Labor has given a lukewarm welcome to Scott Morrison’s modest commitment to a National Artificial Intelligence Centre but says government must get past announcements and onto delivery.
Shadow industry minister Ed Husic says Labor has said for years that Australia needed a national approach to building capability in artificial intelligence, backed up by serious investment.
But he says government had a poor track record of delivery in building local industry and chipped the Prime Minister for overseeing industry policy focused on adopting technology from overseas, rather than creating technology and supporting industry here.
The government on Thursday unveiled a $1.2 billion Digital Economy Strategy as a pre-budget drop. The strategy is a broad swag of spending initiatives ranging from run-of-business programs in government like the myGov redevelopment and digital identity, to the creation of a National AI Centre in the CSIRO, supported by a network of AI and Digital Capability Centres.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement was little more than a spruiking of multinational tech companies, saying that Australian businesses have digitally transformed the way they operate by using apps like UberEats or Deliveroo,” Mr Husic told InnovationAus.
“We can’t have a Prime Minister that is more energetic about international apps than nurturing Australian-led tech and innovation,” he said, calling Scott Morrison the “cheerleader-in-chief” for app stores.
“Scott Morrison has previously said he wants Australia to be the best at adopting technology from overseas, we need to recognise the potential Australia has to create and innovate in these spaces.”
“We need to develop this [tech] here. We have smart people in this country that are doing great work here that need to be celebrated, and more importantly, supported.”
Mr Husic, who was the architect of Labor’s national AI centre of excellence plan taken to the 2019 election said the national approach is welcome, but delivery is consistently a problem for the Coalition.
“Federal Labor has said for years that when it comes to artificial intelligence, we need a national approach, backed up by serious investment.
“We’ve seen what happens with this government’s strategies. Take for example the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. Sold with the headline figure of $1.5 billion, however, only $70 million is actually going out the door.
“The devil is always in the detail with this government.”