Australia Prime Minister Proposes Internet Filters

Tod Hunter
CANBERRA, Australia — Saying "No single measure is foolproof," Australian Prime Minister John Howard called for a $190 million program to regulate access to content on the Internet in a speech to the Australian Christian Lobby that was webcast to more than 800 churches across Australia.

Howard's proposals include negotiating with ISPs to create filters that household coulds tailor to block content and an additional $43 million to the Australian Federal Police to increase efforts in finding and apprehending online predators, including increased patrols of chatrooms and services like Facebook and MySpace, as well as discussions with legal authorities and the Internet industry about getting information about predators that might be protected by current privacy laws.

Public libraries with computers for customers also would be included in the program.

The prime minister and opposition Labor leader Kevin Rudd addressed the Christian group and took questions. Howard and Rudd appeared separately and did not debate each other.

The Australian Christian Lobby, which calls itself "a voice for values," has been encouraging members of Parliament to support restrictions on online material, particularly though mandatory ISP filtering.

Last year, Australia's Labor Party proposed a filtered "clean feed" Internet service for households, schools and public internet points accessible by children.

The clean feed system would block content that has been identified as prohibited by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, including child pornography, acts of extreme violence or cruelty and X-rated material. Under the proposal, clean feed would be the default, and adults who choose to opt out of the program would have to request it from their ISP.