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National Censorship Plan Offensive, Says Aussie Shadow Minister 116

downundarob writes "Senator Nick Minchin, the Australian Shadow Minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, has written (or more likely a staffer has written) this interesting article on the Australian Federal Government's continued zeal to enforce ISP-level filtering in Australia. In the article he posits that 'Underlying the Rudd Government's plan to screen the internet is an offensive message: that parents cannot be trusted to mind their children online.' Meanwhile, we wait for filtering trials to start, trials that have been delayed and which have next-to-no support among the industry. Telstra BigPond — Australia's largest ISP — has refused to take part, comparing internet filtering to 'like trying to boil the ocean.' The third largest, iiNet, is prepared to participate to highlight flaws."
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National Censorship Plan Offensive, Says Aussie Shadow Minister

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  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @02:32AM (#26596129) Homepage
    So what he's saying is, this plan to censor the Internet is so offensive that it should be censored, right?
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      I think it's more like, "Oh shit, McCain didn't win. Stand down! Wait until 2012 and try again!".

      Hope we see rollbacks of that madness in the UK as well.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Let's look at it from another angle.

      The censorship plan is really a giant signal to Internet bad guys that Australian law enforcement and intelligence gathering sucks, and that there is a disconnect between policy makers and intelligence gathers/LE. Anyone within the intelligence community would be able to point out that the smart bad guys would get around the censorship via technical or tactical means; that should have been enough to scrap the plan if their true goal was to stop the supposed bad guys.

      So th

      • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <slashdot&davidgerard,co,uk> on Sunday January 25, 2009 @09:39AM (#26597633) Homepage
        The plan is entirely for the purpose of keeping fundie senators who hold the balance of power on-side. It's not meant to actually work. They have to try as hard as they can before admitting failure, meanwhile getting the fundie to help pass their legislation while they're stringing him along.
        • I agree. And on top of that, the "think of the children" campaign is a free kick for any political party. It makes the government look good to those without any knowledge of computers or the internet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

      The current plan goes against every value that our society is built upon.

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @07:14AM (#26597085)

      Censorship is always offensive. It starts with one person or one group declaring that they hold the superior view and way of life. They do not.

  • Of course he does (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    he's an opposition minister. It's the job of the opposition to bitch and whine and pretend they would be any better if they were in office.

    CF Obama, Barack

  • I'm sure I could do it if I really applied myself and the water weren't so salty.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 25, 2009 @02:50AM (#26596213)

    Why did you feel you had to mention this? The authorship credit is to Minchin, not J. Random Staffer, not Kevin Rudd.

    Stick to the facts.

  • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @03:06AM (#26596269)

    As an American, I must say, we need to take a look at this nomenclature: Shadow Minister sounds so much cooler than Senate Minority Leader or the like.

    It helps when the guy has an ounce of sense too...

    • Jesus Christ, Australia! In an earlier /. article, it was a Minister of Censorship. Now, it was a Shadow Minister.

      What's next, Prime Minister Voldemort?

    • Re:Shadow Minister (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 25, 2009 @03:50AM (#26596407)

      As an Australian, its a laughable story, particularly given that the then (1999) Communication's Minister, and orchestrator of this mess, Senator Richard Alston, came from the same Liberal Party that is currently complaining about it from the opposition.

      A high level history is available via the Electronic Frontiers Australia [] site.

      If you look deeper, however, the joke is ironic because the Liberals only introduced the Bill to buy Independant, Senator Brian Harradine's, vote on the GST Tax Bill that they were so desperate to push. The sting in the tail being that Harradine voted against both the GST and Internet Censorship Bills because he felt that the Censorship Bill was too soft.

      See the Report to members for Annual General Meeting 1999 [];

      This was the year that the Federal Government sacrificed the future of Australian e-commerce and its reputation as an Internet early-adopter by attempting to censor the Internet from the bunkers in Canberra. The Broadcasting Services (Online Services) Act 1999 was a transparent inducement to Senator Brian Harradine to pass the Government's GST and Telstra legislation, the Government feigning a sudden interest in "adult" material online. It failed to achieve its political purpose - Harradine voted against both bills, and milder legislation later passed with the support of the Australian Democrats. However, the Government, and Senator Richard Alston in particular, were so captured by their own rhetoric that the censorship bill proceeded into law as an exercise in political muscle. Last-minute amendments urged on the Government by the Internet Industry Association have made an unworkable law even more uncertain, arbitrary and unfit for its stated purpose of protecting children from unsuitable material.

      Australian's let us rejoice ..

      • Re:Shadow Minister (Score:5, Informative)

        by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @06:23AM (#26596903) Journal
        Bloody oath! Now it's Labor turn to suck up to an independent nutjob [] who gained 2% of the popular vote but potentially holds the balance of power in the senate. The irony is that both major parties helped him defeat the green candidate who would otherwise have easily won the seat.

        Thankfully my prediction that this BS will continue to go nowhere seems to be panning out - it's like the two major parties have agreed to an endless and distracting debate that does little except keep the moralising minority busy.
        • It's all smoke and mirrors so that nobody relizes the ruling party is doing nothing real, and when they do, it's putting us into a bigger hole
        • by Firehawk ( 7687 )

          That's why I like the idea of Senator online []. Would like to see it working instead of just in theory though.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TapeCutter ( 624760 )
            I like the idea and think one electronic senator is worth a try. Having said that I suspect most people are not willing to put in the time unless they are particularly interested in an issue. If that's the case then you will get small but determined bands of nuts enacting all sorts of wack job legislation simply because nobody else is interested. After all the good senator got his preferences (and seat) because nobody thought he had a hope in hell of winning.

            Personally I think the way the go
      • These are facts and thus have no place here on Slashdot. Somebody should censor this post.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        came from the same Liberal Party

        And please remember, when the Aussies say "Liberal" they mean "not very liberal at all".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Mathinker ( 909784 )

      Simple, it's like in Linux, the Shadow Minister is the secret minister with the real power behind the publicly-readable Prime Minister.

    • Re:Shadow Minister (Score:4, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @07:34AM (#26597143) Homepage Journal

      As an American, I must say, we need to take a look at this nomenclature: Shadow Minister sounds so much cooler than Senate Minority Leader or the like.

      Under our system of government the party currently not in power runs a complete standby government. It is quite a good system because when you come to vote you already have a good idea of who will be in the important posts.

      On the down side, ministers have to be members of parliament so their skills will be more limited than in the US system where the president seems to have the power to pick people from the broader population.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Except that in practice it doesn't give you any idea, because when a new government is elected the positions are immediately reshuffled.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tdelaney ( 458893 )

      No - Minchin does not have any sense. It's just the "broken clock" principle at work here - the government's position is *so* wrong, that the opposition's default position of denigrating *anything* the government does (or proposes) happens to be right.

      BTW, the current government was much the same when they were in opposition - in fact, their lack of *effective* opposition was a major reason they were in opposition so long. The NSW Liberal/National coalition (the conservatives) are in the same position - the

    • As an American, I must say, we need to take a look at this nomenclature: Shadow Minister sounds so much cooler than Senate Minority Leader or the like.

      Hey, we've got Whips [], which are almost as cool.

      I fully expect to see (by AD 2505 when Idiocracy is in full swing, perhaps) a House of Representin' in which legislation features full-on battles between teleporting Shadow Ministers and weapon-wielding Whips. C-SPAN's ratings should go sky high!

      • We've got whips in Australia as well. Not only do we have that, but each house of parliament has a weapon in the middle that resembles a mace!

        • In .uk, and I imagine in the dominions overseas, it is a mace. A very big one. In 1976 Michael Heseltine, a Tory, actually picked it up and used it to menace some Labour MPs.

          And if I recall my Parliamentary urban legend correctly, the aisle down the centre was originally specified to be two sword-lengths wide, just to avoid anybody coming to fatal blows during heated debate.

          • Well, I think it may well be a mace, but it's a mace with gold and Jewels on it. Besides which, weren't they called "The Whigs" at that stage?

  • He's right! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Veggiesama ( 1203068 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @03:11AM (#26596291)

    This national censorship plan is so offensive that no one should ever hear about it again!

    I propose that we censor it! Think of the children!

  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @03:19AM (#26596309)
    it's about the only clever thing to come out of telstra.

    it's amusing to watch Obama atm, we had a very similar flurry of hope and dreams when Rudd was elected here. now look what we have, internet censorship, rolling back of benefits to seniors and families having babies and a string of empty promises.

    give it just a little time and that shine will rub off revealing the politician underneth.

    • Didn't []
      Take []
      Long []
    • Don't forget the damned Alcopop Tax. Not Happy!
    • by kaos07 ( 1113443 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @10:00PM (#26603295)
      What a rubbish post. "Rolling back of benefits"? Er no. Seniors are actually receiving thousands of dollars in cash bonus' on top of their fortnightly stipends and this is to pre-empt the conclusion in the report into pensions due for release in the next few months. As for "families having babies" you're presumably talking about the means test for the baby bonus. Prior to the means test, everyone who had a baby got a cheque for $5000 - a blatant bribe. Now, that cheque is only available for people earning less than $150,000, which frankly, is still way to high.
  • by carlzum ( 832868 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @03:29AM (#26596345)
    From the article:

    The minister must start listening to the experts, who have repeatedly made the point that most predatory risks to children lurk in those areas of the online world this kind of filtering will do little to combat.

    Blacklists and content scanning will have, at best, a negligible impact on child predators and pornographers. Any progress will be quickly negated as pedophiles adapt to the technology. Even proponents of the filter have to recognize that.

    Given the enormous monetary and social costs, I can't believe this will ever really materialize. I'm sure some politicians exploited the issue for their own benefit, but I suspect the idea will either go away or be implemented in a symbolic, watered-down manner.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Pedophiles adapt: "Hmm, I can't find pictures of naked kids... guess I'll just kidnap one myself"

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I can't believe this will ever really materialize. I'm sure some politicians exploited the issue for their own benefit, but I suspect the idea will either go away or be implemented in a symbolic, watered-down manner.

      That's basically what happened in Finland: police maintains the blacklist and supplies it to the ISPs, who may or may not use it, and even those who do, will upon complaint generally just advice their clients how it can be bypassed (changing DNS server settings).

      What's more, the list has been leaked to the public (now in wikileaks) - and it turned out some 90%+ of the sites censored aren't child porn at all (mostly just adult, especially gay porn, also some totally non-porn sites).

      But it's not going away,

  • Censorship (Score:2, Interesting)

    Well... The Senator for Censorship is becoming more and more unpopular in australia.... I was part of his trial for internet censorship (was... i switched ISP's) and let me say this... it was appalling the speeds we were getting.... I mean.. loading up took at least 30 seconds on a decent speed broadband
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by laptop006 ( 37721 )

      What trial? It hasn't happened.

      *NO* general ISP has put it in place. I know, I work with several of them, and filled in the papers for my own employer (who does filtering for schools which is why I don't have a problem their).

      • What trial? It hasn't happened.

        *NO* general ISP has put it in place. I know, I work with several of them, and filled in the papers for my own employer (who does filtering for schools which is why I don't have a problem their).

        you work for schools? think you should go back there too

        • They're our customers, and yes, I, like everyone screw up the English language on a regular basis, get over it.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            Your apparent pride in having difficulty with English aside I suspect the other point of contention was your claim that no filtering had yet taken place.

            You will find that infact some trials in Tasmania have already taken place and a report on the effectiveness, or otherwise, of that effort can be had here [].

      • Actually iinet have already put it in place
  • by xrayspx ( 13127 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @03:44AM (#26596387) Homepage
    When your own Shadow Government thinks you've gone Too Far, perhaps you've fucking gone too far.
    • Re:Shadow Government (Score:5, Informative)

      by !coward ( 168942 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @04:22AM (#26596519)

      Umm.. at the risk of hearing a *woosh* in the next few seconds, I don't think "shadow" (in this context) means what you think it means.

      Whenever you hear something like "the shadow minister for foreign affairs", they're referring to the guy (or gal) in the major opposition party who is their current "authority" in the field (in my example, foreign affairs), or at the most, in some cases, the person who's currently in line for that office should the opposition win the next general elections (or equivalent) and form government.

      This is not some lower-level, deputy-minister/under-secretary type, who actually works for/in the government that's proposing this bill.

      In other words, we're talking about the people who are trying to oust the current government, so it's no surprise that they take whatever opportunity they get to snipe at them. Besides, as others have pointed out above, they're not exactly squeaky-clean in this matter either, having proposed something similar in the past when they were in office (what's worse, they were allegedly doing it as some sort of a back-room deal to advance some other bill).

      Other than that, couldn't agree more! :)

      • by xrayspx ( 13127 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @04:41AM (#26596579) Homepage
        I'm sorry to do it, but, yeah, *whoosh*.

        I get that this guy isn't really a secret operative in some alien-human hybrid black-oil conspiracy. But the title of "Shadow Minister" does still imply such to those of us who watched a certain popular TV (TeleVision) show known as the X-Files in the 1990's.

        It's OK though, because as we all know, jokes have been scientifically proven to be much funnier when they're fully explained, so for that I thank you :-)
        • by !coward ( 168942 )

          Lol.. Man, I totally missed it. It's been so long since I've watched the X-Files (refused to watch the last movie, wasn't really too keen on the last few seasons when they suddenly changed the "mythology") that I didn't make the connection. All is clear now! :)

      • i still object to the term "shadow" anything, mainly because of the immediate gut negative reaction, that the post you were responding to alludes to. i listen to the bbc alot, and i constantly hear the term "shadow" used in terms of opposition politics, and i always scratch my head over the term

        in the usa, there is no pro-abortion movement, there is a "pro-choice" movement

        in the usa, there is no anti-abortion movement, there is a "pro-life" movement

        there aren't even used cars anymore. they are all "certifie

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I don't think the term is going anywhere soon in Australia. It is pretty well entrenched. You can use a sporting analogy if you like. Player 1 takes up a position on the field. Player 2 from the other team takes up the opposite position and sticks like a shadow to player 1.
        • I can see where you're coming from but that argument only holds if 'shadow' actually does evoke these gut reactions. In Australia, its such a standard term for the opposition minister with the same portfolio, that it doesn't have those connotations. People are just too used to hearing it in this context.

          If anything, when I think of 'shadow minister', I think of someone who is 'shadowing', or keeping in check, the actual minister. As someone suggested, like someone opposite you on a playing field or basketb

          • but that argument only holds if 'shadow' actually does evoke these gut reactions. In Australia, its such a standard term for the opposition minister with the same portfolio, that it doesn't have those connotations.

            In fact, until TFS, the comicbook-geek second meaning had never occurred to me. So thank you American slashdotters.

            To repay you, may I point out that the Shadow Communication Minister is a member of the Shadow Cabinet, ultimately answerable to The Leader of The Opposition, who once led the movement to bring in a Republic and overthrow the foreign empire! (But he failed.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Cinnaman ( 954100 )

        Or a simpler way of putting it is that the opposition party forms their own "cabinet" that mirrors the real portfolios (eg Environment Minister, Treasurer).
        A way of saying "if we were in power right now this is who would be Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy", in Nick Minchin's example.

    • Shadow minsters **always** think the government has gone too far (or not far enough).

      Some would say it's their job. []

  • Just before Christmas I emailed the Prime Minister of Australia twice. I got a reply (from Stephen Conroy!) yesterday.


    Contact your Prime Minister -- Thank you for your message to the Prime Minister. Below is a copy of your comments to the Prime Minister for your records.

    Senator Conroy is suggesting that peer-to-peer network traffic will be actively monitored and censored when appropriate. Most people would, at first glance, find this acceptable to catch the bad guys. The implications, however, are a bit more far reaching.

    An example. The company I work for uses a Virtual Private Network (VPN). We use this to âoelink upâ our geographically separated offices. The way VPN works is that a network device in, say, my office connects directly to another network device at my head office. VPN is peer-to-peer networking. Communications between an ATM and the bank is peer-to-peer networking. Intra-government communications between networks is peer-to-peer networking.

    What Senator Conroy is suggesting is that communications between the two VPN devices will be monitored and censored when necessary. How is that different to phone tapping?

    To censor content you have to assess the content. To assess the content a person or computer has to read the content. To read the content being passed back and forth between two private computers (peer-to-peer communications) you have to intercept those messages. So, in effect, Conroyâ(TM)s solution is that all private communications amongst individuals or corporations will be monitored (read). Is this even legal without a court order? The solution proposed by Conroy is wiretapping without a court order.

    Why is this person (Conroy) allowed to make such outrageous suggestions? This needs to be made known to people. A person who does not understand technology or law should not be making these decisions.

    • Oops. I didn't paste the reply in my comment. What I pasted is my original email to the PM.
      • The suspense is killing me! :-)

        All joking aside, what was his reply? Inquiring minds want to know!

  • by papabob ( 1211684 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @05:42AM (#26596783)

    If parents cannot be trusted to mind their children online, they cannot be trusted to vote you in the next elections...

  • I dont think the filter will ever go past testing stage.

    It'll be stagnant for a few years and when we've all forgotten about it, a press release will reveal it'll be delayed until further notice.

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @10:04AM (#26597767) Homepage Journal

    Telstra BigPond - Australia's largest ISP - has refused to take part, comparing internet filtering to 'like trying to boil the ocean.'

    So? Seems pretty obvious to me. Just ask Sun to build the internet filters.

  • by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Sunday January 25, 2009 @12:09PM (#26598499) Journal

    This is how it always works:

    When one party has control and the other is the opposition, the party with control moves forward the agenda and the opposition opposes it.

    When an election happens and they switch sides, the new party in charge who used to be in opposition of the agenda now moves it forward while the party who is now out of power opposes it.

    The agenda of world centralization of power and increasing control over the general public always moves forward.

  • On the one hand Minchin refers to experts who say that the filtering will be of little help, and on the other hand he says that he installed a filter on his family computer to help protect his children.
    • Don't forget, that was his sides contribution to internet censorship. Free government sanctioned (end-user installed) net filters. Hardly anyone wanted it (surprise), but he can't really say "neither did I".
  • He should reroll Retribution Minister, I hear they're quite overpowered at the moment.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI