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Australian government stands up new expert AI group

The group will offer advice on the transparency and accountability of artificial intelligence (AI) development, but opposition ministers call it a “missed opportunity”.

user icon David Hollingworth
Thu, 15 Feb 2024
Australian government stands up new expert AI group
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The federal government has announced the creation of a new AI expert group to offer advice on the topic to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

The group first met on 2 February and will continue offering advice on ethics, law, and AI technology until 30 June 2024.

The working group consists of 12 members, including the CSIRO’s chief scientist, Professor Bronwyn Fox; the chair of Australia’s national AI standards committee, Aurélie Jacquet; and Indigenous cultural and intellectual property expert Dr Terri Janke.


Ed Husic, Minister for Industry and Science, said the group “brings the right mix of skills to steer the formation of mandatory guardrails for high-risk AI settings”.

“With expertise in law, ethics and technology, I’m confident this group will get the balance right,” Minister Husic said in a statement.

“It’s imperative sophisticated models underpinning high-risk AI systems are transparent and well tested.”

The creation of the group comes as some observers predict a coming boom in AI applications, which will, in turn, require greater oversight as AI becomes intertwined with more and more parts of the economy.

“In the year ahead, a wave of AI systems based on a variety of agent architectures will emerge,” according to Babak Hodjat, chief technology officer of AI at Cognizant.

“These systems will be heavily customised to specific industries and domains and will be focused on executing tasks and streamlining workflows. While businesses have much to gain from generalised AI focused on horizontal operations like programming copilots or document retrieval using Retrieval Augmented Generation, the world of specialised AI agent systems will be an increasingly exciting area of application development,” Hodjat said via email.

“We’ll start to see more of these agents deployed to perform critical, specialised tasks – like updating CRM systems, analysing and responding to audio recordings from customer service calls, enabling a conversational interface for an ERP system, sustainable land use management, or augmenting and improving marketing budget decisions.”

However, while the federal opposition welcomes the new group, it also has concerns over its efficacy given its six-month remit.

“This is another example of the Albanese government putting a complex policy issue in the too-hard basket. After a lengthy consultation and industry submissions, the best Labor can do is announce an advisory body,” said shadow minister for the digital economy Paul Fletcher in a statement.

“Labor wasted 2023, and it looks like 2024 isn’t shaping up to be any better. The new advisory body is comprised of esteemed individuals, but how can the public and industry expect serious public policy advice to be given to government on AI when the body is scheduled to cease on 30 June 2024?”

Shadow minister for communications David Coleman was similarly unimpressed by the move, saying Australia is being left behind the rest of the world.

“At a time when we need outcomes, not process, we’ve seen basically nothing from this government in the last year,” Coleman said.

“Holding roundtables, commissioning reports and announcing advisory bodies is not the dynamic action that is required on such a critical issue.

“Australia is being left behind by other countries on developing serious policies related to AI.”

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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