back to article Great Australian Firewall may be optional

The Australian government may be backing away from plans of enforcing its proposed internet filtering regime with legislation. Aussie communication minister Stephen Conroy told a Senate estimates committee Tuesday that the Great Australian Firewall could materialize as a voluntary industry code, rather than a new law. The …


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  1. Happy Skeptic

    Hopefully the end

    "Aside from Conroy's comments, there hasn't been much real evidence of government waffling on compulsory internet blacklisting, but his words may give some new hope to the county's anti-censorship advocates" well as the greater than 90% of us Aussies who polls show don't want this nonsense imposed on us (especially not by some holier-than-thou prick in Canberra). Fortunately this 'voluntary mandatory' double-talk looks like the first stage of face-saving as the govt. is forced to back down from its plans.

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Freiwillig gezwungen

    "When Minchin responded that he never heard of a voluntary mandatory system"

    Well then, history teaches that voluntary mandatory systems are old hat in any regime that has moved a bit strongly towards the red/brown side of things and that starts demanding citizens' support for freewheeling "popular" initiatives for which it doesn't even to bother writing down laws any more.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Typical management of the masses

    Oh yes, make this great firewall and tell the people that it is to be compulsory, everyone will protest about this. Then tell them you have listened to the protests and the great firewall is now opt in only, they will be happy to have it under those conditions.

    Then just wait for the excuse to change it to compulsory. Or pass some new laws that create a crime then it's the only way to enforce the new laws.

    Not that it matters of course, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.....

  4. s. pam Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    The Idiotic MP is on delusional....drugs

    Is like the Energizer Bunny -- he keeps going and going and going. There are 4 people here in Australia who want the Great Firewall O'Ken -- the MP, and the 3 vendors who will supply the dodgy HW/SW kit. Funny enough, even folks we know who are devout don't want it, AKA "you'll pry my cold dead fingers from the keyboard" before you censor me.

    Folks, the Sleeping Policeman is not a road obstacle, he's alive in this delusional MP.

  5. Annonymous Howard


    I might like to point out that gambling websites where real money is used, is not allowed within australia. They have their rightful place on the list...

    Mines the one with the login credentials for the offshore vpn in the pocket.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Yet another

    crazy Labour government!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Come on El Reg lads. Some of you have been in the army. You know what "voluntary" means.

    It is plain that the government isn't going to get its filtering legislation through, even if it paints every single opposing senator as akin to a kiddy-fiddler.

    So Conroy is hinting that the government is going to attempt to add filtering to the industry Code of Practice which binds ISPs. This is a Code of Practice repeatedly mentioned in the Telecommunications Act, so although its not a legislative instrument, it's not that distant from law either.

    It's a voluntary code in the sense that if if you don't want to be a retail ISP, then you don't need to agree to it.

    Note that the code applies to ISPs -- not to users. So Jane Bloggs' Internet access will still be filtered -- she doesn't get to decide whether to volunteer or not.

    An addition to the Code usually requires the agreement of the Internet Industry Association (although the Telco Act allows for the government to add whatever it damn well pleases to the Code if the IIA doesn't roll over). Bit surprised your reporter didn't seek comment from them -- perhaps the Editor will volunteer the reporter to do that :-)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was originally voluntary

    The policy they took to the 2007 election was for a voluntary censorship regime, with the ability for users to opt-in or opt-out.

    The idea of a mandatory filter only developed after the election, when the balance of power in the Senate ended up being controlled by a group of cross-benchers, including a religious-right nutjob and an anti-gambling campaigner. The idea of mandatory blocking of porn and gambling sites was obviously a great bargaining chip for working with those two.

    Unfortunately for the ALP, the balance of power is also controlled by the Greens... who will never support any sort of censorship scheme.

  9. Neoc

    And they're off!

    And the first ISP to refuse to add the "voluntary" filtering will get flooded by churn requests.

  10. Adam White

    Voluntary mandatory system FTL

    This is the end of the Porn Proof Fence.

    Voluntary codes of conduct are something industries engage in to prevent otherwise inevitable govermnent-imposed regulation. In this case government regulation is not inevitable, it is virtually guarenteed not to happen. Therefore there is very little pressure on the ISPs to conform.

    The best Conroy can hope for at this stage is the ISPs will throw him a bone in the form of an opt-in value added filtering service their customer's can choose to buy (with hardware supplied at government expense?). But given the poor relationship between the honourable minister and the ISP community, even that may be too much to ask for.

  11. Mark


    Conroy truly is a twat.

  12. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Somewhere a light finally goes on....

    Either that, or he's trying to back out of a nasty situation, of his own making...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    A rare explosion of sanity?

    One can only hope, against all experience and expectation.

    Paris, because she meets our expectations.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Nice graphic

    Say hi to the illustrator!

    By the way, in Finland we have a very effective (*) "voluntary mandatory system" in place at the moment; only a few ISPs are _not_ filtering their content. The list is maintained by the National Bureau of Investigation and it's naturally secret. And, as the Helsinki Administrative Court recently decided, if you get your site on that list for some reason or other (for example, if you're running a site critizising the whole filtering scheme), there's no way for you to complain anywhere.

    Makes one wonder if it really is possible that we have such incompetent fools making the decisions and the ones enforcing them.

    (*): Of course these barriers are relatively easy to circumvent, even for the non-computer geek.

  15. jake Silver badge

    How about ...

    How about the adults keep their kids away from "bad stuff" instead?

    When I was growing up, it was called "parenting", not "government".

    Oh, wait, that would be hard to do. I forgot. My bad.

    Fucking idiots. There should be a license to reproduce, world-wide.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh bugger....

    I was hoping they'd plug it in backwards so it could suck back Rolf Harris and Kylie Minogue and keep them in quarantine.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

    How is it at all tolerable that a Minister of State not only claims to have a mandate when: the election was clearly about Work Choices, not internet filtering; the Minister hardens the policy after the election without debate or any form of consensus (quite the opposite in fact); and the Minister is deliberately evasive in front of Senate Committees and every other form of inquiry?

    How is this person still a Minister of State? How is this issue still going at all in the face of >90% disapproval?

    If a company CEO behaved this way they'd be sacked by the Board and/or prosecuted by ASIC.

    Despite the pandemic of hysteria surrounding The Great Swine Flu Distraction, we, the people, are still watching very closely. The best thing that Mr Rudd can do right now is shuffle his Cabinet and bury this sorry episode ... and Conroy the Twat along with it.

  18. Tim Bates

    So Conroy watches "Daria", eh?

    There's an episode of Daria where the school principal runs something "voluntary", but Daria refuses to participate... So in her case, it was made mandatory.

    Sounds like Conroy might be aiming along those lines.

  19. Francis Boyle

    @ Chris W

    Sorry mate, it's you bloody poms who are responsible for polluting the airwaves with Rolf bloody Harris nonsense. "Rolf Harris paints the Queen". Yea, in British Paints* washable summer lilac. Strewth, at least that would be marginally entertaining.

    /ocker mode

    *Ironically an Australian company, that Harris used to shill for.

  20. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up

    Best illustration ever

    More like this please :)

  21. Michael Nielsen

    How quickly people forget.

    My prediction.

    The issue will crop again, when the people involved, thinks the population, and the ministers have forgotten how it was misused and abused. It may be defeated then, by some people who vaguely remember how it was abused, it will then crop up a few years later, when no one remembers, and the filtering will be Enforced.

    Like just when I left Australia, John Howard lost the federal election because he wanted to introduce a GST - at least it appeared as the tipping stone, which caused them to loose the elections, it was said that labour did not win, but the liberals lost it - So John Howard solemnly vowed that he'd never bring a GST on the tables, again and would not introduce it. He won the next election, and guess what you now have a GST.

    Politicians will lie, deceive, cheat, and what not to get into power, then they will break all their promises, using vague excuses, and any hot topic, as a basis for the broken promise being for the "Greater" good.

    So remain vigilant, or you will find every "right" you have as being eroded or removed.

    In Denmark, the "Filtering" Scheme is voluntary, albeit it enforced by all ISP's so that unless you actively work around it you are filtered. The list if ofc Secret, and being expanded all the time, initially it was only child porn that was filtered (who can argue against that), then it became sites that the Anti-Piracy groups don't like (companies selling legal music cheaper than local Danish sites), now they're talking about including non-government sanctioned gambling sites (that is sites, that do not pay tax to the Danish government), and so the encroachment is slowly increasing. Soon it will probably cover "Hate Speech" (aka critism), Blasfemi (religions critism), and so forth. Funnily enough all of this is completely against the Danish constitution, as it explicit forbids all forms for Censorship, for any reason, the constitution allows for the procecution of individuals who do and say illegal tings (libel etc), but you are not allowed to censor what the person said. However, by labelling it a voluntary filter (though you cannot ask to be excluded), they have circumvented the constitution.

    Those in power want censorship, that can be seen through out Europe, and the West in general. All I can say so much for freedom in the West, the so called free democratic societies, are no better than the fundamentalist, repressive regimes throughout the world, they want to control both the people and information, the best way to control people is through censorship and propeganda.

    Ofc it is admirable to want to protect kids (which is how censorship is introduced), however, they are only censoring the results of the abuse, and they are not protecting a single child with censorship, however, it is a convenient argument for introducing it in a way where it can be used for other purposes, as the outraged public (with the child abuse, and child porn hetz that is going on), will support anything that smells of protecting kids.

    If they were serious about protecting kids, then it would be a relatively simple matter of cooperation, to find the servers in question and shutting them down.

  22. duncan campbell

    I wonder

    If the thing might be able to function as a usable firewall. I mean, past all the crap, this

    thing looks like a Chinese aircraft carrier with mickey mouse ears and nose painted on it...

    Looks to me as if the Kingdom of Oz got itself a new moat by claiming to be digging a

    "pool for the kiddies" and now they've got to explain why there's crocs in the moat.


  23. Andrew Fraser

    Keep watching the bastards...

    I do not trust either side of politics in this bun fight.. well maybe the greens, god bless their furry tree hugging, freedom loving ways..

    They will attempt to model the filter in such a way, that it doesn't require legislation or government oversight.... now... where have we seen this before?

    Oh Wait... the UK IWF ! (Internet watch foundation)

    Oh fuck.... please tell me they are not going down this path.

    They will make the scheme "voluntary", but it will be an unwritten law, that if you want to maintain a business as an ISP, you must adhere to the "voluntary" scheme, or have your license revoked.

    If they are going to maintian a blacklist at ALL, I want it directly government run, subject to FOI requests, and completely transparent. If a site is on the list, it should list exactly WHY it's on the list, and subject to court action.

    None of this secret blacklist crap.

    I am for no blacklist at all... and really happy I am living in Canada at the moment :D

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Tim Bates

    "There's an episode of Daria where the school principal runs something "voluntary", but Daria refuses to participate... So in her case, it was made mandatory.

    Sounds like Conroy might be aiming along those lines."

    Perfect analogy - I'd forgotten that episode. :-)

    Where's the Daria icon? So many stories need it!

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