My thoughts on the Filter

Thursday, December 17th, 2009 @ 9:42AM

UPDATE: This post was followed up by another post summarising core points from these comments: http://www.katelundy.com.au/2009/12/21/further-thoughts-on-the-filter/ and then by
Q and A from my thoughts on the internet filter and the specific ammendments the Senator is proposing to the Labor Caucus to modify the policy are on the My thoughts on the Safer Internet Group statement blog post.

First, a bit of history: Whilst the call for a mandatory filter had originally come from some Christian and parent groups, the idea attracted cross factional attention in the ALP when Clive Hamilton from the Australia Insititute brought a broad left view into the debate calling for a mandatory filter, not to mention declaring that it was indeed feasible prior to the 2004 election campaign. This had an impact within the party. Very soon after the 2004 election I was moved out of the IT shadow portfolio by Mark Latham, and federal Labor adopted a policy of filtering, provided it was cost effective and technically feasible.

When the Rudd Labor opposition reaffirmed the policy on a mandatory internet filter prior to the 2007 federal election, it was largely a conceptual policy that sought to protect people who felt vulnerable and exposed to unwanted online content, that in other mediums had some form of censorship applied. The details still had to be developed. It was also contingent on an ISP filter actually being effective and workable.

At the time, I took comfort in the seemingly well-established ‘fact’ that such a filter was not technically feasible and that any reasonable test would establish this ‘fact’ yet again. Certainly at the time of the former Howard Government’s notorious Online Services Bill in 1998, studies showed that such filters were neither cost effective nor technically feasible.

This view of technical non-feasiblility was echoed strongly around the industry in 2007 and since, so the Minister did what a sensible Minister would do pursuant to the policy on the books: test the technology and the industry’s claims along with it.

In the meantime, the debate and discussion about the merits or otherwise of mandatory censorship per se being applied to the internet manifested itself instead in discussion and debate about just what was proposed to be filtered.

To Minister Conroy’s credit, he tackled the issue of defining exactly what was proposed as being filtered: the content that could not be regulated here because it was not on a server in Australia, and was incabable of being classified within our system of classification, hence refused classification, or ‘RC’.

His announcement that it was RC material that was to be subject to the filter was helpful and resolved some concern about the lack of detail of what was to be censored and fuelled conspiracy theories about the loss of freedoms. Material that is deemed RC by a properly skilled entity such as the classification board affords more confidence than the previous methodology, which had given rise to much of the concern about unjustified, unfair or plain wrong blacklisting of web sites based on complaints because there was no transparent system or method of picking the sites.

With the issue of ‘what’ being resolved, the ‘how’ still remained to be resolved by a series of ‘tests’ conducted by industry. For all intents and purposes (and I am aware of the debate about the technical detail and scope) the testers have said that the tests were successful (media release and report).

Did I expect this? Frankly, no. Was Clive Hamilton right? Probably not at the time he said it. But again, for all intents and purposes, the Minister had abided by his commitment to ensure the policy was grounded in evidence that it did what it said it did. The industry’s original claims that the filters were not feasible were proved false.

What Minister Conroy has never said is that the filter will guarantee people will never be exposed to RC content. He can’t say that and he understands why. What he has said all along is that this is one tool in a tool kit of policies to make the internet safer.

This is where a lot of passionate opponents of the filter get very frustrated “well if it doesn’t work 100%, why do it?” The answer is because the Rudd Labor Government is convinced it will encourage concerned people that the internet will be a safer place for themselves and/or their children.

However, people with a deep abiding commitment to a truly open internet, the very idea of introducing a mandatory filter will always be an anathema, no matter the definitional limitations to what is being censored or how accountable/transparent that process is.

Unfortunately, the debate about whether reducing the risks of people being exposed to unwanted online content through mandatory filters outweighs the value people place on the concept of an open and unflitered internet was resolved by the Rudd government before the last election, when the policy was announced. So it is not surprising many people feel they have not had the opportunity to have this debate.

So where to next? With a policy announced and the tests done and the definition of what is to be filtered resolved there is little room to move.  Given the principle of openess associated with the internet is for some, irreconcilable with mandatory filtering no matter how it is done, one approach may be to allow ISPs, if they chose, to offer adults an ‘opt out’. The problem with this however will be that many people are unlikely to be comfortable with an opt-out given the inevitable stigma that will be attached to “wanting” access to RC content. It may also lead to interest by the authorities, even though individuals may simply want to ensure they are not having legitimate content filtered.

In many respects this will be the practical effect as it is assumed that the filters will be circumvented, with the defiant justification being defending this principal of openess anyway. However by creating a legitimate mechanism, the strongly held diverse views within our population would be respected while still adhering to the Rudd Labor election commitment of providing a mandatory filter.

My past statements clearly outline my preferred approach of more effective parental education and support, including filters at the desktop and improving confident use of the intenet throughs skills development across a range of community, education and work-based strategies.

So my plan is to advocate within my party an approach which recognises the openess principle that underpins the Internet as I have argued for in the past. This discussion is rightly an internal one, and I have no doubt that the public will be expressing their view as they have already started to do. In this regard I urge constructive and sensible debate. Remember that Minister Conroy is implementing an election commitment determined by the whole Cabinet.

I want to thank people for the respect they have shown me on this issue too, given my previous advocacy and obvious discomfort with the current approach. I am also firm in my belief that this debate does not diminish the exciting work we are doing with the NBN, in Gov 2.0 and other areas of ICT policy. I will always be committed to realising our ICT-related social and economic potential.

Finally, I want to be very clear that ultimately, as  a Senator in the Labor Government I will be bound by Labor Caucus’ position on the matter. I remain supportive of Minister Conroy and will work closely with him to reach the best possible outcome. I do believe that the intention of this policy remains noble – to protect our young and vulnerable. I am keenly aware that many mechanisms used by criminal networks will not be stopped through a filtering mechanism, and I believe the complementary strategies being put in place are good, such as increased funding for the AFP to tackle cybercrime and online safety education.

I will follow the online conversations closely as always and look forward to your feedback.

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    467 Comments to "My thoughts on the Filter" add comment
    Robert
    July 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    1) I have never believed kids, particularly boys should be shielded too far from risks, better for parents to educate, schools & Churches to reinforce and educate on special matters. Teach kids to swim early, don’t try fencing water from them they are far too inventive and will gat past fences to water anyhow, eventually.
    2) Prohibition of anything, alcohol, drugs, sex, cigarettes, etc has never had success in any field I know of anywhere in the world. To wit SRV tries filtering political etc, all it does is prosecute, jail, remove civil liberties or some otherwise decent honest kind and good people by mistake often. Use parental controls on home devices yes, thats a parents job to control for their kids I believe.
    3) Ok Minister Conway tried setting limits and specifics. Trouble is Like Social welfare Pensions were transferrable to citizens living abroad as they paid the tax before (like insurance) new Governments like Howard then still pay non-citizen refugees & free migrants, from day 1 special benefits and so on, yet howard to finance such cut off payment to citizens abroad.

    What I’m saying is once you install a Law the limits set by law movers can be changed by regulations and arbitrary easy moves of any future Elected Ministries and Governments which completely negate the original popular intent of the law and first carefully considered regulatory bounds.

    4) More and more Countries are using Internet filter like press censorship, to stop freedom of debate on the subjects that the rich, big business, political, religious, business, doo-gooder, NGO’s and powerful want hidden for their purposes and using their influences unfairly, including cash bribes and expensive lobying etc. These are just new innovative unregulated ways to outmanouvre the freedoms and human rights we the people have taken millions of years to achieve agains those very same moguels.

    Don’t take this laying down or easily with lack of consideration.
    That;s my opinion.
    PS: That silly blocking a police notice of prosecuting some perverted foreigner indecent approaches to kids at fast food outlets is so silly, its non-offensive court news, or police reporting that should be taken more as a useful warning for parents and their kids to be watchful of such places and baddies. Not hidden from sight as if out of sight is out of mind. It is simple bureaucracy fast pace a search machine, not a human censor catches kids – kissing – fondloe or some such catch words and acts first, (logical machine digital wisdom) but there needs an immediate human censor review with reason to make that block stand for more than a day surely? The risk of growing bureaucracy, police state mentalities etc. Rich overpowering poor, as with the Black Lady Leader in USA Rural Development wrongly sacked and Minister subsequently reversal and appology case just exposed on the USA net AOL Current News.

    Take Care Senator. I believe your first instincts may be right.

    Chrys Stevenson
    July 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Glad to see this thread resurrected.

    I hope all those who have posted hear have written to Julia Gillard and your local Labor candidate to let them know that the internet filter is a major vote decider and will influence the way that many of us vote.

    I know from reading posts to various forums that a large number of traditional Labor voters are planning to preference Labor last because of the filter. Labor thinks it can depend upon Greens preferences to win, but Greens voters are well-educated and well-informed and know that they do not have to follow how-to-vote cards.

    Labor needs to know that there is a mutiny building strengthen every day and that it is not enough to put the filter ‘on hold’ and hope we’ll forget about it at the ballot box.

    Please. Email the Prime Minister and your local Labor candidate and post here again to remind Senator Lundy that the strength of feeling against the filter is every bit as strong as it was when this thread began – and that feeling will be reflected in the polls.

    Sue
    July 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Chrys, I hope you are incorrect in saying that traditional Labor voters will not be preferencing the party in the next election. While I agree with your opposition to the filter, it is important voters are not sidetracked by a single issue. Keep writing, keep lobbying and keep being heard but don’t forget what is at stake here. Decent education funding, climate change action (let alone a recognition that climate change even exists!), secular government and a better distribution of social spending.

    An Abbott government would be disastrous.

    Martin C
    July 26, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Sue, while I agree that education funding, climate change and social spending distribution are important, sometimes an issue is so important it MUST sidetrack all others. The Labor decision-makers seem to be completely oblivious to the breadth and depth of core Labor voters’ disenchantment with Senator Conroy’s dangerous and embarrassing censorship scheme that there is no other way to make them aware of it than to withdraw our votes. Hopefully it will not cost Labor government, because I agree that an Abbott government would be disastrous for the nation. Hopefully however Labor will be returned but with such a large swing to parties that opposed the filter, such as the Greens and the Sex Party, that it might make Labor actually stop and think about the moronic and dangerous censorship scheme.

    As for your comment on secular government, a brief look at the pushers behind Senator Conroy’s censorship scheme should convince anyone that the principle of secular government is in more danger from Labor’s censorship proposal than from Abbott’s holier-than-thou uberChristianity.

    Sue
    July 26, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I hope you’re right Martin. But all those protest votes add up. In an election like this one, when the results are not clear cut I think people are really playing with fire.

    You say in one of your other posts that the Labor Party must wear the blame for this policy. That is completely fair enough. However, should we get an Abbott Government I think voters who preference the Liberal Party over what is essentially a single issue will also need to wear some blame.

    Whilst I agree with you regarding the troubling origins of the filter policy, I think the RU486 Debate in 2006 proved just how unwilling Tony Abbott is to relinquish control and put aside his religious views even if it adversely affects others.

    To me the best solution is to ensure a strong Senate. In the House of Reps it may be a choice between the lesser of two evils, but to me its pretty clear that an Abbott Government is far more dangerous.

    Dazed and Confused
    July 27, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Sue, I see you are trying to be even handed and rational. However, I think it has gone past that. Enough has changed in Labor that my view is now one of disgust, not of hope. How can a party go so fast from ratifying Kyoto and saying “Sorry”, to xenophobic boat people rantings and a totalitarian desire to control and snoop our internet usage?

    The short of it is that Labor is sick and needs culling. Conroy for one has made it crystal clear that he is not listening to anybody about anything, and as far as I can see that’s just how it is in Labor these days. They cannot be cured while in power. If returned, they will slide further into despotism.

    The alternative is the vile Abbott theocracy. But I’ll take that for a term or two until either Labor reforms as a leftist party, or until the Greens overtake them.

    When people speak casually of the lesser of two evils, I doubt they understand how low they must go to select one of the choices on offer today. If I were young and not on the roll, I can’t imagine why I’d bother to join.

    Lee
    July 27, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Sue, at the last election I broke with tradition and voted labor solely because of the way the Liberal Government failed to protect David Hicks. Sometimes there are issues that one deems so important they override all other issues. Censorship to me is one of those issues. I wouldn’t be voting labor this year anyway, most likely Greens, but I will definitely preference Labor last. No government can be trusted not to abuse censorship for it’s own purpose. This year one can only hope that the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, otherwise our freedoms may well be gone forever.

    AJ
    August 10, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Despite there likely miniscule support, I found the newly published policies from the Australian Democrats refreshing and well thought through enough to warrnt voting for them. Gone are the wooly thinking hangers on in there dying days and to me they are far more of a thoughtful policy promoter than the greens as an alternative.

    Peter R
    September 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I’m also disgusted by Liberal/Labor censorship of the net.
    Yes it’s great not to be able to find child porn, but then to blacklist sites that give excerpts from the black list will be the next to be censored, then we will find that wikileaks.com and Information Clearing House and other political sites will be targeted. Even if Labor does not expand the black list into political sites, we know that Mr Abbott will want to show how hairy chested he is and will (*not may*) do it. He’s never let the truth get in the way of telling a good story,
    Would Sen. Conroy censor the Sex Party’s website?
    I agree with Martin C, it’s too dangerous to allow censorship of any kind and I certainly used this policy when considering where my vote was to go.

    Sorry Sen. Lundy but the Greens got my vote and still will as long as Labor wants to censor the internet and keep refugees interned offshore.

    J Tomkins
    July 26, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Well Sue we don’t have much choice. Most of the people in my address book are over 65, and are struggling with the internet as it is, now with the double whammy of storage of browsing and phone history, they are not impressed..
    mostly old labor voters, (look after the working man) now they are doubly frightened to use the net in case they click a link or download something illegal.. and it is part of their history.

    They do not take kindly to snoops. mostly they have changed their voting preference entirely on this issue…. unless you have some good news i can give them.

    Sue
    July 26, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I’m not in favour of this policy. I think its a completely misguided approach to the problem and threatens the very things we consider inherent in a democracy like ours.

    My only point was that voters need to be able to live with their decision to preference the Liberal Party if Tony Abbott is elected as PM. I remain confident that there are other alternatives to influence this government: protest, letter writing, petitions and a stronger Senate. To me the damage of this policy is far outweighed by the the damage of three years (or more) under the Mad Monk.

    I’m not trying to change people’s minds (and I don’t have any good news regarding this policy J Tomkins), I just hope that people will fully consider the ramifications of their vote and its effect upon all issues rather than just one.

    Martin C
    July 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    This is what I sent to my local member, Peter Garrett:

    “Mr. Garrett: I voted for you at the last election. I have voted Labor in all Federal elections in the past 25 years and in most State elections.

    Although I have a great respect for you personally – mostly due to your activism in the years before you entered politics – and I think you were very harshly treated on the insulation issue, I am unable to vote for you this election because Labor is continuing to promote Senator Conroy’s internet censorship scheme. I am unable to vote for a party that espouses such an undemocratic and frankly Orwellian position. Senator Conroy was forced to back away from his policy slightly a month ago, as presumably the polling numbers about people like me who consider this the major issue affecting our vote got through, but reading between the lines, there still appears to be no change in Labor policy: they still plan to go ahead with North-Korean-style centralised government-controlled filtering, just deferred until after the election, and with more consultation that will no doubt be dominated by Senator Conroy’s Christian busybody friends. In addition, I was equally dismayed about Labor’s sniffing around ISPs asking them to store and report back information from chat hosts. What is Labor coming to?

    The internet is not a movie or a book. It is a medium of personal interaction, like a telephone system. Would you allow the government to pass a law that allowed them to listen in on all your phone calls? I doubt it. The more I hear from Senator Conroy on this issue, the less he seems to know about how the internet actually works. People like myself in the IT field find it astonishing that he is still pushing this policy, which won’t do anything to achieve what it purports to do, yet will cost millions, make Australia a laughing stock in the world’s eyes whenever we talk about freedom and personal liberty, and will make a weapon that any future government can secretly wield against anyone they choose. This is police state legislation, and it affects my vote more than all the other issues put together.

    I will be voting for the Greens who have stated their opposition to the policy, then preferencing Liberal ahead of Labor. I think Abbott is incompetent to rule the country, and he is probably more of a Christian nutter than even Conroy so he probably personally supports Conroy’s censorship plans, but it is Labor that is introducing this policy, so they have to take the blame.

    Personally I am sorry this affects you, as I feel you are the best person for our electorate, but as the previous letter I sent you only resulted in my receiving a ludicrous puff-piece stating the wonders of the censorship scheme from Senator Conroy’s office, I am assuming you either are not interested in this issue or you are unaware how many voters in my demographic consider it significant enough to change their vote.”

    Chrys Stevenson
    July 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    And, as if the internet filter wasn’t enough to kill Labor’s chances at the ballot box, there’s this little gem:

    http://www.efa.org.au/2010/07/23/data-retention-secrecy/

    “It recently came to light (thanks to some good reporting) that the Government has been fishing around with ISPs for their support on a new and radical data retention policy. This would legally oblige telcos to retain large amounts of data about their customers’ communications activities in case law enforcement needed them at some point in the future …

    and

    http://www.boingboing.net/2010/07/22/australian-governmen.html

    “Australia’s web-censors have outdone themselves. After Stephen Conroy (the Australian minister notorious for proposing the Great Firewall of Australia) promised greater transparency in his government’s efforts to regulate the Internet, they replied to a Freedom of Information request on plans to monitor Australians’ internet traffic with a document that was 90 percent blacked out:”

    The ridiculous thing is this is the government that most of us would like to elect but they are making it more and more impossible.

    Fred
    July 24, 2010 at 11:47 am

    This is truly the last straw:

    http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/web-snooping-policy-shrouded-in-secrecy-20100617-yi1u.html

    What the hell are you people thinking? This is insane!

    Sharon B
    July 24, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Kate, I have written in detail to my local MP (Labor) about my objections to the internet filter, and explaining that I’m a lifelong Labor voter whose vote is at stake on this matter. Her reply has consisted only of a thank you for my views, which she says she has noted, and enclosing the standard four page ‘info sheet’ from Conroy’s office. This reply is as unsatisfactory to me as if she had not replied at all. Apparently my vote means very little to my local Labor member. I’ve noted that view, too.

    Phil Hart
    July 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

    When a government, any government, censors its proposals to snoop on its citizens, and further proposes to implement a compulsory Internet filter in violation of its election promise to implement an optional filter, it ceases to be accountable, and has degenerated into a hegemony.

    The present government forgets that its purpose is to serve the people of this country, not its own ends.

    mikeys
    July 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Labor has lost my vote. Pure. Simple. Stop the filter. Stop the internet logging.

    Chrys Stevenson
    July 26, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    @Sue – it is the Labor party which is playing with fire. The answer is simple – kill the filter and gain thousands of votes and preferences. Keep the filter and lose them. It’s simple math and the only power that, we, the people have.

    Sue
    July 29, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Ah well – I know when I’m beat.

    But maybe, maybe it might be a good idea for voters not to preference the Libs in the upper house if they’re already preferencing them in the lower. Go the Greens, DLP, Independents even the ALP (except maybe those in Victoria – I’d understand if you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for Conroy).

    We can’t have a repeat of Howard’s years 2004 – 2007. Absolute power is never a good idea!

    Doug
    July 29, 2010 at 9:30 am

    @Sue – i think your mistaking history.

    the howard years of which you speak may have been politically “Stale”, ie. not many new magical things happened, but it was far from disasterous. I voted for Kevin 07 because i wanted change – what i got was incompetance.

    I ask you – how could a government, in a time of financial sensitivity go into so much debt, without event thinking through the consequences at all.

    A $900 stimulus to spend on chinese made, japanese/korean owned appliances…?

    As an ex-labor supporter, i must say i have had my eyes opened over the last 4 years.

    There is very few members of the labor party who have even worked in the private sector/run a successful business – how can we expect them to manage a country if all they have to their names is the ability to project confidence to the people?

    And you wonder why they need to convene a citizens’ assembly? They are out of touch with their constituents.

    Sue
    July 29, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    We clearly have different opinions about Howard’s last term!

    I think it was anything but stale. Having control of both Houses meant his government became arrogant about democratic processes and public opinion. The introduction of WorkChoices, Howard’s refusal to act in regards to David Hicks, the politicization of Mohamed Haneef, the unlawful detention and removal of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon (and the subsequent refusal of Royal Commissions to determine accountability) and his complete denial of climate change… just to name a few!

    Regardless of your politics, I think most people appreciate the value of strong bicameralism.

    I will now shut up – I feel we’ve gone off topic!

    Martin C
    July 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I thought the Howard years were disastrous in terms of Australia’s reputation. We used to be seen as one of the “good guys” in the world before then; now we are viewed as “in for the main chance” like most nations. The petulant refusal to acknowledge the wrongs done to Aboriginals and issue an apology always struck me as the worst thing. Sure it is only symbolism, but the Howard government seemed such a bunch of tired old “I’m not racist BUT …” squabblers from the 1950s because of it. I remember Tim Fischer telling us that there’d be Aboriginals making land claims on our suburban backyards if we apologised. Funny how Kevin Rudd made the apology and none of that seemed to happen at all.

    The apology was Rudd’s finest political moment. The internet censorship plan was his worst.

    The difference between Liberal and Labor is interesting on the topic of internet censorship, because censorship – and in fact, dictating and enforcing narrow-minded morality on one’s neighbours in general – are such heartland RIGHT-wing issues. The Liberals DID introduce a filter, though it was never a major policy plank, and their little sip from the poisoned chalice had them choking pretty quickly with that kid who hacked it in a couple of minutes. The Liberal’s resulting apparent technological cluelessness in the full glare of the media spotlight made them wisely decide to let the whole concept wither on the vine. Labor then stepped up to the poisoned chalice and took a big swig: giving the job to Senator Conroy, also technologically clueless but with the “damn the facts” zeal only truly seen in God-botherer types: let’s make the censorship compulsory, and let’s ignore the fact that it doesn’t actually address what we’re trying to censor. For some reason, no-one in the Labor party (with the qualified exception of Kate Lundy) seems to have stood up to him and said “this policy opposes issues of personal freedom and assumption of innocence that the Labor party has stood for all these years. Are we really going to go down this police state legislation road, just to try to appease a few religious wingdings who won’t vote for us anyway?”.

    Peter Holland
    August 11, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Doug, you make reference to the numbers of candidates who have run a business? David Mathews runs a small business in the technology space. He has seen the impact of the downturn, as have I. If the ALP had not provided the stimulus funding injection, I would not have a house anymore. Most of us did not rush out to buy a plasma TV, we used that money to create a buffer for hard times ahead, and it was a decision that enabled me to keep my head above water.

    How many businesses in the US went under? how many people lost their jobs? How many companies had to be propped up by the government, including banks, manufacturers and service / utility providers? on the flip side, how many businesses in Australia went under? how many emergency plans did the government have to implement to keep essential services companies operating?

    The stimulus plan was a successful, calculated risk. It saved countless jobs, kept industry operating and made sure that there were workers who weren’t impacting the taxpayers by collecting the dole – to the same extent as was seen in other countries.

    The filter was a mistake – it shouldn’t have been conceived by conroy, it was never implemented in the past as the security community couldn’t see the benefits it would give us.The NBN allows us to take our place in the global community, we should have had access to the net in Howard’s term, but they couldn’t see the benefits back then.

    I am pro NBN, anti filter, and my vote is undecided until closer to the election date. I am a labor supporter, but I have to weigh up the good points of all before I cast a vote, so that my vote will count.

    The democrats make me wary, the democrats rolled over on the australian public and gave us the GST – they were the last bastion between us and the new tax we weren’t supposed to have, and why should I vote for them on the off chance they do the same again for something else?

    Lee
    August 11, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Peter,
    Although this has nothing to do with the internet filter, I have to respond to a couple of your statements. First, for a STIMULUS package to work, the money has to be spent and I suspect most of us did just that. Those that saved it for a rainy day did not actually help the economy as was the intent. Furthermore for a stimulus package to work, it must be spent relatively quickly. This package didn’t do that. Much of the ‘stimulus’ was spent on long-term items such as school buildings etc. There is also a huge difference between Australia and the U.S. At the start of the crisis, the U.S. had a massive surplus of homes on the market, it still does. Australia on the other hand has a huge deficit of houses, so even without a stimulus, the housing market in Australia would have continued to grow, perhaps not as quickly but it still would have grown. I’m not suggesting the stimulus did nothing. It did. I just believe amount of the stimulus was much greater than it should have been and that much of it went to waste on projects given to unscrupulous contractors.

    You say the democrats make you wary because they rolled over on the GST. The coalition ran on the promise of the GST. They won. According to labor if you run on a campaign promise and win, then you have a mandate and the opposition must support your campaign promises, that at least was labors claim while rewriting employer/employee relations act, or should the coalition continued to vote against the labor policy? That’s what you seem to be suggesting.

    This comment page really is about censorship. I voted labor last time because of what the coalition did to David Hicks, I will be placing labor last on preferences this year because of censorship. If you continue to vote labor, you’re voting for censorship, no matter how you look at it.

    Su
    August 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Lee, we have some different views about the stimulus package!

    You said the money need to be spent (rather than saved) for the stimulus to have worked – it didn’t. Banks needed access to funds – saving deposits in banks ensured capital investments could be maintained.

    You said that all the money needed to be spent quickly – it didn’t. The infrastructure spending not only stimulated in the economy in the short term by providing jobs, but in the long run will help deliver economic growth (human capital for example!).

    I agree the US and Australia are an inappropriate comparison. What about the UK and us? We are still doing significantly better than them!

    Lee
    July 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Sue, I agree, absolute power is never a good idea. But incompetant government is not a good idea either and that’s what we’ve had for the past 3 years. Combining incompetance with censorship and it’s a bit too much for me.

    Fred
    August 2, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    So it’s neck and neck – don’t say we didn’t warn you. This is what happens when you pander to a tiny but vocal extremist minority at the expense of the majority.

    Ivan
    August 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Labor are redundant, as the libs and greens will block this lunacy! Add that to Comrade Conroy’s NBN disaster, which to date has just employed his mates in great paying jobs!

    Martin C
    August 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Ivan: The Libs’ position on the internet censorship policy is the great unanswered question. I am not as convinced as you that they will oppose it: Joe Hockey opposes it, but Tony Abbott has been suspiciously silent. The possibility exists that Abbott is aware that the policy is costing Labor votes, but as the natural recipient of right-wing religious votes, the Liberal Party may not actually oppose it when it comes to a division in the Senate.

    AJ
    August 12, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I feel the comment “The democrats make me wary…” fails to recognize that none of the old guard Democrat politicians hold seats and in fact that party is a past relic far removed from the modern incarnation. Because they have no parliamentary representation, the new faces in the resurrected Democrats have had time to seriously think through and state a clear firm position on a broad range of issues without the need to do behind the scenes parliamentary deals. http://www.democrats.org.au/policies/ if our interested.

    At the time of GST, certain maverick individuals voted outside the party consensus and need to be individually held to account for them. We all know who they are. As we know, this lead to the virtual demise of the Democrats and the brand was tarnished. In effect, that party is no more and the name has been recycled to a more contemporary purpose.

    To tar a party name long term for the actions of the individual means you would also have concerns about The Liberal party – Malcolm crossed the floor, The Greens – Garrett left and joined Labor, The ALP – Billy Hughes….

    Ivan
    August 12, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Martin C, great unanswered question? Their policy position is to block it and go back to PC based filters that parents can use if they like – which BTW is the most effective way for parents to control their kids usage. The debate is over, if you are against the communist style filter that Labor proposes vote for anyone else, as long as they don’t have a preference deal with labor.

    Steph
    August 12, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    It seems you’re a bit confused about preferences, Ivan. Voters can direct their preferences any way they like, regardless of how a party suggests they vote. You can ignore what the good ol’ how-to-vote cards say!

    Martin C
    August 12, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Ivan, you’re sounding a bit like a Liberal shill there, mate. Do you have any actual evidence that the Liberals “policy position” is to “block it and go back to PC based filters”? I’d love to think that’s true but I’ve been looking hard for even a HINT that might be the case, and there has been a long suspicious silence instead.

    Ivan
    August 12, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Haha, doubtful, they are two sides of the same coin. There are quite a few articles floating around.

    “We will implement practical and effective measures to enhance online safety and security including PC-based filters for families,” he said.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/liberals-would-scrap-labors-net-filter/story-fn59niix-1225901856447

    Now that may not meet your “standard of proof”, but it is better than the alternative, which is the madman spruking high speed Internet on one hand, and crusading with his “choke point” Internet monitoring on the other.

    I liked the idea of the NBN, but it was way to ambitious for someone like Conroy, who is on some sort of personal crusade to implement his censorship program.

    Martin C
    August 13, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Ivan: the words you quoted from that article are NOT the words of Tony Abbott: they are the words of Joe Hockey, who as I said above is notable among the Liberals precisely because he IS the only prominent Lib speaking out against this appalling censorship legislation. Given that he is the shadow Treasurer, not any kind of IT minister, and NOT the leader of the Liberal Party, this kind of quote gives me even more reason to wonder whether an Abbott-led Liberal Party, in government OR in opposition, will oppose this legislation. Why aren’t there any quotes from ABBOTT saying something like that? The obvious conclusion to draw is that Abbott DOESN’T oppose Conroy’s censorship machine.

    Ivan
    August 13, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Max: Obvious conclusion? Maybe in your mind…But we can leave the readers to draw their own conclusion, and vote the way they want. Either for the controlling, nanny state, we need to monitor your Internet surfing, or for the party with a prominent, senior member who has stated publicly what their position is. I’ll take my chances with the Liberal party.

    Fred
    August 15, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Interesting to see the reborn Democrats’ site. There’s some good stuff there but, interestingly, there’s nothing in their policies about the filter. I suspect that the brand has been too tarnished by past betrayals for that particular soufflé to rise twice.

    Re the Libs and the filter, make no mistake – both Labor and the Libs are captive of either the Christian lunar right and/or old-fashioned socialist control freaks. Both will introduce mandatory filtering. I’m horrified that so little has been said about Labor’s plans for deep packet inspection (referenced in an earlier post of mine). If they were proposing to open every letter sent through the mail or to eavesdrop on every telephone conversation we’d have the proverbial blood on the streets; this is precisely what they’re planning yet the silence is deafening.

    Kimberley Heitman
    September 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    A new study by a German activist group has demonstrated that the lauded Scandanavian blocklist of child pornography sites contains 1.7% of such sites. One has been there since 2008, undisturbed by police.
    http://ak-zensur.de/2010/09/looking-away.html has the details. The activist group were able to demonstrate that taking action instead resulted in child pornography sites being removed quickly. Their press release says “Access blocking means looking away instead of acting”.