news The Australian Greens have demanded that the Government clarify its stance on a reported new policy that would see it block foreign sites not paying Goods and services Tax (GST) on sales in Australia.
The party said the Coalition Government should “immediately confirm” whether or not it plans to introduce the “radical” new filter – news of which was first reported by consumer group Choice.
“I honestly hope that this is a hoax, because it is hard to believe that a proposal as off-the-wall as this one could seriously be under consideration. Treasury should shut this down or come clean,” said the Greens’ Communications Spokesperson and Co-Deputy Leader Senator Scott Ludlam.
“Why does this government always resort to the laziest, most counterproductive response any time the internet imposes on their inflexible view of the way the world should be?” he said.
According to the Senator, the Choice report suggests that “access to overseas websites will be blocked under the same obscure provision of the Telecommunications Act as that used by ASIC in 2014”.
“This humiliating misadventure blocked not just the poorly-defined targets, but hundreds of thousands of sites by accident,” said Ludlam, adding that overseas firms are under “no obligation to comply with Australian law anyway”.
“This hardly constitutes net filter scope-creep; this is more like a scope-avalanche. Estimates hearings in October will certainly be interesting if Treasury have not shot this idea down by then,” he said.
With a little technical knowhow, any location-based restrictions would be easy to bypass with tools such as VPN.
“The Turnbull government’s VPN subscription stimulus package rolls on into year 2, it seems,” Ludlam concluded.
In a report on News.com.au, the Treasurer Scott Morrison has denied that the Government would block foreign e-commerce sites that don’t pay GST on goods sold in Australia.
The Australian Taxation Office is one of a number of government agencies that can seek to block websites to enforce the law, but, according to the news source, the Treasurer’s spokeswoman said it has never exercised the power because it is generally aimed at preventing serious criminal activity, fraud and national security threats.
Image credit: Parliamentary broadcasting