Every two months my column in Evangelicals Now will be news from Australia – this is the first one. The problem of course is that in writing a news column for a monthly magazine, a month in advance, it runs the danger of being dated…I wrote this several weeks ago…
Australia is fighting battles on several fronts just now.
The war with Covid has gone remarkably well for the various States – at the time of writing there are only 39 known cases in the whole country and almost all of them are from overseas. Furthermore, the economy which briefly dipped into recession is soaring back – largely thanks to the price of iron ore and the wealth of Australians now being spent in Australia, rather than on overseas trips.
The battle with China is hotting up. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are furious with Australia, first of all for calling for an inquiry into the start of Covid, then for challenging the way that the CCP infiltrates Western societies – through buying up companies, media and academic influence. The reliance of Australia’s universities on Chinese students (pre-Covid Sydney had 30,000) has only proved the point that ‘you should not put all your eggs in one basket’. There is a very real Chinese military threat in the Pacific as well – Hong Kong has now been subjugated, and there is little doubt that Taiwan is next.
But the battle dominating the headlines just now is the Australian Government daring to take on Big Tech – especially Google and Facebook. The Australian Government, concerned that these Big Tech companies were making money out of news gathered by other more traditional media, have asked that they pay for it. Given that this undermines their whole model, Google and Facebook have strongly resisted it.
After initially threatening Australia with a shutdown, Google backed off (perhaps because there are alternative search engines and e-mail providers). Google is now negotiating deals with the major news providers here.
But Mark Zuckerberg is not for backing down. In mid-February, Facebook unfriended Australia. They didn’t do this because Australia matters a great deal to them in world terms, but rather because, like the CCP, they are scared that others may see what Australia is doing and follow their example. But it has backfired on Facebook. When a giant corporation shuts down charity accounts, state health departments and smaller companies, they cannot claim to be caring for people. As Josh Frydenberg, the Australian Treasurer, observed: ‘Facebook responded to a code designed to curb its market power with an abuse of its market power’.
Pray for Australia – which now finds itself on the centre of the world stage. Watch this space!