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.