SINGAPORE – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that he had a “constructive meeting” with Google chief Sundar Pichai after the technology giant threatened to withdraw its search engine from the country because of a potential new law.
Essentially, Australia wants internet giants Facebook and Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, to pay for the news.
The government introduced a media bill in parliament in December. If approved, the new media’s trading code would require digital platforms to pay local media and publishers to link their content to news feeds or search results. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, a government-appointed panel will decide on the price.
“I thought it was a constructive meeting,” Morrison told reporters on Thursday, according to a transcript of a press conference posted by his office.
“I have been able to send them the best possible signals that should give them a great incentive to get involved in the process and complete the deals that we would like to see them complete with the various news media organizations in Australia,” he said.
Morrison said Google raised specific aspects of the media bargaining code on the call and the discussions touched on the company’s ability to continue providing services in Australia.
“In the end, they understand that Australia sets the rules for how these things work. And I was very clear about how I saw this happening, ”said Morrison, without further elaboration.
Google did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Morrison told reporters last month that Australia does not respond to threats.
Separately, Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg told local media that he had a “very constructive discussion” with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg about the proposed media law, but that, ultimately, it did not change the government’s position on the politics.
For its part, Facebook threatened to stop allowing Australians to share local and international news on the social network and on Instagram if the law is passed.
While local media editors welcomed the proposed law, Google said last year that it would give Australian news media companies an “unfair advantage” and that it would pay millions of dollars to news media companies in the country and send “billions.” of free clicks “in your direction every year.
Microsoft, which stands to gain from the rift between Google and Australia, has criticized Google’s threat to pull its widely used search engine out of the country.
Microsoft would never threaten to leave Australia and supports the plan to make digital platforms pay for the news, said company president Brad Smith. Its CEO, Satya Nadella, also spoke with Morrison.
The prime minister told reporters on Monday that, based on his conversation with Nadella, Microsoft was “quite confident” in filling the huge void that would be left by Google if it removed its search engine from Australia.
The search engine Bing, owned by Microsoft, has a market share of only 3.6% in Australia, compared to Google’s huge 94.5% share, according to web analyst StatCounter.