Microsoft president Brad Smith has said his company is committed to Australia and its news publishers, and that it fully supports the News Media Bargaining Code.
Microsoft and its search engine Bing has been paraded by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his army of ministers as the answer to the Google-sized hole that would be left if Google Search ended up exiting Australia.
Appearing at the National Press Club on Monday, Morrison said he was confident Australians would be left with sufficient alternatives if Google moved ahead with its threat, pointing to a meeting he had with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Shortly after, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher also rallied behind Bing, saying that in the event Google left, he expected to see investment from other players in the local market.
Microsoft in response has said it is committed to Australia and the news publishers that are “vital to the country’s democracy”.
Smith said Microsoft has long supported the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) efforts to analyse the issues brought on by the digital era.
“The code reasonably attempts to address the bargaining power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian news businesses. It also recognises the important role search plays, not only to consumers but to the thousands of Australian small businesses that rely on search and advertising technology to fund and support their organisations,” Smith said.
“While Microsoft is not subject to the legislation currently pending, we’d be willing to live by these rules if the government designates us.”
Smith said Microsoft would ensure that small businesses who wish to transfer their advertising to Bing could do so simply and with no transfer costs.
“We will invest further to ensure Bing is comparable to our competitors and we remind people that they can help, with every search, Bing gets better at finding what you are looking for,” he said.
“We believe that the current legislative proposal represents a fundamental step towards a more level playing field and a fairer digital ecosystem for consumers, business, and society.”
He said while other tech companies may sometimes threaten to leave Australia, Microsoft would never make such a threat.
“We appreciate what Australia has long meant for Microsoft’s growth as a company, and we are committed to supporting the country’s national security and economic success,” he said.