Bran Black interview with Deborah Knight, Money News, 2GB

17 January 2024

Event: Bran Black interview with Deborah Knight, Money News, 2GB
Speakers: Business Council of Australia Chief Executive, Bran Black; Deborah Knight host, Money News, 2GB
Topic: AI


Deborah Knight host, Money News, 2GB: The Business Council of Australia today also welcomed the Government's response, saying that AI will, “play a crucial role in Australia's future economic success and prosperity.” I'm joined now by the BCA’s Chief Executive, Bran Black. Bran, great to have you with us here on Money News.

Business Council of Australia Chief Executive, Bran Black: Thanks very much. It's great to be here.

Deborah: So, are businesses excited or a bit wary about the potential for AI?

Bran: I think businesses are saying that what we've seen today is the Government taking the right balanced approach to regulating a technology that's going to – which is already – starting to change our lives on an everyday basis. It's important to remember that we're still going to be coming to grips with what the technology means now and into the future, in the years ahead, and in the decades ahead. So, what we need is an approach that locks in the type of supports that are required to regulate those higher risk areas, but also allows the type of flexibility that’s needed to account for the challenges and the opportunities of the future.

Deborah: Does the regulation we're talking about, though, in this response from the Government allow your members to be as competitive as they can be on a global scale?

Bran: I think it sets us up quite well, and it does that in a couple of different ways. In the first instance, the Minister has spoken about the need to make sure that there are guardrails around higher risk areas, such as Law Enforcement and Defence. What he's also spoken about is the need to make sure that we, wherever possible, use existing laws and regulations and we've got to remember that we already have quite a lot of those. For example, we've got a Federal Privacy Act, and we know that the United States Government doesn't. We've also got other rules and laws in the context of consumer protection and so on that play a role also. So, it's important that we make sure that we don't overly regulate in this space, that we use existing regulation wherever possible. And the final point, which I think is really critical, is that the Government has spoken about having an advisory body, which is key, because it means that we'll be nimble and agile in our response to the emerging challenges and opportunities. As I mentioned before, there are going to be matters that arise that we can't even anticipate.

Deborah: Yes, that’s the thing.

Bran: Yes, absolutely. So, it's important that we have that flexibility in our approach as we move forward. And that means I think it's going to be really key that that advisory body has direct access to Government, that there's a lot of engagement with industry so if issues arise, they can be dealt with quickly.

Deborah: Because that's the thing with the regulation side of the ledger, because regulating something that we don't really know what we're dealing with is problematic in itself. And we've seen from Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic today, he sounded this warning to businesses, saying that those who did the wrong thing, it could end up leading to tougher laws for everyone. Do you really think that's the right approach for the Government to take? Particularly since we're just at the start of this whole thing?

Bran: Well, I think that's the key point, we are just at the start. It goes back to making sure that we've got that type of nimble and agile regulatory response at hand through the advisory body. It will be important to make sure that the right people in organisations are represented on that body so that the issues can be dealt with quickly. But I'm confident that if that nimble and agile response is taken, then we should be able to navigate our way through what is an extremely challenging area of policy.

Deborah: Because the potential for this is enormous. The interim response today, the Government saying that artificial intelligence has the potential to add up to $600 billion to GDP by 2030. And that's a big pool. I know a lot of your members would want to be diving straight in.

Bran: Absolutely, we already see AI providing benefits on a day-to-day basis in the context of self-driving vehicles on mines and farms that help keep people out of harm's way. AI that’s detecting scams and stopping them in our banks and telcos. And of course, AI that's helping doctors detect cancer. I was speaking with one of our manufacturing members, just a couple of weeks ago, who was saying to me that he introduced AI into his business a couple of years ago, and what he has seen is that he was able to transition over the lower skilled workers in his company into higher skilled jobs. And as a consequence of that, they are now earning more, doing more skilled work and getting more fulfillment out of their day-to-day jobs. So, we see AI as being one of these really powerful technologies that can help support people as they go about their work day-to-day. And the consequence of that, as we see it, is that we will ultimately have more productivity, as you've said, and higher living standards, better jobs, greater prosperity.

Deborah: I'm still getting my head around making sure that my teenage kids don't use it to cheat on their essays at school. But that's a whole other matter. But regulation, we know that you'd want to get this underway up and running as soon as possible. But have you been given any indication of when we might have these regulations sorted and operating?

Bran: I don't have any indication at this particular point, but we'll certainly be looking to be engaged and involved and to assist the Minister and the Government in these efforts as much as we possibly can. I might just add a point if I can to your comment regarding teenagers and essay writing, because I'm in a similar position myself. I was recently speaking with one of our university members who was saying that one of his lecturers was using AI to ask students to develop an essay response using the technology, but then to augment that response with their own efforts. So that they were getting the best out of the technology, but also using that as a basis for providing their own input. And I think that's such a nice way of looking at the potential for AI across the economy, it gives us a starting point for doing even more than what we're currently doing right now.

Deborah: That's the key, using it to help us not to stymie what we can actually do, and the same with the regulation, making sure that doesn't stymie the potential here. Bran great to talk, thank you so much for joining us.

Bran: It’s a pleasure, anytime.


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