Banned in Iceland ... pornography.Photo: iStock

With porn filtering planned for the UK, will the filtering debate reignite in Australia in the run up to Rudd versus Abbott on September 7?

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently called on ISPs to introduce ”family-friendly” filters for all customers by 2014. Of course only last year Australia scrapped the idea of mandatory filtering after a three-year debate, but the major difference with the UK plan is that it’s not mandatory — homes will have the ability to opt-out at any time if they so choose.

With the NBN a hot topic, could either side be tempted to resurrect filtering as a vote winner?

Opponents of Australia’s filtering scheme raised many valid arguments, but the biggest concern seemed to be around the mandatory nature of the filter and the lack of oversight — handing the government an incredibly powerful censorship tool open to abuse. Communications Minister, Senator Conroy, would have found a lot more middle-ground support had he granted consenting adults the ability to opt-out of the filter. Right now Australia’s filtering debate seems dead, and Conroy is now a backbencher under the Rudd government, but ideas like this tend to hibernate rather than die.

You can be sure that Australian supporters of Conroy’s mandatory filtering plan will be buoyed by the fact that Cameron wants to go down a similar path in the UK. Australian Christian Lobby general manager Lyle Shelton is already on the record as saying the UK plan is “perfectly reasonable” and I’m sure other Australian conservatives will back him, even if they weren’t open to such compromise before. In their eyes a Cameron-style opt-out filter is better than no filter at all. And a cut-throat election campaign might be just the time to push for it.

With less than five weeks to go until Australia’s general election, both sides are looking to out-do each other while neutralising the other’s advantage. So far Rudd has pulled a few rabbits out of his hat, such as the PNG asylum seeker solution, and there’ll be more to come. With the NBN a hot topic, could either side be tempted to resurrect filtering as a vote winner? By granting people the option to opt-out, I’d say it will win more conservative votes that it will lose civil-libertarian votes — as people will be worried that voting Abbott will kill the NBN. When you look at it this way, I think Rudd would have more to gain from such a plan — tied into the NBN — than Abbott would.

What do you think? Could filtering become another hot topic during the election campaign? Will it win or lose mainstream votes?