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Friday, 12 March 2010 00:14

Hockey: Internet filter 'unworkable' and dangerous

By
The Rudd Government's internet filtering plans are unworkable, and the scheme would "perniciously" create an infrastructure to allow censorship to be applied more broadly in future, shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has told the Grattan Institute.

In a broad ranging speech "In Defence of Liberty," Mr Hockey casts new technology as a double-edged sword for personal freedom: Internet filtering plans are well-meant but potentially dangerous, but an R18+ adult computer games category is just plain dangerous.

Mr Hockey rails against Nanny State issues that side-track governments and hoodwink the citizenry. He puts the case for more personal responsibility, less government responsibility.

Internet filtering, he says, is Government over-reach - not because people should have access to unlawful material, but because the infrastructure represents a danger in itself.

"By expanding those aspects of society that come under the control of government we ultimately diminish our own liberty," he told the Grattan Institute dinner in Melbourne.

"What we have in the government's Internet filtering proposals is a scheme that is likely to be unworkable in practice. But more perniciously it is a scheme that will create the infrastructure for government censorship on a broader scale," Mr Hockey said.

"Protecting liberty is about protecting freedoms against both known and future threats. Some may argue that we can surely trust a democratically-elected government in Australia to never try to introduce more wide-spread censorship. I am not so sure!"


Taking a swipe at South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, who unsuccessfully sought "in a ham-fisted and unsuccessful way" to censor political bloggers earlier this year in the lead up to the state's March 20 election.

"Perhaps such proposals for winding back liberty are not surprising from a Labor Party that argues for an ever-expanding role for government in the affairs of our nation and our personal lives," he said in reference to filtering and censorship.

But advocates for an R18+ adult computer games category will be disappointed. Mr Hockey is the most senior Coalition parliamentarian to address the issue directly - and he expressed deep concerns about the linkages between violence in computer games and violence in society.

"I don't mean to suggest that there is no room for government intervention and regulation," Mr Hockey said. "There is probably a legitimate debate to be had about the controls (for example via the classification system) placed on extremely violent video games."

"What concerns me about these games is that they, at the most benign end, make us immune to violence or, worse still, encourage us to think of violence as a legitimate tool," he said.

"Fundamentally, the loss of respect for human life and dignity that these games encourage becomes a threat to the respect we have for individual liberty."
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