Defence Trade Controls Act 2012

Defence Trade Controls Act 2012

The Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 (DTCA) puts new measures in place to strengthen controls on the export of certain goods, services and technologies. The provisions are aimed at stopping technology that can be used in conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction from getting into the wrong hands and apply equally to the industry, university and research sectors.  

Goods and technology that are subject to export controls are those listed in the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL). Where the Customs Act 1901 covers the export of tangible controlled defence and strategic goods and technology, the DTCA provides regulation for the intangible supply of such goods and technology (e.g. transfer by electronic means such as email).  

The DSGL is divided into two parts. Part 1 is concerned with munitions and military goods. Part 2 details “dual-use” goods, comprising technologies developed for commercial and scientific needs but which may also be used either as military components or for the development or production of military systems. The research and university sectors are expected to be affected by the DTCA primarily through their research on or using controlled dual-use technology, examples of which include certain plant pathogens, genetically modified organisms and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Copies of the DTCA and DSGL can be found on the Defence Export Control Office (DECO) website.

What are the implications for biosecurity research?

The Act regulates three main activities:

  • the intangible supply of DSGL technology from a person in Australia to a person outside Australia
  • arranging for other persons overseas to engage in dealings relating to DSGL technology (brokering), and
  • publication or dissemination of DSGL technology to the public.

In some cases exceptions for controlled technology that is already “in the public domain” or classified as “basic scientific research” may also apply. 

Please note that the Act does not prohibit research activity; you may simply require a permit for the activity to continue.

What does this mean for individual researchers?

Researchers and research organisations working on items related to the DSGL will need to be aware of their obligations under the DTCA, and if necessary take appropriate steps to ensure they comply with the legislation.

It is your responsibility to inform the PBCRC if you think your project will be affected by the DTCA.  The PBCRC will then discuss with you whether a permit from DECO may be required and assist in acquiring a permit where necessary. Any changes to your research that may alter the project’s DTCA compliance status must also be reported in accordance with PBCRC procedures.

PBCRC is putting procedures in place to help you comply with your obligations under the Act and assess your projects for controlled technology. Controls are currently under review and may continue to change. For example, controls on telephone conversations overseas, emails or publishing dual-use technology, may not apply if proposed amendments to the legislation are introduced. It is recommended that you keep up to date with DTCA developments via DECO’s website.

Please note that approvals for intangible supply of controlled technology will not be required until a two-year transition period concludes in May 2015, when offence provisions come into effect. However, it’s important for researchers to start thinking about their obligations under the legislation as soon as possible and consider whether their projects might be captured by the Act. The CRC therefore recommends that the process of assessing projects begins as soon as possible.

How do I find out more?

DECO is responsible for regulating the export of DSGL-listed technology as part of Australia’s system of export controls. The DECO website is a useful first step for more information. Additional information is available on the website of the Strengthened Export Controls Steering Group.