You’d be forgiven for thinking, were you to spend a bit of time reading through a Twitter search for the term “Conroy” today, that the plan for mandatory ISP level filtering was scrapped. It’s not. It’s been delayed and there are some changes that have been announced for greater transparency, but the government’s policy for cyber safety is still the same as it was yesterday: mandatory filtering for everybody.
There are some promising signs from today’s announcement. For example, considering how hard gamers have been fighting for a review of the classification system in recent years, the fact that Conroy has essentially pushed this up the priority ladder for the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General has the potential to be a great move. Not to mention the fact that the delay gives critics more time to collect their arguments and continue to press the point that mandatory filtering is an unworkable solution.
But we haven’t won yet. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam is, however, cautiously positive. He believes that today’s announcement is quite a helpful acknowledgement of the flaws of the policy and by acknowledging these flaws, critics of the filter policy will be given the opportunity to step and continue to mount pressure on the government. But that doesn’t mean the battle is over.
“The key thing to remember is that their policy is still mandatory internet filtering… Their policy going into the election is exactly the same as it was yesterday,” Ludlam told me earlier today.
What’s worse is that should the ALP win the upcoming election, there’s a real chance that they will use their victory to claim they have a mandate from the electorate to implement the filter.
Also of concern is the classifications review – despite our hopes that it will bring common sense to classification across the board (adult ratings for games, please), there is still a chance that the board will impose stricter rulings on RC classification, which in turn will make the introduction of a mandatory filter an easier proposition for supporters to push.
But there is hope. The review of the classifications system is expected to take at least a year (if not longer), meaning at best we’ll see the filter legislation introduced in July 2011. That will be after the turnover of the Senate, which following the upcoming election could see the balance of power shift to the Greens, who have openly stated that they’ll vote against the filter. That means when it comes to a vote, the government will require the support from the Coalition to get it through.
And so our Fight the Filter campaign continues. Today’s delay gives us more time to raise awareness, lobby politicians and make it clearer than ever before to both the general public and the politicians we’re voting for that mandatory internet filtering is a completely ineffectual policy that will do nothing to fulfil its goals. Although the election hasn’t been called yet, today’s announcement means we all have to work a little bit harder to fight the filter.