House debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Questions without Notice

News Media and Digital Platforms

2:29 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts) Share this | Hansard source

I'm pleased to return to the question presently before the House. As the Treasurer has pointed out, over recent days we've seen announcements from Seven West Media in relation to striking an agreement with Google. We saw a story yesterday in The Sydney Morning Heraldwhich is, of course, owned by Nine Entertainment—about that business striking a deal with Google. We saw an announcement today that News Corp has announced a groundbreaking agreement with Google. We welcome these commercial deals, and we make the point that the news media bargaining code is very specifically designed to encourage commercial negotiation. Indeed, the policy evil that it is addressing is that, because of the imbalance of bargaining power, we have not hitherto seen the sorts of commercial agreements you would ordinary expect.

In relation to the conduct of Facebook in blocking access to many pages today, that clearly raises serious questions. If you say that you object to the news media bargaining code, why would you block the pages of government departments, emergency services organisations, the Bureau of Meteorology and 1800RESPECT? These pages would never be covered by the code. Why were you so determined to resist the introduction of blocking requirements under our legislation in relation to abhorrent and violent material, yet block thousands of pages of wholly unobjectionable content overnight? Why would you pick on small businesses like North Shore Mums in my electorate? Founder Rachel Chappell tells me today that she's got 25,000 followers. She found this morning that her feed is no longer appearing on the page. Why is it a good idea to respond to a policy measure directed at your market power with an overt display of that market power? Why don't you recognise that our government is committed to this code and that we're committed to legislating it? What we suggest is that Facebook needs to come back to sensible discussion with the government. We've been engaging with all of the stakeholders. We'll continue to do that, but what we will not change is our resolve to legislate this code.


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