There will also be a voluntary code of conduct to govern digital platforms’ actions on disinformation and fake news, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority empowered to monitor the companies’ responses.
Announcing the reform package on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government wanted to protect consumers and competition with the “world-leading” reforms while ensuring Australia had a successful digital economy.
“I want us to be the model jurisdiction in the world for how we are dealing with digital platforms, social media platforms,” he said. “And I have a simple rule: the rules that apply in the real world should apply in the digital world.”
Mr Frydenberg said the intent was “not only to minimise the harm but to maximise the opportunities” for the economy.
“The companies are on notice. The government is not messing around. We will not hesitate to act,” he said.
The government will move towards harmonised regulation across old and new forms of media. As part of the effort to address the complex issue, this will look at uniform classification rules and Australian content rules for streaming services.
To protect consumers’ data privacy, the government will examine changes to privacy legislation to boost protections for consumers.
The government will also move cautiously towards creating a new digital platforms ombudsman, establishing a pilot scheme for the body that will resolve disputes between the corporations, consumers and small businesses.
In its report, the ACCC recommended toughening merger law to prevent deals that would significantly damage competition. In response, the government said it would start a broad consultation on the proposal next year.
The process will include some rapid changes but the government cautioned that “others will need further consideration and engagement given the complexity of the issues and the potential to have whole-of-economy effects”.
There will be no tax incentives to encourage support for public interest journalism, with the government stating: “The government will not be making further changes to the tax settings to support public interest journalism at this time.”
More to come
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.