Q&A with former Communications Minister, Michael Lee: On ISP filtering and browser history data collection

Q&A with former Communications Minister, Michael Lee: On ISP filtering and browser history data collection

Australia’s Communications Minister from 1993 to 1996 under Paul Keating talks about the need for filtering and why he thinks Stephen Conroy is doing a great job

Communications Alliance chairman, Michael Lee

Communications Alliance chairman, Michael Lee

How would you have handled an issue as controversial as ISP filtering?

Michael Lee (ML): There are many strong opinions opposed to a mandatory filter, but I think there would be near unanimous agreement that there is material out there that is disturbing especially the material involving children. From my contact with the Australian Communications and Media Authority I get the impression it’s probably more widespread than most of us would expect.

My personal view is that the recent announcement that the Government will postpone legislating for at least 6-9 months and the fact that Primus, Telstra and Optus have agreed to propose a voluntary filter is a good step and it gives the industry and the Government a chance to see the extent to which the voluntary filter can be effective.

So it is a difficult issue for the country to wrestle with and I’ll be an interested observer. There’s probably a small group of people that argue there should never be any censorship because you won’t know where to draw the line, but they’d be a small minority. There are some really gross and evil things out there.

It’s a matter of trying to come up with the most sensible way to protect not just young children that might see this material but more importantly to try and discourage the abuse of children that are filmed.

Can you understand people being upset about the issue?

ML: Oh yes, Internet Industry Association CEO, Peter Coroneos, has in some ways led the debate.

But despite being a strong opponent of the mandatory legislation he’s argued that the period of the trial might give the industry an opportunity to put its own house in order and the sure the Government will be willing to work with the industry to make the system work in the short term.

Is iiNet’s victory over AFACT in a recent copyright infringement case a good or bad thing?

ML: As a former Arts minister I would argue that if you write, record or perform you’re entitled to some reward because otherwise we won’t be encouraging people to devote their lives to performing and writing new songs.

The question then is how we provide rewards for people who have financed the movie or written a song. Many countries are finding it hard to get the balance and the genie is out of the bottle. But the music industry has shown us that you can download most music for free there are many people who are happy to pay a modest amount of money to get their music.

I’ve heard in France they’re experimenting with a system where you may get a warning and be disconnected. I don’t think that’ll be successful, but it’ll be interesting to see.

Who should be responsible, the ISP or the end user?

ML: I can understand why ISPs don’t want to be policing every 1 and 0 that goes through their networks. Often they won’t know what goes over their network. But at the end of the day we’ve got to think of ways that ensure there is some reward for the development of music, drama and films. Otherwise we won’t end up with new Australian music being made.

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Tags Stephen ConroyCommunications MinisterPeter CoroneosMandatory Internet filterInternet Industry Association CEOCommunications Alliance chairmanbrowser history data collectionMichael LeePaul Keating

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