Friday, November 09, 2012

Labor Party gives up plan for internet censorship

LABOR has abandoned its controversial plan to introduce an internet filter, but is banning all websites related to child abuse.   The federal government will use its powers under the Telecommunications Act to block hundreds of child abuse websites already identified by Interpol, Fairfax reports.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said blocking these websites met "community expectations and fulfils the government's commitment to preventing Australian internet users from accessing child abuse material online".  "Given this successful outcome, the government has no need to proceed with mandatory filtering legislation," he said.

Kevin Rudd promised to introduce an internet filter when Labor won office at the 2007 election, but it was always a controversial policy.  Internet lobbyists argued against censorship and predicted a filter would be ineffective and would slow internet speeds.

Both the coalition and the Greens opposed the plan.

The internet filter would have required Australian internet service providers to block overseas-hosted "refused classification" material as identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The list of banned websites would have been based on public complaints to ACMA.

Fairfax said Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Lee welcomed the decision as "a positive step".

But the Australian Christian Lobby insisted a filter was needed because "it is important to prevent unwanted access to pornography".  "We must protect our children from forming unhealthy attitudes towards women and sex," lobby spokeswoman Wendy Francis said.


Some out of date tokenism

AUSTRALIA will sign up to a second commitment to the Kyoto protocol, ahead of what the Gillard government expects will be a comprehensive global emissions agreement taking effect in 2020.

Signing the first Kyoto protocol was one of the first acts of the Labor government in December 2007, following John Howard's reluctance to back the agreement.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told a carbon expo in Melbourne on Friday that Australia was "ready to join a second commitment period" of the protocol, which is to be discussed at global climate talks in Doha in December.

But the protocol - which covers less than 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and only from developed nations - was not enough on its own, he said.

Australia will continue to push for a more comprehensive agreement, to be concluded by 2015, and take action through such measures as carbon pricing.

"From 2020 we expect all countries - including the United States, the European Union, China, Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea - will be part of a new agreement to reduce emissions," Mr Combet said.  "This will bring all countries onto the same legal platform to reduce emissions."

Without taking action to reduce emissions, the Australian economy would face a "severe economic shock" from 2020 and it was better to tackle it now.

The Kyoto protocol was the first global treaty to set binding obligations on countries to cut emissions.

It also created the world's first global carbon market spanning developed and developing countries and the private sector.

It establishes a set of rules and accounting procedures for emissions, and the Kyoto market mechanisms help developed countries meet their commitments and developing countries access clean technology.

Australia's preparedness to join a second commitment period relied on a continuation of the existing land sector rules and access to the Kyoto market mechanisms from January 1, 2013, Mr Combet said.

If these conditions were met in Doha, Australia would take on an emissions reduction target for the Kyoto protocol's second commitment period consistent with the bipartisan commitment to cut emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

There also was the potential to increase this target to 15 or 25 per cent, depending on the scale of global action, Mr Combet said.

Signing the protocol would not affect the liabilities of companies covered under the carbon price which started on July 1.

Rather, it would give businesses greater certainty of access to international carbon markets and provide new opportunities for carbon farming.

In his speech, Mr Combet criticised the Australian Greens and the opposition, saying Labor had been committed to climate action since "before the Greens existed" and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had "wilfully deceived" people over carbon pricing.


Monarchists in Canberra

Kings and queens, princesses and princes are more than the stuff of fairytales in the Leggatt household.

Dad Garth, is the chair of the ACT branch of the Australian Monarchist League and says his children "find royalty magical".

The family will be helping to welcome the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Canberra on Saturday, attending each public event - at the renaming of a section of Parkes Place to Queen Elizabeth Terrace on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin and the laying of a wreath at the Australian War Memorial.

Ingrid, 7, and Alexander, 4, will likely see the future monarch, Mr Leggatt believes.  "Charles, I think, will be king and I think Charles will be a very good king. He has been in training for a very long time," he said.

"What people don't realise is that he's written a number of books, he's very intelligent and he's been ahead of his time in matters such as the environment. And, importantly, he knows Australia."

Mr Leggatt, 34, of Stirling, doesn't fit the blue-rinsed stereotype of a royalist. He joined the monarchist league at the tender age of 18, in the lead-up to the referendum on a republic, not convinced a new system could better or even equal the existing one.

He believes the push for a republic is now "on the backburner".   "It's really not an issue. It doesn't excite people because I think we really do have a very effective system of government," he said.

While this royal visit is to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee, her 60-year reign, there was also an eye to the future of the monarchy.

Mr Leggatt said Prince Charles would likely be a "transitional monarch", holding the post for a short time "paving the way for William", who still needed time.

He said it was now almost unthinkable to expect William to have become the monarch at the age of 25 as his grandmother had done.

And the Queen "hadn't put a foot wrong since".  "She didn't choose the position, the position chose her," he said. "I'm sure she would be much happier living out in the countryside sowing potatoes and playing with her dogs."

The debate over the renaming of a section of Parkes Place to Queen Elizabeth Terrace meanwhile continues.  Prime Minister Julia Gillard approved the renaming of the section running along Lake Burley Griffin on the advice of the National Capital Authority.

An online petition started by Dr Benjamin Jones, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University, has now been signed by 343 people. Dr Jones says the renaming is an "unacceptable insult" to the memory of Australia's father of Federation, Sir Henry Parkes.

Authority chief executive Gary Rake said the western section of the road had also been renamed Parkes Place West and the eastern section Parkes Place East. Descendants of Sir Henry had been satisfied with that arrangement.

"The renaming of Queen Elizabeth Terrace complements the names of the adjacent parallel streets Queen Victoria, King Edward and King George Terraces," Mr Rake said.


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