DVCR: Sydney researchers help gain further consultation on Defence Trade Control Bill

17 August 2012

This week the Senate Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Legislation Committee recommended universities be consulted further over proposed strengthened defence export controls. I welcome this decision and would like to acknowledge the role University of Sydney researchers played in having this Bill reconsidered.

Researchers from the University have been working alongside Universities Australia to demonstrate the potential for this Bill to have a devastating impact on research not intended to be captured by it and also impose an unworkable set of compliance requirements on universities.

The Defence Trade Controls Bill gives effect to the Treaty between Australia and the United States concerning defence trade cooperation, signed in 2007. It seeks to control the supply of technologies, through the Defence and Strategic Good list (DSGL), in order to protect national security. Proposed changes to the Bill aimed at expanding controls to include supplies of intangible technology transfer and the provision of services could have the effect of limiting the ability of researchers to publish or collaborate with researchers outside of Australia.

It is essential for this legislation to achieve a balance between protecting national security and enabling Australia to be an effective contributor to global research. In considering this balance, it is essential to fully understand the scope of the DSGL and the fact that it encompasses a broad range of technologies that are critical to non-defence applications; such as in computing and communication technology; astronomy; medicine and public health; sustainable agriculture, food and energy and our ability to anticipate and adapt to changes in climate.

In our view the Bill in its current form does not achieve this balance.

I am extremely pleased that the Senate committee recognised the need for universities to be consulted in more depth and I look forward to working alongside researchers in further consultation with the Department of Defence.

Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

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