LABOR abandoned its plan for an internet filter because it did not have the numbers to get it through Parliament, opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says.
Both the Coalition and the Greens were opposed to the filter, which the government has now dropped. Instead it will use the existing telecommunications legislation to require internet service providers to block child-abuse websites.
Mr Turnbull said that under the Telecommunications Act authorities had long had powers to require illegal sites be blocked. ''The only thing new in what Labor has announced … is that it is walking away from yet another promise it took to the 2010 election.''
Mr Turnbull harked back to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's comment in July 2010 that the government was ''not prepared to trust big internet companies [to block sites] whose sole basis of operation is profit''.
The Institute of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank, said the new policy ''may result in Australians having even more restrictions on their internet use'' than under the filter proposal.
The director of the IPA's legal rights project, Simon Breheny, said Senator Conroy planned to use section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to force internet service providers to block websites that appeared on international police agency Interpol's ''worst of'' list.
''If the minister always had the power to impose an internet filter without the need for new legislation, section 313 would have been used from the beginning'', Mr Breheny said.