Australia censors 90 per cent of web snooping doc

The Australian government has censored more than 90 per cent of a key consultation document on its forthcoming plans for web snooping.

Government censors got busy with their black marker pens on the document - which was obtained by a freedom of information request - on the grounds that its publication might cause "premature unnecessary debate", according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The consultation paper concerns controversial government plans to force ISPs to store information about Australian users' Internet activities, even when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing.

All parties to the consultations have been sworn to secrecy.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland (pictured) has denied that the plan will go as far as collecting the full browsing history of all users - but with discussion on the subject censored, no one can tell how far the proposed powers will reach.

Communication spokesman for Australia's Green Party, Scott Ludlam, called the government's excuses for censoring the document "extraordinary".

"The idea that its release could cause 'premature' or 'unnecessary' debate is not going to go down well with the thousands of people who have been alarmed by the direction that government is taking," he said in a telephone interview with the newspaper, adding: "I would really like to know what the Government is hiding in this proposal."

Claudia Hernandez, a legal officer at the Attorney-General's office, helpfully clarified that the material that had been censored because it concerned issues that the department were "currently weighing up and evaluating in relation to competing considerations that may have a bearing on a particular course of action or decision".

Premature release of the proposals would, she said, create "a confusing and misleading impression".

Or, to put it another way: what you don't know can't hurt you.