‘Zuckerberg, Frydenberg – what’s the difference?’: Treasurer and Facebook founder talk

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has reached out to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to voice his concerns about Australia’s proposed new media code designed to force tech giants to pay for news.

Tech companies have upped their campaign against the new laws in recent weeks, with Google threatening to cut off its search engine to Australian users and walk away from $4 billion in revenue.

Josh Frydenberg spoke with Mark Zuckerberg last week.Credit:

Mr Frydenberg revealed he and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher last week had a “constructive discussion” with the Facebook chief, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison had spoken with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

“Last week, the minister – Paul Fletcher – and I had a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, from Facebook, who reached out to talk about the code and the impact on Facebook,” Mr Frydenberg told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday morning.

“Zuckerberg, Frydenberg – what’s the difference? Except a few billion dollars I suppose.”

Questioned over whether the Facebook founder had convinced him to change course, Mr Frydenberg said “Mark Zuckerberg did not convince me to back down, if that’s what you’re asking”.

The Treasurer said Microsoft was watching developments in Australia “very closely”, with the potential for the company to expand its search engine Bing if Google pulls out of the market.

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

Asked whether he took Google’s threat seriously, Mr Frydenberg said “I don’t dismiss those threats but I’m not intimidated by them either.

“They’ve made that threat but, again, we’re in detailed discussions with Google, with Facebook, with the other players across the industry, because this has not been a short conversation we’ve had with these companies.

“This has been the product of an 18th-month inquiry, a world-leading inquiry, by the ACCC and at every step of the way these companies have been consulted.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month said Australia would “not respond to threats” after Google’s local managing director Melanie Silva told a Senate committee hearing that the company would shut off search in Australia if the government’s proposed media bargaining code becomes law.

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