Spot the difference between China and Stephen Conroy
In the past few months we have seen the highs and lows of our relationship with China on display.
Firstly we saw Australia avoid recession largely because of the strong demand by China for Australia’s resources.
Then we saw a series of diplomatic incidents including the arrest of Australian businessman Stern Hu on grounds which are yet to become clear. In addition it appears the Chinese Government has taken proactive action to show their displeasure at Australia for granting a visa to Chinese dissident leader Rebiya Kadeer.
A stark reminder of the differences existing between our countries is the fact that Australia is an open and free democracy whilst China is a one-party state run largely as a dictatorship.
Last week we saw again the positive aspect of our relationship when a Chinese Government owned energy giant purchased billions of dollars worth of natural gas from the north west of Western Australia, a project that will create an enormous amount of jobs and wealth for Australia.
The relationship with China is indeed a difficult balancing act.
But there is another area where the current Rudd Government is attempting to some degree to follow the lead of the Chinese Government.
During the Beijing Olympics there was some level of controversy when the Chinese Government controlled the access of the world’s media to the internet.
It showed that it was indeed possible to control access to the internet or as some would put it, filter the internet.
Which brings us back to Australia and Senator Stephen Conroy’s plan to ‘filter’ the internet under the guise of protecting families from the nasties the internet contains.
My contention is that the so-called ‘Internet Service Provider (ISP) filtering’ plan is the first step in a dangerous path of censorship.
As a father of two young children I of course do not want them to be exposed to pornography or be subjected to attack from ‘cyber-predators’ while surfing the internet.
I understand there are people in the community who care very deeply about this issue and would like to prevent children from being exposed to the internet nasties. In fact some of these people are colleagues of mine who I know care deeply about protecting our kids. I don’t question their motives at all.
But the problem is there is only one way to safely truly ‘filter’ the internet and that way is being used in China today.
There are a range of home based filters that are either provided or commercially available. They are not fool proof but neither is ISP based filtering.
Home-based filters are by far the best and most effective weapon against internet nasties and the grubs who roam cyberspace preying on children.
Proponents of ISP filtering claim it will make it safer. Rubbish. Indeed the ISP filter systems work by closing down access to web addresses after they have been launched. Some claim that this will be as little as 24 hours after the website is launched. Even in the best case scenario it is going to be the old dog chasing its tail.
The ISP filters fail to address online chat rooms, peer to peer connections and emails.
What we have to ask ourselves here is how much are we sacrificing for additional ‘protections’?
The internet surely has dangers but they are so far outweighed by the enormous educational, economic and social benefits that we should be very wary of allowing our Government to attempt to regulate it.
If parents want to protect their children from the nasties, they should. We should be telling parents, like not talking to strangers, that the Government cannot protect you from every danger in the world and that you must take responsibility for your children’s safety.
There is a massive risk with this false promise that we will start to walk down a very dangerous path of censorship that can’t end well.
The Government could indeed make the ‘internet’ safer but in doing so it will destroy the very freedom and liberty that the internet celebrates.
We have a difficult relationship with China managing our different approaches to society and government. However we should never seek to implement restrictions on the internet that take us closer to the controlled state that their citizens endure.
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