AI Expert Group terms of reference

About the temporary Artificial Intelligence (AI) Expert Group’s role, function, operations, deliverables and term.

Context

AI systems and applications are helping to improve wellbeing, quality of life and grow our economy but the current regulatory framework likely does not sufficiently address known risks presented by AI systems, which enable actions and decisions to be taken at a speed and scale that hasn’t previously been possible (particularly in high-risk settings). 

Submissions to the Safe and responsible AI in Australia discussion paper outlined that when AI is used in legitimate, but high-risk contexts, harms can be difficult or impossible to reverse such that specific guardrails for AI design, development, and deployment may be needed. Submissions called for guardrails targeting legitimate but high-risk uses of AI as well as unforeseen risks from powerful ‘frontier’ models.

We also heard that voluntary guardrails may not be enough and mandatory guardrails may be needed. These should target high-risk settings and allow low-risk innovation to flourish largely unimpeded.

Purpose and objective

The purpose of the group is to provide advice to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources (DISR) on immediate work to develop options for mandatory guardrails to ensure the design, development and deployment of AI systems in high-risk settings is safe.

The group is a temporary, non-statutory, non-remunerated, independent, skills-based group. It is not a decision-making group and has no governing legislation.

Membership

Group members are appointed by Helen Wilson, Deputy Secretary of the Science & Technology Group at DISR. Secretariat functions will be performed by DISR.

As per the letter of offer, individuals have been invited to join the group for their expertise and experience. However, there is acknowledgement of the benefit of having observers from representative organisations attend to support their group member. The attendance of observers must be agreed by the chair.

Role and function

The group will provide verbal and/or written advice to DISR on the development of regulatory measures to support the safe and responsible use of AI, in high-risk settings. Areas of engagement would include (but not be limited to):

The current and emerging risks presented by AI in Australia (with a focus on those not adequately addressed by existing legislation) and solutions to mitigate those risks (including options on mandatory guardrails).

Term

The group will operate until 30 June 2024. 

Prior to this date the department will consult the Minister for Industry and Science on options to establish a permanent expert advisory body to provide regulators and policymakers with access to ongoing, multi-disciplinary, technical, and regulatory expertise on AI.

Meetings

  • The group will meet every four weeks to 6 May 2024 and then every six weeks thereafter.
  • The chair may call additional meetings and on an as needed basis.
  • Meetings will be held virtually or in-person in Canberra. 
  • The chair or secretariat may seek direct engagement with members between meetings, particularly where specific expertise is sought.
  • Any commercial in confidence material will be clearly identified and will not be published. 
  • Conflicts of interests will be considered at each meeting and monitored throughout the term of the group. 

DISR will provide secretariat support to the group. This will include support in setting up meetings, researching and compiling supporting materials.

Deliverables

The group will be required to provide targeted advice, in the form of verbal discussions and/or written advice, consistent with the purpose/objective.

Media requests

Group members are to refer all media inquiries relating to the group to the chair or DISR’s media team via media@industry.gov.au or phone 02 6213 6308 (transfers to 0417 329 522 outside business hours).

Amendment, modification or variation

The terms of reference may be amended, modified or varied at any time by consensus. 

In the event that consensus is not achieved, the chair retains final say.

Conflict of interest

Members of the group must comply with the Department’s Conflicts of Interest Policy and sign the Conflict of Interest Declaration and Deed of Confidentiality, and Acknowledgement laid out in the letter of offer.

Duties of members

Members of the group must comply with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and act in accordance with the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct. 

Members are also expected to comply with all relevant legislation of the Commonwealth or of any state, territory or local authority. This includes the Crimes Act 1914, Privacy Act 1988, Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

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