Re: Farewell then
But actually they didn't "cave in France". They created a new product that engages the French publishers. The publishers see a (potential) improved market/channel, and Google retains it's "traffic steering" position.
The problem with the Australian approach is that it's absolute: if Google puts a publisher's article in a search result, they'd have to pay. If someone links an article to their Facebook page, Facebook would have to pay (because FB puts a "preview" of that link in-line).
Leaving aside the specific merits of Google/Facebook's past behavior, I have concerns about this sort of behavior by publishers; where does one draw the line about indexing/cross-referencing.
For example, a citation to a news article in an academic paper is functionally not unlike a search-result cross-reference, and I don't think any reasonable person would think charging for that would be good public policy... but I do know that some publishers would like to have veto power over such citations (e.g. a paper discussing News Corp's egregious behavior, with cites, would likely be unpopular with the Murdochs).
So let's look at a few possible (not necessarily probable) situations: if a publisher gets to charge negotiated fees, how long before negotiations become content-sensitive? Articles critical of a certain political group might be more expensive than those complimentary of them. A publisher in a competitive market could offer free of cheap access to their articles in order to marginalize their competition (and revoke that access once the competitor is suitably diminished). Is this functionally any different from pay-for-ranking schemes, only inverted? Who qualifies as a publisher: if Bruce Dinkum writes a definitive article on how to grill shrimp, does he get to go to Google and demand fees and/or delisting? How about if Bruce instead writes a piece expressing his view that all the brown people should go back to where they came from (unless they came from somewhere he wants to live, in which case they should go back to where they were forcibly removed to)?
As we've seen with the MPAA and RIAA, publishers are hugely prone to try to get legislation that not only protects their walled gardens, but also legalizes guard towers, razor wire and searchlights on the walls. So on balance, even with all their imperfections, I tend to lean towards the Googles/Facebooks/etc when pitted against publishers, not because I think the former are "right", but because I think the public interest is rarely served when the latter control access.