The Defence Trade Controls Bill

Throughout 2012, the DVC Research, Jill Trewhella, worked with a team of researchers, legal and policy advisors to ensure that the University's and the higher education sector's needs were considered by the Senate committee overseeing the Defence Trade Controls Bill that gives effect to a 2007 treaty to facilitate defence trade with the US.

The work done on behalf of the sector was to request amendments to the bill to alleviate the burden of a restrictive regulatory regime on a broad range of research activities relating to technologies that have both civilian and military applications.

Amendments requested to the Bill by the University sector were consistent with the Senate Committee’s findings and recommendations, and were based on these principles:

  • Australian researchers should not be disadvantaged with respect to our US counterparts
  • Researchers should not be criminalised for publication of scientific research results that would ordinarily be broadly shared
  • full parliamentary scrutiny/process should be allowed/followed

Despite extensive lobbying and sector support, the bill was passed on 31 October 2012 without key amendments.

Our concerns remain:

  • we are at a disadvantage compared with our US counterparts - see Appendix B and C of the DVCR's reflections on the Bill
  • the controls introduce significant levels of new bureaucracy in a sector that is already struggling
  • we don’t know why there was a last minute change of heart against the amendments that Universities Australia put forward
  • a Regulation Impact Statement was not completed - see Submission 7B

The successful inclusion of amendments that delay offence provisions for two years, during which there is to be a pilot and parliamentary review, provides an opportunity for us to continue to work to ensure researchers are not burdened by an unnecessarily restrictive regulatory regime or the prospect of criminal charges for ordinary research activities.

We remain committed to working constructively with the Senate Committee during the two year transition period.