AUKUS prompts new regime for defence and dual-use tech exports

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The Australian government will reduce barriers to technology transfer and costs of trade with AUKUS allies but will criminalise the sharing of certain sensitive technology with non-US or UK countries and individuals, including those working in Australia.

Just one week of consultation has been allowed for changes to Australia’s export control system triggered by AUKUS that will have ramifications for industry, higher education and research sectors across Australia and around the world.

Defence minister Richard Marles in the US. Image:Twitter.

The Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023, revealed on Friday, will introduce three new criminal offences for the supply of sensitive technologies or services to foreign persons, including those in Australia.

The amendment would criminalise the supply of technologies and services, without a permit, that are listed on the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL).

The DSGL is considered the centrepiece of Australia’s export control system and part of international counter‐proliferation regimes.

Goods and technology included in the DSGL may not be exported or supplied from Australia unless a licence or permission has been granted.

The DSGL has two parts, a specific military and related goods list and a dual-use list.

The dual-use list comprises an extensive range of equipment, software and technologies developed to meet commercial needs but which may be used in military purposes or weapons of mass destruction.

The changes proposed by the Department of Defence would also prevent the supply of DSGL technologies to a foreign person within Australia.

Secondly, it would also prohibit the supply of DSGL technologies previously exported or supplied from Australia, from one foreign country to another foreign country, or to a foreign person within the same foreign country.

Finally, it would create a criminal offence for the provision of DSGL “services” for specific military DGSL technologies, including training, to foreign persons, whether in Australia or abroad.

The bill also creates a licence-free environment for the supply of the sensitive technology and the services from Australia to the United Kingdom and the United States, by providing an exemption for permits for certain DSGL technologies.

AUKUS countries have been reviewing their respective export control regimes to support the transfer of AUKUS pillar one technology, nuclear powered submarines, and pillar two defence and dual-use technologies.

“The purpose of this Bill is to strengthen Australia’s export control framework in order to establish an export control regime that is comparable to the one the United States administers,” an exposure draft explanatory memorandum says.

“Further, if implemented, these legislative proposals will create a licence-free environment for the supply of DSGL goods and technology and the provision of DSGL services from Australia to the United Kingdom and the United States.”

The financial impact of the changes are not disclosed and will be included in next year’s budget.

Defence minister Richard Marles’ office was contacted for comment.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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