Daily News Roundup

February 22, 2021

 

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22

The federal government is pulling all its advertising campaigns from Facebook, as the social media platform continues to block Australians from accessing news.

On Sunday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said his department would not be using Facebook for advertising campaigns.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, who oversees public expenditure, said on Monday that the ban would be extended across the government.

“My expectation is that we will pull back from advertising while they undertake this type of terrible activity of pulling down sites inappropriately, seeking to exert power or influence over our democratic systems,” he told Radio National.

“We won’t tolerate that, we will be standing firm on the legislation and looking at all those advertising points.”

The government spent $42 million on digital advertising in 2019-20. The ACCC has reported around one quarter of all online advertising expenditure in Australia goes to Facebook, indicating the move may cost Facebook millions.

The move comes after Facebook blocked news and news-related pages for Australian users last week.

Charity, health and government pages including 1800Respect, the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Bureau of Meteorology were “inadvertently” blocked as well.

Facebook’s decision was prompted by a government bill to force digital tech giants to negotiate with publishers over how much to pay them for use of news in search results or on social media.

Mr Birmingham today said that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had had further conversations with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“We’d urge Facebook to acknowledge it should behave as we would expect any other re-publisher of content to behave,” he said.

He added the government was committed to the current form of the bill, despite the ongoing discussions with Facebook.

Labor’s communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland said she respected the decision to pull advertising, but feared misinformation may spread without the right messaging.

“I wouldn’t say that this should be a blanket issue the government should take up,” she said.

“There are very sound reasons to advertise in some circumstances and not others. It is unfortunate that this has come about at a time when we are in the middle of a pandemic.”

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Rugby League State of Origin will return to Melbourne this year, with the series opener to be played at the MCG on June 9.

While the first game will be played on a Wednesday night, Lang Park (Bribane) will host the second game on Sunday, June 27, with a potential decider at Sydney’s Olympic stadium on July 14.

This year marks a return to mid-season Origin fixtures after COVID-19 forced the series to be played after the NRL grand final last year.

The games will also be played with two-and-a-half week intervals, rather than three games in three weeks, as happened in the 2020 series.

It is the first time since 2018 that Melbourne has hosted a game, and the 10th time overall since 1994.

“The last year has been incredibly challenging for Victorians with the extended lockdowns and challenges,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

“We’re delighted to be bringing Ampol State of Origin back to the city. It will give fans an exceptional live sports experience, and bring interstate visitors back to the hotels and restaurants.”

Despite the Storm’s disproportionate contribution to the Maroons, New South Wales has a 4-1 win-loss record at the MCG, including a series-opening win in the last match at the ground in 2018.

Tickets for all three matches went on sale to state and club members today at 10:00am AEDT and will be available to the general public on Tuesday at 1:00pm.

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The United Nations nuclear watchdog said it had struck a deal with Iran to cushion the blow of Tehran’s plans to end snap site inspections, with both sides agreeing to keep “necessary” monitoring for up to three months.

The announcement by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi, made at Vienna airport after a weekend trip to Iran, confirmed that Tehran would go ahead with its plan to slash cooperation with the agency.

Iran has been gradually breaching terms of a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers since the United States, under former president Donald Trump, withdrew in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.

The pact aims to keep Iran at arm’s length from being able to make nuclear arms, which Tehran has said it never wanted to build.

US President Joe Biden has said he is ready to talk about both nations returning to the accord, although the two sides have been at odds about who makes the first step.

A key part of Iran’s plan for reducing cooperation this week was to end implementation of the Additional Protocol, under which the IAEA has the right to carry out snap inspections in member states at sites not declared to the agency.

Iran had agreed to implement the protocol under the 2015 nuclear deal.

“This law exists. This law is going to be applied, which means that the Additional Protocol, much to my regret, is going to be suspended,” Mr Grossi told the airport news conference.

Before he spoke, the IAEA and Iran issued a joint statement saying Tehran would continue implementing the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, its core obligations to the agency that allow for monitoring of its declared nuclear facilities.

The IAEA will also continue “necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to three months”, the statement said, without specifying what those activities are.

Mr Grossi said the steps that Iran would take this week would be “to a certain extent mitigated” by the terms of this new, temporary agreement.

“What we agreed is something that is viable, it’s useful to bridge this gap that we are having, salvages the situation now,” he said.