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ADC Forum Australian Leadership Retreat

Gold Coast

1 June 2019

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be here today, and I thank the ADC Forum for inviting me to speak to you.

How fitting that one of my first speeches since being sworn back in as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology is at my home, the Gold Coast.

This portfolio is at the centre of the Morrison Government’s economic agenda and I look forward to building on our achievements.

Right now, I’m finalising 100-day plans for the three pillars of my portfolio — industry, science and technology — and these will inform the agenda for the rest of my three-year term.

This is a very deliberative process, and I hope it can be informed by the constructive views of stakeholders just like you.

Today, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to outline some preliminary thoughts on the transformative issue of digital technology, particularly in relation to digital markets and data.

Embracing technology is vital to ensure Australia builds on its record of 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth, while also sustaining high employment and improving quality of life.

In fact, CSIRO’S Data61 estimates that digital innovation could deliver $315 billion in gross economic value to Australia over the next decade by improving output and productivity of existing industries and spurring the growth of entirely new ones.

To help Australia maximise the opportunities of technological change, I released a digital economy strategy in December.

The strategy provides a vision for how we will grow a strong and inclusive economy, boosted by digital technology.

It highlights vast untapped opportunities for digital trade in our region which can deliver economic growth for our neighbours and new market opportunities for our businesses.

At the same time, however, technologies and digital markets present challenges relating to the rapid pace of change, disruption of business models, privacy and security risks, and ethical concerns.

To realise the benefits of new technology, we need to manage these challenges while also promoting responsible innovation.

Key to this is ensuring digital markets are fair and that Australian innovators can compete on a global stage.

The Morrison Government is committed to providing an enabling environment for business and we have a range of initiatives to ensure we get the right balance between risk and innovation.

In particular, we have directed the ACCC to conduct an inquiry into the effect of digital platforms on competition in media and advertising services markets.

Digital platforms have become increasingly popular in recent years and are now integral to the lives of most Australians.

This brings tremendous benefits; but also potential risks.

The ACCC released its preliminary report in December.

It considered issues relating to the market power of digital platforms, information asymmetries and consumer choice.

It also considered broad, long-term impacts of innovation and technological change on the media and advertising landscape.

The final report to the Government is expected by the end of this month.

We will then review the findings in detail and provide a considered response in due course.

For Australia to realise the full benefits of digital markets, the public must be able to trust the technologies they are using.

Government has a role to play here.

We can create an environment that is conducive to the growth of new technology and digital markets while also providing the public with confidence that this technology is safe and reliable.

But we can’t act alone.

We need the technology sector to do its part in helping build public trust and understanding in the broader community around how technologies and digital markets work are being used.

For example, we are working with the business community to develop an ethics framework for artificial intelligence.

AI has the potential to provide real social, economic and environmental benefits — boosting the nation’s economic growth and improving the everyday lives of Australian citizens.

But we also need to ensure that AI is developed and applied responsibly and that the community trusts how it is used.

I released a discussion paper on this topic in April.

The paper presents principles spanning issues such as fairness, privacy and accountability, and seeks to encourage approaches to AI that would maximise benefits for all.

Since then, there have been consultations across the country with many business, research and community representatives.

I am very encouraged by their response.

Written submissions on the discussion paper closed yesterday and we will now use the paper’s findings and feedback from the consultations to develop a national AI ethics framework.

We are aiming for a framework that is practical and helps users apply these principles to real world AI applications now and into the future.

Issues like privacy and data use settings are also critical to building and maintaining public trust in new technologies.

We must find a balance between protecting people’s rights to privacy and ensuring sufficient data is available for innovation.

Citizens and businesses want to know that the Government is using their data well. For citizens this includes keeping their data safe and respecting their privacy. For firms, it can mean maintaining their IP and competitive advantage.

I’m pleased an Australian National Data Commissioner will oversee Australia’s new data sharing and release framework, and ensure it has a strong foundation of privacy and security.

The National Data Commissioner’s role is to promote greater use of data, drive economic benefits and innovation from greater use of data, and build trust with the Australian community about the government’s use of data.

The Australian Government has also committed to introducing a Consumer Data Right — or CDR — and intends to promptly reintroduce legislation into Parliament to that effect.

The CDR will provide individuals and businesses with a right to directly access specified data relating to them held by businesses, and to authorise secure access to this data by accredited third parties.

The CDR will introduce strong privacy safeguards including customer consent requirements; mandatory accreditation of data recipients; information security standards; significant penalties for misconduct; external dispute resolution arrangements; and many others.

The CDR is initially being launched in the banking sector – where it is known as Open Banking – followed by the energy and telecommunications sectors. Other sectors will follow in due course.

The CDR recognises that consumers should have greater rights to realise the benefits in their own data – or to choose not to, depending upon their own preferences including their privacy preferences. And that choice should be a ‘genuine’ choice.

Improved access to data will also enable the development of better and more convenient products and services, customised to individuals’ needs.

Improved competition and data-driven innovation will support economic growth and create new high value jobs in Australia.

Better access to data will also support more efficient processes for businesses, with savings flowing through to Australian consumers. 

Of course, the Government can’t progress any of these initiatives, and help to grow the technology sector, without open and constructive relationships with those working in it.

In this regard, I assure you my door is always open and that I will work with you to ensure good outcomes for Australia.

With this in mind, I plan to convene a technology roundtable with industry leaders in the coming weeks to discuss and hopefully reach agreement on policy ideas to drive growth.

I look forward to hearing the ideas of industry leaders and to working together on solutions in the months and years ahead.

Together, we can drive the long-term development and adoption of technology across all sectors, and capitalise on the tremendous economic and social opportunities this offers.