A report has surfaced from the Australian Financial Review that Microsoft had advised our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, that its search engine Bing, can fill the void should Google withdraw its search from Australia.

The report states that Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, held talks last week with Satya Nadella, Microsoft chief executive officer and president, along with the company’s Australian management. This took place in the wake of threats by Google to withdraw its search engine from Australia if draft media code laws pass Parliament.

There was also a high level meeting between Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, and Australian Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. The trio discussed the new media bargaining code, with Treasurer Frydenberg stating afterwards that Australia would not change course on this code.

During an interview with the ABC’s Insiders Program, Mr Frydenberg stated that:

“Mark Zuckerberg didn’t convince me to back down if that’s what you’re asking,”

During the same interview, Mr Fryendberg also stated that the discussions between Microsoft and the prime Minister centred on Microsoft being willing to exploit any retreat by Google, with Frydenberg stating:

“They’re watching this very closely, and no doubt see opportunities here in Australia to expand.”

The new bargaining code laws have also been supported by the Labor opposition, with shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers stating in an interview:

“The tech platforms should pay for the news that they use so that there’s a return for journalists and news organisations.”

“We’ve said that really since the beginning. This has been dragging on for a really long time now. The government said that they would fix it last year. It’s still clearly not fixed. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but our position has been consistent.”

“We want the Government to solve it in the interest of Australians.”

Two weeks ago, following Google’s threat to remove its news and search capabilities out of Australia, Prime Minister Morrison said:

“Let me be clear. Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our Parliament. It’s done by our government. And that’s how things work here in Australia. And people who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats.”

The new bargaining code has also drawn the ire of the United States government which has stated that the new code of conduct could be a potential breach of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, with a US Trade Representative stating on the 15th January in a submission:

“We urge Australia to consider whether the potential breadth of the obligation imposed on designated platforms is consistent with … AUSFTA, which constrains parties with respect to performance requirements, specifically requirements to ‘transfer a particular technology, a production process, or other proprietary knowledge to a person in its territory’.”

We have also given our thoughts on the new bargaining code, which you can read here.

Personally, I am not sure Microsoft’s Bing search could fill the void. There is potential for it, but given how much Google and its services have been so entrenched into our society for decades, I think it will take time for Microsoft’s Bing to become the go-to search function Google is now, if it ever can.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Dennis Bareis
Dennis Bareis
1 month ago

So why isn’t Bing also covered by this code?

Kevin
Kevin
1 month ago

My guess is google.com.au gets redirected to google.com….. i.e. no specific Aussie slant. I could see this as the best for Google , they still get the searches but the aussie specifc traffic goes away. All aussie new sites get blacklisted for google.com so they dont have to pay ( im sure the legistlation is easy to get around with that ) They get to show them impact of traffic dropping off and can reverse it when they want to.

Morris
Morris
1 month ago

I think Google paying for links is bad for the open and free internet, but I also think Google’s threat is a bit too much. I think to make the news media happy, Google should just list all the news websites in a random list when you search for any news search term. E.g. You search “covid restrictions”, the top carousel of “Top Stories” should just have logos to ABC, 9news, etc with no headlines because if they have even a small amount of “news” they would be “stealing” traffic from those news websites. Maybe just a link saying “your… Read more »

sujayv_au
sujayv_au
1 month ago

Bing may be able to fill the void but Bing is not as good or efficient as Google search,

Anthrox
Anthrox
1 month ago

these new media laws are terrible while Google is no saint asking them to pay for links and give them access to how search works is a bit over reaching as per normal the liberals have no idea when it comes to technology look at the NBN its a total mess

Anthrox
Anthrox
Reply to  Anthrox
1 month ago

i also forgot to add, the Media company can block access to google index there sites by using robot files its been this way for years

Angus Hancock
Angus Hancock
1 month ago

What about YouTube, will the news section be removed or will YouTube on its own be taken away in Australia

Joshua Hill
Joshua Hill
1 month ago

Duck off, I know where I’m going to go 😉

JeniSkunk
JeniSkunk
1 month ago

I wonder if anyone in the government has accessed MSN News items, via the news footer on the Bing home page?
Those stories are _always_ word for word copies of news items elseweb, and not merely from the major news sites like Reuters. MSN News also copies entire stories from a large range of other sites as well.
So MS really needs Bing to become the major search engine in AU, to take over from Google as search as advertising, and have that pay for the news bill, while hopefully also making a profit.

Cyrus Lesser
Cyrus Lesser
1 month ago

I’d be happy to use Bing if Google search was not available, but sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t …

JeniSkunk
JeniSkunk
1 month ago

There’s an interesting article on this overwrought Drama, on Fairfax News, today.

Business – Consumer affairs – Regulation
Opinoin
Shrill threats: Google risks losing media fight
By Greg Hywood
https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/shrill-threats-google-risks-losing-media-fight-20210131-p56y6e.html

I’m quoting the disclaimer at the bottom of the article, so you know where Greg firs into the picture.
“Greg Hywood is a former editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, a former Fairfax CEO and is now the chair of FreeTV, a television lobby group.”

Will
Will
1 month ago

Do these morons even seek the council of experts in the industry? The only people this benefits is the media giants in Aus. Whoever fills the void is eventually going to need to pay up as well.
And Search is the core to most of Google’s services. What happens to Maps, Drive, Photos and Android? I’ve tried using a Huawei phone without Play Services and it’s a really crap experience. Plus there’s a lot of businesses that rely on Maps/Search for findability by their customer base.

AdamM
AdamM
Reply to  Will
1 month ago

“What happens to Maps, Drive, Photos and Android?”

This. Absolutely this. Are my two month old Pixel 5 and all of my Google Home products going to become useless bricks because our government is incompetent and is pushing through poorly targeted laws?

It’s disappointing that the knock on impacts of not having access to Google Search have not (as far as I know) been considered in any articles or investigations to date.

Dylan
Dylan
Reply to  AdamM
1 month ago

This is exactly what I’d like to know, how would this impact all of the other Google services that Search is linked to?

Gregg
Gregg
1 month ago

The best outcome would be the fall of the Scott Morrison government from this obvious pandering to Rupert Murdoch.

Andrew J
Andrew J
Reply to  Gregg
1 month ago

Unfortunately Labor is backing the laws as well

Chris Rowland
Ausdroid Director
Reply to  Andrew J
1 month ago

Often the case with Labor, they are an opposition in name only; they usually rubber-stamp everything the tories put in front of them. Spineless the lot of them.

Adam M
Adam M
Reply to  Chris Rowland
1 month ago

Their challenge is that with a Murdoch/Costello-dominated media landscape they can’t afford to make a target of themselves in the run up to an election. look how well that worked when they put forward a comprehensive, but hard to explain, set of policy proposals before the last election. The Liberals used a bunch of meaningless three word slogans and an effective scare campaign and easily won government without a single policy. We get the government we deserve, frankly.

zahmad
zahmad
1 month ago

People need to stop using google as the address bar. Type the website addresses in like we all used to. I wonder what percentage of people actually use google as a search engine.

Rasmus
Rasmus
Reply to  zahmad
1 month ago

Can you change the stock address bar widget on the main screen to another search engine?

JeniSkunk
JeniSkunk
Reply to  Rasmus
1 month ago

You can, in Google Chrome, on PC desktop. Not sure about Android. I’ll have to check. I don’t have any iObjects, so I’ve no way to check IOS/Mac OS.

Dots menu in upper right
-> Settings
-> Search engine
“Search engine used in the address bar” – drop list of search engines
“Manage search engines” – Page for setting what link each search engine points to.

JeniSkunk
JeniSkunk
Reply to  Rasmus
1 month ago

Checked Chrome in Android.
Dots menu in upper right
-> Settings
Search engine
There is a preset list of search engines you can select from to be used as the default browser search, but there’s no way to customize the list, as there is on PC desktop.

Wayno
Wayno
1 month ago

So is the government saying Google has to pay to drive people to news sites but Microsoft would not? I’m confused.

cydia
cydia
Reply to  Wayno
1 month ago

It seems like they’re targeting FB and Google for now. They’ll get to the smaller players later. I wonder how duckduckgo would respond to this.

AdamM
AdamM
Reply to  cydia
1 month ago

That’s correct, but if Google leaves and Bing becomes the dominant search engine, for example, you can bet the code will very quickly get applied to Microsoft as well, which may then mean they pull Bing. Would be interesting to know what Microsoft’s response was to the issue of paying news providers to include their links in the search results.

Phillip Malone
Phillip Malone
1 month ago

It’s complete craziness and it’s sad that both of the biggest parties, and from the questioning of Google, the Greens as well are for this dumb law!

What I’m interested to see is what “Google pulling out of Australia” is. Is it no availability to the search pages or is it just the shutting down of google.com.au and no local news in search! Just need to know if I will have to live on a VPN or not!

AdamM
AdamM
Reply to  Phillip Malone
1 month ago

Should they remove search you’ll need to live on a VPN or change search engines.

Kevin
Kevin
Reply to  AdamM
1 month ago

Or it just defaults to google.com