Australia

Labor's AI centre to prevent 'robodebt'

Labor will build an artificial intelligence centre of excellence to help prevent more "robodebt" disasters happening in government and business.

A new artificial intelligence (AI) centre of excellence will be tasked with preventing another "robodebt" disaster if Labor wins the federal election.

The AI centre will be based in Melbourne with a $3 million commitment from Labor and $1 million from the Victorian government.

Labor's digital technology spokesman Ed Husic said the centre will devise a strategy for ethical use of artificial intelligence in Australian government and business.

"The application of tech within government and decision-making processes is a smart thing - if it can make decisions quicker, more efficiently, great," he told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

"But systems have to get designed by someone, you have to think through the end-to-end process."

The Centrelink "robodebt" system attracted severe criticism for demanding payment for old debts, despite many people not actually owing money to the government.

Some had payments cut unfairly, while others went through a bureaucratic nightmare trying to get false debts removed.

"Robodebt is a classic case of where a system was set up where the thinking hadn't been done early on," Mr Husic said.

"What would happen if a decision went wrong and how would an ordinary person be able to make contact with someone to get that corrected?"

Mr Husic said the centre's mission will be to help avoid the "dumb decisions" that occur with badly-designed AI, and he flagged laws to tackle bad behaviour from businesses.

"You just can't expect that if you have the ethical framework in place that businesses will always make the right decision," he said.

"Law will have to be there in those cases where things don't operate the way you want it to."

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