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?”