When Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, told Triple J and ARN that his party would fight the filter, it signalled the death knell for the highly controversial issue. But rather than put a feather in the cap of the Coalition, it’s set to give the Labor party a solid boost come election day.
The Australian Greens are likely to hold the balance of power in a post-election parliament. Its communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, had stated it would move against a filter in any vote. Last month the National Party signalled a move in the same direction.
This meant a Gillard Government would need the Coalition’s support to bring in a mandatory filter, which was long considered a strong possibility by all parties until this week.
According to election experts, the filter never registered as a major issue amongst the average Australian. However, tech-savvy users have long rallied against the measure in websites and blog posts across the Net.
But the same people who despise the filter also tend to love the 100Mbps potential of Labor’s National Broadband Network. IT businesses, gaming enthusiasts and many Net-dwelling Australians are happy with the progress of NBN Co and look forward to seeing their houses linked into one of the world’s fastest networks.
This was boosted by the Government’s release of detailed maps, which show citizens how their towns and suburbs will be plugged into the NBN.
In contrast, the Coalition has refused to release its plans and promised a much smaller and more efficient network. Private companies are set to take the rollout role under a Liberal-led Government in an effort to greatly slash the cost to taxpayers and bring the budget back to surplus faster.
High-level economic arguments aside, one certain result would be higher connection and data costs to make the work viable for private companies.
But why does all this signal good tidings for Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy? The answer is that his filter measure is now a lame duck and moot point.
National Party deputy leader, Barnaby Joyce, is a long time mandatory filter supporter but even he accepted defeat.
“I’d say it’s probably the case [that the measure will never get off the ground]. The reality is the numbers are not there and the Greens will most likely hold the balance of power,” he told ARN.
While many conflicted voters preferred the Government’s NBN model and despised its idea of a mandatory ISP filter, they can now vote for Gillard with the knowledge that the filter won’t see the light of day. Broadband has now become the election’s single biggest issue.
This means any protest voters who shifted their allegiance from Labor to the Greens, Liberal party or any others based on the filter measure can now return their votes to Conroy – thanks entirely to the Coalition and Joe Hockey. That's not to say the number of swinging voters on this issue is large, but in an election this tight every vote will count.