Scott Morrison holds ‘constructive, respectful’ talks with global Google boss after threats to exit Australia
Scott Morrison has described this morning’s meeting with the global CEO of Google’s parent company over Australia’s proposed media bargaining code as both “constructive”
The prime minister said the talks had brought the relationship between the Commonwealth and the tech giant into a “much more positive space”, while also implying that Australia would nevertheless continue to forge ahead with its plans to introduce the new laws.
The proposed laws would see global tech giants such as Google forced to pay for media content generated in Australia which they repost.
It follows a 12-month review into Google and Facebook by the competition watchdog.
There has so far been strong pushback from Google and Facebook over the proposed changes.
Last month, Google threatened to switch off its search function in Australia if the media bargaining code became law.
“If the Code becomes law, Google would have no real choice but to stop providing Search in Australia,” Google Australia’s managing director Melanie Silva told a Senate hearing.
“That’s a worst-case scenario and the last thing we want to have happen — especially when there is a way forward to a workable Code that allows us to support Australian journalism without breaking Search.”
Since then, Australians utilising the search engine have found a yellow message come up pointing to a statement from Ms Silva reiterating their position.
It appears that statement has since been taken down.
9News understands that Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai reached out to the Prime Minister for today’s meeting, which was conducted via video link.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Mr Morrison described the chat with Mr Pichai as “constructive” but provided few details on what was discussed.
“I have been able to send them the best possible signals that should give them a great encouragement to engage with the process and see them conclude with the various news organisations,” Mr Morrison said.
“That is the best way to enable that matter to be settled.”
The prime minister said Mr Pichai spoke “very respectfully” as he questioned specific aspects of the media bargaining code.
“I think we have been able to get that into a much more positive space about the ability to continue to provide services here in Australia,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, they understand that Australia sets the rules for how these things operate – and I was very clear about how I saw this playing out.”
One of the largest companies in the world, Google has an estimated value of more than US$1 trillion – or roughly two thirds of Australia’s annual GDP of US$1.5 trillion.
Microsoft has publicly agreed to back the Commonwealth’s media bargaining code, suggesting its search engine Bing could fill the gap if Google follows through on its threat to leave the Australian market.