Council embraces updated code of conduct

The Greater Geelong Council has reaffirmed its strong commitment to meeting the high standards of behaviour expected by the community and working together constructively.

An updated Councillor Code of Conduct 2021 was adopted last night, meeting a Local Government Act 2020 requirement for the Council to endorse the new code within six months of last year’s local government elections.

The code represents councillors’ pledge to govern Greater Geelong effectively, behave respectfully and demonstrate principles of integrity that the community deserves.

Five standards of conduct replace the former code’s primary principles of conduct:

  1. treatment of others
  2. performing the role of councillor
  3. compliance with good governance measures
  4. councillors must not discredit or mislead the Council or public
  5. standards do not limit robust political debate.

Councillors will continue to model the City’s four values:

  1. Respect
    and encourage each other
  2. Create a
    healthy and safe environment for all
  3. Embrace
    new ideas and better ways to work and
  4. Make
    people the centre of our business.

Councillor Code of Conduct 2021 will be publicly available online.

Councillor Stephanie Asher – Mayor

The Council is
elected into a position of trust.

Councillors take their leadership role seriously and we
are committed to working together as a team, being respectful and acting transparently.

These standards ensure that despite differing views at
times, we can continue to work cohesively to get the best outcomes for the
Greater Geelong community.

Councillor Trent Sullivan – Deputy Mayor

The new code is a fresh
reminder of councillors’ responsibilities.

It’s important the Council models the behaviours that the
community expects and that we expect of ourselves.

It doesn’t take much to be polite and respectful while
engaging in robust discussion. In the end, we’re all here for the one goal – to
serve the community.

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News returns to Facebook in Australia after media code passes parliament

Facebook has reversed its ban on news content in Australia after the government’s new media bargaining code, which forces social media giants to compensate news publishers, passed parliament on Thursday. 

The Facebook pages of media publishers, including SBS News, were reinstated early on Friday morning after being blacked out for a week when the social media giant abruptly blocked Australian users from posting or sharing article links.

Users navigating to news pages during the ban found generic grey bars where custom cover photos used to sit, and the message “no posts yet” in place of news content and shared stories.

The ban was widely criticised across the world, with warnings the absence of news would allow misinformation to flourish.

But on Wednesday evening, Facebook announced it had agreed to restore news pages in the coming days after striking a deal with the federal government to amend the legislation. 

“Absolutely critically, the code maintains its key measures, namely it is a mandatory code,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters. 

“Secondly, it is based on two-way value exchange, and third, it involves a final-offer arbitration mechanism.”

More to come

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Facebook admits snap Australian news ban ‘erred on over-enforcement’ as media code passes parliament

Facebook has admitted it “erred on the side of over-enforcement” when it abruptly moved to block publishers and users in Australia from sharing or viewing news content, but defended its initial opposition to the government’s media bargaining code.

It comes as amended legislation for the world-first code clears federal parliament.

The government’s bill received the final tick of approval on Thursday when parliament’s lower house agreed to changes, which were made after negotiations with Facebook.

Facebook’s ban last week saw some non-news pages including domestic violence support services, government health bodies and emergency services briefly blocked. 

In a blog post titled ‘The Real Story of What Happened With News on Facebook in Australia’ on Wednesday night (AEDT), the tech giant said the snap decision to block news sharing “wasn’t taken lightly”.

“But when it came, we had to take action quickly because it was legally necessary to do so before the new law came into force, and so we erred on the side of over-enforcement,” Nick Clegg, a former UK deputy prime minister who is now Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs and communications, wrote in the post.

“In doing so, some content was blocked inadvertently. Much of this was, thankfully, reversed quickly.”

Sir Nick said while the decision may have appeared to come out of the blue, that wasn’t the case.

“We’ve been in discussions with the Australian government for three years trying to explain why this proposed law, unamended, was unworkable,” he said.

Sir Nick said that while it was “understandable” that some news publishers “see Facebook as a potential source of money to make up for their losses”, it would not have been fair to be able to demand a “blank cheque”.

“Facebook would have been forced to pay potentially unlimited amounts of money to multinational media conglomerates under an arbitration system that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook – without even so much as a guarantee that it is used to pay for journalism, let alone support smaller publishers.”

He argued it was “like forcing carmakers to fund radio stations because people might listen to them in the car, and letting the stations set the price”.

SBS News

Meanwhile, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims is confident the heavily amended code will still curtail the immense market power of digital platforms.

“Google and Facebook need media but they don’t need any particular company and that (previously) meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals with Facebook or Google,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

“The purpose of the code is to give them the potential for arbitration, which helps their bargaining position, and therefore helps them reach fair commercial deals.”

Both Google and Facebook signed deals with major Australian news companies before the negotiating rules were enshrined in law.

So far, large media organisations including News Corp and Nine have been the main beneficiaries of deals struck.

“In any situation like this you would expect deals to be done with the bigger players first and then work down the list,” Mr Sims said.

“Given this is supporting journalism, it’s naturally going to see more money going to those who’ve got the most journalists but I don’t see any reason why anybody should doubt that all journalism will benefit.”

Mr Sims expects the online giants to seal deals with smaller players in time.

“I just don’t see why Google and Facebook would leave them out,” he said.

“I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t do deals with them, given it’s not going to cost you that much compared to what it’s going to cost for those that employ the vast bulk of journalists.”

With AAP.

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Facebook to reinstate Aussie news after government amends code

Facebook will reinstate Australian news on its platform after the Morrison government agreed to further amend its mandatory media bargaining code.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed the last-minute legislative changes this afternoon after days of negotiations with the social media giant.

“These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated,” he said.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days.”

The amendments will give parties more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration.

The changes also clarify the government’s role in considering commercial deals struck between parties, and give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code.

Facebook said it was pleased to have reached an agreement with the government after discussions with the treasurer and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher.

“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them,” the company said.

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”

It comes after Facebook removed all news from its Australian pages last Thursday, with some key government agencies – including SA Health and the Bureau of Meteorology – caught up in the news ban.

Facebook has since reinstated the pages that were “inadvertently” impacted, and said the mix up occurred because the “law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content”. 

Earlier today, key crossbench senator Jacquie Lambie tore strips off Labor and the Greens for supporting the code.

Lambie says the code, which will require digital platforms to pay for linking to Australian news, will make media organisations even more dependent on the success of Google and Facebook.

Lambie argues the money generated will simply shift from one set of corporate titans to another.

“Shareholders of News Corp and Nine will be delighted that their dividend is about to be fattened up on the back of shareholders in Facebook and Google,” she told parliament.

Lambie said businesses wanting to advertise online would end up bearing the cost of tech giants paying for news.

“This is a bipartisan shakedown delivered by a consensus of absolute stupidity.”

And she savaged a Greens proposal to ensure money that flowed from the code was spent on journalism.

She said taxes were the best way of pumping money into journalism but argued the money shouldn’t go to media companies but journalism itself.

“If we want more money for journalism, let’s tax companies making heaps of money and put that money into supporting journalism, put it directly into journalism,” Lambie said.

“If we want Google and Facebook to pay more tax, let’s make them pay more tax.”

The bargaining code is expected to pass the Senate this week with support from Labor and the Greens, who will seek some minor amendments.

Lambie said both parties should be embarrassed about supporting the legislation.

-With AAP

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After chat with Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Treasurer thinks deals under media code are ‘very close’

Media organisations such as News Corp, Nine Entertainment and the ABC are “very close” to a potential windfall from tech giants under major media reform, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

But the move to force media companies and Facebook and Google to the negotiating table remains contentious, and Microsoft is seeking to exploit the opportunity.

Mr Frydenberg revealed he spoke with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday.

“I spoke to him just yesterday, and I have been speaking as recently as this morning as well as over the weekend with Sundar [Pichai], the head of Google,” he told AM.

“They are very focused on what’s happening here in Australia, but I sense they are also trying to reach deals, and that is welcome.”

On Friday, a Government-controlled Senate committee recommended the news media and digital platforms mandatory bargaining code be passed. The report included support from Labor and the Greens.

The code is designed to ensure media companies are fairly remunerated for the use of their content on search engines and social media platforms.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg believes deals between tech giants and media companies are close.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Google has been vocal in its opposition to the code, and has threatened to withdraw its search function from Australia.

Microsoft has seized on the potential opportunity, saying it would invest in its own search product to help fill the void.

But Google snapped back on Friday with a blog post from senior executive Kent Walker who sought to challenge some of Microsoft’s claims.

“Microsoft’s take on Australia’s proposed law is unsurprising — of course they’d be eager to impose an unworkable levy on a rival and increase their market share,” he said.

Google news product expands

Google’s News Showcase product launched in Australia two weeks ago and includes content from The Canberra Times, Crikey and The Conversation.

On Monday, Seven West Media, publisher of The West Australian, announced it had also signed up.

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said it was a “great outcome”.

“I’d like to thank Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims, with particular recognition of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has been instrumental in the outcome of this groundbreaking agreement,” he said.

He also congratulated Google “for taking a leadership position in Australia”. 

Local progress

Mr Frydenberg said there were “many eyes across the world” focused on the outcome of the Australian reforms, but he was optimistic.

After being left out of an initial draft, the ABC has now been included in the proposed code.

“This legislation is important, and it is our intention to pass it through Parliament,” Mr Frydenberg said.

The Government has flagged the code would be progressed in Parliament this week and, with support from Labor, its passage is expected to be straightforward.

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Inquiry backs world-first news media code

A multi-party Senate inquiry has backed the federal government’s proposed code to force tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay for news.

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Senate inquiry backs proposed media code that would force Facebook and Google to pay for news

Australia’s world-leading push to force tech giants Google and Facebook to pay for news has received the green light from a Senate committee, paving the way for laws to pass as early as Tuesday.

The bill is listed to be debated in the upper house next week with the coalition keen to forge ahead with the plan despite pressure from tech giants.

The multi-party committee report recommended the bill be passed without amendment, but noted there were risks.

“The committee accepts that there remains the possibility that not all risks have been taken into account, and that further refinement may be needed to the arbitration mechanism and other parts of the code so that they work in an optimum manner,” it said.

“Accordingly, the committee strongly supports the 12-month review mechanism built into the legislation.”

Despite the concerns raised by various submitters and witnesses, the committee said it was “confident that the bill will deliver on its intended outcomes”.

“Its provisions will provide the basis for a more equitable relationship between the media and Google/Facebook and, through this, help safeguard public interest journalism in Australia. Accordingly, the committee recommends that the bill be passed.”

Welcoming the report, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the laws would create a framework for the parties to reach commercial arrangements, so that news media business are fairly paid for the content they generate and which digital platforms benefit from.

“The government expects all parties to continue to work constructively towards reaching commercial agreements in the spirit of collaboration and good faith encouraged by the code,” he said in a statement.

Labor senators noted in additional comments the government should do more to back public interest journalism including support for the Australian Associated Press (AAP) newswire “as the key wholesale provider of news in Australia and a critical pillar of media diversity”.

“The government’s September 2020 announcement of $5 million for AAP was late and inadequate,” the senators said.

“The benefits to democracy of an independent wholesale newswire business are many and we urge the government to make appropriate provision for AAP as a matter of priority.”

The Greens also called for support for AAP, as well as an amendment to require news organisations to spend the revenue on public interest journalism.

They want a review after 12 months of the code and its impact on small, independent and start-up publications and journalist job numbers.

During the inquiry, Google made the extraordinary threat to pull out of Australia if the laws were passed.

The Morrison government refused to scrap the laws and raised the prospect of Microsoft’s Bing search engine filling a gaping market hole.

But relations between the government and Google appear to have thawed slightly after the search giant’s global boss met with the prime minister and treasurer.

After the virtual meeting with Scott Morrison and Mr Frydenberg, Google launched its “news showcase” product that allows users to read content that is often behind paywalls.

The $1.3 billion initiative pays publishers for their editorial judgment to curate news for Google services.

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New code should enhance diversity of media ownership

When Major telephoned Kelvin MacKenzie, then editor of Murdoch’s flagship British newspaper The Sun, to ask how he planned to cover the story, MacKenzie replied: “Prime Minister, I have on my desk in front of me a very large bucket of shit which I am just about to pour all over you.”

Large news publishers still possess buckets of political influence, even in an era of social media and shrinking newspaper circulations.

Evidence of that power is currently playing out in the Australian Parliament, where the federal government has created legislation designed to force two global digital players, Google and Facebook, to compensate Australian news publishers because their old business model doesn’t work any more.

News Corp, along with Nine Entertainment (owner of this title), has apparently convinced the government that the two digital giants have stolen their content (they haven’t – media companies actively provide snippets or their full journalism to the platforms because they gain huge benefit from the exposure their content attracts on Google and Facebook) and stolen their advertising revenue (they haven’t – most of the classified advertising that used to support newspaper journalism has actually ended up in the pockets of, owned by News Corp, Domain, owned by Nine, and websites such as Seek and Carsales).

But Google and Facebook are hardly saints. Even though they aren’t directly responsible for the collapse of the huge profits that filled the coffers of the owners of big daily newspapers for decades, these two digital players are almost certainly too powerful. Their market dominance and the information they collect about their users’ online behaviour is scary. And there should be laws to make sure they pay Australian corporate tax on all their Australian profits that stem from all their Australian revenue.

For those reasons, not because of spurious allegations of stealing content or advertising revenue, there is a powerful argument that Google and Facebook should pay what is, in effect, a social license to support the public interest journalism that has been severely affected by the commercial internet, which they dominate. A contribution to society for the indirect collateral damage inflicted on quality journalism by their immense success.

Interestingly, it’s an argument supported by the two digital giants. Not only do they agree they should contribute financially to the journalism that underpins healthy democracies, they are already doing this in several countries (including, on a small scale, in Australia). The issue is no longer should they pay, but how much and through what mechanism.

As a small independent news publisher watching this stoush between three big gorillas – the two dominant Australian commercial media players, the two global digital behemoths and the federal government – I feel like I’m viewing a re-run of almost every episode of The Making of Australian Media Policy over the past century, where the plotline is always about a government bestowing favours on big media companies in return for unstated, but usually detectable, benefits.

This “ground-breaking” legislation, as the government and its big media supporters constantly describe it, should not just be a mechanism to ensure the bulk of Google and Facebook money lines the pockets of a couple of multibillion-dollar public companies for whom news journalism is a small part of their business.


The new law, now in draft stage, should be modified to explicitly protect and enhance diversity of media ownership. It should create meaningful financial support for Australia’s 100 or so small-to-medium regional and city-based news publishers, for whom public interest journalism is their primary business.

It should structurally address one of the great endemic problems that compromises and embarrasses our democracy: too much power in the hands of two big media owners.

Eric Beecher is chair of Private Media, which publishes national digital mastheads Crikey, The Mandarin and Smart Company, and of Solstice Media, which publishes InDaily in Adelaide and InQueensland in Brisbane. These companies have a content licensing agreement with Google News Showcase. He is a former editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and former editor-in-chief of the Herald and Weekly Times.

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Energy efficiency construction code looms for NT buildings

The Northern Territory is investigating the “possible adoption” of a code that will keep the cold in and the heat out of its public buildings.

In the 10 years since the national construction code was written, the NT never adopted section J, which deals with energy efficiency.

Section J is designed to ensure a building has contemporary design, architecture and engineering to lower energy costs and emissions over its lifetime.

The section applies to commercial and office buildings, including hotels, offices, shops, restaurants, cafes, car parks, warehouses, factories, health care centres, schools, sporting facilities and aged care facilities.

But the NT Government is now seeking a consultant to do a cost-benefit analysis of enforcing the code in new builds, for both owners and the economy.

The window is closing

Ashburner Francis mechanical engineer Lara Bailey, who specialises in energy efficiency, said section J was designed to reduce the running costs of a building “while maintaining a liveable environment for people within the space”.

Mechanical engineer Lara Bailey.(Supplied: Lara Bailey)

There were no minimum standards in the NT, she said, as to constructing a “good building or a bad building”, efficiency-wise.

“So it’s up to the architects, the builder and the design team how efficient the building is actually designed,” she said.

“A client or the government? They’re not entirely sure of exactly what they’re getting.”

Ms Bailey said, as an example, more energy in the form of heat and light passed through big windows, so a building with smaller windows might be better rated on an energy scale.

An exterior photo of Palmerston Regional Hospital which also shows the red entry to the ED.
Palmerston Regional hospital has been built above and beyond required local energy efficiency codes.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Jennifer Harlock, director of the NT Infrastructure Department’s building advisory services, said that, when section J was introduced about a decade ago, the NT exempted new buildings — as was its right.

“Each jurisdiction’s has got flexibility to implement what they need,” she said.

“We’re doing the cost-benefit analysis so we can find out what those construction costs and operational costs would be and to see where we could get some savings on energy and low operational costs as well.”

She said the NT remained the only state or territory not to enforce section J.

A digital drawing of an aerial view of a new fire station. Low-lying buildings surrounded by paddocks.
An impression of the emergency services complex under-construction in Howard Springs.(Supplied: DKJ Projects Architecture)

The Department of Infrastructure said the requirements could be met using common construction techniques and services that were not expected to pose a significant challenge for contractors.

“Consultation, education and communication with industry will be conducted ahead of any implementation of new requirements,” a spokesperson said..

“The NT Government has in recent years applied section J to a number of government building projects.”

An aerial of a school building with an oval in foreground and lush suburbs beyond. Looks like fresh construction dirt.
Zuccoli Primary School, Palmerston, has been built to the section J code.(Supplied: DIPL)

Some of the buildings future-proofed to section J standards include Zuccoli Primary School, Palmerston Regional Hospital, as well as the Palmerston Regional Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services Complex under construction in Howard Springs.

The NT Government has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

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PM talks with global Google boss over code

Negotiations over the government’s media code has reached the highest levels, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison having a “constructive” meeting with Google’s global boss.

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