Senator Scott Ludlam represents the Australian Greens on communications and technology issues. He spoke with ARN about his potential support for a changed ISP filter and the need to use locals and not increased numbers of migrants to fix the looming IT worker shortage.
You’ve seen the Enex test results and the Government has confirmed its intentions. Will the Greens vote against the Government on ISP filtering?
Scott Ludlam: No. There’s no way I’m going to outright vote against a bill I haven’t seen yet. I strongly believe there may be opportunities for amendments to the bill that will improve the situation we’ve got at the moment. We might be in a position to delete the mandatory filter parts of the proposal…something along the lines of an online filter that would catch the material they’re talking about that would be opt-in, while strengthening the way the current blacklist operates, which has been shown to be defective.
Does that mean mandatory filtering is a make or break issue for The Greens?
SL: I think it’s really important for us, yes. And that’s one of the things that so outraged the online community – not necessarily the mechanism and the arguments about the technology or speed impact, but really what caused the most alarm was the nature of the proposal.
Recent polls have come out suggesting the popularity gap between the ALP and the Coalition is narrowing. Do you think this will increase the likelihood of the Government slowing down or overturning controversial issues like the ISP filter?
SL: I think in an election year, everybody gets nervous about proposals which are so blatantly unpopular. This thing has been universally condemned right across the board from child protection outfits to consumer protection organisations like Choice to big industry players like the major ISPs and groups like Google and obviously from the online community and online advocates like The Greens. It’s a friendless proposal and in an election year the initiative may not come from Minister Conroy’s office, but it’ll certainly be coming from the Prime Minister’s office if it looks like it’ll cost votes.
Many argue that opponents of the filter lack consensus and have failed to educate the public at large. Is this true? And is it too late to change this given that consultation closes on February 12?
SL: I think that’s quite a perceptive comment that the work here is taking the issue from places where it’s well understood and universally despised, and turning it into more of a mainstream issue. It’s been perhaps a bit inward looking and now we really need to turn to using the Internet to best effect. We need to ensure everybody that uses the Internet understands what is happening and that is going to take a re-orientation of the strategy we’ve seen so far.
Would the Greens take on a coordinating role on the issue?
SL: I think it would be a great mistake actually. I think the power of the campaign is going to be the diversity of views we bring to bear. We’ll be doing everything we can in the parliamentary domain, in my role as spokesperson and in all the different tools that we can use. I feel we could certainly be more coordinated with kinds of messages we bring to bear, but I don’t plan on taking charge of the movement.
Were you disappointed by (former Australian Greens candidate) Clive Hamilton’s firm stance on ISP filtering?
SL: I was a bit perplexed by it because in a way, we share similar concerns but have learnt really divergent views on the best way forward. He’s an incredibly articulate advocate for his point of view and he brings a lot of study and careful thought to the issue, but obviously we disagree very strongly on the benefits of filtering.