly than on other days.

        • ‘they will generally raise that issue with someone in the IT Dept’

          In this case that would be the Usher of the Black Rod…

          He may have a ‘black hat’ so he would need to be blocked too…

          ‘This is the same guy btw that accused the Government of hacking his phone because, on some days, the battery drained more quickly than on other days’

          This is the same regime that is conducting secret discussions with the gatekeepers and champions ACTA and other fun ‘trade initiatives’ that could jail your kids on their behalf for downloading beiberisms… I would be as paranoid as Sen L these days…

          • I’d say you’re past paranoid if you think Parliament House’ IT team are negotiating international trade agreements

        • The point is, if parliaments house’s own internal filter is blocking valid and legitimate sites from its users then how are we, as private citizens able to take seriously the notion of a filter that encompasses the entire nation? I can’t just ring the ACMA helpdesk and ask for a site to be whitelisted :)

          • yep – I understand that’s the link that is trying to be made. But as I said ,I don’t reckon a reasonable and intelligent person would link the IT management policies of their particular place of work with the ISP level filtering policies of the Government of the day.

  2. I agree with the filtering the News Ltd’s commentary website is full of the most disgusting rubbish and shouldn’t be viewed by anyone and Scott Ludlam must be a paedophile for wanting to remove the filter.

    For people the reading comprehension of a 4 year old the above was sarcasm.

  3. This is becoming typical across the board in Australian politics and society. Not for profit board members can’t control their staff, Mayors can’t run their councils and now it seems a Senator needs to file a brief to release a website. WHAT UTTER GARBAGE! What I would like to know is where in the past few years did elected officers in government and private sector life become the lesser power? All the while these pencil-pushers – who NO ONE ELECTED – seem to have all the say. Time to take our democracy back.

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