Opinion: Ben Goodale – It’s time to tell tech giants to get stuffed

Google Tech Giant

Watching from New Zealand, Google’s arrogant attempts to bully Australia last week were a spectacle. I cheered for Scott Morrison when he stated “Let me be clear: Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our parliament.”

As an adman, I appreciate the sophistication of the tech giants with their ability to leverage data to pinpoint advertising at people; it’s part of the future of marketing. As a citizen, I’m less happy with how we as nations are managing their impact on our society.

The debate last week was about Google sharing royalties with news publishers for content displayed on its sites. Seems reasonable doesn’t it – I mean, they take the news, they publish it (sorry, “share it”) and then they make money because people are in their digital environment and might never visit the news outlet. Facebook are just as “sharey”.

When I last checked, it was the news outlets in every major Western economy that are massively under cost pressure and losing revenues to the digital multiverse, laying off staff, begging for reader contributions, yet are still trying to put out daily printed editions (with diminishing advertising revenues) and extensive digital offerings – meanwhile our friends at Google and Facebook are coining it in “sharing”.

And did I say coining it in? Media report that in Australia in 2018, Australians paid Google $4.3 billion and Facebook more than half a billion dollars for services. But for the year ending December 31 that year, Google had a corporate tax expense of only A$26.5 million, and Facebook paid just A$11.8 million.

In New Zealand in 2018, Google paid less than $400,000 in tax. And Facebook thanks to some accounting factors apparently doesn’t even have to file financial statements in NZ.

I’m sure many Kiwi small business owners would love to have Google’s turnover with that tax burden.

Google’s Australian MD fronted up to an Australian Senate committee on Friday and arrogantly threatened to withdraw its search services from Australia. I’m surprised no one sang ‘Cry Me a River’.

Let’s be clear on this – Google and Facebook make millions sharing other people’s content and by creating products that are becoming ubiquitous and perhaps dangerously essential to our everyday lives. And then in this recent example, Google threaten to withdraw the services if a nation state has the temerity to want to exert its tax laws to protects the fourth estate, and deliver revenues back into the public purse.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hasn’t backed down amid Google’s threats. Photo / AP

There’s only one answer to that. Tell them to get stuffed. I’ve used Bing to research this article and it’s totally fine. I can use Apple Maps, I read the New Zealand Herald and other news sources directly. You get the picture. The moment we let these tech giants stamp all over us – and let’s face it governments have been pretty slow here – we really have a problem.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern’s Christchurch Call was an initiative to effect some change in how some tech giants behave. We’ve made some progress, but more is needed and NZ needs to take on these guys on tax and sharing revenues also. We should all be with ScoMo on this. Tell Google “they’re dreaming”.