Australian Net Filter Dead?

Not a lot of news is happening in Australia lately regarding the mandatory web filtering. So we decided to find out if anything has happened lately. Turns out, Australia has had an election with some rather historical results that could see to the demise of the net filtering plan.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Hung parliament. The last time Australia had one of those was 1940. Still, it’s a term that Australians will now have to get use to now with no one winning a majority government.

The results say that the Labour Party won 72 seats. The coalition, Australia’s other major political party also won 72 seats. That left four other representatives to decide which side they choose to support – thus holding the balance of power. Two of those independents decided to support Labour while the other two decided to support Coalition – thus resulting in a dead heat according to ABC news.

The Coalition, suggests Electronic Frontier Australia, is against the internet filtering plan, so since the two sides are on equal footing, I would imagine it would require support from both sides to pass such a filter. From EFA:

The upshot of all this is that without The Greens’ support, filter legislation would not be passed in the House of Representatives, let alone make it through a hostile Senate where both the Coalition and Greens would vote it down. It therefore looks very unlikely that, even if the country independents were to make internet censorship a high priority, filter legislation could go anywhere.

So it sounds like the Australian internet filter, the one that would filter out “inappropriate content” and the one that could possibly even filter file-sharing content (though this was a matter of debate), is officially dead.

It seems that a minority government is one very effective way of blocking legislation like this. Canada knows all about avoiding a Canadian DMCA. An election killed the first full iteration of the Canadian DMCA – known as Bill C-60 in the Liberal party government. Later, the Conservatives version of the Canadian DMCA, Bill C-61, suffered the same fate by dying on the order paper thanks to another election. Successive minority governments, including the current one in Canada, has historically been the number one killer of bad copyright legislation so far. It is entirely possible that the same kind of thing will happen in Australia for now.

The news is, no doubt, welcome to human rights groups in Australia who fought long and hard for roughly two years. After Australia delayed the filtering plan, it seems that this was the last decision that would ultimately kill it for now.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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