Prime Minister's meeting with Google 'constructive' but he isn't backing down

Scott Morrison said the government and Google are in a 'much more positive space' about the latter continuing to provide services down under.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has touted his meeting with the global head of Google's parent company Alphabet regarding the News Media Bargaining Code as "constructive".

"I thought it was a constructive meeting," Morrison said during a press conference on Thursday afternoon. "I have been able to send them the best possible signals that should give them a great encouragement to engage with the process and conclude the arrangements we'd like to see them conclude with the various news media organisations in Australia.

"And that is the best way to enable that matter to be settled."

Google, alongside Facebook, has been engaged in a stoush with the ACCC since August over the code making its way to law in Australia. 

According to Google, the code is "unfair", saying also it puts the "way Aussies' search at risk". Google believes it contains an unfair arbitration process that "ignores the real-world value Google provides to news publishers and opens up to enormous and unreasonable demands" and similarly Facebook takes issue with the code, having threatened to pull news completely from its Australian platform.

Google since upped the ante, last month threatening to pull its search engine from Australia.

Morrison said he and Sundar Pichai discussed some of the specifics of the elements contained within the code.

"They raised those matters, I think, very respectfully," he said. "But 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.

"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."

See also: Why an all-Australian public search engine is a ridiculous idea

Morrison and his army of ministers have this week touted Microsoft's Bing as the answer to the Google-sized hole that would be left if it did, in fact, pull the plug.

Appearing at the National Press Club on Monday, Morrison said he was confident Australians would be left with sufficient alternatives if Google moved ahead with its threat, pointing to a meeting he had with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Shortly after, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher also rallied behind Bing, saying that in the event Google left, he expected to see investment from other players in the local market.

Microsoft president Brad Smith on Wednesday threw his support behind the code, saying also his company is committed to Australia and its news publishers. And on Thursday morning, Nadella said it was important that technology companies engage and support the press, as they are an important part of democracy.

Morrison said he supports the remarks made by the Microsoft CEO.


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