EDITORIAL: Big tech businesses must comply with our laws or leave

The Nightly
3 Min Read
The world is starting to wake up to the problem posed by behemoths such as Meta, TikTok and e-commerce platform Temu.
The world is starting to wake up to the problem posed by behemoths such as Meta, TikTok and e-commerce platform Temu. Credit: Supplied.

The last time the Productivity Commission measured how long Australian small businesses spent on average complying with government red tape each week, the answer was five hours.

That was in 2013.

The decade since has seen more and more red tape piled up on Australian businesses of all sizes. Small businesses and sole operators have to comply with the same or similar rules that apply to much larger operations, but without the benefit of dedicated human resources and legal departments.

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And new industrial relations laws will only add to the already significant load.

You shouldn’t feel like you have to have an MBA to run a hair salon, a cafe, or a plumbing business.

And yet while Australian businesses are drowning in red tape, huge international outfits are free to profit off Australians with little regard to our laws.

The world is starting to wake up to the problem posed by behemoths such as Meta, TikTok and e-commerce platform Temu, which seem to think because they operate through the internet, they’re exempt from laws.

In the US, a bill barring app stores and providers from distributing “foreign-adversary-controlled applications” has just passed the House of Representatives and is headed for the Senate. If passed into law, the bill will compel TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance either to sell TikTok’s American operations within six months or to shut them down.

So far Anthony Albanese has indicated that Australia has no appetite to follow suit, despite the national security risk posed by TikTok and other Chinese-owned applications.

Chinese companies are directly answerable to their government, meaning any information you share with businesses such as TikTok or Temu is likely also accessible by the Chinese Communist party.

Today, The Nightly also reveals that despite its aggressive play for a share of the Australian online retail market, Temu is unlikely to pay significant corporate tax here.

That’s because the company has deliberately structured its operations to avoid doing so. Temu has recently shifted its headquarters to Ireland, which has a dirt cheap corporation tax rate of just 12.5 per cent and is home to the headquarters of tech giants such as Meta and Apple.

Meanwhile tens of millions of reports of child sexual exploitation material are made in relation to material hosted on or linked to through social media companies every year. In 2022, more than 21 million and 5 million reports were about child sexual exploitation material on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and Instagram respectively.

And yet these companies are often resistant to efforts by local law enforcement agencies to make them comply with laws designed to protect vulnerable children from abuse.

The internet isn’t the lawless playground these companies seem to think it is.

The Government must make it clear that if they want to operate in Australia, profiting off Australians in the process, they need to comply with our laws or find out they’re no longer welcome.

Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by The Nightly Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie.

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