House debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Questions without Notice

News Media and Digital Platforms

2:20 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer update the House on the Morrison government's plans to ensure the imbalance in bargaining power between digital platforms and news media organisations is appropriately addressed to ensure public interest journalism remains strong in Australia?

2:21 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Reid for her question and acknowledge her experience as a psychologist, in small business and as a strong advocate for the people of Reid. I had the great pleasure to join with her recently in visiting Pasticceria Papa at Five Dock, among other businesses, as well as headspace.

The member for Reid understands that there is a revolution occurring when it comes to the digital economy. It's changing the way we work, it's changing the way we shop and it's changing the way we communicate. Conscious of that change, back in 2017 the then Treasurer, now Prime Minister, commissioned the ACCC to undertake a comprehensive review. What the ACCC found in this expanding online advertising market was that it was extremely concentrated and there was an unequal bargaining position between the main players. It's around $9 billion a year in terms of online advertising. It may surprise members to know that, for every $100 spent in online advertising, $81 goes to Google and Facebook. Google gets $53 and Facebook gets $28. In light of these dynamics in this sector, the ACCC recommended to the government that we initially put in place a voluntary code and then, when it became clear we weren't getting the cooperation that was needed, we moved to a mandatory code.

That mandatory code has a number of clear features. It's based on two-way value exchange, two-way value to both parties involved in the negotiations and under the code, as well as a final offer arbitration mechanism. They're the features of the code, and it's really pleasing that this code being worked on has helped bring the parties to the table, so much so that we've seen some positive announcements, including this morning, between News Ltd and Google. There were positive announcements on Monday between Channel 7 and Google. There are also reports of real progress in negotiations between Nine Entertainment and Google. This is really positive, and we thank Google and we thank the stakeholders for the good faith in which they've negotiated.

But what we saw today from Facebook was unnecessary. Facebook's actions today were unnecessary. They were heavy-handed. They were wrong. It was provocative and it was overreach, and it will damage Facebook's reputation here in Australia. There was no reason to block access to government sites, sites providing credible information about the pandemic, about emergency services, about mental health. It was unnecessary to do that. So we say to Facebook that we will continue to work with them to hopefully find a pathway forward. But what their actions today have done is remind Australians about the importance of this code, and it has reaffirmed and strengthened the government's resolve to implement it.