How do we make an ideal society?

If you were starting from scratch wanting to build an ideal society,…

A Tale Of Two Leaders But Whatever You…

A few days ago, I was tempted to write a scathing piece…

Punishing the Unvaccinated: Europe’s COVID-19 Health Experiment

Forget any notions of juicy carrots; the stick approach of savage punishment…

Undermining trust in institutions is a dangerous game…

The longer the Coalition remain in power, the greater their arrogance and…

The Morrison enigma

By Ad astra It’s becoming alarming. Every day our Prime Minister becomes more…

If Gladys is a “great candidate”, our country…

By TBS Newsbot Gladys Berejiklian managing to resign in disgrace, face the ICAC…

Let’s be clear, Gladys Berejiklian is being investigated…

Over the last few days, there has been a full court press…

Omicron and the Travel Ban Itch

Stick to the script: owe that duty of care to your population,…

«
»
Facebook

Tag Archives: Senate Inquiry

Inquiry’s bumpy ride awaits, after tech giants’ “blackmail” tactics

As the Senate inquiry into the Digital Media Code began on Friday, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has expressed her displeasure over the lack of negotiating spirit Facebook and Google have brought to the halls of Parliament in Canberra.

In fact, after Day 1’s proceedings were completed, Hanson-Young, in her role of chairing the Senate inquiry, gave the Silicon Valley tech media giants an almighty serve in response to their testimonies.

Hanson-Young even went as far to express that their tactics of sticking to their own principles threaten an essential pillar of democracy in Australia, that of a free press.

And Hanson-Young, in return, has shown the Senate inquiry’s challengers that she is ready to wage a toe-to-toe battle, or even a bumpy ride, to fight for better journalism in Australia.

“We know that Australians value good quality journalism in this country. And in order to make good quality journalism in this country sustainable [to this point], we’ve needed to pay for it,” Hanson-Young said after the opening day’s formal presentations.

“The tech giants have been getting away with it for far too long, and with very little regulation, and one of the results is that journalism in this country is suffering,” she added.

Moreover, Google – through testimony and statements provided by Mel Silva, its managing director in Australia and New Zealand – has threatened to geo-block its services to Australian users should the Digital Media Code Bill come to fruition.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk,” Silva said.

“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.

“This is our worst-case scenario, we do not want to be in this situation, we would love to get to an outcome where there is a workable outcome for all parties,” she added.

Meanwhile, Hanson-Young views Google’s position as a devious negotiating tactic equivalent to holding Australian users over a barrel.

“We are going through elements of the legislation, and there may be elements that need to be tweaked,” Hanson-Young admitted, in fairness.

“But I’ll tell you what – you don’t walk into the Australian Parliament, even if you’re among the biggest companies in the world, and especially if you’re not paying tax in this country, and blackmail the Australian Parliament and expect to get your way,” she added.

 

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, holding tech giants to account in chairing an inquiry into the Digital Media Code Bill (Photo from abc.net.au)

 

Silva said during the opening day’s testimonies that Google has a history of negotiating with other countries to cut deals and bring about compromises with media companies and news publishers where the latter groups get financially compensated but at rates that are suitable to them.

“There is, however, a workable solution for Google where we would pay publishers for value, they would create and curate content and panels that would exist across several Google services. These are deals that have been done all around the world, 450 so far,” said Silva.

Meanwhile, Facebook has adopted a similar stance to that of their Silicon Valley tech neighbours, also threatening to cease with publishing links and stories from Australian media providers upon passage of the Digital Media Code.

If this exists as a virtual case of Facebook unfriending Australian content consumers, Simon Milner, vice president of public policy at Facebook, sees it as his company’s unwavering corporate policy.

Milner told the inquiry that his company had three concerns about the proposed legislation and that a possibility of a series-circuit or daisy-chain effect could ensue, starting with the mandating of commercial arrangements with every Australian media publisher.

“The sheer volume of that we regard as unworkable,” Milner maintains, in defence of Facebook’s position.

Milner also says that his company has issues with the nature of negotiations between parties as being one of binding arbitration versus an open system of good faith negotiations, leading to a non-differentiation clause.

That clause essentially means that prevents one of the tech companies, such as Facebook, from offering commercial terms to certain publishers and changing how content is displayed regardless of whatever deals have been agreed to or not.

“It means if one publisher is out, [then] all Australian publishers are out,” Milner said.

Hanson-Young rejects the notions of the tech giants, seeing their positions as untenable towards the big picture of striking fair deals for Australia’s media companies.

“If you ever needed an example of what big corporate power looks like, this is it,” Hanson-Young said.

“This is a failure of the market – and it’s about time that we regulate big tech, and it’s about time that we ensure that big corporations do not continue to have such a stronghold over democracy,” she added.

At present, amounts of collective remunerations have been debated, although those in the mainstream press – such as Nine chairman Peter Costello and News Corp Austral-Asia CEO Michael Miller – have bandied about $600 million to $1 billion as being the appropriate figures.

With the inquiry is set to continue this week, Hanson-Young said that while negotiations between the government and the tech giants may be inevitable, the Digital Media Code is a much-needed element of overall media reform, and possesses a far-reaching impact.

“The way we ensure that is to ensure that all of this country’s outlets, no matter whether it’s The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, or any of the local country newspapers, the ABC, the public broadcasters, that their content created by those journalists and media agencies is actually paid for,” Hanson-Young said.

“These big tech giants have been taking this content, and using it as a part of its business model to make big profits from it for far too long.

“It has to change,” she added.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

MEAA issues wish list over proposed media reforms

The union which oversees its member journalists and others involved with media and creative arts in Australia has issued a list of concerns in conjunction with two major media reform-related actions, less than a fortnight away from the federal Parliament convening for the first time in 2021.

The Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), in a pair of general statements speaking for the position of the entire organisation, has forwarded its submission for the Senate Media Diversity inquiry as well as a separate submission aimed at the News Media Bargaining Code Bill (2020).

The latter submission – put forth just on the Senate’s closing date of January 18 – has the MEAA playing its part to contend with the presence of digital giants such as Facebook and Google, and ensuring that the Silicon Valley giants pay Australian media providers fairly for running their content.

The flow of funds into directly producing domestic content, via bargaining agreements between any of the digital giants and any single domestic-based media provider, and the fear of negotiations breaking down or not possessing its intended results of renumeration exists as one of the MEAA’s collective fears over the bill.

“MEAA objects to the Code’s incorporation of a two-way value exchange principle will diminish the Code’s effective operation. It is an unreasonable concession by the [Morrison] government,” the union said in its submission.

The MEAA would also like some form of explanation, in economic or mathematical formulas or otherwise, as to how individual media outlets will be compensated by Facebook or Google to run their content.

“MEAA is unaware of any reliable means of rationally calculating the ‘benefits’ of Google and Facebook referring traffic to news company websites. It is an overly-elastic concept that is barely articulated or defined in the bill,” the MEAA says.

“In MEAA’s opinion, this measure will frustrate bargaining and resolution of disputes about the value of news content carried by Google and Facebook. MEAA submits that this concession be dispensed with, or at the very least, critically evaluated during the mandatory review scheduled within one year of the Code’s commencement,” the union added.

In the former submission, the Senate media diversity inquiry to be chaired by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the MEAA provided a list of areas of recommendation that it would like to see covered when the inquiry commences.

  • Amend competition and other laws to prevent mergers that lead to more harmful levels of media concentration
  • The Australian government must urgently progress the Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code and extend the operation of the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program
  • The Australian government should review and adapt critical measures recommended in the United Kingdom and Canada such as: directly funding local news; offering taxation rebates and incentives; and part-funding editorial positions
  • Government assistance should be reset to ensure funding is available for new media organisations, as well as traditional media companies
  • Public broadcasters must be funded in a way that acknowledges the need to provide comprehensive, high-quality cross-platform media content in all parts of Australia
  • The future of the AAP should be sustained through regular, annual relief grants
  • And the regulation of media content should be strengthened and overseen by a single entity

“2020 [saw] the best and the worst of Australia’s media,” the MEAA has observed.

“Australians have relied on journalists and news outlets [in 2020] in a way that hasn’t been experienced in many years.

“It has shown public interest reporting at its finest,” the MEAA adds.

However, the MEAA, in its dot-points of desires for the Senate inquiry, it observes that a paradox exists where while news organisations are breaking new ground in public interest journalism and reporting, economic declines among news organisations remain a part of a stark reality in the journalism industry, as evidenced in a decade-long trend.

And just like with the News Media Bargaining Code Bill, the presence and impact of digital giants such as Facebook and Google looms large.

Previously, layoffs of editorial positions in the thousands have occurred in the last ten years, and 1000 of those job losses in 2020 alone, which the MEAA has tied into the influence of digital publishing as well as a lack of diversity in the mass media in Australia.

“The loss of these journalists, sub-editors, photographers and other positions – and in many cases the mastheads that once employed them – means fewer outlets are covering matters of public interest and significance. In our view this has led to a dangerous fall in media diversity,” the organisation added.

Moreover, the MEAA is also concerned with the lack of ethical conduct of media organisations, and in the mainstream in particular, and has tied this into the lack of diversity and competition therein.

“The power of the few is not always wielded in a responsible or ethical way. In some instances, it has led to a rise in news coverage where the veracity of content is often untested and where ‘balance’ in news reporting can equate to the publication of meritless or misleading arguments,” the MEAA stated.

The MEAA has also implored that integrity issues – particularly in the reputation around the tabloid culture represented in the mainstream media – need to be discussed in the Senate inquiry, or any debate on media reform.

“In a truly plural media environment, the capacity of one voice to steer public opinion in a particular way is limited. In Australia, getting one powerful voice offside can have damaging consequences,” the MEAA stated.

“Where too few voices dominate the media landscape, journalists have reduced job options and might be forced to stay at an outlet because of a lack of opportunities.

“In order to keep their jobs, some inevitably feel pressured to abide by editorial preferences they might not be comfortable with, or which run contrary to the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics,” the MEAA added.

The Senate inquiry, as well as debates on the News Media Bargaining Code Bill, could occur at any time after the federal Parliament reconvenes from its summer break as early as February 2, subject to a drafting of an agenda of items.

Nonetheless, these two legislative matters – and the MEAA’s potential to use its influence upon shaping them – illustrate that media reform areas will emerge as a hot-button topic throughout 2021.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

 

Corruption viewed within fine print of super reforms

Australia’s union movement has steadfastly rejected the Morrison government’s latest proposed reforms on superannuation on the grounds that workers would be worse off if choices about such accounts were left to the banks rather than to themselves or their employers.

And in addition to leaving Australia’s working classes potentially being worse off for retirement, the proposed reforms would leave the banks richer and grant the government’s superannuation minister – presently, Jane Hume – with a set of new powers that would go unchecked and with zero accountability.

In essence, the government seeks to use its Parliamentary and legislative powers to overhaul the superannuation system.

And doing so in a manner that leaves a trail of corruption in its wake, especially after the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has recently called for an ending of a freeze on superannuation rates that have been an LNP government policy staple since 2014.

“The union movement stands ready to resist any attacks on workers’ retirement savings. Like with Medicare, we need to improve and strengthen our retirement system, which is already the envy of the world – not tear it down,” Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president, said last month when defending the status quo of the superannuation system.

Under the government’s reform proposals, whose exposure drafts and explanatory materials are being weighed up in the midst of a Federal Senate Inquiry on the Superannuation Sector, would take the rights of choice among superannuation funds away from workers, particularly those new to the workforce or to a new employer, and be steered towards any for-profit funds run by the banks.

The ACTU, by labelling these reforms as “predatory”, views the suggested reforms as being politically motivated and as an attack based on ideology, and have unsurprisingly called for their legislative defeat.

“The federal government’s superannuation reforms will shortchange workers and erode the hard-won retirement savings of millions of Australians,” Scott Connolly, the ACTU’s national assistant secretary, said on Monday.

“A worker could be locked into an underperforming for-profit fund that is funnelling money to shareholders through exorbitant administration fees – and be misled by the Government that they are in a good fund,” added Connolly.

The ACTU juxtaposes the Industry Super network of superannuation funds against the perils of the banking-based for-profit funds advocated by the LNP and the Morrison government, due to the fact that Industry Super-linked funds perform better via all profits going to each of its respective fund’s members.

However, under the government’s reforms, that would change, thereby leaving workers worse off in the long run towards planning their retirements.

“If these laws are passed, for-profit funds will have a systemic advantage over all-profit-to-member funds, leaving workers worse off,” said Connolly.

“The exposure draft legislation represents an attack on working people, their retirement savings, and the best performing and best-governed superannuation funds,” he added.

As the superannuation sector inquiry is scheduled to resume in the Senate next month when the federal Parliament returns from its summer break, and expected to wrap up in March, the Department of the Treasury highlights its reform package to include:

  • Members being given notification upon whenever a superannuation fund fails an annual transparency performance test administered by the Australian Prudential Review Authority (APRA), and if this occurs two years in a row, trustees for such superannuation products are prohibited from accepting new beneficiaries into the product
  • Providing certainty and transparency about the basis by which superannuation products will be ranked and published on a website maintained by the ATO
  • Invoking a new set of standards to ensure that superannuation trustees work in a manner upholding its members’ best interests

Employers will still be required to make contributions to an employee’s single nominated superannuation fund. However, wrinkles are being proposed to ensure that unnecessary fees and insurance premiums are not paid on unintended multiple superannuation accounts.

“It is no coincidence that administration fees are excluded from benchmark proposals, as for-profit funds performances will be overstated to members and potential members,” said Connolly.

The ACTU has also brought the recent memories of the Banking Royal Commission into recall, as the proposed superannuation reforms would grant extended powers to whomever its minister would be.

As Hume currently holds the portfolio for superannuation, as she has within the Morrison government since 2019, a bit of background about her history is required – especially since she is facing the prospect of having her powers expanded in a big way.

Although Hume served as a senior strategic policy advisor with Australian Super prior to her ascension to politics as a Senator for Victoria in 2016, she possesses a storied past in the banking sector.

Hume was a former Deutsche Bank Australia vice president in 2008-09 after previously working as a National Australia Bank sales and marketing research manager, investment manager and a private banker from 1995-99 before moving on to Rothschild Australia as a senior business development manager in the asset management division, and briefly as a key accounts manager from 2000-2002.

Any superannuation minister, present or future, would be given the power to possess the authority to deem as illegal any expense, investment, or activity, by any fund, at any time, as well as extending the preference for a single superannuation fund over any or all others while lacking the transparency is not required to give notice nor reason for those actions.

Moreover, the decisions of the minister nor any new regulations undertaking under the minister’s watch do not require to be challenged in court.

Given the context of what the Banking Royal Commission revealed, Connolly and the ACTU have called out the rogue nature of these reforms – as well as the extended, unchecked powers of any current or future superannuation minister for the government of the day.

“Despite the Banking Royal Commission finding for-profit funds blatantly rorting members, the government continues to favour them by making benchmarking based on net investment return,” said Connolly.

 

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button