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Australian newspapers were filled with stories concerning US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich's comments during a television show yesterday in which he called for the Australian government to reconsider its Internet filtering plans.

Ambassador Bleich, who was interviewed on ABC TV's Q&Aprogram is quoted in The Australian as saying:

 "On the issue of the Internet, we have been very clear. The Internet needs to be free. It needs to be free the way we have said skies have to be free, outer space has to be free, the polar caps have to be free, the oceans have to be free. They're shared resources of all the people in the world."

"To the extent that there are disagreements (about) trying to find the right balance between law enforcement and respecting that general principle, we work with our friends, and so we've been working with Australia on this issue, we've had healthy discussions, and ... I'm sure we'll be able to find the path forward."

Ambassador Bleich also said that child pornographers could be nabbed without resorting to the use of filters.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the US Ambassador's comments came after a speech by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy defending the government's plan to filter the Internet. The Herald said that Minister Conroy reemphasized his view that the Internet is nothing special and is subject to regulation like any other media.

The Herald quotes Minister Conroy as saying in his speech:

 "For all its technical brilliance, the Internet is a distribution and communications platform. Having no regulation to combat illegal activity actually weakens all that is good about the Internet."

"This is a modest measure, which reflects long-held community standards about the type of content that is unacceptable in a civilised society."

Other government officials, such as Federal Minister for Housing Tanya Plibersek, also have been giving support to the filtering plans, saying on the same ABC television program as Ambassador Bleich:

"It might not stop every single instance of this [child pornography] around the world ... but reducing the demand for it is quite important."

No doubt, the US and the Australian governments will continue their "healthy discussions" on the merits of filtering the Internet, which is or is not special, depending on your point of view.

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