Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – ABC Radio Melbourne- Drive with Ali Moore

Subjects: Labor’s weak leadership on Meta smashing Australian Journalism, Telstra Triple-0 Outage



Ali Moore: We’ve been looking at the announcement by Facebook owner, Meta, that they’re not going to renew the commercial deals they made a couple of years ago with Australian news media companies, and these deals have funded a lot of jobs, particularly in regional journalism. We spoke to Professor Andrea Carson, who gave us an idea of the background to this. David Coleman is the Shadow Minister for Communications. David Coleman, welcome to the program.

David Coleman: Good afternoon, Ali.

Ali Moore: What do you think the impact of this is going to be?

David Coleman: Look, this is a $1 billion body blow to Australian journalism. The News Media Bargaining Code that the Coalition Government put in place has been extremely effective. It meant the deals were put in place through Facebook and other major digital platforms with the media companies, and that money flows directly to Australian journalism. And this Government’s weak leadership has basically meant that those deals, or particularly this Meta deal, is not being renewed. And that’s going to mean less journalism. It’s going to have a big impact on Australian jobs, and ultimately, it’s going to mean there’s less Australian news being produced. Our Government got this right. We led the world with the Media Bargaining Code and to be frank, it’s just fallen apart on Mr. Albanese’s watch.

Ali Moore: Why did the code only last for three years?

David Coleman: Well, with these sorts of deals, you’re always going to renew them over time. And so, it’s incumbent on the government of the day to enforce the rules that it has and basically to create an environment where a company like Meta, doesn’t feel that it can just walk away. Because this is a huge blow to Australian journalism. The truth is, now that so much of journalism is consumed online, and when journalism is consumed online, it should be paid for by the companies that are benefiting from it. And that wasn’t happening prior to the Media Bargaining Code and that’s why we put it in place.

Ali Moore: So a couple of things here. First of all, the Government does have the power to designate, as we were just talking about Facebook. And that would force them into arbitration with the media companies. Do you think that’s what they should do now?

David Coleman: Well, they should be using all the powers that we’ve given them under the Media Bargaining Code. But, frankly, we shouldn’t be in this position in the first place because the Government should have made it very clear to Meta that this would not be tolerated. But we are where we are, and absolutely they should use the provisions of the Media Bargaining Code. Because this is, as I say, it’s a devastating blow. It shows a lack of leadership on the part of the Government, and we shouldn’t be here. But now that we are, the Government has got to dig itself out and frankly, do the work that’s needed to ensure that Australian journalism continues to be supported.

Ali Moore: You say it’s a lack of leadership, but I guess until today we didn’t know this was going to happen.

David Coleman: Oh Ali, this has been on the cards for months. I mean, Meta has been basically saying that it’s going to go down this path for some time. If you look at what it’s done in other markets, it’s been talking about going down this path. But our Media Bargaining Code gives the Government the tools to basically ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Australia. Because we can’t have Australian journalism, basically being taken, used online and not paid for because how are you supposed to produce the journalism if you don’t get paid for it.

Ali Moore: Which does go to a broader, and I want to look at the triple-0 issue in a minute. But David Coleman, can I ask you about that, I suppose broader, almost philosophical question? We heard both Ministers talk about dereliction of responsibility, abrogation of responsibility of the big multi, the global company. Do they have a responsibility? Is it their responsibility to support media in this country?

David Coleman: Well it’s their responsibility to pay for what they use and that’s why we put the Media Bargaining Code in place to ensure that they did. And they have been paying for what they’ve used over the last several years. But because of the weak leadership of this Government, it’s not going to happen anymore. And so unless this Government actually does something other than huffing and puffing, and stamping its feet and sighing, we are going to see a massive impact on Australian journalism. So, there’s a very, very clear task now for Mr Jones and, Minister Rowland. Fix it. We shouldn’t be in this place that we are, but we are where we are. They have got to fix it.

Ali Moore: Fix it by designating? Is that the answer?

David Coleman: Well, they should use every single tool…

Ali Moore: Is that designating?

David Coleman: They should use every tool they have Ali.

Ali Moore: Can I clarify, is that to designate? They should designate?

David Coleman: It’s certainly the most significant tool that they have, and they should be using every tool. And we, frankly, we shouldn’t be in this place that we are, and we weren’t under our Government because, under Josh Frydenberg’s leadership we put in place this system that as Rod Sims said the other day, Ali, this has been a billion dollar difference to Australian Journalism.

Ali Moore: Indeed, and this is what we’re going to have to see is, what impact it does have? David Coleman, before I let you go as Shadow Minister for Communications, you are obviously looking, I imagine, with interest and quite possible, an element of being disturbed about what happened with the National triple-0 call centre, in the early hours of this morning. That for an hour and a half, there was a real problem with the calling line. That meant a whole lot of calls couldn’t be immediately transferred to emergency service operators. How do you think that happens?

David Coleman: Oh look, it is really concerning Ali and can I pass on my condolences to the family and friends of the person who lost their lives this morning, as been reported. It’s a very serious situation.

Ali Moore: Which we should clarify, we have no. Yes, someone did lose their lose their life. What we don’t know is if it was directly connected to this.

David Coleman: Indeed. It’s the second time that we’ve seen a triple-0 outage in less than four months, of course, because we had more than 3000 calls not connected during the Optus outage. This is a Government regulated and monitored service, the triple-0 service, and it’s got to work, it is the bottom line. And I welcome Vicky Brady, being up front this afternoon, saying that Telstra will immediately investigate what has occurred. And obviously the Government needs to do that too, that is the responsibility of ACMA. And we just can’t have this happening. So very serious situation and we’ll be reviewing what comes out of this very carefully. And we need to ensure that triple-0 outages do not occur because they can literally be matters of life and death.

Ali Moore: David Coleman, thank you very much for talking to us.

David Coleman: Thanks, Ali.