If Australia's News Media Bargaining Code becomes law in its current form, Google has said it will have no other choice but to pull its search engine from the country. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his army of ministers have all touted the viability of Microsoft's Bing if Google follows through on its threat to exit, but the Australian Greens have asked for an investigation into a different solution. "Following threats from Google to withdraw services from Australia, the Greens have called on the Morrison Government to investigate the establishment of a publicly owned search engine," a statement from Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said. The media and communications spokesperson said Google's threat to shut down search services if they don't get the laws they want shows that the corporate giant has far too much power, not just over the market but across the community. "The government needs a plan for how Australians will continue to be able to access essential information online if Google Search were to be taken offline. We need an independent search engine that is run in the public interest not for the profit of a corporate giant," she said.
Google and Facebook have been in a long-running fight with Australian politicians, regulators and media companies over whether they should pay news organizations for showing their stories in search results. The battle reached a new level of intensity when a Google executive threatened to pull out of the country during testimony at the Australian Senate.
Google's testimony to an Australian Senate committee on Friday threatening to withdraw its search services from Australia is chilling to anyone who cares about democracy. It marks the latest escalation in the globally significant effort to regulate the way the big tech platforms use news content to drive their advertising businesses and the catastrophic impact on the news media across the world. The news bargaining code, which would require Google and Facebook to negotiate a fair price for the use of news content, is the product of an 18-month process driven by the competition regulator. That legislation is currently before the Australian parliament, where a Senate committee is taking final submissions from interested parties. The Google bombshell makes explicit what has been a slowly escalating threat that a binding code would not be tenable.
Australia's Parliament has passed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018, with the federal government saying it will enable rights holders to better fight copyright infringement. The Australian government introduced the new legislation in October, proposing to expand piracy site-block laws from carriage service providers to online search engine providers. The Bill will also allow faster blocks of mirror sites, reduce the burden of proving that a site is hosted outside of Australia, and expand the legislation to sites that not only have the "primary purpose", but also to those that have the "primary effect" of infringing copyright. "The government has zero tolerance for online piracy. It is theft, and damaging to our creative economy and local creators. We are committed to protecting Australia's creative industries and the world-class content we produce every year," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said.