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Many in Australia, and those overseas interested in censorship would have now read a post from the Australian Minister for Censorship Stephen Conroy responding to concern over the implementation of the Great Firewall of Australia.
I won’t rehash what’s already been reported, but having read it several times since publication, it’s what’s left out that makes the proposal even more scary.
The Minister has stated that political speech will not be filtered under the proposal, but fails to define acceptable free speech and does nothing more to articulate his previous comments that “unwanted” material will be filtered under the scheme.
The problem here is the extraordinary mish-mash of Australian laws relating to open speech. In Victoria for example inciting religious hatred is an offense, so theoretically arguing against a particular religion would constitute hate speech instead of fair political speech.
Australia has a long track record of banning books, but for all the hatred are we now not better today having access to something like Mein Kampf so we can understand how wrong it is. There is a blurred line between political and hate speech, and blocking such speech on the internet will not stop people accessing it.
Conroy is disingenuous in suggesting that the Government is pro-free speech, yet pro-censorship: the price of free speech is that we must put up with the stuff we don’t like. The alternative system is not free speech, it’s totalitarianism.
While it’s a positive that the Minister has finally spoken on some of the points raised by the Great Firewall of Australia proposal, it’s what he doesn’t answer that makes the proposal even more scary. The implementation of this scheme can and will take Australia into an elite club of totalitarian societies that value state control over free speech. The Rudd Government seems hell bent on implementing a scheme with no recourse, that may kill legitimate businesses, and slow internet speeds so that Australia can truly take its place as an online backwater in the digital age. Today I am ashamed to be Australian, ashamed that my Government should seek to implement draconian 19th century style censorship laws over the marvel of the modern age: The Internet. Free Speech may not be totally dead in Australia yet, but it’s about to be placed on life support. Conroy can say all he wants that this isn’t about free speech, but speech censored by Government isn’t free, no matter which way you want to spin it.