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Google, eBay to Australian gov: 'protect us from our users'

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US tech giants Google and eBay have called on the Australian government to give them the same “safe harbour” protections as apply to telecommunications carriers.

There's no little irony in this: Google's been criticised for paying the low millions in tax in Australia, courtesy of its Irish-Dutch money shuffle, even though its Australian revenue is estimated at between $AU1 billion and $AU2 billion. While there aren't good estimates around for eBay's Australian revenue, Reuters has stated that its total non-US corporate tax rate is just 3.1 per cent.

The “double Irish-Dutch sandwich” arrangement that tech giants use has been under fire in Australia, England, France, India and Italy.

Google is calling for regulatory protection in a submission to a government review designed to reduce telecommunications regulation. While happy to see an axe taken to content regulation, Google asks for the specific protections in Australia's “safe harbour” rules to also protect the vague category of content provision. Here's the relevant bit from its submission:

“Although it does not fall within a deregulation agenda, it is an issue which Google believes is of critical importance for the Australian digital economy the lack of a clear safe harbour for online intermediaries.”

This lack of regulation, it seems, rather than its tax arrangement, is what acts as “a major disincentive for Internet industries to operate from Australia”.

eBay concurs, asking the government “that liability exposure of online intermediaries be deregulated by expanding the 'safe harbours'” provisions of broadcasting and copyright legislation (emphasis added). ®

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