Family First Has An Even Dumber Filter Policy Than Labor

It seems likely that mandatory filtering Labor-style won't survive as a policy no matter who gets elected, and that's good news. But as detestable as Labor's policy was, it could be much, much worse. Family First has an even more extreme proposal that includes making users pay directly for a compulsory filter.

Watching yesterday's ICT Debate proceedings, I couldn't help reflecting that it was good to see an actual presence from the Greens, who are generally being ignored when it comes to setting up public election events despite a general belief that they'll hold the balance of power in the Senate after the election. But even that didn't cover the whole spectrum.

There was still no sign of other parties with a stated interest in at least some aspects of ICT policy. There was no one from the Sex Party, for example. And there was no one from Family First, the ultra-conservative group which argues that every policy needs to be processed through the kind of "what about the children?" approach that Senator Stephen Conroy often appears to favour.

Admittedly, it's hard to take Family First seriously on the technology front. The party's main appearance in the headlines this week has been due to Queensland senatorial aspirant Wendy Francis exposing herself as both homophobic and a complete idiot on Twitter. Francis apparently believes that deleting offensive Twitter messages someone equates to "standing up for what you believe in", but that's another issue.

No matter what you think of the party, it's generally held that courting the vote of Family First Senator Steve Fielding was a factor in Labor pursuing its policy in the first place. Family First is always going to emphasise its "traditional Christian married couples with children before everyone else" approach, but despite that, it does actually have a specific policy on telecommunications and a whole document on internet filtering. Both would rank as amongst the finest pieces of comedy ever to come from a political party, were it not all too evident that the party itself believes every half-baked, unsourced, contradictory word.

Let's start with the telecommunications policy. In simple terms, it goes something like this: we'd like more broadband and it needs to be cheap because families can't afford petrol, but the NBN is evil because it would affect Telstra, and that would affect retirees and mums and dads. The policy actually contains this extraordinary sentence:

Many of these mums, dads and retirees bought their shares from the Government in good faith.

Welcome to capitalism, people. Shares go up, shares go down. Once you've got them, there's no guarantees. We all know this, but apparently Family First doesn't. Astoundingly, it maintains this position while also arguing that Telstra should never have been sold off in any form in the first place. In terms of actual constructive policies for broadband, it has nothing, which at least aligns it with the Coalition (which will swap preferences with it in most instances).

But the real kicker is the filtering policy. This isn't wildly divergent from what Labor itself proposes — compulsory filtering at ISP level, albeit without any explanation of how this might work — but there's one crucial difference:

Family First will propose that once set up, this scheme will be funded through a levy system so as to spread ongoing costs equitably amongst all end users. This cost is a small price to pay to protect children.

Yes, you read that right: not only would Family First impose a compulsory filter, they'd pass on the costs directly to you. It's sometimes been argued that ISP prices might ultimately rise to reflect the costs of filtering technology, but even Labor didn't suggest charging customers up-front to do so.

How would the party justify charging for a scheme that pretty much everyone acknowledges would do virtually nothing to stop illegal material? Because parents are apparently too stupid to do anything else:

Reliance on education and end use supervision and filtering take up fails to protect vulnerable children in dysfunctional households where there is neglect. It also fails to acknowledge that many parents lack the education or awareness to take up these kinds of filters.

That is a pretty remarkable statement from a party which claims to value families above all else. Apparently they're great, but they're also technologically crippled and irredeemably dense.

I can't imagine many Gizmodo readers would be Family First voters, and the party's record of actually getting people into government is relatively lean. But Family First is likely to receive preferences from the Liberals and the Nationals, so think about that when you're weighing up your Senate vote in particular. There's a literal price to pay otherwise.



    Epic fail!

    It's great to see most of the political parties now taking a stance that people cannot be responsible for their own actions and are unable to look after themselves. The policies that have been introduced so far do not address the issues of enforcement of the current laws in relation to the illegality of child porn. If it's jurisdictional issues then why aren't the law enforcement agencies working together to stamp it out. It is quite well accepted that child porn is not to be tolerated.

    Rather than trying to stamp out the source, all they are doing is sweeping it under the rug. Out of sight out of mind. Good job at trying to protect the children.

    Jesus LOL

    Yes, you read that right: not only would Family First impose a compulsory filter, they’d pass on the costs directly to you.

    Ummm... everything the government does we pay for... This seems to make sense to me, if there is an compulsory internet filter brought in, then surely those who use this internet should pay for the costs. Would you expect to pay for it if you didn't use the internet?

    Whilst I love reading Gizmodo, sometimes you need to look beyond yourself and stop being selfish.

    Anyhow, the internet filter is the last policy that would swing my vote to any party


      I simply don't support paying for something that has been proven (in less than 2 minutes) that it is not only costly but ineffective at achieving it's proposed aims. I'm all for increased policing of inappropriate content, but as I suggested earlier, why aren't funds being put to use to stamp out the source rather than the medium in which it is transported?

      I go back to the analogy of the postal service. Everyone pays for the use of it. If people are sending say bombs (which is illegal) through the postal system, what you are saying is that a filter should be put in place to scan every parcel for illegal items, slow the entire system down, yet not pursue the originator of the mail.

      In relation to paying for the use of the internet, I thought that was what I was already doing when this notification comes through once a month from my internet service provider saying that I owe them money. Am I expected to pay for a service that I didn't ask for that may decrease the performance of that same service?

      Maybe you are also supportive of the taxpayer/government funded MYKI that was introduced in Melbourne that was paid for by ALL (not just users of the metropolitan train system) so that only people in Melboune could use it (not many at that) which was delivered overdue, overbudget and still doesn't work as intended.

      Cool story bro.

        That is my point, I don't use MYKI so why should i pay for it! If there was to be an internet filter (maybe not the currently proposed one) I would expect internet users to pay for - not those who don't use it (the internet).

        Yes, I totally agree with you, stamping out the source is a fantastic idea, however, just like if we limit those who can use drugs, the drugs won't be made available. If we limit the amount of people who can access child porn, then this will also help the fight against it, because without a market, those who make will have less (not none) reason to make such things.

        Stamping out the source, is an idea that a fantastic, but ignorant ideal. As Australia cannot simply walk into another country and arrest someone for doing what we deem illegal. It would have to be a worldwide decision in order for this to come into fruition.

        I'm beginning to think Derk might be a troll.

        Don't use myki so why should you pay for it? That's like saying you don't use the telephone why should you pay for the telephone lines to be laid across the country.

        WTF. Your reasoning is seriously deranged.


        yes thats what i am saying. Why should i pay for it when i live 200km away? however, if the myki was to work, it is in the best interest for the state, so im all for it


        Am assuming you live in country Victoria (where myki is rolling out) and not somewhere else in Australia. If you are living in country Victoria then, if you catch regional trains, eventually you will be able to use myki. Myki isn't some bonus extra tidbit for our public transport system, it's an upgrade to infrastructure. To say we should get rid of it (after it was rolled out!) would be a bit like saying we should go back to paper tickets. Or using horses rather than cars. Sure horses work, but there's a reason we shifted to cars.

        Ditto the NBN - it's an infrastructure upgrade. One that will finally get us some decent bandwidth speeds. And if you can't understand why 100mb/s is a much better investment than 24mb/s - maybe 100mb/s (though it's more likely to be significantly less than 24mb/s as high bandwidth services become as normal in Australia as it is in every other first world country in the world) than you need to get a bit more of an education in IT.

        I'm happy to pay for things I want or need. In fact it's been demonstrated previously that Australians would be happy to pay more in tax in return for additional services from government.

        However a mandatory internet filter that has the support of less than 5% of Australians (based on most surveys to-date) is not something I am happy paying for - either directly or indirectly (taxes).

        Derek, if you, Stephen Conroy and Jim Wallace want internet filtering, go buy a commercial product, but don't expect the vast majority of internet users to pay for something they don't want.

      It's known as double tipping. Not only would the filter be paid for buy our taxes, we would have to then pay for it again when we use it. That's the problem.

      Look at fuel prices, same thing. There are at least two levels of tax on fuel (GST been one)

        I don't need a filter to disallow me access to sites that I would never visit anyway, so why should I pay for that?

        Ignorant ideal. Sounds like those in charge love saying that we could do this or could do that but in the end it's just too hard (probably harder than finding Osama Bin Laden).

        I'm all for a filter that restricts access to sites deemed inappropriate if it works and doesn't result in a degradation of network performance. Then we come back around to the issue as to who decides what is inappropriate, is there an avenue for review and what sites are on that list. If a filter is 100% effective, why can't you publish that list for the Australian public to see (the filter works doesn't it?)

        But what I'm saying is that isn't enough. Action has to be taken to deal with the root of the issue. And if "Saving the Children" is as important as those political parties justifying a filter represent it to be, then why aren't they also doing something in terms of bring to justice those that break the law? You would think that in this day and age with the level of sophistication of worldwide communication that somewhere someone in law enforcement has put forth an idea to collaborate together for law enforcement purposes. Is child porn not wrong in all places of the world?

      Are you serious?!?
      This is basically like taking a big bag of money and setting it on fire... And how is this protecting the children on the Internet... How many kids do you know stumble across child porn, why can't the government if they want to be stupid and enforce there communistic views of controlling our lives simply send a filtering software to each family in Australia and then allow them to install it themselves if they want...

      Just idiotic...-.-

        its more about protecting the child that is getting raped...


        Not sure if you're serious? If we wanted to protect the child being raped surely we'd be taking the money for the filter and giving it to the police groups working towards catching the child abusers rather than oh, stopping theoretical people from theoretically looking for child porn on the open internet.


        ...and exactly how is this filter protecting that child you talk about. Seems like you are one of those people who think that because it's been filtered out and you can't access it that the problem is not there. Totally agree with ftjl in that the funds would be better spent catching the people responsible.

        Nice way to bury your head in the sand.

        Ok guys, i think we are on a different wave length here. I'm not saying the filter will stop the children getting raped etc and thus stop child porn being made. I'm saying if it was to be filtered out, it would stop encouraging it.

        The fact is, Australia cannot stop other countries from making child porn, but the least we can do is stop it coming into the country.

        I am far from burying my head in the sand, burying my head in the sand would surely involve me or anyone in just ignoring the problem. The internet filter is not going to solve the problem, but it will help

        the least we can do is stop [child porn] coming into the country

        But that's just it - we can't. The filter won't have any significant effect whatsoever. It's like trying to hold back the ocean with a tea strainer - it won't block P2P, it won't block proxies or HTTPS or VPNs or changed domains or anything except specific URLs - and even that can be bypassed by simply adding a question mark to the URL.

        User-pays might make sense if the user has a choice, but it's beyond ridiculous when the user is forced to pay for something that's so utterly ineffective. It won't even "help" solve the problem, it'll just divert money away from things that will.


        Thankyou for your comment. I'm very passionate to support a party that would stop child porn, so if this filter won't do the job, then lets all vote against it then! I'm simply trying to figure out the best way to help stop it.

        My only concern is that when you say it will only take away money from things that will stop it, I'd have to disagree because i don't believe the government is actively doing anything to stop such things. The money will just go towards a different political spin or... Gillards lunch


        Child porn isn't generally available via the open internet. Access to it - despite what Conroy claims - is generally via peer to peer connections (the filter doesn't stop that), private servers, private extra-net networks and so forth. If it is on the open internet when it's found (which is generally pretty quickly given Google) it's removed by server hosts, ISPs and the police are called (by pretty much everybody - the people who found it, the server hosts, the ISP).

        IF the filter worked (which it won't), all it'll do is block child porn in Australia. Which hey is great - nobody wants child porn on the internet. The filter however, will spent billions of dollars blocking child porn. Not a single bit of that billions of dollars will go towards catching people looking at child porn, making child porn or paying money for the abuse of children.

        Since the filter WON'T work, we would have, in effect paid billions of dollars for technology that won't work for what it's intended (protecting the children) but will make it stupidly easy for the government to make it harder for the Australian public from looking at anything they disapprove of.

        Worse than that, all that billions of wasted dollars could make a real difference in catching actual paedophiles.

        If you want to stop paedophilia in Australia, a vote for the internet filter is basically a vote for nothing.

        If you actually WANT to stop paedophilia, you'll be telling your local politician that you want all that internet filter funding to go to the police departments dedicated to tracking down and finding active paedophiles.


        Can you point to a single scientific study that has been peer reviewed that links viewing of child pornography with an increased probability of child rape?

        This is, of course, rhetorical as studies have found there is no link.

        If you want to stop children being abused then prosecute the abuser and aid the child.

        Sweeping evidence under the carpet by hiding it behind a filter from the public but that will not block the main distribution channels for child pornography only leads to false beliefs.

        Parents are misled into believing that their kids are safer online - which is untrue.

        The community is misled into believing that there is less child pornography being produced and distributed - which is also untrue.

        It is far more effective to shut down the source (producers) than put bandaid blinkers on minor distribution channels.

        This isn't a new idea - it works for other law enforcement activities as well.

        Child pornography is illegal in most countries. Let's invest the funds in supporting our police in enforcing the laws, not in bandaid blinkers for the community.

      I think your definition of 'those who use the Internet' could use some definition. So, if I had no connection at home and walked into a 'Net cafe for 5 minutes I should expect a bill from the Government in the mail?

      I think you might need to check what 'compulsory' means.

      "Whilst I love reading Gizmodo, sometimes you need to look beyond yourself and stop being selfish."

      For someone insinuating you read Gizmodo alot you sure do come across as an epic Luddite. Either that or just ignorant.

    Thing I find hilarious is that the Fielding family - (of which there are 16 children) - have three members that are directly related to, or have been directly to Telstra. Steve, and his brother Paul have held significant positions with Telstra in the past, and another brother Ross I believe still works with Telstra. Conflict of interest much?

    LOL! I love your comment "Francis exposing herself as both homophobic and a complete idiot"... LOL!! I'd throw in a few more choice phrases of my own there!

    Telstra Shares fell in value well before the NBN was announced.
    Shareholders can (and have in the form of a very nice Golden Handshake) thank Sol for that.

    To further illustrate what a bunch of utter morons Family First are, their party genius Senator Steven Fielding actually stated on Q and A that he believes the world is only 6000 years old, and believes in Christian fundamentalism (i.e. everything in the old testament is true - right down to Noah's Ark and Adama and Eve).

    What made his statements even more extraordinary is that he made them while sitting next to one of the world's smartest and most influential evolutionary biologists, science author and proponents of evolution, Richard Dawkins. The look on Richard Dawkins face was priceless. He couldn't believe he'd been seated next to a man with the intellect of a wombat.

      How dare you insult wombats like that!

    "Reliance on education and end use supervision and filtering take up fails to protect vulnerable children in dysfunctional households where there is neglect. It also fails to acknowledge that many parents lack the education or awareness to take up these kinds of filters. "

    All said and done, I would never vote for FF. However, they do have a point here. There will always be kids who have luddites for parents, who will do nothing to protect their own children. So I get where they are coming from there. Unless you've been the victim of child abuse you probably wouldn't understand. Filtering the internet won't change anything in that respect, however, so I think their concerns are misplaced.

    The internet can be informative, it can be evil, it can be educational, it can be horrific, it can be fun, it can be the source of emotional torment. If the govt. is truly needing to protect kids, they need to employ more federal and state police specifically to (1) prowl the internet looking for bastards who abuse kids and (2) modify laws to protect children more than they are now.

      Look, I'm a parent, and I know more about child abuse than I care to discuss here, and I'm telling you: filtering the internet won't change anything, period.

      Filtering. Does. Not. Work. It's as simple as that. Leaving aside all the potential harm a filter can have, leaving aside the dozens of methods that the filter won't block, even leaving aside that the one method it does block can be trivially bypassed with a single keystroke, there is simply no way that a department of government classifiers could hope to keep up with the operators who post this stuff - the time required to find, examine, classify and officially block a nasty page is far longer than the time required to simply re-publish the blocked content to a dozen different, unblocked pages.

      It's a totally unwinnable proposition in every way, it's sheer ignorance to think that it might have any beneficial effect at all, and pig-headed ignorance at that when our "glorious leaders" refuse to listen to their own experts telling them it cannot ever work.

        @Namarrgon, indeed the US government has committed to providing free tools to circumvent all forms of internet censorship. Having said that you can access a blocked site without any tools simply by changing the URL yourself, e.g. instead of use or similar. The filter won't recognise it as a blocked URL and the remote server will ignore the query.

      Condud thought a good compromise to the issue of transparency for the filtered sites was to have a retired judge decide what was and wasn't appropriate to be blocked and to review those sites that were mistakenly blocked as well.

      Great way to reward a person who has given their career to the service of the people at large by making them view content that is potentially considered so offensive that you would want to block it. Judges do a lot of work, but as mentioned here I wonder how quickly they can view the millions of websites that are created each day to determine which sites should and shouldn't be blocked.

    SELECT * FROM parliament WHERE clue > 0
    0 Rows Returned

      At least one row would be returned, Senator Kate Lundy. She actually does have a clue but has to tow the party line.

    Way to sound like the biggest joke party. Can't believe they have a seat in the senate.
    Sure there will always be parents that won't supervise or have the knowledge but I hardly think that just because a small minority are too lazy to supervise or just don't want to learn about what their children are doing, that the vast majority will have to incur the cost.
    Lastly, it doesn't work so it gives parents a false sense of security, which is even worse then no filter.

    Are you sure this is such a bad idea? Having mandatory internet censorship appear as a separate line item on everyones bill will wake them up to the fact that they're paying for this stupidity while getting nothing in return.

    But more often than not, parents ARE too stupid/busy/lazy to do anything. That is their argument about the optional filtering & supervision stuff.

    After this election the Greens will hold the balance of power in the senate.

    Family First Party will be irrelevant and the religious bigots will be forgotten.

    Pffft - the government couldn't even filter out spam

    aren't we paying for the filter upfront anyway? it comes out of my pay each week

    The internet filter is an invasion of freedom, I, as an Adult have the right to search for and view Child pornography. I, as an Adult also have the right to face the consequences of being imprisoned for violating the law.

    My parents have an internet filter for my 13 year old brother which stops him accessing porn, gambling, the like. My primary school had an internet filter to stop students from accessing anything deemed un-education, form myspace to porn.

    An internet filter is something used by adults to protect and stop young children from seeing adult material.

    I.AM.NOT.A.CHILD. I do not need to be censored.

    Here is my response to Stephen Conroy's internet filter sung to the words of Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection".

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