Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention – Speech – 3 April 2024

Department of Health

*Check against delivery*

Good morning.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging and paying my respects to the traditional custodians owners of the land on which we meet – the Darkinjung People.

I extend that respect to all First Nations People here today.

And, as Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, I also want to acknowledge health workers in the room, people with lived experience of mental health.

Thank you for the invitation to speak today and to share some insights from my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic.

AI presents opportunities to grow our economy, create jobs and make our lives better.

And new AI is on the way, with the rise of generative AI.

It will continue to affect us all.

It can help businesses boost productivity, improve decision-making and provide a personalised customer experience.

But what are the risks of AI adoption?

I’m sure we’ve all heard stories of rogue chatbots, offensive AI-generated images and introduced biases discriminating on the basis of age, gender, or race.

How do we balance regulation and innovation?

Less than a year ago, the Albanese Government sought feedback on its Safe and responsible AI in Australia discussion paper.

The submissions made it clear that AI is helping to improve wellbeing and quality of life, as well as growing our economy.

However, the clear message from our community is that current regulation does not adequately address the risks of AI.

The Australian Government’s interim response outlines the principles to support safe and responsible AI.

The principles include a risk-based approach to ensure the safety of users in high risk settings.

Additionally, the principals call for AI development and implementation to be balanced and proportionate, while seeking out opportunities for public involvement.

And finally, the Government will work towards making Australia a trusted international partner, while putting the needs, abilities, and social context of our community first.

We plan to strengthen laws to safeguard citizens and work internationally to support safe use of AI, but also recognise the need to allow low-risk AI to save business time and effort.

A recent NSW Small Business Commission survey found one in four businesses are using AI.

Almost half of these users report a positive impact on their business.

For businesses that haven’t yet explored AI, the ‘National AI Centre and the Institute of Applied Technology – Digital’ have scholarships in AI training.

This free education for small to medium business is available online now through TAFE NSW.

In my areas of responsibly, including rural and regional health, AI is already used to improve diagnostics, in personalised medicine, and telemedicine.

AI may help solve persistent challenges in health, such as accessibility for people living in regional and more remote parts of Australia.

It can relieve workforce shortages; administrative burden; and complexity of care.

In mental health care, the Government is making significant investments in digital solutions to help people safely navigate mental health services.

As a specialist mental health pharmacist, I know how challenging it can be for people to find the right care, especially in crisis.

That’s why in December we announced $475.1 million over 5 years for national digital crisis services and digital mental health reform.

I look forward to seeing innovative solutions.

Enjoy this summit. The program looks fascinating.

I hope it gives you ideas and opportunities for greater productivity and creativity in your business.

There’s much common ground on AI between the Australian Government and industry.

I look forward to working together to maximise the benefits of Artificial Intelligence on the Central Coast.

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