Prime Minister Scott Morrison has issued a stern warning to tech giants Facebook and Google, saying he did not respond well to “coercion” and Australia intends “to follow through with” laws to make the companies pay for the news they use.
Mr Morrison made his comments at a press conference on Monday, following Facebook’s threat to remove all news from its platform in Australia last week, and high-profile warnings from Google that its free services were “at risk” in Australia as a result of a draft news code from Australia’s competition watchdog.
The news bargaining code, currently being formulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, is designed to ensure Google and Facebook share some of the revenue they generate by using news from Australian outlets on their platforms.
Despite strong, public objections from both companies, and a talk with Google CEO Sundar Pichai last week, Mr Morrison said he would not back away from the proposal.
“I think people from these companies understand that when I say something I mean it. And that I intend to follow through with it,” he said.
“And therefore I would encourage them, very strongly, to work constructively and cooperatively with the process that is under way.”
Mr Morrison said he had faced down a similar threat from Amazon to leave Australia in the past when Australia asked them to collect tax from local buyers, and won.
“I remember Amazon said to me once, ‘Well, we’re not going to pay this tax when it comes to the low-value threshold,’ and they threatened to pull Amazon, and they did, and they were back three months later.”
Submissions on the draft news code were finalised on August 28. The ACCC is expected to make those public in the coming weeks, and a final code could be passed into law by the end of the year.