ABC South East - Facebook shutdown & local vaccine rollout

ABC South East - Facebook shutdown & local vaccine rollout Main Image

19 February 2021

RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC South East NSW, Breakfast with Paul West
Friday, 19 FEBRUARY 2021


PAUL WEST, PRESENTER: Well, it seems that the Member for Eden-Monaro has fallen foul of the Facebook news ban this morning with her own Facebook page offline. Kristy McBain raised concerns yesterday about community groups and non news pages being taken down by the tech giant. She joins us this morning. Good morning, Kristy.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: I haven't noticed I've been in the swing of trying to get kids ready for school this morning. So that'll be the next job on the list after I get them off to school.

WEST: Why do you think that is the case? I mean, you you're a politician, you're not a news outlet?

MCBAIN: I think what we've seen over the last sort of 24 or so hours is a number of non news outlet pages being taken down. So you know, the algorithm that's been put in place at the moment by Facebook is clearly not working. And once again, I think probably is more detrimental to regional communities first.

WEST: how do we expect this to play out Kristy - I mean that the whole world is is watching the Australian Government and Facebook butting heads, what do you think the fallout from this is going to be?

MCBAIN: The Labor Party raised a number of concerns during the first reading of the bill, especially around what will happen with smaller news outlets and for regional communities. And the bill was sent to the Senate for further scrutiny to look at the issues that the Labor Party had raised, and to look towards some of the amendments that could be made. So you know, it's up to the government to to work a solution now, because you know, we shouldn't be missing out on vital information that we get on social media, such as emergency warnings or health updates.

WEST: Are you aware of how many news community groups have been taken down in your electorate?

MCBAIN: No, not as yet. Obviously, when people were logging on to their news feed yesterday morning, we had calls to the office concerned that, you know, what they used to be able to get on Facebook had disappeared. You know, I think it will be a moving feast for some time. But you know, this has to be fixed, because so many Australians get updates on their socials.

WEST: And what do you think the fix is?

MCBAIN: Look, what I hope is that, you know, we're moving to a situation where, you know, regional communities aren't going to be disadvantaged. You know, we all log on to these sites, and many others of a morning to get snippets of information - whether that be emergency or health updates, whether that be you know, the morning's news headlines from our local papers. And all of these concerns had been raised. Treasury had been asked whether there was any risk benefit analysis done, you know, what the risks were. And it's clear now that none of that has been thought about prior to moving the bill.

WEST: Do you think this is a reflection of our over reliance on a single platform for for news online?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, maybe it is. But I guess you know, where they are in 2021. And that's how things have developed over time. I mean, you know, back when I was starting University, there was a platform called MySpace, which is, you know, all but disappeared now. Because time has moved on, and that platform was no longer beneficial or useful to the users. So, you know, people have changed business models, people have changed the way they go about their daily business and Facebook, and that platform has become useful to so many groups, to businesses, and to locals. And, you know, we do have to find a way to function with them. But yeah, regional news shouldn't be at the whim of a social media platform.

WEST: Kristy what's the relationship like between the federal government and Facebook? Do you think that Facebook will be open to negotiation to solve this?

MCBAIN: Facebook struck a deal in the UK in January, so they are clearly open to negotiation? And we've heard from the treasurer that he's had discussions with the CEO and founder of Facebook, which to date hasn't gone anywhere. So, you know, I think there's going to have to be some work put into that, to make sure that our communities can still access news and information via the platform.

WEST: Do you think that Facebook being a news source is a is a modern method of keeping the government accountable for their actions?

MCBAIN: Look, I think that it's clear that a lot of people use the platform to share information and to circulate different ideas and news sources. And, you know what, I don't want to see their regional news media being hampered, you know, because it's probably going to be a lot harder for them to obtain payment. You know, it seems that this deal potentially benefits the big players in the market, to the detriment of the smaller ones.

WEST: And Kristy on a slightly different notes. We've heard that you've met with the federal Health Minister Greg Hunt last night about local hubs for the COVID-19 roll out. How did that meeting go?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, I spoke with Minister Hunt last night in his office. He was was unaware that members of our frontline healthcare service - doctors, nurses, clinical health professionals, were advised that they may need to travel to Liverpool.
We thought it was Canberra and then on Wednesday afternoon, it was confirmed that it was actually Liverpool. You know, that's a 10-11 hour round trip for some of our practitioners, and that's just clearly not acceptable. He agreed that that was not the way the model was supposed to roll out that there was a hub and spoke model. And whilst the vaccine was being housed in one hospital, it was meant to make its way out to other hospitals.

We received an email last night that there is going to be a secondary hub in Wollongong. So its slowly making its way down the coast. But, you know, we know that in phase 1a, there are aged care facilities that will have it in their facilities. So it will be making its way down the coast. And it just seems odd that we're asking our frontline medical workers to take time out of their practice and out of our communities to be vaccinated elsewhere. So he was continuing to follow that up.

WEST: Kristy that's about all we've got time for this morning. We'll let you get back to getting the kids ready for school. Thanks for joining us on ABC South East Breakfast.

MCBAIN: No worries, thank you.


Media contact: Ian Campbell, phone: 0417 482 171