Almost a generation ago we, the public, started to twig that there could be a downside to smoking. A whole swag of research followed – about the relative merits of additives, flavours (remember menthol?) and so on. In the end, it was settled – the best approach would be to add a tip to cigarettes so that the very worst elements of cigarette smoke would be filtered out for us.

Guess what happened. Well, you know the answer – cigarette smoke still kills us every year by the thousand.

You see, we never went to the “root cause” of the problem. We fluffed around the edges. We talked up the health impacts and bombarded consumers with “the facts” – and while there has been some successes, millions of young people around the world continue to take up smoking every year. Facts don’t change our behaviour – feelings do.

We are now facing similar confusion around Stephen Conroy’s internet filter. There are plenty of facts floating around:

  • That the filter will slow down our broadband by around 80%
  • That it will impact regional community far more than the city
  • That it can be easily by-passed via peer-to-peer file sharing
  • That it will massively increase the size of the internet site blacklist which is ALREADY in place

As Holly Doel-Mackaway, adviser with Save the Children Fund states in the Sydney Morning Herald, the filter scheme is “‘fundamentally flawed’ because it failed to tackle the problem at the source and would inadvertently block legitimate resources”.

But there is a root cause issue here – the facts point out the issues but don’t address our emotional response. It is NOT a filter we need. It’s EDUCATION. It’s empowerment. Why should we allow the federal government to WASTE $40 million of our hard-earned taxes when it could be so easily diverted into education – training for kids AND their parents. And it is important that we let the government know our thoughts.

With this internet filter, we are just papering over the problem. There will always be material available in our communities that we would rather not see. There are problems that we would rather not be exposed to. But our challenge, and our duty, is to stand-up to such issues – not avoid them. What price can we put on the empowering of our communities and our kids? As David Campbell might say, it’s “priceless”.

(BTW you can listen in to David’s podcast feed here).

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