Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition
PETER STEFANOVIC: Meanwhile the Albanese government is preparing to crack down on artificial intelligence to combat concerns technology could, as we just saw, lead to human extinction and damaging disinformation.
Joining us live now from Canberra is the Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic. Minister, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So, how are you going to protect us from Skynet?
ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: I was waiting for the Cyberdyne reference. Look, I think people do recognise that AI has been around and we’ve been using it for quite some time in ways that we do or may not even know. And they get that there are benefits there but I think the recent developments have made people think the technology is getting ahead of itself.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Yeah.
ED HUSIC: We already have, probably a dozen different laws that would touch on the impact of AI and regulating it. But we’ve got to modernise it and make sure it’s fit for purpose. That’s why we’ve launched the discussion paper around the future regulation of AI. We want to be able to give people the confidence and the assurance that the technology is working for us and not the other way around.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Right. So what are you going to do? And also, how do you regulate technology that changes so fast?
ED HUSIC: And, again, that is one of the big challenges about the way you shape up laws when you see some of the developments in technology. Some of the stuff that we’ve seen particularly in the last six months we’ve want to really as a government be able to move rapidly in having a look at the laws and updating them.
We’ve got this discussion paper that will be out for the next eight weeks, but it won’t just be this effort; you’ll see across the Albanese government a number of different portfolios looking at the impact of technology and how we respond and making sure that happens. Some of it, where it presents a high risk, we will need to step in I think and regulate strongly to, again, give people confidence, assurance, that technology is being used in the way it should be.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Yeah, I mean, I joked about it earlier, but if it’s not controlled or if it’s not regulated, what is the worst-case scenario? I mean, are you going to these claims of extinction?
ED HUSIC: I’ve watched technology, Pete, for many years, well before my time in politics and had an interest in it. I’ve never been one to be a total evangelist for it and can see no ill, and I’ve never been catastrophising about it. We’ve got to get the balance right and ensure that we get the benefit.
I mean, AI does play an important role. I mean, we saw that through the pandemic where it was applied to help us develop vaccines in record time when you think about how medicines have been developed in years past. Using that in a way that people give the tick is really important. But where you’ve got automated decision-making using AI and where it does have an impact on people – most recently if you look at what happened with Robodebt – we’ve got to clamp down on that and we’ve got to have our laws fit for purpose to deal with those type of risks.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Yeah. And I get all the upsides and a lot of it is exciting and the industry itself very exciting. But one part that worries me and a lot of people – ChatGPT. It’s going to feed into all kinds of disinformation. I’ve fallen for it hundreds of times already this year. So, I mean, you can’t just ban it, can you? Are there upsides here? Has the horse bolted? What do you do with ChatGPT?
ED HUSIC: I guess I’d answer your question in a number of ways: one is you’ve got to think about the way that AI has developed, because it isn’t just stuff that happens on its own. It’s set up by people to act in particular ways. So it’s development and then it’s use. That’s where the law does need to think about that. And the type of things that you mentioned around, for example, deep fakes and misinformation, and I heard Senator Paterson and he’s absolutely right, and I want us to work across the parliament on these things, but people have to have the confidence that what they’re seeing on their screens is legit and that decisions, particularly around public policy, are done in the right way off the right basis.
People get the entertainment value, and if they know it and it’s upfront, that’s one thing. But where it’s a deep fake that guides or may influence improperly decision-making, really important. And that’s why we’ve got the eSafety Commissioner and Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland look at these things as well from an online safety perspective.
So, again, it’s not – we’re not just one path that will deal with this; it will be across government that you see us working. And over the coming weeks, you’ll see some actions being taken.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Ed, just a change of pace here before we go, I just want to get your thoughts on Philip Lowe’s comments yesterday. He ruffled a few feathers when he said that young folks should effectively stay at home for longer to help with the housing crisis. That’s not new; that’s been happening for some time.
ED HUSIC: Yeah.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But, I mean, is that a sad state of affairs that that’s one of the only options that we’ve got moving forward during this housing affordability crisis?
ED HUSIC: Look, I wouldn’t want us to be getting up in arms about some comments. You’re absolutely right – for years we’ve seen younger people delay leaving home because of – and this has happened probably over the best part of a decade – deferring their decision to leave home because of those type of issues.
We want to deal with that. We want to provide increased supply. And as a new government we’ve been looking at different ways to do that, either through the Housing Australia Future Fund, the build to rent initiatives we announced in the Budget to increase supply and make it easier for people to get their own home. Because housing is one of those basic things that gives the greatest level of comfort, and we’ve got to make sure that we do that. And we would welcome the people in politics that say they’re concerned about this, we’d definitely welcome their support in the parliament to get the Housing Australia Future Fund through and some of the other things that we’re planning as a government.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Just quickly here, and it’s just a final one on the Fair Work Commission tomorrow, I mean, Warren Hogan suggested last hour that if the fair work commission goes too high tomorrow – i.e., above 5 per cent increase for the minimum wage – that could lead to four, even five more rate rises down the track. How concerning is that, if true?
ED HUSIC: Again, people make all sorts of predictions. But the Fair Work Commission is independent. It weighs up all the evidence and it makes its call based on what it reckons is right. And it also obviously takes into account actions of others like the RBA. So let’s just wait and see the outcome.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay.
ED HUSIC: But we have been focused as a government on making sure that people are getting a better outcome on wages to help deal with their cost of living.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Have you got a line to John Connor, Ed?
ED HUSIC: No, I’ve got none, mate. Sorry. None whatsoever.
PETER STEFANOVIC: If John Connor is not going to save us, then Ed Husic is going to. Ed, appreciate your time, as always.
ED HUSIC: Thanks, Pete.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Talk to you soon.