[caption id="attachment_1218" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Judge Felicity Hampel SC"][/caption]

A Victorian judge last night told Q&A there “probably is a causal link between pornography and sexual abuse”. And Fairfax journalist Lenore Taylor said filtering child porn from the internet was worth doing. Finally some sense is starting to emerge in the internet filter debate.









Squeezed into last night’s episode of Q and A on ABC1 was a heated debate on the merits of the federal government’s ISP filtering policy. The debate was sparked a when an audience member asked a question about Australia’s high rates of sexual abuse and the causal links between pornography and sexual assault.

Responding to the question, Victorian judge and panellist Felicity Hampel made the honest admission that “there probably is a causal link between pornography and sexual abuse. There certainly is so far as the abuse of the children who are the subject of the pornographic product that comes into this country”.

Unfortunately the debate became side-tracked from this revealing information, as WA Greens Senator, and prominent filter opponent, Scott Ludlam, spun his oft-repeated line that “the filter is not going to work”. He also suggested that the filter would re-direct resources away from more effective law enforcement measures. The Government has been at pains to point out it is doing both, a point lost on Ludlam.

However, fellow panellist, and Sydney Morning Herald journalist, Lenore Taylor promptly rebuffed Ludlam, rhetorically asking:

“But surely with something as abhorrent as child pornography, it's worthwhile trying to do both things: law enforcement and a filter if it can be made to work? And if it doesn't work properly, then surely that's not an argument to abandon it, it's an argument to get it to work properly. And as I understand it, haven't the three largest ISPs now voluntarily said that they're going to block the blacklisted child pornography sites? So to the extent that they're doing it, that must work in the interim.”

The lone Government voice on the panel, Immigration Minister Chris Evans also defended the filtering policy, arguing that “while people say everything is not a perfect solution, we're not going to stop trying because it's not a perfect solution”.

Former Liberal Party president and businessman John Elliott agreed, believing the filter “would certainly improve things”.

Last night’s mini-filter debate demonstrates how the wider debate about mandatory internet filtering has shifted in recent times as people from a broader spectrum of views have come to express their support with the intent of the proposal. That several large ISPs have voluntarily agreed to filter child porn demonstrates the feasibility of wide scale filtering.