Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Tue 22nd Dec, 2009

Power from the people

I read the article at http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2778257.htm with a kind of despairing interest - because what it says is absolutely right, and it makes me feel very sad about the democracy we supposedly live in.

A precis of the story is: the "Mandatory Filtering" the Federal Government is proposing to introduce will not be stopped by writing letters to your Member of Parliament or to Senator Conroy, signing a petition or blacking out your home page or avatar. It will be pushed through, because the ALP is (supposedly) indebted to the Australian Christian Lobby (the ACL) and because they wield enormous lobbying power at the highest levels of government. We need to change our tactics of getting through to our politicians, Josh says, or fail to stop the filtering being enacted.

The problem here, I would argue, is not that those opposed to the mandatory filter (like myself) are mumbling to themselves. We are doing all the traditional things that people do when trying to get their members of parliament to listen to their opinions: writing letters to politicians, talking to our friends and organising media coverage. These have worked for most issues in the past. Trying to organise avatar blackouts and internet recognition is a way of socially protesting in modern times, and it isn't really intended to reach the politicians.

The problem I see here is that politicians such as Senator Conroy and the various other ministers I've written to and spoken to are all basically plugging their ears to the voice of their electorate. We get form letters that reiterate their invalid, nonsensical and specious arguments, don't answer a single point we raise, and keep on going in their own direction without listening in the slightest to anything we say. They're listening, instead, to the ACL, who get to whisper in their ears directly and imply that they have all these unseen, unnamed christian voters out there who agree with them. As Josh says, the ALP owes the ACL a few favours - favours that the ACL are more than happy to imply are worth much more than they really are.

And the opponents to mandatory filtering are not without friends in Parliament House. Politicians from Senator Kate Lundy and NSW Minister Penny Sharpe down are trying to also counter the spin and the denialism of Senator Conroy and the ACL. But what are the ordinary people supposed to do? Have a cake sale and raise a couple of hundred thousand dollars to buy a couple of high-profile lobbyists? Start setting fire to cars and blowing up ISPs? Donate some money to the ALP with a little note in the bag? Do as Bernard Keane suggests and create a letter so complicated and confused that bureaucrats actually time to answer it (as if...)?

The problem here is that the public are not being listened to. A majority of Australians don't want mandatory filtering. It's being sold as stopping child pornography but the Minister has said that it could be extended to blocking information on euthanasia, abortion and safe sex - things which the Christian right gets all hot under the collar about but where the information alone is not illegal in Australia. It doesn't stop the real criminals, or even a determined teenager, and the whole illusion of children being randomly exposed to 'unwanted' content is a nebulous decoy.

What are we supposed to do if the politicians who represent us don't listen?

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