South Australian Senator Nick Minchin has the job of representing the Liberal party on all things tech-related. ARN caught up with him to discuss about the importance of the ISP filtering trials, his reluctance to roll-back Labor party changes and his preference for Conroy as Communications Minister.
Does the Liberal party support the ISP filtering measure?
Nick Minchin (NM): We did not support Government having mandatory ISP-based filtering and I certainly am not convinced that’s the way to go. All I can say is we have not ever before adopted the policy of mandatory ISP-level filtering. We’ve said we’ll give Senator Conroy the benefit of the doubt in relation to his trials and our attitude will be influenced by the outcome of his trials. But we’re happy, given that he’s spending millions of dollars of taxpayers money on trials, to see what these trials indicate before making a final judgement. What we know to date is that there is a huge risk of over blocking and under blocking, that you won’t deal with peer-to-peer traffic, so there are lots of reasons why you would not go down this path.
You’ve released media statements about the high levels of domestic broadband penetration and questioned the need for a National Broadband Network (NBN). Do you believe Australia needs to improve its broadband services?
NM: I think there will always be the need and desire to improve broadband services. Our view is that should largely be driven by the private sector and that what’s required is the economic and regulatory settings, which maximise the likelihood of the private sector improving those services in response to consumer demand like anything else in the world.
What would you propose as an alternative to Fibre to the Home?
NM: Inevitably when you’re in opposition, your policy needs to be set according to the state of affairs that you find when you go to the election and I’m not in a position to give you the Coalition’s policy now. I certainly think there are better and more cost-effective ways to seek to deliver improved broadband services than setting up a new Government company and buying $43 billion and trying to roll out FTTH networks under Government auspices.
Does that mean we won’t see a policy until the next election comes around?
NM: We will be gradually releasing in a strategic fashion alternative views, but formally we won’t have a policy on this until somewhat closer to the election, primarily because we have to wait. The electorate by and large won’t be interested in our policy until the election and our policy has to be a function of the state of play that we would inherit were we to win the next election.