Australian government blocks out 90% of document on web-spying plans

Australia's web-censors have outdone themselves. After Stephen Conroy (the Australian minister notorious for proposing the Great Firewall of Australia) promised greater transparency in his government's efforts to regulate the Internet, they replied to a Freedom of Information request on plans to monitor Australians' internet traffic with a document that was 90 percent blacked out:
The federal government has censored approximately 90 per cent of a secret document outlining its controversial plans to snoop on Australians' web surfing, obtained under freedom of information (FoI) laws, out of fear the document could cause "premature unnecessary debate".

The government has been consulting with the internet industry over the proposal, which would require ISPs to store certain internet activities of all Australians - regardless of whether they have been suspected of wrongdoing - for law-enforcement agencies to access.

All parties to the consultations have been sworn to secrecy.

(Thanks, Itsumishi!)


  1. “premature unnecessary debate” :D

    Yeah see thats what you don’t wan’t when trying to run a democracy – all that unnecessary debate. When will it stop being premature btw? After they implement it?
    I love it when parliamentarism shows its true colours. Like during the EMU-votes here where after the sitting governments proposal was voted down in a single-issue public election they just said that they had to do it over again until people voted “right”.

    1. Agreed. In a democratic society, where the people are the masters of their own fates, debate is never “unnecessary.”

    1. #2,

      I live in Victoria, Australia, so technically Senator Conroy represents me. He is not up for re-election next month but I am putting his party last on the senate ballot. In the lower house I will put the greens ahead of labour, though I will put them both ahead of the Liberal party. Unfortunately the liberals are likely to introduce more stringent filtering than labour.

      I encourage all Australians to do something similar. If the greens have the balance of power in the senate this legislation is unlikely to pass.

  2. Yeah, we’re doing it pretty rough over here in the way of technology.

    Our video game rating system doesn’t have an R18 level, so we get filtered there.
    The oh so ‘wise’ Stephen Conroy is pushing a full blown filter on our internet in the next 12mths or so.
    And then there is this.

    If you need evidence that this guy is a total moron not fit for his position, here’s a video!

  3. *headdesk*
    Dear rest of world: we’re nice people and it’s a nice place here in Australia most of the time…except every one of our governments since the rise computers and the internet doesn’t know a thing about technology.
    I think I’m dying of fear of the way the future is going, even faster than I’m dying of embarrassment at how we must appear to people in other countries.

    PS: here’s some light reading; surprisingly it’s still hosted in Australia:

  4. This is so messed up… So much for democracy.
    I guess I’ll never be moving to Australia.

  5. This moral crusade by the Labor party makes me almost embarrassed to be Australian.

    The most startling thing about all this is that Labor has traditionally been the country’s progressive – or at least moderate – major political party. This kind of nonsense is usually expected from the so-called Liberal-National party, which has always been Australia’s conservative rump and usually the champion of right-wing religious causes (censorship, anti-abortion, anti-foreigner, homophobia, etc).

    But now and for the past 4 years, Labor has been courting the fundamentalist Christian vote and lending a sympathetic ear to groups like the Australian Christian Lobby. So Conroy – himself a conservative Catholic – is happy driving this internet censorship agenda for the government, all behind the clever smokescreen that he’s doing it to fight child p*rn (and who can disagree with fighting child p*rn?).

    This issue is just one example of why Labor isn’t even getting my preferences at the upcoming election. The party that once stood for personal freedom, equality and progressive ideas is now towing the line of nasty, clever, right-wing religious lobby groups (with harmless names like the Australian Family Association) who peddle false statistics and moralistic crap that in this case will result in censoring the net and the government spying on citizens.

  6. Ah, premature unnecessary debate… like all that unpleasant voting nonsense we got out of the way a few weeks ago when Mr Rudd introduced his silly mining superprofits tax.

    @ #2: Australia fell to the fascists 222 years ago and we ain’t looked back since.

  7. From an Australian: Help us Obi Wan Doctorow, your our only hope.

    No really, we need your help in this.

  8. the other 10% only consisted of the 3 words.


    that’s our governments only argument to censor our internet.

  9. The technology policies coming from the labor govt since they’ve had power has been quite appalling.

    I’ve personally never been a fan of technology policy from either major party.

    As someone mentioned earlier contrary to a lot of other countries the “Liberal” party here in Aus have always been much more conservative/right wing than labor

    That said, I think one of the great things the libs did was introduce a free (subsidized) PC level filtering solution for parents who wanted it. Quite customizable too.

    It seems to me the only actual action that Conroy’s Dept. has done since in power relating to cyber-safety and security has been to scrap this pretty decent program and then go and wage war with the Aus IT industry and the wider internet trying to get this bloody ISP level filter in.

    I suggest anyone looking to use their vote to help prevent this to research the policies for both the Aussie Democrats and the Greens. Both parties appear to oppose ISP level filtering (I still need to do more research myself) but I’m unsure of their stances for mandatory data retention.

  10. As much as I dislike Conroy, can we please save it with the Conroy bashing. He’s a patsy – the whole idea is that you all waste your time concentrating on him. This censorship crap is a party-wide policy. Even worse, the Liberals pushed for it back when they were in power, too. It’s bloody scary when both major parties want to censor everything.

  11. Hmm, so you have Greens? Lemme guess, they are slightly-left-of-centre and constantly accused by the other two of being omigodredcommunist, like the NDP here in Canada or the LibDems in the UK?

    Ya they are the ones protecting new forms of communication and entertainment, while the mainstream politicos buy into every media-protectionist racket out there.

    Remember, both comics and movies have undergone the same sort of I-don’t-get-what-the-kids-see-in-it kind of fearmongering and censorship. The answer is not comforting: it takes ten years or more to start the panic; twenty years after the panic, the backlash from the kids affected starts in small but significant ways (see: Stan Lee, drugs and comics code)

    Twenty years after *that* (said kids are now forty) any residual hindrances are dropped since there was never any need for it anyway. eg. Marvel opted out of the Comics Code completely a few years ago, though they do have an in-house rating system.

    We are at the 20-year mark for games, but the net-backlash began only 5 or so years ago. So it begins. It will be interesting to see if nettime or its growing necessity even for old fogeys makes the net cycle any shorter or less severe than those that have come before.

    1. I’m from the UK, and for the record nobody to my knowledge has EVER accused the LibDems of being communists! They’ve always been too “nice” to elect.

      From the tone of what you’re writing, I’m beginning to think I live in a sane country, something I’ve not experienced in a long time.

      We have a TV programme called “Wanted Down Under” where people check out Australia hoping to live there. From what you’re saying they must be mad!

      Trouble is, once Australia does it, how long will it be before the likes of us? Australians, rise up! You need to save the world from this idiocy.

    This is likely to get people who wouldn’t have previously considered using encryption and VPN’s to do so.
    Remember, “the system is designed to route around damage”, etc.
    While it’s always a good idea to nip this sort of thing in the bud, imho, it’s ultimately futile. Information wants to be free, and we’ve got numbers on our side who will do their best to make sure that it is.
    I’m not in Oz, but I’m a strong believer in net neutrality and I’m very much anti-censorship. Make no mistake that this will effectively be a test case for westernized nations to attempt to exert their control on the (relatively) free internet that we currently enjoy. Kick up a big stink about it, make them regret it any way you can… before it’s too late.

    1. You forget, there’s a fix for that. Make encryption illegal. Require ISPs to block (obviously) encrypted traffic.

  13. Ah, news like this makes you wonder whether not just Tasmania but all of Australia has been inbred.

    The only good thing is that this is all talk. Government is so ineffective that they will never manage to do anything (see super taxes on mines, national broadband, …) Still, it is annoying to live amongst the dumb and dumber.

  14. I think is is not social from the people that having nothing to hide. We make enormous costs to scan and filter their information, and there is nothing to find, because they have nothing to hide!!! This is disgusting. Why do we do all this effort ? We do not want to find people that have nothing to hide. Please please please, people that have nothing to hide, break some law somewhere, so we can register it and have coverage for all this money we spend on you!!!

    Yes…YOU are the real problem!

  15. This is why I cannot in good conscience vote Labor at the next Federal Election. I cannot vote for the clowns on the other side of the chamber either.

  16. Trying to make the American Republicans look well- informed and intelligent, eh? The only question now is why.

    1. Thanks for that link, it was a good bit to digest but most informative. It’s but a matter of time that a similar idea is proposed here in the USA.

  17. Thanks for sending this to BB itsu. As usual, the pathetic Australian mass media skipped right over this one (‘cept the age).

    Stephen Conroy is a scabby little cretin who deserves a swift strike to the skull with a metal bar instead of a ministry. I would like to know what the coalition’s official position is on the internet filter. They are suspiciously quiet at the mo. The only ones talking business, as usual, are the Greens.

    Aussie BBers: you need to tell people about this. Discuss on all possible occasions. People don’t know about it and they don’t even know they should care. It’s pathetic.

    The Labor party has turned into a spineless bunch of clowns since Gillard knifed Rudd in the back. They caved like a bear in winter to the mining industry – and instead put the burden on ALL Australian business.

    Labor promised a 2% tax reduction of the company tax rate, but now it is only 1% because of the ranga’s shit deal for the Australian people with the mining industry. Yet again this fact seems to have been missed or ignored by the Australian media. It recieves one, pathetic line in this ABC article about all the concessions the mining industry gets.

    In any case, if this stupid filter happens I am gonna make a living teaching people how to bypass it. Fuck you Stephen Conroy, and fuck your narrow-minded religious moral system. If you mess up our internet, expect to be trolled for all eternity.

    1. @teapot

      I read a delightful conspiracy somewhere that Conroy was a member of Opus Dei – unlikely given he’s not the brightest of the bright, but still pretty funny.

      The truth of all this though isn’t funny, sadly.

      The filter has been consistently pushed by the fundamentalist Xian lobby since before the last election (see a Radio National report on this –, and they are a principle reason why the filter will get up. a well-financed, well-organised minority – and the first step, imho, in a broader campaign to ‘save’ Oz.

      p.s. you had me til the R word, dullhair.

      1. p.s. you had me til the R word, dullhair.

        “dullhair” is the best insult I have heard in a while. It makes me wonder: does shiny black asian hair count as dullhair? Mine is not shiny or asian, so in any case the title remains.

        No hate intended to the fiery among us, it was purely meant to convey my disgust at Gillard’s knee-jerk policy on the mining tax issue.

        Also, I think it should be every Australian’s duty to write “conroy is a paedophile” in random places on the internet every day until it becomes a google auto-suggest phrase. I’ve done my part today.

Comments are closed.