Coalition faces internal e-safety dissent



blog Remember how the new Coalition Federal Government issued a detailed discussion paper in mid-January canvassing various options through which it can deal with the issue of children’s safety on the Internet, including the potential establishment of a children’s e-safety commissioner? Of course you do. After all, shortly after the policy came out, a clutch of companies including Microsoft, Yahoo!7, Facebook, Freelancer, eBay, Google and Twitter came out to oppose the policy. Well, now Malcolm Turnbull’s Parliamentary Secretary Paul Fletcher, who is spearheading the policy, is facing opposition from a new front: Coalition MPs. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Liberal MP and deputy chair of the last Parliament’s cyber-safety committee Alex Hawke (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“We heard a lot of evidence in the last Parliament,” he says. “Industry groups, education groups, parents groups and academics were all saying that [an online ombudsman] might sound nice in theory but, in practice, it’s too slow, too reactive and ultimately not going to work.”

Ultimately it’s not a surprise that Fletcher has been unable to get this one across the line without attracting the kind of attention the current Abbott Government — which yesterday watched as tens of thousands of people right around Australia protested its very legitimacy — can do without. After all, we’re talking about the very same MP here who famously attracted national attention by bungling the launch of the policy before the Federal Election by launching it with a revamp of Labor’s dumped Internet filter plan.

Plus, as even normally Liberal-friendly stakeholders such as new Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson and the Institute for Public Affairs have pointed out, on policy grounds the proposal is a dud. What this adds up to is a bungled policy attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist, promulgated by an MP who bungled its launch and has not been able to get his party 100 percent on side. Not precisely a recipe for success.

Alex Hawke, on the other hand, has demonstrated a large amount of common sense over the years when it comes to technology policy. Those with long memories will remember that Hawke was one of the core group of Liberal MPs who convinced the Coalition’s Shadow Cabinet to oppose Labor’s Internet filter back in 2009. Three years later, he appears to still have a calm head when it comes to the issue of regulating the Internet. It’s a pity more politicians can’t say the same.

Image credit: Still from Gladiator


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