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Watch welcoming remarks and a speech to launch Australia’s AI Action.

MC: Mark Pesce, leading futurist, author, entrepreneur and innovator

Welcome to Country: Paul House, Ngambri-Ngunnawal custodian

Keynote speech: The Hon Christian Porter MP, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology




Text: TECHTONIC 2.0 – Australia’s National AI Summit – 18 June 2021. This session will commence shortly.

To the right is a collage of industry images, steelworks, coal truck, a woman piloting a drone.

A countdown appears, starting at 5 minutes. It counts down to zero and the Keynote begins.

A Webcam Broadcast begins, a middle-aged man stands in front of a white background wearing a dark suit and blue tie. In his left ear is a black earpiece.

Mark Pesce: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome. My name is Mark Pesce. I am the emcee and panel facilitator this afternoon and welcome to Techtonic 2.0, Australia's National Artificial Intelligence Summit. After a bit of a pause, we are back, we are better than before, we have a full afternoon coming up with lots of amazing speakers. But before we get into any of that, it is my great honour to introduce Paul House, custodian of the Ngambri-Ngunnawal with a welcome to country.

Description: The broadcast transitions to a middle-aged man in a tan suit, standing in front of an amber hexagonal background.

Paul House: (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) G'day. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) Ladies and gentlemen, young men, young women, distinguished guests, (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) My respects to Ngambri-Ngunnawal Walgalu-Wallabalooa Elders past and present. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) My respects to all Elders and all people from all parts of the country. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) Ngambri-Ngunnawal people welcome you all to Country.

This Welcome to Country is made in the spirit of peace and a desire for harmony for all people of the modern ACT and surrounds. And our main aim as local custodians is to establish an atmosphere of mutual respect through the acknowledgement of our Ancestors and the recognition of our rights to declare our special place in the pre and post-contact history of the region. We warmly welcome everyone now, living, working, and visiting on our ancestral lands. We have cared for Mother Earth since the dawn of time and evidence of our occupation, our sovereignty, our statehood can be seen everywhere throughout the land.

(SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) Respect, uphold, go slow, take responsibility. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) Respect can be found in the journey of the bogong moths in the mountains. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) Respect can be found in the grinding stone and the carved trees made long ago on country. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) Respect can be found in the rivers quietly moving through country. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) Looking to see, listening to hear, and learning to understand. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) A respectful way of life cares for country. (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) Respect is taking responsibility for the now, the past, and the future.

In conclusion, we talk about the law of the land. Giving respect and honour to all people and all parts of the country. Our signature is in the land, not just our DNA. Taking care of country is important to us all. In the spirit of peace and Reconciliation, I say, (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) welcome. And (SPEAKS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE) thank you.

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Mark Pesce: Thank you very much, Paul. Now, a few brief notes about the day today. This is an online event. It's a little different than maybe some of the other online events you've done because it's composed of a series of live streams. And there will be times when I will ask you to go to the next live stream. We will explain that in advance. Don't worry about it, but just know that that is coming up. Now, this is the first one. And if you can see and hear me, well done, you. You've done it alright.

We are shortly going to hear from the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. And then we're going to dive into the first of the panels of the day, which is all about the manufacturing applications of artificial intelligence. And when that panel concludes, we will head out after a brief break into four breakout panel sessions, which are focusing on the major themes that emerged from the consultations on the AI action plan.

So, those breakout sessions are responsible and ethical AI, research development and adoption, skills in the workforce, and delivering for all Australians. Make sure through all of this today that you keep your browser window open because that guarantees you'll be able to follow us wherever we go. Now, between each of the major sessions, there is a 15-minute break built into the program so that all the technical wizardry can happen behind the scenes. And also, so that all of you have time to switch between the live streams. Breakout sessions themselves will run for a full hour. And after they conclude, there'll be another 15-minute break. We will come back for the closing sessions. That's another live stream with a panel opening on the opportunities for Australia in artificial intelligence. Then a speech from the Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services, the Digital Economy, and Women's Economic Security. And then some closing observations and reflections on the day with the Chief Scientist of Australia.

Now, during the panel sessions, we invite you to pose questions to the panellists. On the right-hand side of your screen, you will see a tab that's marked Q&A. You can ask your own questions there, you can upvote questions that other people have asked there. Those will flow through and we'll have a chance to bring them to the panels. And if you have any trouble at any point today, joining or participating in today's program, just send off an email to And they will help you get sorted. Alright.

So, why are we here today? Well, back in November 2019, if you can remember that far back, because it really does seem like it was a world ago, and in this weird time, that was the pre-pandemic era, back then we actually held the first Techtonic event at Old Parliament House in Canberra. And I was lucky enough to be emcee of that event as well. We got some of the best minds of a country together to think about AI. And we got the opportunity to get them to think about some hard questions. Questions like, how can we increase the understanding and awareness of the benefits of AI among business decision-makers? How can we collaborate to accelerate the development and commercialisation of AI-based products and services? How can we increase the number of AI specialists that we need to build and deliver an AI-driven future? And how do we ensure that the benefits of AI are spread equitably across Australia?

These are big questions. And the answers to them, well, they have become the inputs to the policy development that followed. And that policy is now rolling out as implementation for taking Australia to the next level. And so, to discuss that policy and its implementation, and to help us understand what we're really aiming for in policy outcomes, I'd like to welcome to the Techtonic 2.0 stage, the Minister for the Department of Industry, Science and Technology, the Honourable Christian Porter MP. Take it away, Minister.

Description: The minister stands in a navy-blue suit and tie against a white background. He wears an earpiece on his right ear.

Christian Porter: Thank you very much, Mark, for that introduction. And if I might also just pay my respects to the Traditional Owners of the Australian lands past and present. It is a great pleasure to be able to address the National Summit on Artificial Intelligence. And I might commence by saying that as our economy becomes increasingly digital and data-driven, AI technologies will obviously continue to add to our prosperity and wellbeing and we will continue to be, they will continue to be very necessary as we recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, while AI was once only the subject of science fiction movies, admittedly, most of them dystopian, and then a tool, essentially, to beat grandmasters in chess, it's now undoubtedly making a range of very meaningful improvements in so many of our lives. Professionally, I am a lawyer. And so, it was with great interest that I recently read a consultancy group McKinsey report that estimated that 22% of a lawyer's job could conceivably be automated with the assistance of AI, a fact that no doubt many lawyers think is in itself dystopian.

But I think it goes to show the enormous impact that AI is going to have on productivity, on professional life, and on the Australian economy. And right now, AI is solving a whole range of national problems. It's improving our health, our safety, our businesses, and a few examples that I've seen in my time in this portfolio. For instance, entrepreneurs at the Sydney-based start-up DetectED-X are using AI to read lung scans. The CSIRO and the National Council for Emergency Services have partnered to develop a bushfire modelling and prediction tool called Spark operation. The Smart Shield Anti-Phishing System is a project using machine learning and AI to help businesses stay one step ahead of phishing scams.

So, the government has developed an AI action plan. And that is part of the government's $124 million commitment that was announced in the May budget to support the development and use of AI in Australia. I'm very pleased today to officially launch Australia's first-ever AI Action Plan. The government's AI Action Plan is the culmination of very considerable consultation, including with many of the people who are present on this online forum today. That consultation occurred through a process which commenced as part of the inaugural Techtonic summit. And late last year, the government called for many views, your views, on the development of an AI Action Plan. This saw around 90 submissions. And I'm sure many of you attending today would have been amongst those providing feedback. That process saw feedback from industry, academia, and civil society.

And I want to thank all of those who were part of that process for their contributions. Those contributions informed the government's approach and the measures that have now been developed. As a result of that process, the government identified four focus areas that will drive our decisions and support for AI, and which I will speak to. Those are first developing and adopting AI to transform Australian businesses.

Second, creating an environment to grow and attract the world's best AI talent. Thirdly, using cutting-edge AI technologies to solve Australia's national challenges. And fourth, making Australia a global leader in responsible and inclusive AI. So, with respect to developing and adopting AI to transform Australian businesses, our first focus area is driving the development and adoption of AI technologies to transform Australian businesses in a practical sense. The actions we are taking will support the uptake of AI across sectors and across industries in Australia. And that includes those AI businesses and start-ups working to develop the next breakthroughs in AI use.

It will also support our existing manufacturing industries to innovate using AI. And it also means encouraging the hundreds of thousands of small and medium-size enterprises around the country to see how incorporating AI can help their businesses. And the key way that we're doing this is the inclusion in this year's budget of $53.8 million to establish the National AI Centre and four AI and Digital Capability Centres.

The National AI Centre will coordinate the nation's AI expertise and capabilities and support businesses to develop and adopt AI technologies. The National AI Centre will be established within CSIRO’s Data61, and will be launched later in the year. The Centre will have amongst its core roles to support projects that lift AI business capability across multiple sectors, foster collaboration between businesses and researchers, increase commercialisation and attract investment, and work across Australia's entire AI ecosystem.

Our four capability centres will be industry-led partnerships. They will provide small and medium enterprises with connections to AI equipment, tools and research, access to advice and training, and links with AI experts. These four centres will be selected through an open competitive merit-based process, and will focus on specific areas of application of AI. The government will be opening applications for parties interested in hosting these AI and Digital Capability Centres in the coming months. So, last month's budget also included an additional $12 million to promote AI opportunities in our regions by co-funding up to 36 competitive grants to develop AI solutions that address our local or regional problems.

These grants will ensure the benefits of AI are developed in regional communities. Successful applicants will receive competitive co-funded grants of between $250,000 to $1 million. And joint applicants will be invited to apply. For example, a joint application with a regional business and research institution partners will be accepted. Applicants could include universities, public-funded research bodies, technology companies, or regional businesses, including SMEs and start-ups. These new initiatives build on work which is already underway to build Australia's AI capability. For example, the government has invested $43.7 million through cooperative research centre projects in 21 AI-focused projects.

This support has helped companies like Seeing Machines to develop new technologies. Their computer vision technology helps to monitor fatigue amongst commercial transport drivers and has reduced fatigue events by up to 90%. It is also important to recognise that these targeted investments are part of the government's broader policies that support innovations in AI right across the Australian economy. The prime example is our $1.5 billion modern manufacturing strategy, which is funding projects in areas that have the potential to deliver long-term transformational outcomes for the Australian economy.

These national manufacturing priorities are resources, technology, and critical minerals processing, food and beverages, medical products, recycling, and clean energy, defence, and space. There are already countless examples of how AI is improving each of these industries, whether that's working to detect brain aneurysms on scans faster, through the collaboration between Fujitsu Australia, GE Healthcare, Macquarie University, and Radian Network, or the AI-enabled autonomous sorting for plastic recycling that's occurring at advanced circular polymers in Victoria. And I'm sure that many of you would agree that AI has much more to offer each of these industry sectors.

I believe that AI could play an important role in bringing about transformative changes to Australian manufacturers in those six core areas. We're also supporting businesses to go digital, including the use of AI through our Digital Business-to-Business Partnership Initiative and our expanded Digital Solutions Advisory Services that will help 17,000 small businesses adopt new technologies. There are also the broader settings that we know help businesses of all shapes and sizes, including those focused on AI. Those settings range from our $600 million entrepreneurs program that delivers grants to help commercialisation, to tax settings that include the Research and Development Tax Incentive, and tax offsets and capital gains tax exemptions for venture capital investments.

With regard to creating an environment to grow and attract the world's best AI talent, our second focused area is ensuring our businesses have access to world-class AI expertise. Now, while Australia already produces some of the most talented AI professionals, the need for more expertise in AI is clear. To achieve this, the government is taking action that will ensure Australians have the skills to engage with the digital economy and to ensure that we are ready for the jobs of the future. This year's budget included our Next Generation AI Graduate program. That will provide $24.7 million to increase Australia's specialist AI talent through targeted scholarships. It will address industry skill shortages and train diverse cohorts of AI students on industry projects desired and needed by industry.

This investment will support 234 targeted scholarships. It will build Australia's pipeline of home-grown, job-ready AI specialists. We know that business have raised the shortage of top-end AI talent as a pressing barrier to the development of AI technology. It is our hope that this program will see high-performing students undertaking industry-focused research programs, projects, and placements to build real-world experience. And that it will provide a mechanism for industry to play a more hands-on role in developing this much-needed talent. Universities will be invited to apply to host these scholarships very soon. And the government looks forward to working with the sector on the delivery of this initiative.

That new commitment from this year's budget will build on existing commitments, including more than $200 million that has been awarded by the Australian Research Council on projects, linkages, and fellowships that involve AI since 2018, and the $20 million the government committed to establish the Centre for Augmented Reasoning at the University of Adelaide. As well as all of this, policies that help Australians improve their digital skills provide a range of pathways to improve AI literacy and education across a range of intensity levels. That includes projects directly focused on the development of cybersecurity skills, and the Digital Skills Cadetship Trial. It also includes the Skill Finder initiative that allows Australians to access free online courses provided by the world's leading tech companies, including courses on AI from Microsoft, Google, and IBM. And more broadly, our Job Ready Graduates package will include and ensure that Australian students have the skills needed most by employers. And our Job Trainer Fund is providing additional training places in fields such as IT. And at the same time, the government is continuing work on better translation and commercialisation of university research. With regards to using cutting-edge AI technologies to solve Australia's national challenges, our third focus area is about harnessing cutting-edge AI technologies to find solutions to known challenges. And the potential that AI has in this regard is something I'm sure I don't need to convince anyone here of. So, we are investing $33.7 million in new funding announced in last month's budget to support Australian business to partner with government, to pilot projects that will use AI to solve important national challenges, which will be determined by government.

Challenges will focus on the industry sectors of AI specialisation identified in the AI Technology Roadmap, national science and research priorities, CSIRO missions, as well as supporting the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. Australian government agencies will work with successful grantees to implement the pilot projects. At the conclusion of the pilot government, agencies will have an opportunity to procure the AI solution, and grantees will retain the intellectual property of their solution, providing them, very importantly, with an opportunity to commercialise their work. This measure again builds on existing policies of the government.

Already, government-funded initiatives, such as CSIRO’s Machine Learning and AI Future Science Platform, the Medical Research Future Fund, and investments in AI to support Defence are helping Australia address significant national issues through artificial intelligence. Other measures across government are providing the platform to solve very significant problems. That ranges from our National Digital Health Strategy, to our Business Research and Innovation Initiative. Another new initiative as part of our Digital Economy Strategy was our Digital Atlas of Australia.

Through this, the government will deliver a three-dimensional digital atlas of Australia's geography, bringing together the wealth of government data on people, the economy, employment, infrastructure, health, land, and environment into a single national data asset. With regard making Australia a global leader in responsible and inclusive AI, our final focus area is on making sure Australia is a leader in responsible and inclusive use and development of AI. So, while the potential for AI is obviously extraordinary, that potential could conceivably be undermined if there is a lack of trust in the technology.

The government released our AI Ethics Framework in 2019 to guide businesses and governments developing and implementing AI in Australia. The AI Ethics Framework affirms our commitment to the OECD Principles on AI, to promote that AI is innovative, trustworthy, and that it respects human rights and democratic values. The government will continue to encourage the take-up of these principles, both within government, but also within industry. A number of companies have been piloting these principles in the course of their businesses, and the government has today published case studies from those pilots. Ultimately, however, it is most important that the benefits of AI continue to be promoted and shared.

This, of course, must be promoted by ensuring that broader and policies best balance the importance and value of information sharing with protections for individuals. And the government is seeking to achieve this through measures such as the Privacy Act, our Australian Data Strategy, and Consumer Data Rights. But to truly develop AI that's responsible and inclusive, it must not only be for all Australians, but by all Australians. And most notably, we know that women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields, including amongst the information and computer technology workforce.

So, as part of our policies to address that disparity, the government has announced the boosting of the next generation of women in STEM program. And as part of last month's budget, that program will be provided with $42.4 million to support around 500 industry-led scholarships for women in STEM disciplines. This initiative will build on other measures that aim to support female start-ups and entrepreneurs, such as the boosting female founders and women in STEM and entrepreneurship grants.

So, by way of conclusion, through the actions being taken under each of these four focus areas and the very significant ongoing investment in the uptake and development of AI that goes with them, the Morrison Government believes that Australia can become a world-leading digital economy and society and a global leader in the development and adoption of trusted, secure, and responsible AI. But, of course, this goal is not going to be possible without the incredibly vital role of so many of you here today that you have already played, and the vital role that so many of you will continue to play.

It would not be possible without your passion for this field, without your brilliant ideas, without the support that you provide to each other within the ecosystem, and without your desire to make sure it's developed for the benefit of our society. So, I thank you all for your contributions. I hope that this summit provides an opportunity for you to further reflect, learn, and test views on how best to harness the values of AI. And I believe that together we can help make Australia a world-leading AI nation and set ourselves up for the economic and human value that it can deliver. Mark, thank you again for your invitation to be here.

Description: The Minister closes his journal and the broadcast transitions back to Mark.

Mark Pesce: Thank you very much, Minister. The Minister has laid out a vision for the future. And he's given us a lot to think about. I have to say that listening to that presentation, I really find very resonant the idea of using AI to solve the national challenges. And we've got no shortage of those, because it sounds like it's a great approach to help the public understand and appreciate and support a future that looks increasingly as though will be driven by AI.

And Australia, the country of the fair go, it is well-placed to be able to lead efforts to define, and more importantly, to co-design responsible AI. But now, let's take those questions and those points to the opening panel. Well, almost time to do that. As I mentioned, there is one little bit of technical wizardry. Before we go into the opening panel session, you need to tap on the live stream button that you can see. I think it's on the left-hand side of your screen.

When this session ends, and that this session will come to an end in a moment, you'll see. And that will automatically take you to the next session. And I will see you in the opening panel in just a moment.


Description: The Webcam Broadcast transitions back to the opening title card, a collage of industry images on the right, on the left, text reads.

Text: TECHTONIC 2.0 – Australia’s National AI Summit – 18 June 2021. This session has now concluded. Thank you for joining.

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