Scott Morrison warns high-tech race must consider ‘ethical implications’ for human rights

Mr Morrison makes no direct mention of China in the extracts of his speech but alludes to Australia’s strained relationship with Beijing through a reference to “geostrategic competition”.

Concerns China is gaining a lead in critical technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum technology has resulted in the United States, Britain and now Australia scaling up investment and collaboration efforts.

Mr Morrison will also reference previous remarks by US President Joe Biden that the “new era” of this technological development poses the potential to “empower people or to deepen repression.” 

“We cannot shy away from the ethical implications,” Mr Morrison will say.

“We need to be asking ourselves what should be done with technology — not just what can be done.” 

The government’s critical technologies blueprint includes a list of 63 technologies. It has indicated it will focus on nine.

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These include quantum technologies, critical minerals extraction and processing, advanced communications (including 5G and 6G), artificial intelligence, cyber security technologies, genomics and genetic engineering, novel antibiotics, antivirals and vaccines, low emission alternative fuels, and autonomous vehicles, drones, swarming and collaborative robotics.

The plan will see Australia invest $100 million into quantum technology, including $70 million through a hub aimed at commercialising Australian research under an agreement with the United States.

“This is about capitalising on our competitive advantage and taking our research to the world,” Mr Morrison will say.

The prime minister will frame Australia’s AUKUS pact with the United States and Britain as a way to address technological disruption. 

He will also reveal that Australian officials will report back within a month on how to develop new capabilities in artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea drones under the defence pact.

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Mr Morrison will seek to promote Australia as a trusted and secure partner for like-minded countries to collaborate on these technologies.

“Australia knows that our future security and prosperity depends on us being part of the technological revolution shaping the world,” he will say.

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