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Aussies backtrack on firewall plans

Conroy racks up another gaffe

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The Aussie communications minister Stephen Conroy seems to be moving away from his planned test of a compulsory internet filter.

But Conroy has also made some rather dubious comments about an ongoing court case involving one of the ISPs which publicly ridiculed his planned Great Aussie Firewall.

Conroy told SBS's Insight programme he wanted to tighten rules for inclusion on the blacklist. Versions of the list which ended up on Wikileaks included anti-abortion pages and business sites, as well as fairly ordinary pornography.

Conroy said: "Refused classification is the mandatory aspect, and then parents - if the technology allows, if we can work our way through the technical issues - then parents would be given a range of options of other material that they can choose to block for their children."

The earlier leaked list from the Australian Communications and Media Authority included several images and websites which would not have been refused classification. Conroy also said he understood the concern that the secret list was being drawn up by "faceless bureaucrats".

Conroy said: "What I am looking at at the moment is a system whereby the Classification Board can have a role in making that final determination." So if a complaint about a website was made, ACMA would pass that site onto the Classifcation Board.

The Classification Board grants certificates to films and DVDs, or refuses to do so. Its decisions are made public and can be appealed - Baise-Moi, for instance, was refused classification.

In another apparent gaffe yesterday, Conroy commented on an ongoing court action. Various film and television rights organisations are suing ISP iinet for allowing its customers to download copyright material. iiNet withdrew from the Aussie Firewall trial because it was: "fundamentally flawed, a waste of taxpayers’ money and would not work."

Speaking to a telecoms conference yesterday, Conroy said iiNet's defence, "belongs in a Yes Minister episode", the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

iiNet's lawyer described the comments as grossly improper and likely to prejudice an ongoing court case.

There is a transcript and recording of Conroy's TV appearance is here. ®

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