2CC Breakfast with Stephen Cenatiempo Tuesday 11 June - Transcript


SUBJECTS: Prevalence of AI jobs in Australian economy, Coalition advocating austerity measures, Peter Dutton abandoning climate change targets, reform of the NDIS, impact of renewables on ACT power prices.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: All right, time to talk federal politics with the assistant Minister for competition charities and Treasury and member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh. Andrew, good morning.


CENATIEMPO: Quite a number of things to talk about this morning. Artificial intelligence at work, changing demand for AI skills in job advertisements. Talk to us about this.

LEIGH: I'm doing a speech at the Reserve Bank - ABS conference this evening, talking about the prevalence of AI jobs in the Australian economy. For all the talk about AI, it's actually a surprisingly small share of all new job ads that are posted. We estimate that around one in 600 new jobs are AI jobs: that is, jobs where the main work of the job is AI. So, Australians seem to be using AI quite a lot in our day-to-day activities, but the number of AI specialists is surprisingly small.

CENATIEMPO. So, what are you hoping to achieve here? What are you suggesting? That there should be more jobs dedicated to AI, or that AI hasn't infiltrated the marketplace yet?

LEIGH: This is really just a piece of analysis, just looking at how the world is, rather than arguing about how the world should be. It's for a conference that's being pulled together to look at human capital. I think it's really important that we understand what the jobs pipeline is looking like. I do hope that there are more of those sort of jobs in the future, but actually, over recent years, the numbers have turned down rather than gone up.

CENATIEMPO: What do you class as an AI job? Give me an example.

LEIGH: There's two ways of doing it. One uses an OECD approach, which looks at various particular skills that are listed in the job ad. The other way is just a simple approach of saying: what share of jobs listed online contain the words ‘artificial intelligence’? Either way, you get a similar answer -- somewhere around one in 600 jobs being an AI job.

CENATIEMPO: And I guess this would require further analysis to probably answer this accurately. But I imagine you have some idea of it. Is an AI job somebody that would predominantly use artificial intelligence in the carriage of their duties, or is it a job that is effectively replacing other jobs with artificial intelligence, so to speak?

LEIGH: That's a great question. So, that's where we're going next, is to look at job growth within those occupations. To try and figure out whether the occupations with more AI jobs are shrinking or growing. I can tell you right now that AI jobs are big in areas like mathematical sciences, life sciences, and interestingly, for music professionals as well, seem to be some areas where particular AI skills are sought after.

CENATIEMPO: Which is interesting because, I mean, in mathematics, it stands to reason that if you can use artificial intelligence to, I guess, augment the study or the analysis, so to speak. But it does concern me that musical professionals AI is being used in music, and I imagine that's a concern to a lot of music artists as well.

LEIGH: I suspect it would be although there's some fascinating work around. Holly Herndon is one of the up-and-coming AI art music artists. Her work is super interesting, producing stuff that you'd never be able to produce using regular humans and regular instruments.

CENATIEMPO: Yeah, okay. All right. Well, I guess it's, you know, the modern version of the Moog synthesiser, isn't it? It's, you know, you and I are both old enough to remember, but most people these days maybe not.

LEIGH: Were there any other instrument in 1980s music?

CENATIEMPO: No. Well, not between 1980 and about 1984. No, there wasn't. That's right. Particularly when it comes to Italian pop music was. Yeah. Anyway, that's less we talk about that the better. Now, there's been a lot of talk. The UK foreign secretary and former conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has been in Australia recently and had talks with Peter Dutton. There's talk from Coalition backbenchers that the Coalition should go to the election with a cost cutting plan or an austerity plan, for lack of a better way of putting it, shouldn't all governments be austere in some way, shape or form?

LEIGH: We're always looking at ways in which we can operate more effectively and efficiently, Stephen, and that's why we've got tax cuts coming in on the 1 July, which will put more money back in every taxpayer’s pockets. But the idea that we ought to be ripping money out of the economy when we just had a GDP growth figure of 0.1% is completely wrong headed. It's the wrong plan for the times from people who simply don't understand how tough Australian households are doing it right now.

CENATIEMPO: Well, but ripping money out of the economy, I mean, and I've said this from the very beginning, and the Reserve Bank has said the same, that inflation has largely been driven by government spending. Governments need to control their spending. Not necessarily we in the community. Because, I mean, the average putter out there, there is very little that we can cut. We left that we can cut, but governments can trim a lot of fat.

LEIGH: And we've certainly done that. And cracking down on the sports rorts, the car park rorts, all of the cost blowouts caused by the Coalition's overspending on consultants and contractors. That's been a big part of the first three Labor Budgets.

CENATIEMPO: Hang on, I've got to pull you up on that, because when you say sports rorts and car parks rorts, I mean, they're just media terminology that money was still going to be spent if you were in government. It just was going to be spent somewhere else.

LEIGH: Well, wherever we could, we pulled back money from programs that just didn't have a clear purpose. We looked at the infrastructure pipeline. We're very rigorous about which projects were viable to go ahead and which weren't, and a lot of things were announced, but not very many that had been carefully funded for the feasibility studies. So, we have been making those tough decisions as a government since coming to office.

CENATIEMPO: Except for the NDIS, it would appear.

LEIGH: Well, with the NDIS, Bill Shorten's doing a power of work getting it under control, appointing people who are looking at the rorts. I mean, the reason that you're talking about these rorts in the NDIS is that Bill Shorten's been appointing key people who've been looking into some of the problems.

CENATIEMPO: We've been talking about it for years, Andrew. Don't worry about that.

LEIGH: Well, we're certainly aware that there is work to be done in the NDIS. We're also aware that this is an incredibly important scheme for people with disabilities and their families. So, we've got to get this right.

CENATIEMPO: All right. Okay. Now, the other talk around at the moment is the Paris Agreement. Now, I know that your government is all in favor of being a part of these Paris Agreements, and there is talk within the Coalition they're going to pull out of them. But as I discussed with our finance commentator earlier this morning, these agreements mean nothing because the targets that we've set ourselves are unachievable to start with. And secondly, if we don't achieve them, nothing happens.

LEIGH: Well, it's certainly not unachievable. We've had an assessment by the independent Climate Change Authority that said we're on track to 42% emissions reductions by 2030. And that's before the announcements that we made in the Budget. So, our target is achievable. And the fact is that this is a target that Australia has signed up for. You cut your targets, you're in breach of the Paris Agreement, and that puts you in company with Iran, Libya and Yemen.

CENATIEMPO: But so what? What happens?

LEIGH: Well, then we imperil the investment, we imperil the jobs that are relying on the clean energy transition. We hurt Australia's international reputation as a destination for clean tech investment. We see Australian emissions go up and we see Australian jobs go down. It would be an economic disaster and a climate catastrophe. So Peter Dutton is actually worse on climate change than Scott Morrison or Tony Abbott.

CENATIEMPO: But what does that mean, worse on climate change?

LEIGH: Well, even Tony Abbott wouldn't pull out of the Paris agreement.

CENATIEMPO: No, no, forget the Paris agreements. When you say worse on climate change, what does that mean?

LEIGH: Well, that means that under them, emissions would go up because they've said that they want to stop the renewables investment. They have their madcap unicorn plans for nuclear, which we know wouldn't deliver anything until the 2040s.

CENATIEMPO: Well, we don't know that, that's the Government's line. We don't know that that's actually true. It's just the line that you're pushing.

LEIGH: We have independent analysis showing that that's the case. And the reason that business groups are out in the front pages of today's papers castigating the Coalition on climate is because they don't want to go back to the climate wars. Peter Dutton is happy fighting people. The climate war is just one of the wars he wants to fight, but that's not in Australia's interest.

CENATIEMPO: See, this is what annoys, you know, climate wars is just a buzz term that has been created by your side of politics. That means nothing. There was no war on climate.

LEIGH: There was a huge war over climate and using the issue of climate in order to divide Australia. What we’ve seen in the United Kingdom and New Zealand is sensible conservatives working to get emissions reduction. The sort of approach that Malcolm Turnbull championed. The reason that Malcolm Turnbull got turfed out of the Liberal party leadership, not once but twice, was because he wanted a sensible, business friendly approach on climate change.

CENATIEMPO: The reason he got turfed out is because he was terrible at his job. But yeah, look, I agree that he was more on your side on energy policy, but you know, I mean, emissions reductions under the Morrison government were standout.

LEIGH: Well, under the Morrison government, you had Australia being out of step with the rest of the world. He was unwilling to legislate the 2030 emissions target. What we've got now is stable, business friendly approaches which are creating jobs and renewables. We just need to get on with the job. We need to create those jobs and renewables to get the downward pressure on power prices that you get from increasing renewables in the grid.

CENATIEMPO: We haven't seen that yet.

LEIGH: Anyone with solar panels on their roof knows the facts here, that the energy that is produced by the sun doesn't require you to send a bill to the sun. Energy produced by the wind doesn't require you to send a bill to the wind.

CENATIEMPO: No, but the electricity companies still send you a bill.

LEIGH: They certainly do and we know that jurisdictions which have more renewables tend to have lower power prices. That's the simple reality. Good for households, good for jobs, good for business. There is only one reason why business is so outraged by Peter Dutton's approach on climate change, because they know the instability that would wreak on the Australian economy.

CENATIEMPO: Well, I've been in the ACT for four years now, Andrew. My electricity bill when I first got here was 50 dollars a fortnight. It's now 78 dollars a fortnight.

LEIGH: I don't know about your energy use, Stephen, but I can certainly say there's only one jurisdiction in past years where energy prices were going down. That was the ACT because it has 100% renewables. So, as the shock came from the war in Ukraine affecting things like gas prices, that didn't affect the ACT at all because we were insulated from those international pressures and that'll happen as Australia moves towards renewables. As a nation, it makes us less dependent on what's happening overseas, more in control of our own destiny and able to be a renewable energy superpower.

CENATIEMPO: Andrew, I'd suggest you talk to some of your constituents a bit more closely about their energy bills. I appreciate your time this morning. We'll catch up in a couple of weeks.

LEIGH: Thanks, Stephen.

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  • Andrew Leigh
    published this page in What's New 2024-06-11 10:52:01 +1000

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.