Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has announced the report of the independent review of the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 and its initial government response, outlining support for all nine recommendations of the review.
The review, established in April 2018, was conducted by Dr Vivienne Thom AM, a former inspector general of intelligence and security, and considered whether the act provides appropriate levels of regulation for defence technology, while also ensuring there are no unintended consequences arising from the act, such as unnecessary regulatory burden.
Minister Pyne said, "The Coalition government recognises the importance of strong protections against the transfer of critical military technology which can pose a pressing threat to the security and defence of Australia."
The Defence Trade Controls Act introduced offences that commenced operation on 2 April 2016 for the unauthorised supply, and in certain instances publication, of defence technology, and for the brokering of defence goods and technology without a permit. The act also provided for a review of its operation to begin as soon as possible after 2 April 2018.
"It is also important, as the review has highlighted, that any future amendments do not unnecessarily restrict trade, research and international collaboration and impede on the development of Australia’s defence capability," Minister Pyne added.
With this in mind, Dr Thom has been engaged to lead a consultation phase and work with Defence and stakeholders, such as industry and academia, to develop practical, risk-based legislative proposals to strengthen the act in accordance with the report’s recommendations.
This announcement follows the the recent launch of the 2019 Australian Military Sales Catalogue by Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo. The 2019 catalogue includes selected Australian Defence Force equipment coming out of service, which will be available for purchase by international partners.
The transfer of ex-ADF equipment to foreign governments is subject to a rigorous approval process that is independent from the Australian Military Sales Office.
"The catalogue is helping grow Australia’s defence exports. Companies included are developing networks, building relationships and securing sales as a result of being in the Australian Military Sales Catalogue," Minister Ciobo said.
Defence administers controls on the export of military and dual-use goods and technologies through four key pieces of legislation. The Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 provides the legislative basis for the controls of the intangible supply, publication and brokering of defence and strategic goods and technology.
It was enacted in 2012 to strengthen Australia’s existing export controls and to align them with international best practice. The act underwent amendments in 2015 following extensive stakeholder consultation. One such amendment included the addition of a mechanism to provide for review of the operation of the act after two years of the offence provisions being commenced, which occurred on 2 April 2016.