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Australia’s part in regulating tech on a global stage

A special counsel in ethics discusses how Australia can bring tech companies into the discussion around tech regulation, why it’s essential to do so, and the acumen that lawyers can bring to the table.

user iconJess Feyder 24 May 2023 NewLaw
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Recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, host Jess Feyder spoke with Shane Budden, special counsel in ethics at the Queensland Law Society.

Mr Budden discussed how Australia could stay at the forefront of bringing Big Tech into the discussion of regulation and what role legal professionals must play worldwide.

Mr Budden outlined that issues related to advancements in technology pose a global issue, in need of global solutions.


He also noted the importance of bringing technology companies on board when developing tech regulation, both in Australia and on a global stage.

Mr Budden discussed how Australia could stay at the forefront of communicating with Big Tech to bring them into the conversation about regulation.

“The only thing our politicians can do is be very proactive about it. They’ve got to be listening to their internal experts,” he explained.

“There are plenty of people in Australia and plenty of stakeholders who have a lot of important things to say on the topic.

“The thing is, it needs to be happening now, and the invitation has to be extended to Big Tech to say, ‘Rather than just imposing this on you, we’d rather work with you and make sure that we get a balanced set of regulations’.

“If it gets too heavily regulated, you could really hurt people, and if it’s insufficiently regulated, well, then it runs wild.

“We don’t want the wild west that the internet can be, but we also don’t want George Orwell’s 1984, and some countries have taken that road.

“ChatGPT, which is flavour of the month, is banned in a number of places, including Italy — it’s the first democracy to do so.”

Mr Budden outlined what Australia could do to become more involved on a global level.

“We are going to get to a point where we need a global approach, not just individual piecemeal approaches,” he said.

“We should use our diplomatic endeavours to make sure that we are taking a global approach.”

“We’ve done it before in certain things.

“If you look at the way the internet evolved, it certainly evolved with people buying in and agreeing to certain protocols and that sort of thing,” he said.

“It can be done; it’s a question of serious diplomatic skills and putting the effort into it.

“It won’t happen by itself, and there will be rogue states that go and do whatever they want to do, but the more people inside the tent, the better this is going to be.

“It really does, however, involve a great deal of goodwill on all sides and an emphasis on the benefits to it, because we will see different approaches and different attitudes — low regulation versus high regulation.”

Mr Budden highlighted why lawyers are well positioned to play a role in helping create legislation around tech.

“At the end of the day, we’re the ones at the coalface living by whatever laws come up — our clients are affected by them, we litigate them, we can be heavily involved in that regard.

“One of the things we can do is point out the practical approaches to what’s likely to happen in a certain situation,” he explained.

“One of the great things lawyers have is that most of us, over time, have seen the harm that overregulation and blanket regulation can do.”

“We’ve seen the damage that treating every single person or scenario in the same way can do,” he highlighted.

“We bring a lot of experience in understanding the way that regulation can overreach.

“We know how legislation works.”

“You often head lawyers use the term hard cases make bad law, and that means that if you try and regulate something out of existence, it ends up being a really bad piece of legislation, and unworkable, because whatever you come up with needs to survive high court challenges,” he explained.

“This is why you want stakeholders involved — so that you don’t have these objections in the first place.

“We’re adept at legislation, we know how it works, and we’re aware of the fact it can go badly wrong.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Shane Budden, click below:

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