Melbourne promised AI centre if Labor wins election

Labor has reminded voters of its plans to open a National Centre of Artificial Intelligence Excellence if it assumes government next month, flagging Melbourne as its home.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal opposition has reminded Australia of its AU$3 million pledge to stand up a National Centre of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Excellence if it wins the upcoming federal election.

The centre, slated to call Melbourne home, will also receive a AU$1 million investment from the Victorian government, providing Labor assumes government. The state government said its investment will be used to help identify and establish a location for the new national centre and bring together businesses, startups, and tertiary institutions to make it successful.

"Australia needs a Centre like this to draw together thinking and AI related work across the country and put it to work for our economy and community," a statement from Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said.

"Importantly, we need to ensure we unite business, unions, and governments on this, thinking ahead about the impact of AI and making sure everyone benefits."

Additionally, Bowen said Labor has "begun the first wave of discussions" with major tech firms to support investment in startups looking to apply AI for social good.

See also: Microsoft backs six Aussie environment-focused AI projects

The AI centre was originally announced in July, with Shadow Minister for Human Services and the Digital Economy Ed Husic saying at the time the artificial intelligence-focused initiative will aim to boost local research efforts and skirt the loss of jobs AI is feared to cause.

Earlier this month, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) highlighted a need for development of AI in Australia to be wrapped with a sufficient framework to ensure nothing is set onto citizens without appropriate ethical consideration.

Data61, CSIRO's digital innovation arm, published a discussion paper on the key issues raised by large-scale AI, seeking answers to a handful of questions that are expected to inform the government's approach to AI ethics in Australia.

Highlighted by CSIRO are eight core principles that will guide the framework: That it generates net-benefits, does no harm, complies with regulatory and legal requirements, appropriately considers privacy, boasts fairness, is transparent and easily explained, contains provisions for contesting a decision made by a machine, and that there is an accountability trail.

The announcement from Labor follows a promise earlier in the month that if it assumes office at the next election, any Commonwealth automation initiatives will be undertaken under close human supervision.

"We will make sure that if we are afforded government that any of these issues will have a human eye overseeing automation. That is our commitment and it is a very important one for people who are welfare recipients," Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney said, pointing to the government's data-matching "robo-debt" saga.


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