Govt has lost sight of Australia’s AI opportunity

Aaron Violi

There aren’t many one-year-olds that can punch out a poem and write an essay in three seconds flat. In fact, ChatGPT has accomplished a lot in its first year around the sun.

The rise of generative AI has made employees fearful for their jobs, created an ethical dilemma for university lecturers, and taken away our ability to trust what we think and see.

On the other hand, it has also helped Australians generate educational and business ideas, answered questions in record speed and helped automate many monotonous tasks.

But the one thing ChatGPT has failed to do in its first year is make the Albanese Government act.

The Albanese Government has been silent on AI since its Safe and Responsible AI in Australia discussion paper was released last June. Until last week. But its interim response is all about the downside.

Federal member for Casey Aaron Violi

In 2022-23, labour productivity fell 2.9 per cent, the largest fall since the Australian Bureau of Statistics began recording this number more than 25 years ago.

Given the immense opportunity for productivity growth artificial intelligence presents, one could be forgiven for thinking the government had spent the last seven months developing AI policy to protect citizens from harm while maximising these opportunities.

But as the interim response to the AI discussion paper released on 17 January made clear, this government has wasted a year distracted with the wrong priorities.

The 25-page interim report includes just one small paragraph on maximising the benefits of AI, which fails to detail any immediate gains for the Australian economy.

The government is right to look to protect Australians from the harms of AI. However, they continue to overlook the opportunities and remain fixated on their harm-focused approach.

Australia needed the government to come out with detailed policies that would allow our citizens to work smarter, and to grow a future-ready workforce. Instead, this government’s headline winning idea was to form yet another advisory committee.

Not only has the it failed to deliver outcomes – but they have failed to even give a timeline for any future outcomes from their committee.

Our nation cannot afford to wait months or years for outcomes on AI that is rapidly evolving before our eyes.

With each development comes increased risks to privacy, copyright, ethics, business and cyber-security, but also increased opportunities for Australian businesses, developers and the economy more broadly.

When Australian tech businesses have certainty on AI regulation, they can invest in products, get more Australians into work, and begin paving the way to Australia’s digital future.

By putting these decisions off, the government is only hindering productivity and business growth.

The government should look at AI through a lens of opportunity – to work smarter, to create new jobs and to automate the mundane tasks that give Australians more time to spend doing the things they enjoy.

If we focus purely on the harms, we risk stifling innovation that underpins our future, including under Pillar Two of the AUKUS agreement, which will see AI and quantum significantly bolster our national security.

The Albanese Government has the wrong priorities when it comes to AI. We must balance the harms with the opportunities – it is our future at stake.

Aaron Violi MP was elected to the Victorian seat of Casey at the 2022 federal election. He previously worked in the technology sector, and is co-chair of the Parliamentary Friendship Group on Tech and Innovation.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

Leave a Comment

Related stories