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Australia’s Minister for Communications Chaos, Internet Censorship and Moral Panic rose in the Senate early this week to defend the Government’s ‘Clean Feed’ policy yesterday.

It was not an impressive performance, but to paraphrase Dr Johnson, the remarkable thing is that it happened at all.

Senator Stephen Conroy - the Worst Australian Communications Minister in History?In recent days, Conroy has been taking hits from all quarters. The most recent thwack came from Young Labor in NSW.

Every time the Senate meets, he faces at least one uncomfortable question about his portfolio. Each time, the main issue is whether he’ll make a bigger mess of his answer than last time. Nobody expects a quality response from Conroy any more. Nobody is ever disappointed.

Conroy attacked the previous Coalition Government for what he claimed was an ineffective and costly scheme, whereby all households were provided with a self-install Internet filter on request. Generous sums were spent promoting the scheme.

Conroy’s point is that uptake of the voluntary ‘filter’ was very low. The Minister didn’t remember the exact figure, so why should I bother looking it up? In any event, it was low. 2% or so. ‘Nuff said.

One might reasonably infer from this that most Australians simply didn’t want to install a ‘filter’ on their Internet connection. That could be regarded as good news – a hint that the Government can concentrate on other important policy areas (and even make a modest saving scaling down the free voluntary web filter service).

But that is not the way Stephen Conroy’s mind works. He claims the low uptake of voluntary filters is evidence that compulsion is needed. If Australians won’t take filters for free, force them!

It’s an approach to governance that was popular, for a while, in the Soviet Union. But does it have a place in Australia today?

Senator Conroy is an incompetent control freak with no obvious redeeming qualities. He cannot mount a coherent case for his own policies. He cannot defend them without dissembling and evasion. He seems to be making a complete mess out of what is arguably one of the most critical portfolios to Australia’s short and medium-term prospects.

It’s time that Kevin Rudd invites him over to the PM’s office for that nice cup of tea. By jettisoning Conroy and backing down on compulsory Internet censorship (it was never ‘core’ Labor policy, by any stretch of the imagination) Rudd can ride the crisis and move forward.

Kevin RuddQuite soon, if Rudd doesn’t stem the infection, it will damage his entire Government’s health and its prospects at the next election.

Of course, it is also possible – as I speculated previously on more than one occasion – that the real reason this scheme is being pushed (to the point of political suicide) is because Kevin Rudd cut a deal with forces who intimidate him.

A little support was given to this theory in Conroy’s extended answer to the Senate. It’s clear that overseas agencies – including national ‘law enforcement’ agencies such as the FBI – will be consulted when drawing up Australia’s banned website list. Whether or not other countries fall into line with similar schemes, Australians’ freedom to choose is being ‘outsourced’ to overseas interests. I doubt the Iranains will be consulted about the banned list. I imagine the Israelis will. 100 Years War here we come…

I hope there is not a smidgeon of truth in this outrageous ‘conspiracy theory’. But even so, a national Christian role-model like Kevin Rudd can surely be counted on to stand up to arm-twisting and act in the public interest – especially given the masses are clearly behind him?

After all, Kevin, about the worst they can do is assassinate you and cover it up afterwards.

It beats eternal damnation any day.