The less government supervision of agencies and departments, the more outrageous their behaviour. The money-fraud regulator, ASIC, apparently thinks it is entitled to censor the internet, as do federal police and spooks. No, we the people are entitled to know what you are trying to secretly do to our internet: it’s ours, not yours. The Attorney-General needs to launch an open inquiry, instantly.
ASIC, plods and spooks become censors
By Bill Rowlings, Civil Liberties Australia CEO
The Australian Security and Investments Commission is a serial offender over censorship.
The “inept regulator” (says Crikey’s Bernard Keane) censored more than 1000 websites by mistake in April. It was targeting one fraudster site.
ASIC was rightly pilloried for hiding what it was doing out of public sight, the equivalent of smoking behind the bike sheds by a naught schoolboy. It used a little-known clause of a telecoms act, section 313 (sounds like a bullet!) to censor using its scattergun approach.
Its appalling example is being mirrored by the Australian Federal Plods and “an agency in the AG’s department”, which is code for the spooks, of which there are so many now it could be any of a handful of the dirty macintosh brigade: ASIO, ACC, etc…take your initial pick!
If government agencies are meant to be open and transparent bodies – and they are – ASIC is the equivalent of a slab of black marble. Now, in early June, it reveals in writing to the Senate that it blocked 250,000 sites in March, again by mistake.
ASIC’s role is clearly part-educational, so for it to not promulgate its secret censoring shows a marked degree of malicious intent to hide from public view.
ASIC has acted as internet censor 10 times in the past 18 months. We don’t know how many times the plods and the spooks have done so. And we don’t know what other government miscreants in other departments and agencies have been up to.
It’s time for a major inquiry – to report well before the September election, like by end-July – on how many government entities have secretly censored how many sites over what period of the past few years. The inquiry should name departments and agencies, specify what they did and try to explain why they did it, and why they did it secretly.
The inquiry should be ordered by the Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, and the inquiry body should include outside monitors like civil liberties and privacy representatives.
And, after the inquiry report, Australians deserve to know, before we vote at an election, which political parties will support secret internet censorship…and which will demand that any such unapproved censorship is instantly made public in future.