Thursday, March 26, 2009

Conroy Filibuster

I watched the ABC show Q&A tonight in which Senator Stephen Conroy responded to questions regarding the proposed internet filtering scheme in Australia. Over 2,000 questions were submitted by members of the public.

He spoke very slowly and very carefully selected words when addressing the issues raised. He repeated himself a lot and appeared to deliberately stretch out answers to limit the extent of the discussion.

The central points of his argument were that the first blacklist leaked contained 700 more sites that the true list and was did not accurately depict the sites that are currently blocked. He stated that the second list that has been leaked was closer to the real list. The current system by which sites are refused classification and are blocked has been in place for 9 years and was introduced by the Howard Government. While stating that the list is updated every couple of months to remove outdated links and add new ones he also stated that the list has not been changed since the Labour Government was voted into office. When asked if the government could publish the list in the future he stated that this would defeat the purpose of having it in the first place - seemingly missing the point that none of us would be able to access it anyway.

In response to recent reports that a Dentists surgery was on the list he advised that the site had been hijacked by the Russian mob and that the site had been blocked internationally due to the inclusion of refused classified material on it - he stated that it had never been blocked from Australia. He did note that one site had been incorrectly blocked despite being classified as PG (parental guidance) advising that this was a 'technical error' and that ACMA were going through the list tonight to ensure that other sites had not been accidentally included.

He acknowledged that the filter will not address the distribution of material on file sharing networks, did not have a chance to respond to the suggestion that sites like Facebook pose a greater threat to children nor did he reply to suggestions that keeping the sites online and using them to trace and prosecute offenders was a preferrable option. There was also insufficient discussion of the need for parents to monitor children's net usage and no comment on the fact that only 35,000 Australian's have downloaded and installed NetNanny and other approved home based filtering technology.

Overall he came off as being poorly spoken and unconvincing. However having said that the show itself was not really capable of delivering a considered debate with a sensationalistic approach that did not give enough time to answer each question, overlooked important points raised by members of the public and overall proved to be a poor forum to debate such a detailed and contentious issue.

The show is available to be streamed on the ABC website here.

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