The Joint Committee on Cyber-Safety is set to release details of public hearings and submissions into mandatory filtering as well as other cyber-safety issues.
The Committee is a cross-party group of 12 Federal politicians appointed to inquire and report on the issues.
Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has indefinitely delayed the release of draft legislation to both the Labor party internally and to the general public, but the committee will provide either a slap in the face or a ringing endorsement of the government’s key child-protection initiative.
ARN spoke with some of its key members on how they feel about the issues.
The Federal Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett, said both pro- and anti-filter supporters in his Labor electorate had approached him with strong views and good arguments. He said it was the main reason he joined the committee.
“Both sides appear to be quite rational, they weren’t fruit loops. I was impressed by the presentation and arguments of both,” he said. “More recently, the people who have contacted me have been against the filter.”
“It would seem to be an uncoordinated anti-filter process whereas it’s probably a coordinated pro-filter campaign that’s made contact.”
Federal Member for Mitchell, Alex Hawke, is the deputy chair of the committee and Parliament’s second youngest member.
Hawke said Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, had asked him to investigate the matter and take a leading position on the group.
“I’ve been a sceptic of mandatory Internet filtering from the initial proposal onwards and quite a vocal opponent of it as more details emerge,” he said. “Filtering is an option available if they want to choose it and that there are better ways to secure safety online.
While Hawke said Abbott was a supporter of child protection measures being placed on the Internet, he insisted the Liberal leader was not an automatic backer of mandatory filters.
“Tony has said if it won’t do what the Government has claimed it will, then he won’t be supporting it,” Hawke said. “I’ve canvassed widely in the Liberal party and I think generally there’s a mood against a mandatory filter.”
Member for Bradfield and former Optus executive, Paul Fletcher, said while he wasn’t against a mandatory filter in principle, the entire issue had been politicised by Minister Conroy and would not work as promised.
“Minister Conroy has been talking about the filter for a long time and he’s made some bold promises, but we haven’t seen the legislation,” he said.
“We think it’s dangerous to be giving people a false sense of security and we’re concerned about the adverse affects on performance. It would appear he is following a political strategy of not bringing it forward before an election," Fletcher said.
But despite his extensive experience at Optus, Fletcher warned the public against labelling him a technical guru.
“I started life as a lawyer and it’s very dangerous when you look to us to be technical experts,” he said. “Having worked in a big telco for more than 10 years I’ve got huge respect for the expertise of engineers and people who write code.
“I do have familiarity with public policy and that experience tells me this is an area where you need to be pretty wary of sweeping claims and generalisations that have not been thoroughly tested against the technical advice.”
Australian Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, said while he wasn’t sure the committee would result in action, he was keen to be a part of it.
“A preoccupation of mine is alternatives to mandatory filtering and how to do this thing better and I think this committee is going to perform a really useful function in canvassing where the problems really lie,” he said.
Labor ACT Senator, Kate Lundy, is also a member of the committee. To read ARN’s Q&A with her about ISP filtering and other tech issues, click here.