JobKeeper ending, measly dole increase will hurt Scott Morrison at next election


In politics, as in war, battles are won and lost in the middle. You must take the citadel, claim the centre.

But the centre is not just a piece of space. It is not just a marginal seat or a margin of error. It is also a place in the human heart, a place where things feel balanced and right.

Australians have forever voted for reliability over recklessness. In the era since World War II it has taken little short of catastrophe or atrophy to cause a change in government.

Our entire compulsory and preferential voting system is designed to produce not the best outcome but the least worst. It is the core of our democratic stability. Mild frustration is its fuel and Australian voters have been nothing if not generous and patient with their political masters.

But it is nonetheless a fragile thing and many cracks have emerged in it this week.

It is easy to forget that Scott Morrison’s miracle victory was not a landslide but an eggshell. It was an astonishing political feat and a damning indictment on Labor’s undergraduate assumptions but the wash-up still left a lot of beached whales and one of them – the rogue MP Craig Kelly – has now gone back out to sea.

That puts Morrison back where Gillard was and where Turnbull almost was and where all of us have pretty much been for the last sorry decade.

Morrison went to the 2019 election with no policy platform that any average punter could name and then went AWOL in his baptism of literal fire. Had an election been held during the bushfires of 2019-20 Albo would have been ferried into the prime ministership even if he was dead on a stretcher.

At that point the only thing that could possibly have saved Morrison was an as yet unimaginable crisis. Amazingly, one came along, and his whatever-it-takes attitude to politics – he is, after all, a friend of Richo – saved his bacon and ours.

With nary a second thought the Liberal hardman embraced Keynesian economics and ploughed public money into people’s pockets. It might not have been his idea but who cares? The economy – the whole country – survived and thrived.

Morrison’s strength is that for all his Godliness he seems to believe in nothing in this temporal world. He is a political warrior who makes politically expedient choices and in his response to COVID-19 they have thankfully been for the greater good.

But his pragmatic instincts have failed him this week. Not in the problematic areas of Craig Kelly or Brittany Higgins but in the basic right of Australians to survive.

It has been common knowledge for years now that the current rate of the dole is unliveable, a position now held by everyone from John Howard to Barnaby Joyce to the Business Council of Australia. It has stagnated at absurdly low levels for decades to the point where even getting dressed for a job interview or buying a bus ticket to one is unaffordable. Rent is unthinkable.

The mass lay-offs caused by the COVID-19 shutdowns only underscore how precious and fleeting jobs can be. There may well be a handful of bludgers out there taking the piss but there are a hundred times more ordinary people desperately struggling to get by.

Some of them are older and know they will never work again, some still have hope. Either way an increase of $3.57 a day is hardly going to be the difference between survival and oblivion.

The current extra benefit is a modest $150 a fortnight. While few were expecting it to remain that high, I would have thought the sensible and fair thing to do would be split the difference, round it up and thus give an extra $80 a fortnight.

For the meagre $25 a week the Coalition is currently offering you’d almost say why bother? You’re going to look mean and miserable anyway so either save yourself the money or make it a decent amount and reap the reward.

It is astonishing to think that the government was handed a policy on a platter that was morally right, economically right and politically right and yet still somehow managed to stuff it up.

For both parties this is a battle that must be fought, one that taps into the heart of middle Australia and its innate sense of fairness and decency.

Up until this week I thought that the Coalition had seized Australia’s political centre. Now Labor has an opportunity to reclaim it.

And when you win the heart you win the fight.



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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says fears of pension being scrapped ‘unfounded’


Young Australians’ fear the pension will be scrapped before they retire is “unfounded”, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says.

In a keynote speech to the Council on the Ageing, Mr Frydenberg revealed research commissioned by the retirement income review showed most young people did not think the age pension would exist when they retired.

“Clearly we must do more to reassure all Australians that this concern is unfounded,” Mr Frydenberg said on Friday.

“The age pension is well targeted and sustainable and will remain a key pillar of our system for generations to come.”

His comments come as the future of the July legislated superannuation guarantee increase of 0.5 per cent hangs in the balance.

Mr Frydenberg said if people used their assets efficiently, the current 9.5 per cent rate could achieve “adequate retirement incomes” when combined with the age pension.

He said the government’s focus had now turned to improving Australians’ quality of life – and that meant balancing the trade-offs between income in someone’s working life and in retirement.

Economists have previously raised concerns about the legislated increase with the review stating a higher superannuation guarantee resulted in lower wages for employees.

“For a median earner, increasing the superannuation guarantee could increase their retirement income by $33,000, but lower their working-life income by around $32,000,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“Anybody who denies that there is a trade-off is effectively a ‘flat-earther’.”

Median balances for entering retirement today are around $140,000 but are projected to be around $450,0000 come 2060, Mr Frydenberg said.

“Without compulsory superannuation, many Australians would not save enough for retirement,” he said.

However, the review found although the system allowed workers to save more, it didn’t help a person in financial difficulty to maintain their current living standards.

Misconceptions about the level of savings Australians need in retirement also drove conservative spending behaviours during working life, the review states.

“While compulsion will remain an important part of our system, providing Australians with more flexibility should not be seen as an attempt to undermine the system overall,” Mr Frydenberg said.

But one way Australians could reduce hardship during retirement was earlier home ownership, he claimed.

“We are continuing to deliver measures to allow more Australians to buy their first home sooner,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“We are going to be looking at some other opportunities as well … about home ownership and superannuation.”

Labor opposes any changes to the legislated superannuation increase, which would see the rate rise from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent over five years.

Spokesman Stephen Jones said the idea of cutting people’s super was “crazy”.

“If people are going to be retired for longer, they need more money,” Mr Jones said.



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When Facebook will end Australian news ban: Josh Frydenberg


News will be back in Australians’ Facebook feeds from Friday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said.

Speaking to 2GB radio station after the federal government’s contentious media bargaining code passed into law, Mr Frydenberg said the social media giant told him it would reinstate news content on the platform.

Asked when news will be back on the site, Mr Frydenberg replied: “I understand you’ll see some changes from tomorrow, that’s what Facebook has told us.”

He said the company’s decision came after “extensive discussions” with the government.

“We’ve reached a solution and a way forward,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Facebook removed news content – and the content on many government, non-profit and other informational pages – in response to the federal media bargaining code, which aims to force internet giants like Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for generating content that the sites host.

Google previously threatened to prevent Australians from using its search function if the plan went ahead, and Facebook has said the law “fundamentally misunderstands” how its platform interacts with publishers who share news content.

It’s understood both companies were fighting the law so hard because they fear it would set a precedent other countries might follow, demanding that their news businesses, too, get paid for providing content.

Mr Frydenberg acknowledged the law’s global implication in his radio interview.

“There are many eyes who are on us, and this morning I was talking to my Canadian counterpart and we discussed this issue,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“I know that in the UK many politicians have said they want to follow Australia’s lead. The Prime Minister raised the issue with his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Modi.

“We are now living in this world of a digital revolution, and unless you have this level of regulation in a workable code, then it’s going to be very difficult for sustainable public interest journalism.”

In the government’s view, digital platforms have fundamentally shifted the way media content is produced and accessed.

It says tech giants Google and Facebook wield too much power over the market, benefiting from journalism that appears on their platforms without fairly compensating the outlets that make it.



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Australian Parliament Passes Media Bill That Forces Google, Facebook to News Outlets for Content


The Australian parliament on Thursday passed a new law designed to force Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook to pay media companies for content used on their platforms in reforms that could be replicated in other countries. Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator will decide the price to be paid by the tech giants if commercial negotiations with local news outlets fail.

The legislation was watered down, however, at the last minute after a standoff between the government and Facebook culminated in the social media company blocking all news for Australian users. Subsequent amendments to the bill included giving the government the discretion to release Facebook or Google from the arbitration process if they prove they have made a “significant contribution” to the Australian news industry.

Some lawmakers and publishers have warned that could unfairly leave smaller media companies out in the cold, but both the government and Facebook have claimed the revised legislation as a win. “The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement on Thursday.

ALSO READ: Why Has Facebook Blocked News In Australia? News18 Explains Country’s New Media News Code

The progress of the legislation has been closely watched around the world as countries including Canada and Britain consider similar steps to rein in the dominant tech platforms. The revised code, which also includes a longer period for the tech companies to strike deals with media companies before the state intervenes, will be reviewed within one year of its commencement, the statement said. It did not provide a start date.

The legislation does not specifically name Facebook or Google. Frydenberg said earlier this week he will wait for the tech giants to strike commercial deals with media companies before deciding whether to compel both to do so under the new law. Google has struck a series of deals with publishers, including a global content arrangement with News Corp, after earlier threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia over the laws.

ALSO READ: Microsoft President Slams Google, Facebook for Stifling Competition, News

Several media companies, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have said they are in talks with Facebook. Representatives for both Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on Thursday.





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Facebook, Google can be forced to pay for news after media law passes


Australia has become one of the first countries in the world with the power to force tech giants to pay for the news they use after a controversial law passed in parliament today. 

The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, created by Australia’s competition watchdog, could be used to demand powerful US firms Google and Facebook pay Australian news outlets for using their content, achieving what other countries have tried and failed to do.

The news code’s passing also ends a fierce, three-year battle with the tech giants, which has escalated in recent weeks.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this morning said the laws were “world-leading” and would have a positive impact on the Australian media landscape.

“This is a significant milestone,” he said.

“This legislation will help level the playing field and see Australian news media businesses paid for generating original content.”

But its path into law has been a bumpy one after Google first threatened to withdraw its search engine from Australia and launched a fierce public campaign against the news code, and Facebook last week banned all news and other information from being seen by its Australian users to evade the law’s reach.

The multibillion-dollar social network this week agreed to lift its ban after winning amendments to the laws, although it was still yet to do so immediately after the law was passed.

Facebook global affairs vice-president Nick Clegg last night issued a blog post seeking to explain the company’s extreme action, admitting it had “erred on the side of over-enforcement” by banning all news while arguing the laws had given it no other choice.

It’s still unclear whether Mr Frydenberg will “designate” Facebook or Google to fall under the laws, however, after both companies have begun striking last-minute deals with Australian news outlets to avoid it.

Swinburne University media senior lecturer Dr Belinda Barnet said the news code had already paid off for several publishers and TV networks, with companies including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment, Junkee and News Corp (publisher of this website) signing deals with Google, and Facebook announcing a letter of intent for a deal with Seven.

“It will benefit Australian media organisations and it already has,” she said.

“Hopefully the Treasurer will stand up for small and medium-sized outlets if they don’t come out with deals.”

If either company is named under the laws, it could trigger a negotiation and arbitration process with registered news outlets that would take as long as seven months.

The Australia Institute Centre for Responsible Technology director Peter Lewis said the Government should closely monitor what Facebook does next, including deals struck and offers made to smaller media outlets, to determine whether the companies should be named under the laws.

Australia’s battle to regulate elements of the tech giants had also just begun with the news code, he said.

“It is also important to recognise this is just part of a series of digital platform reforms proposed by the (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) relating to disinformation, consumer data, and the creepy ad tech industry,” he said.



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Facebook agrees to restore news after talks with government


Facebook has agreed to restore news for its Australian users in the coming days after holding discussions with the federal government.

The social media giant dramatically escalated its fight with the government last week, barring Australians from accessing news sites on the platform.

The move came as part of Facebook’s fight against the Federal government’s media bargaining code, which would force tech giants to pay news outlets for news content accessed on their platforms.

But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has confirmed Facebook would walk back the measure after holding constructive talks.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” he said in a statement.

The government confirmed on Tuesday it would introduce further amendments to the code, which has been met with fierce resistance by Google and Facebook.

They included a measure that would ensure whether a tech giant had “made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry” would be factored in before they were designated under the code.

“The amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms,” Mr Frydenberg.

The government has encouraged tech giants to strike deals with news outlets outside of the code, a call met by Google, which reached a flurry of arrangements with major Australian outlets last week.

But Facebook last week carried out its threat to remove news altogether from the platform, arguing it fundamentally undermined the way its platform operated.

“(The plan) has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” it said.

“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Mr Frydenberg criticised the move as “unnecessary heavy-handed”, saying the government remained committed to legislating the code.

But said he remained optimistic Facebook would return to the table.



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Facebook news ban lifted in Australia


Facebook has lifted its ban on news after it blocked Australian users from sharing or viewing local or international news content, as a protest against paying for news.

The pages will return in coming days, and are as a result of ongoing discussions between the company’s boss Mark Zuckerberg and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

The tech giant has called a truce with the Morrison government, which is hopeful Facebook will now move quickly to sign commercial deals with news businesses.

Its move to ban news followed the passage of the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

Mr Frydenberg has now reached an agreement with Facebook to amend the law – after days of negotiations with Mr Zuckerberg – which is expected to pass the parliament this week.

The changes will make it clear that the Treasurer’s decision to designate a platform to force it to negotiate with news outlets will depend on whether the platform has already reached commercial agreements with them.

Platforms will also be given one month’s notice if the government does intend to designate them under the code.

Facebook’s Australian chief Will Easton said the company was pleased to reach a deal.

“We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers,” he said.

“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.”

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”

The multibillion-dollar tech giant shocked its 17 million local users with the sweeping bans last week that impacted emergency services, TV stations, charities, state government departments, satire sites and music bands.

Facebook was forced to reinstate the posts of government pages, including health departments and weather services, after the ban wiped posts with essential information.

Efforts in Australia to make Google and Facebook pay for news has garnered worldwide attention, creating what some call a defining moment for the web and for journalism, and even a litmus test for democracy.

The European Commissioner for digital services, who is helping draw up new EU rules for online business, backed Australia in its dispute with web giant Facebook on Monday.

Thierry Breton, Brussels’ top official for the EU internal market, said Facebook had been wrong to kick Australian media off its service in a row about paying for news.

Separately, US tech titan Microsoft joined European media in calling for EU members states to follow Australia in setting up a mechanism to ensure that news publishers are paid.

The European Union has also passed a rule requiring internet “gatekeepers” like Google or Facebook to negotiate fees for including news stories and links.



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Facebook reverses ban on Australian news as government agrees to amend media code


Facebook will lift its news ban for Australian users and publishers this afternoon, less than a week after making the shock decision.

The ban – made last week in response to a proposed new Media Bargaining law – meant Australian users could no longer view or share local articles, while international Facebook users were also restricted from seeing Australian news.

Lifting the ban means local news publications and sites – including news.com.au – will be back on Facebook, with content once again allowed to be shared in coming days.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement.

RELATED: News Corp, Google hit global content deal

Amendments have also been made to the news bargaining code to “provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the Code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated”, Mr Frydenberg said.

“The amendments will make clear that:

• A decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;

• A digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;

• Non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and

• Final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.”

The amendments will also “strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms”.

The social media giant made the stunning decision on Thursday, after the Federal Government pushed forward with a plan to force platforms to pay for news content.

Facebook and Google both initially responded with fury, with Google threatening to pull its search engine from the country during an inquiry in January.

RELATED: Facebook’s astonishing insult to Aussies

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg held “constructive” discussions with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg over the weekend, where he “reiterated the Morrison government’s commitment to implementing the code and seeing journalists rewarded for generating original content”.

The conversations followed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s scathing attack on the news ban last week, where, in a post on the platform, he slammed it for not only wiping the pages of media outlets, but government organisations too.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Mr Morrison said.

More to come



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Senior executive hints at what’s to come


After prohibiting Australian users from accessing news on Facebook, a senior executive at the social media company has apologised for the execution of the ban which also wiped the pages of government organisations, charities and other community pages.

This comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the tech bohemoth is “back at the table” and willing to negotiate after its “completely indefensible” actions.

“Those actions were completely indefensible. We appreciate the apology. Now let’s get on with discussion and come to a successful conclusion,” he told media on Saturday.

“We are no strangers in taking the lead on this and we are pleased Facebook is tentatively friending us again.”

Speaking to theSydney Morning Herald, Facebook’s vice-president of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, Simon Milner said the future of the news ban will be dictated by the federal government’s next steps. This comes as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed he was in crisis talks with the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

“This is a really hard thing to do. We’ve never done it before. We are sorry for the mistakes we made in some of the implementation,” said Mr Milner.

RELATED: Facebook’s astonishing insult to Aussies

RELATED: Facebook could be charged over news ban

Key criticism of the ban originated from the fact that hundreds of non-publisher pages were also removed in the ban. In response to their mistake, Facebook is now using human reviewers to manually return the feeds of non newsites, with the pages of key organisations like the Bureau of Meteorology, SA Health, Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA and Queensland Health restored.

“There’s still some pages that we’re looking at but some of it’s really difficult in that the law isn’t clear and therefore there may be some pages that were clearly not news but actually under the law they might be,” continued Mr Milner. “That’s one of the challenges for us. We’re sorry for the mistakes that we made on that front.”

Facebook’s dramatic plan is in retaliation to the federal government’s proposed Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code which would force Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for using their content. Currently the laws would only apply to Facebook’s News Feed and Google’s Search services, however other platforms could also be added to the list at a later date.

However in the hours after Facebook launched their dramatic, and highly criticised strategy, Google announced they had secured advertising deals with Nine Entertainment, Seven West Media and Newscorp. The arrangements means publishers would receive “significant payments” in order for their content to be featured on Google’s News Showcase product. Similar agreements are also expected to be struck with other Australian publishers like the ABC, Daily Mail Australia and the Guardian Australia.

And although Mr Morrison said Facebook may be willing to show some leeway, they’ve yet to backtrack or apologise for their unprecedented news shutdown. Releasing a statement on the news ban on Thursday, they criticised the proposed law for “fundamentally” failing to understand how their services work.

“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” wrote the Managing Director of Facebook Australia & New Zealand, William Easton. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Mr Easton also accused the Australian Government for penalising Facebook for “content it didn’t take or ask for”.

“Over the last three years we’ve worked with the Australian Government to find a solution that recognises the realities of how our services work,” he continued. “We’ve long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organisations.”

Its detractors however stated the ban’s long-term impact could see the site face long term damage, including the potential for class-action lawsuits and prosecution from the hundreds of charities, groups and government agencies caught in its battle with publishers.

Writing a piece for The Conversation, a media and communications lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology Diana Bossio said Australians will view Facebook’s move in context with its past scandals of user privacy breaches and misinformation.

“The reputational damage from blocking important sites that serve Australia’s public interest overnight … undermines the legitimacy of the platform and its claimed civic intentions,” she wrote.

“Facebook’s actions may send a message to the government, but they will also send one to their Australian users.”



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Facebook could face lawsuits over news ban


Facebook has left itself open to class-action lawsuits and could even face prosecution after the pages of hundreds of charities, groups and government agencies were “unconscionably” caught up in the platform’s wiping of Australian news content this week.

In retaliation to the federal government’s proposed Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code, the tech giant blocked Australian users from accessing news on Thursday morning.

However, many small businesses, support groups, charities and public interest pages like the Bureau of Meteorology and state health departments were also wiped, prompting the former chair of Australia’s competition watchdog to urge the social media juggernaut to be cautious.

Allan Fels, the chair of Public Interest Journalism and the former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Facebook was not demonstrating their social license to operate.

“It is unconscionable for Facebook to limit access to Australian Government information, be it weather, health or bushfire information,” Professor Fells said in a statement.

“This is not ‘news’, nor content envisaged under the Mandatory News Bargaining Code … (which) seeks to address a significant market power imbalance.

“That is the role of the ACCC and government, to ensure a level playing field.”

Prof Fels told The Daily Telegraph the social media platform could face legal action over its decision.

“Facebook could be liable for breach of unconscionable conduct laws due to the overnight cessation of services to businesses, especially small businesses that largely require Facebook to disseminate their product,” Prof Fels told the Telegraph.

“To (withdraw services) overnight in this fashion could put them in breach of unconscionable conduct laws and could possibly be a class action.”

Prof Fels said the digital platforms had previously demonstrated a lack of willingness to negotiate with news organisations around the value of their content in the generation of digital advertising.

“The costs of producing public interest journalism are high, but it is integral to the functioning of any working democracy,” he said.

“We urge Facebook to sit at the table and negotiate in good faith.”

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is expected to hold further talks with the network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg this weekend, as many non-news profiles remain blank.



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