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Tuesday, 13 April 2010 12:20

Unregulated internet not an option: Conroy

By

Leaving the online world as an unregulated distribution medium actually "weakens all that is good about the internet," Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has told the Sydney Institute in a detailed defence of the Rudd Government's digital policy agenda.


From the National Broadband Network investment, the closing of the analogue television services and telecommunications reforms legislation, to the internet filtering proposal, Senator Conroy said the agenda would shape and drive a strengthened economy and quality of life.

But as a part of communications policy, the internet should not be allowed to remain an unregulated environment, he said. Rather it should have the same standards applied to it as other communications and content distribution mediums.

"With great opportunity, comes even greater responsibility, and having sensible, appropriate protections in place is also the role of government," Senator Conroy said.

"The internet is an incredible piece of technology and in our lifetime it's unlikely we'll see anything like it again. But for all its technical brilliance, the internet is a distribution and communications platform."

"Having no regulation to combat illegal activity actually weakens all that is good about the internet," he said.

Senator Conroy says Government has never claimed its ISP level filtering proposal was a "silver bullet" when it came to stopping child pornography or protecting children online, and points to other law enforcement and educational initiatives aimed at the same objectives.

But the filter, he says, is a "modest measure." It was already illegal to host Refused Classification material on a computer in Australia. The filter would merely apply that same standard to material being brought into Australia from offshore computers.


"This is a modest measure, which reflects long held community standards about the type of content that is unacceptable in a civilised society," Senator Conroy said.

"Those who claim that the Government's approach is akin to the sort of political censorship practiced by authoritarian regimes are simply misleading the Australian public."

Senator Conroy told the Sydney Institute the Government's telecommunications reform proposals were a critical part of enabling the economy to take advantage of high-speed broadband.

"Getting the structure of the communications sector right for the long term is a critical step towards unleashing the sort of competition that will benefit Australian consumers and Australian businesses," he said.

"It is reform that is long overdue. It is a reform the previous Labor Government failed to achieve. It is a reform that the previous Coalition Government ignored and exacerbated by privatising a vertically-integrated Telstra, without ever conducting a study into the long term effects on competition."

"The cost of these policy failures has been compounded in an age where telecommunications networks are much more than just about providing voice calls. The NBN gets the market structure right for the long term."

In the meantime, and during the eight years it will take for the NBN to be built, the reform legislation provides the level playing field, and the consumer protections and safeguards that will enable the sector to thrive.

"These reforms are essential in the long term national interest. They will ensure that we have a competitive communications sector that delivers for consumers and business," Senator Conroy said.


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