|Senator The Honourable
|Minister for Broadband, Communications
and the Digital Economy
3 December 2007
|Prime Minister||Kevin Rudd
|Preceded by||Helen Coonan|
18 January 1963 |
Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK
|Political party||Australian Labor Party|
Stephen Michael Conroy (born 18 January 1963 in Ely, Cambridgeshire, England) is an Australian politician and the current Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in the Second Gillard Ministry. He has been an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian Senate since May 1996, representing the state of Victoria.
Conroy's parents worked at an air-force base, where his mother Jean monitored radar and his father Bill was a sergeant. In December 1973 the Conroys moved to Canberra, where he attended Daramalan College. He obtained a Bachelor of Economics at the Australian National University in Canberra. His involvement in student politics was minimal, although he helped organise a rally against student fees.
After university, Conroy worked as an advisor to Ros Kelly and Barry Jones. He moved to Melbourne to pursue a political career where he met Robert Ray, and served for a time as Superannuation Officer with the Transport Workers Union and as a City of Footscray councillor.
He was appointed to the Senate in 1996 when Gareth Evans resigned to contest a seat in the Lower House. In October 1998, Conroy joined the Opposition Shadow Ministry and in 2001 became Deputy Opposition Leader in the Senate. He was Shadow Minister for Trade, Corporate Governance and Financial Services from 2003 to 2004, and became Shadow Minister for Communications and Information Technology in October 2004.
Conroy is a leading member of the Labor Right and was criticised in early 2006 by members of the Labor Left and Simon Crean for working for the replacement of several long-serving MPs with new members, including Bill Shorten, Richard Marles, Mark Dreyfus, Nathan Murphy and Matt Carrick.
After Simon Crean's win in the Hotham pre-selection, where Conroy supported Martin Pakula for the position, Crean attacked Conroy repeatedly, calling on him to resign his position as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
In April 2009, Conroy faced criticism after he made comments disparaging the ISP iiNet's defence in a Supreme Court case against a number of film studios and Channel Seven. Opposition spokesmen described the comments as prejudicial. After iiNet won, Conroy said it was disappointing the two sides had ended up in court.
In February 2010, he admitted using his influence to have a former Labor politician Mike Kaiser, take the position of Government Relations and External Affairs Executive with the National Broadband Network Kaiser was previously forced to retire from the Labor party due to electoral fraud.
Also in February 2010, he was reported to have spent some time while on holiday with Kerry Stokes weeks before cutting license fees that are charged to free-to-air networks, including Stokes' broadcasting network, Channel Seven.
In June 2010, Conroy was criticized by SAGE-AU for "misinformation that verged on fear-mongering" when he suggested Google street view cars could have captured internet banking details in their recording of wireless network traffic, as these are generally exchanged over secure HTTPS connections.
In March 2013, he introduced six media reform bills, one of which would have been the establishment of a Public Interest Media Advocate, a government organisation set up to regulate the previously self-regulated media in Australia. After announcing there would be no discussion over the bills, and that they would be passed or failed as a package, he backed down, allowing negotiation with parties who held the balance of power in the senate. The content of the bills were largely condemned by media, and also by the Australian Young Labor leader, Kerrie Kahlon, who described said the bills "fundamentally breach the liberal ideal of a free press". Ultimately, only two of the six bills passed, and at that the least controversial ones.
Conroy is Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in the First Rudd Ministry. In that role, he is responsible for internet censorship, the proposed National Broadband Network, and the proposed switch to digital television as a complete replacement for analogue. In May 2010 he was appointed as a founding member to a new United Nations commission, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.
Conroy has faced severe criticism over his Internet censorship policies from various groups. While initially promoted as a way to block child pornography, the censorship policy has been extended to include legal material traditionally refused classification by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (now known as the Australian Classification Board), including sites depicting drug use, crime, sex, cruelty, violence or "revolting and abhorrent phenomena" that "offend against the standards of morality". On 19 March 2009 it was reported that ACMA's blacklist of banned sites had been leaked online, and had been published by Wikileaks. About half of the list was child-porn related; the remainder included sites dealing with legal porn, online gambling, euthanasia, Christianity and fringe religions; sites belonging to a tour operator, dentist and animal carers were also listed. Conroy described the leak and publication of the blacklist as "grossly irresponsible" and that it undermined efforts to improve "cyber safety".
In June 2009 he was named "Internet villain of the year" at the 11th annual Internet industry awards in the UK, for "individuals or organisations that have upset the Internet industry and hampered its development – those whom the industry loves to hate."
In December 2009 "Internet pranksters" registered the domain name stephenconroy.com.au which was swiftly removed by auDA raising concerns about auDA's political neutrality and the further potential for suppression of political speech after the proposed mandatory Internet filter is legislated.
In May 2010, Conroy was accused of deliberately misrepresenting iiNet's position with regards to the new internet filter. His department could also not say where he obtained other figures from, such as how he believes that 85% of ISPs support the new filter.
In September 2012 Conroy was quoted saying-
“The regulation of telecommunications powers in Australia is exclusively federal. That means I am in charge of spectrum auctions, and if I say to everyone in this room 'if you want to bid in our spectrum auction you'd better wear red underpants on your head', I've got some news for you. You'll be wearing them on your head ... I have unfettered legal power.”
Senator Conroy is a Catholic, and is said to be socially conservative. While he voted against the abortion drug RU486 in a conscience vote, he has claimed not to have taken a conservative position on all issues:
"I think the point I made was that while I would prefer there to be a parliamentary framework for the RU486, I think it was, debate, if the actual issue was before Parliament I would probably vote for the distribution of the pill. People often say, oh no Steve's a conservative Catholic, but they won't ever find on my voting record something that backs that up. I voted against the Northern Territory's euthanasia legislation. I voted for some of the cloning debate. So I voted in, I like to consider the issues on their merits and I voted what some would characterise as conservatively and some would characterise as progressively on a number of issues."
Conroy and his wife, Paula Benson, have a daughter born in November 2006 with the assistance of an egg donor and a surrogate mother, both friends of the Conroys. The procedures were performed in New South Wales instead of their home state Victoria, where altruistic surrogacy is banned.
- Senator Stephen Conroy Parliament House page
- Biography for Conroy
- Minister for the Future (SMH)
- Conroy shrugs off resignation call
- Moses, Asher (2 April 2009). "Conroy rapped for 'improper' iiNet gaffe". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Andrew Ramadge (8 February 2010). "Conroy calls for 'mature' talks after iiNet case". news.com.au.
- "Conroy under fire over mate's top job". Canberra, Australia: ABC. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- Whinnett, Ellen (13 February 2010). "Minister in 'secret' snow meeting with mogul". Sunday Herald Sun.
- "Conroy gets it wrong on Google: SAGE-AU".
- "Google Street View cars may have obtained bank details". The Australian. 7 June 2010.
- "Young Labor leader blasts Conroy's 'draconian' reform".
- Conroy announces mandatory internet filters to protect children – ABC News, 31 December 2007
- National Broadband Network
- Conroy joins UN broadband commission (Sydney Morning Herald)
- The Age – Web censorship plan heads towards a dead end
- Dentist, tuckshop cited on web blacklist (smh)
- Moses, Asher (19 March 2009). "Blacklisted websites revealed". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
- Conroy named Internet Villain of the Year (smh)
- Spoof Conroy website protests at internet filter plan
- The swift takedown of stephenconroy.com.au
- Electronic Frontiers Australia Surprised at auDA Decision to Remove StephenConroy.com.au
- "iiNet says Sen. Conroy lied".
- "iiNet: Conroy misrepresents our filtering stance".
- Senator's 'red undie' remarks fall flat in New York Sydney Morning Herald September 28, 2012
- The senator, the surrogate, and the new baby (The Age)
- An interview with Stephen Conroy about the surrogacy arrangements surrounding the birth of Isabella Conroy (ABC)
- Senate rejects RU486 veto (SMH)
- Senator Battles Infertility Laws (SMH)
- The Australian, Labor rooster's surrogate by two mothers
- Volleyball Victoria: 'About' page
- Stephen Conroy's website as minister for DBCDE
- Stephen Conroy's parliamentary webpage as senator for Victoria
|Minister for Broadband, Communications
and the Digital Economy
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate