Thursday, 18 February 2021
Questions without Notice
News Media and Digital Platforms
My question is to the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government's world-leading legislation is facilitating commercial deals between news media businesses and digital platforms and how these deals will strongly support the future of public interest journalism in Australia?
I thank the member for Sturt for his question, and I know he has a very strong commitment to a vigorous news media sector in Australia as, indeed, does our government. A vigorous and diverse news media sector is an essential element in a modern democracy, and that is the key reason the then Treasurer, who is now the Prime Minister, initiated the ACCC's digital platforms inquiry. It's why the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and our colleagues and I have been working to give effect to the recommendations that the ACCC made in that very comprehensive report of many hundreds of pages which started with the premise that there is a significant issue of market power in the market for digital advertising—
It took him a little bit of time to get down here.
Mr Burke interjecting—
First of all, we're not going to have those terms bandied around. The member for Kennedy knows full well two things: not to use unparliamentary language and—
Mr Katter interjecting—
The member for Kennedy can withdraw the word 'lie' and substitute the word he just said, if he wants to. Member for Kennedy.
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.