Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – Sky News- Kieran Gilbert- Labor’s weak leadership on Meta

The Hon. David Coleman MP

Shadow Minister for Communications

Federal Member for Banks

4 March 2024

Subject: Labor’s weak leadership on Meta

 

E&OE…

 

Kieran Gilbert: Let’s go live now to the Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman, who joins us from Sydney. Bit to talk about. Let’s start, if you don’t mind, with the Meta decision to pull out of the deals with media organisations. What have you made of the Government’s response to the Prime Minister scathing about the selfish response from the multi-national? What’s your view?

David Coleman: Well Keiran, what matters here is the result. And the Government can huff and puff all it likes, but the question is, will the Government make Meta pay? Now we did that when in government and all this boils down to is will the Government require Meta to pay? Because if they don’t, if Meta doesn’t pay, that is a hammer blow for Australian journalism. And there is no question that it will lead to very substantial job losses. So expressing empathy is all well and good, but what counts is results and that’s the test for Anthony Albanese.

Kieran Gilbert: So what steps need to be taken? I know it’s a bit of a complex area, but it’s basically to designate Meta, is it not? Are there fines as well that might be payable that potentially could then be used to help fund the content that that organisation uses for its platform, but doesn’t want to pay for?

David Coleman: There’s a whole range of steps that can be taken under the Media Bargaining Code. We put that in place when in Government because we realised that action needed to be taken. And you will recall Keiran that, Josh Frydenberg went toe-to-toe with Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook actually went so far as to turn off news in Australia. And we didn’t say, oh well, that’s unfortunate. We said, well, no, you’re not going to get away with that and we’re going to put in place this Code. So, the precise steps that the Government takes is really a matter for them. But simply expressing anger does not pay the wages of journalists. Money does. And the question is, is Anthony Albanese strong enough? Because he’s basically here, effectively going to be in a negotiation with a company that’s worth about $2 trillion. And, if the Government, doesn’t succeed on this, the people who will pay the price will be Australian journalists.

Kieran Gilbert: We know that the Assistant Treasurer is seeking information this week from media companies, the major media companies in Australia, to help build the case, to force Meta into a situation where they do pay for the content they use. So that is an encouraging sign, isn’t it?

David Coleman: Well, look, the Government on Friday basically said, we’re looking into our options and we’ll go from there. And I thought that was a pretty weak response to be frank. I think the Government should have been much more on the front foot about that, so that we didn’t end up in this situation of where Meta has made this statement. Following an administrative process is all well and good. But what companies like Meta respect is strength, is strength. You’re elected to Government, not to merely respond to advice from bureaucrats, but to get stuff done, to make things happen. And the thing that needs to happen here is Australian journalism must be paid for online. Before I was in politics Keiran, I was head of digital for Nine and actually on the board of this company, and this issue, is something that’s been going on for a long time. To his credit, Josh Frydenberg had the guts and the strength, backed by Scott Morrison, and our whole team, to make Meta pay. And expressions of disappointment, little statements of anger, Meta will say, “So what?” Meta will say, well, if they’re not going to make us pay, we’re not going to pay. And the only scenario to be frank here, where Meta will pay for Australian journalism is where the Government forces them to. And is the Prime Minister strong enough to make that happen? It very much, remains to be seen. But, if you think of an example, Kieran, very practical example, think of ACP magazines. That was a business that employed more than a thousand people, most of them journalists. And of course, that is a tiny, tiny fraction today of what it used to be. And so that’s the path that things will go down here, if the Government doesn’t make Meta pay.

Kieran Gilbert: David Coleman, Shadow Communications Minister, we very much appreciate your time and as you say, it remains to be seen. Let’s keep a watching brief on that one. Thanks.

David Coleman: Thanks, Keiran.