Interview with Kieran Gilbert, News Day, Sky News

Kieran Gilbert
Panel on AI regulation, Women in STEM

KIERAN GILBERT: I want to turn our attention now to the latest on artificial intelligence. The government taking a number of steps to try and put some guardrails in for this burgeoning industry. With me is the Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic. You've just announced a new expert panel on artificial intelligence about giving you advice on high-risk settings. What are we talking about in terms of a high-risk setting when it comes to AI?

ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: Sure. Well, a lot of people know that artificial intelligence and its use has helped us in a lot of ways, but there are also concerns about some of the things that they're hearing or believe might, the way AI might be used doesn't fit community expectations. It's why we've been working on the development of consultation around safe and responsible AI. And this group will look at what they believe and advise the government on high-risk areas. So, the way you use facial recognition, the way it might be used in an employment situation where AI is working out whether or not you should get a job, for example, and impacts on your future prospects, AI that might be used with children's toys in ways that we all think is not on and should be dealt with. So, we've put together a panel of people across law, ethics, technology. These are some big names within Australia that have been doing work here and internationally, to report to government by the end of June on identifying the high-risk areas and how we can deal with them.

KIERAN GILBERT: So, and deal with them in a legislative sense, will you put laws in place? We talk about these guardrails, but are these going to be law, the law of the land?

ED HUSIC: We want to give people confidence that the risks have been identified and can be tackled. And so, we're keeping an open mind about how that response can be shaped. This is a group of people that will give government the recommendations about should it be a legal change? Should it be regulatory?

KIERAN GILBERT: It's a quick turnaround, you want them back mid-year?

ED HUSIC: Well, I mean, what we're trying to do is get the balance right. We've heard loud and clear from people that they want us to be able to respond rapidly. They recognise that technology is moving rapidly as well and evolving quickly. We want to make sure that our laws are fit for purpose. And so, we have said, come back to us by the end of June. If they also say they need more time, we're open to that. But we are sending a very clear signal that the community is expecting action and we need to get moving on it.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, I guess it's also a recognition of how fast technology is moving.

ED HUSIC: Correct. Yeah, absolutely.

KIERAN GILBERT: And it's already, as you touched on earlier in the discussion, it's already in place in a lot of industries having a big impact.

ED HUSIC: Yeah, and people understand, too, that regulations can still help, you can still innovate, but you need to have safety concerns taken into account for the community's perspective. We still develop great medicines and we've got some pretty strong regulatory protections around that. Safety in transport as well, a lot of regulation around there, but you still got people making advances in technology when it comes to transport. Similarly with AI, with some of the developments, even though that's moving quickly, we do need to be able to better test, be able to be a lot more transparent about how the technology is working. If things go wrong, you need to have accountability around it, and those are the type of things that we want this group to look at.

KIERAN GILBERT: Science, technology, maths, the STEM subjects, we need more people in it in those careers as well. Yesterday, you announced a new initiative on this. How do you get more young people driving into this space? Because it's not just AI, it's things like quantum computing as well. 

ED HUSIC: Yeah, and robotics and a lot of areas where you apply it in medicine, like we've just mentioned in terms of health care, et cetera. And we need talented people. A lot of science and technology will drive future growth and open up better ways to live our lives, and people will be at the heart of that. So, being able to ensure that we've got calling up from all corners of the community, people that want to contribute, really important. We set a target as a government, 1.2 million Australians in tech-related jobs by 2030. We just can't have biases, artificial barriers that hold back women or people from underrepresented groups from getting a start. If people want to pitch in, people want to work, we want to give them a start. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Is it going to happen almost inevitably because, as you know, with your son and with my kids, you look at them, they're digital natives. They grow up with this stuff. Is this going to happen almost inevitably?

ED HUSIC: I don't think things are an inevitability in this space because you look, for example, you get a lot of interest from young girls who go into science, technology, engineering and maths, and then they don't pursue study or don't stay in the field. And so the work that we released yesterday was about, okay, how do we encourage higher participation by women and people from different groups? We've got studies that show companies that have a diverse workforce, they perform generally a lot better. And so, you know, how do we make sure that people who want to have a go, get attracted and stay in the field? How do companies seize advantage of that? And how do we, as a broader economy, ensure that we're using technology in a way that will drive jobs, will drive growth?

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister, thanks for your time, as always. Appreciate it.

ED HUSIC: Thank you.