There have been a range of guidance documents and lawsuits related to AI in Australia, including a class action settlement of $1.7 billion made by the Australian government. The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science published a discussion paper on Australia’s AI Ethics Framework in 2019 and an AI Action Plan in 2020. More recently, on 17 January 2024, the Australian Government published an interim response addressing concerns and recommendations related to the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the country. This response signals an intent to stay up to date with the opportunities and challenges associated with AI technologies.
The interim response is a strategic move by the Australian Government to bridge regulatory gaps in the rapidly evolving landscape of AI. While recognizing the positive impact of many low-risk AI applications, the government emphasizes the need for a robust regulatory framework to address potential harms caused by high-risk AI systems (such as those detailed in the EU AI Act), operating at unprecedented speed and scale. The response defines ‘high risk” as “systemic, irreversible or perpetual’. Examples include ‘the use of AI-enabled robots for medical surgery’ and ‘the use of AI in self-driving cars to make real-time decisions.
The response also mentions that the EU's Artificial Intelligence Act adopts a list-based approach, identifying specific AI uses deemed high-risk effects on the safety and rights of individuals. This includes use cases like critical infrastructure, medical devices, systems in education and recruitment, law enforcement tools, border control, administration of justice, biometric identification, and emotion recognition. It also mentions that in Canada's proposed AI legislation, the definition of a 'high-impact system' can be prescribed by regulation, and accompanying documents outline principles to assess if an AI system qualifies, considering potential harm to individuals' safety or rights.
The government engaged in extensive consultations from June 1 to August 4, 2023, seeking input from diverse stakeholders, including the public, advocacy groups, academia, industry, legal firms, and government agencies and consulted on its Safe and responsible AI in Australia discussion paper. These consultations include 3 Ministerial roundtables with 64 participants, 1 virtual town hall event with 345 participants, 4 in-person roundtables with 59 participants, 4 virtual roundtables with 81 participants and 510 online submissions from the public.
The submissions expressed excitement about AI's potential benefits in areas like healthcare, education, and productivity; however, concerns were raised about potential harms throughout its development. Examples include breaches of intellectual property laws during data collection, biases impacting model outputs, environmental impacts during training, and competition issues affecting consumers. Outputs may lead to individual harms like discrimination and systemic risks compromising political and social cohesion. These potential harms are leading to a consensus that regulatory guardrails are essential, especially for high-risk AI applications.
The interim response is guided by several key principles:
Building on the five principles above and insights from the consultation, the Australian Government set out some key specific measures that it proposes to take in its interim response:
The Australian Government is actively participating in global AI initiatives, including the Bletchley Declaration and collaborations with international partners. It is closely monitoring global developments, such as the EU's Artificial Intelligence Act, the US executive order on AI, and Canada's voluntary AI code of conduct.
By allocating $75.7 million (AUD) in funding for AI initiatives, the government aims to support the adoption and development of AI technologies. This includes:
It is mentioned in the response that private investment in AI in 2022 reached $1.9 billion, totalling $4.4 billion since 2013. The Australian Government will explore opportunities, including an AI Investment Plan, to further support AI adoption while ensuring necessary safeguards for trust and confidence.
To conclude, the Australian Government's interim response to safe and responsible AI reflects a balanced and forward-looking approach. The emphasis on collaboration, transparency, and international cooperation underscores Australia's commitment to addressing the challenges posed by AI while maximizing its potential benefits. This interim response serves as a crucial step towards establishing a comprehensive regulatory framework for the evolving AI landscape in Australia.
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DISCLAIMER: This blog article is for informational purposes only. This blog article is not intended to, and does not, provide legal advice or a legal opinion. It is not a do-it-yourself guide to resolving legal issues or handling litigation. This blog article is not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not provide legal advice regarding any situation or employer.
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