The National Party of Australia has used its Federal conference to vote against the Government’s plan for a mandatory filter.
According to the motion, “The Federal Conference of the Nationals opposes any mandatory ISP-level Internet censorship.”
A spokesperson for Nationals’ leader, Warren Truss, said the motion was passed by a strong majority after “spirited” debate throughout the caucus.
“It did split a few different ways with some older people saying we need a filter while younger people also saying we need a filter,” the spokesperson said. “It was not something you could easily pigeonhole people on.
“There’s been a huge amount of traffic from members of the public all around Australia, both country and city, opposing the filter… it hasn’t been as big as the ETS or the mining tax, but it’s been in the second level of big issues over the last three years.”
While sources in the Nationals claimed the motion’s passing would have a significant impact on the party’s policy direction, it does not bind its politicians to vote against the filter.
Liberal Party member and deputy chair of the Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety, Alex Hawke, was “very pleased” with the result and hoped it would help him sway his party against the filter.
“I think the basic instinct of the Coalition parties is against a mandatory filter,” he said. “The Government’s heavy-handed approach on the Internet is becoming a problem.
“A lot of people who would not normally contact politicians are very responsive on this. Concern is growing [in my party] as the Government reveals more of its intentions in relation to the Net, such as OzLog.
“I’ve always argued that if put to the Liberal party room it would be a strong result as well.”
Government Senator, Kate Lundy, said she had heard of the Nationals’ vote and it showed many spectrums of politics were against a filter.
“I think it’s an indication that the concerns about it are more about a general principal about openness, transparency and freedom of speech, rather than anything else,” she said.
A spokesperson for Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, said they were aware of the vote and that it would not shift the Government’s resolve to bring on the mandatory filter.
“The Rudd Government is committed to its Cyber Safety policy, which includes education, law enforcement, research and ISP level filtering,” they said. “The Government does not support Refused Classification content.”
ARN contacted the office of Shadow Communications Minister, Tony Smith, but did not receive a comment in time for conversation.