Federal Politics


Turnbull supports freedom of internet

THE opposition communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, has opposed a new statute to bolster privacy, saying the answer to the excesses of the media or the internet was ''more freedom rather than more regulation''.

He said social media campaigns had held broadcasters like Alan Jones to account more effectively than regulators.

And he endorsed the view of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, that the government should not ''cross the Rubicon'' of regulating the press.

Mr Cameron used the phrase recently in rejecting key recommendations put forward by Lord Leveson in his report on phone hacking by British newspapers.

Mr Turnbull was speaking at a symposium on privacy held on Friday by the UTS Communications Law Centre.

The Sydney audience heard from Lord Leveson, the British peer warning of the risks to young people of the careless use of social media. Often, he said, they did not appreciate the permanence of the material they posted.


''It will be difficult if not impossible to retrieve every copy [of a compromising photograph] and in years to come it is likely that it will still be there for a determined researcher to uncover.''

He said ''permanent and disproportionate'' harm could be done to those named and shamed in cyber-space. ''There is not only a danger of trial by Twitter, but also of an unending punishment, and no prospect of rehabilitation via Google.''

Lord Leveson said new laws and legal norms would most likely be needed to moderate the impact on privacy of the internet.

Mr Turnbull said many privacy invasions were self-inflicted by people putting ''stuff on Facebook that they shouldn't''.

''The default for all of human history until recently has been to forget'' he said. Now modern humans were in a ''curious'' world where they had to ask ''can anybody forget?'' because material on Facebook was ''there forever''.

The Greens communications spokesman, Senator Scott Ludlam, expressed support for a new privacy statute, while the NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith said he remained ''agnostic'' about it.

The federal government has released a discussion paper on a new right to bring privacy actions in the courts.