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The NSW government should look both abroad and at home for guidance on how to regulate burgeoning artificial intelligence (AI) technology rather than “reinvent the wheel”, the Law Society’s President has urged.

Brett McGrath called for a unified approach to AI regulation in Australia during a parliamentary inquiry on Monday, where he was joined by the Chair of the Law Society’s Privacy and Data Law Committee, Olga Ganopolsky.  

McGrath urged the NSW Upper House to consider the findings of various AI reviews, including the federal government’s Safe and Responsible use of AI in Australia consultation and suggested NSW policymakers look abroad for inspiration such as the European Union’s stricter Artificial Intelligence Act and the UK’s more relaxed approach to AI regulation. 

“These contrasting approaches provide NSW with a useful point of comparison as the Inquiry, and later, the Government decides on the best approach to take to AI regulation.” he told the inquiry. 

McGrath has made AI and its impact on the legal profession a key focus of his presidency. To address this, he has established an AI Taskforce – a group of technology and legal specialists who will serve as trusted advisors, providing the Law Society, and ultimately NSW solicitors, with expert guidance on how AI will reshape legal practice and the justice system. 

“AI brings with it many challenges and opportunities, and appropriately flexible, scalable and principles-based regulation will help ensure that the community can both reap the benefits of AI and be protected from its potential threats,” McGrath said.  

“The NSW Parliament should build upon and adapt existing approaches that are emerging both in Australian and international jurisdictions, and seek consistency with respect to privacy, cyber-security, consumer rights and human rights law.” 

McGrath also welcomed the Inquiry’s review of the Government’s NSW AI Strategy, Assurance Framework and Mandatory Ethical Principles for the use of AI.  

“NSW is well placed to take a leading role in addressing the impact of AI activity, for the benefit of our economy and local communities.” he said. 

He suggested consideration be given to the proposal in the James Martin Institute report, and that NSW Government’s procurement frameworks could be utilised to help shape the market towards ethical and responsible products and socially beneficial outcomes. 

McGrath stated that the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme, exemplified the need for ethical AI, notably proposing legislative reform to introduce a consistent legal framework for automation in the delivery of government services. 

“Citizens should know when and how automated decision making is significantly affecting their human rights and how and why they are being singled out for differential treatment,” he said.  

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Olga Ganopolsky (left) with Brett McGrath (right) at the Artificial Intelligence In New South Wales inquiry