About Defence Export Control

In Australia, the export of certain goods and technologies is regulated by the Defence Export Controls (DEC) agency within the Australian Government Department of Defence. These export controls are aimed at stemming the proliferation of military goods and technologies associated with conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the systems that deliver them.

To achieve this aim, a range of goods and technology (e.g., blueprints, plans or technical data), both with direct military or defence application, or with dual-use potential, are defined as being ‘controlled’ – requiring approval for export or supply outside of Australia. It should be noted that areas of research defined as ‘dual-use’ are wide-ranging and may not be obviously related to defence. Please see Who Will be Affected section below for further information and examples.

The export of controlled goods, technology and information outside of Australia is restricted under the Customs Act 1901, the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958, the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995 and the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012. Both tangible export (e.g., a physical item) and intangible supply (e.g., an email or publication) of controlled goods and technology is covered under these Acts.

Criminal offences apply for individuals who fail to comply with conditions of the Acts. Penalties include fines, imprisonment or both.


What is Controlled?

Determining whether your research is affected by Australia’s export controls legislation depends on three main factors:

The Destination

With the exception of publication, export controls only relate to the export, supply or brokering of controlled goods and technology from within Australia to outside of Australia. These controls also apply if you are carrying controlled goods or technologies overseas for your own personal use. 

The Goods and/or Technology

The exact nature of the goods or technology that is being exported, supplied or published will ultimately determine whether you require a permit to send goods or technology overseas. Controlled goods and technologies are defined and listed in the Defence and Strategic Goods List, commonly referred to as the DSGL. Items specified on this list are considered by the Australian Government to have direct military or defence applications, or to have the potential to be used or adapted for such applications.

Further information about controlled goods and technologies can be found on What Goods and Technologies are Controlled.

The Activity

If your research involves goods or technologies specified in the DSGL, then controls apply to a range of activities, including sending physical items, software, technical information or technical data overseas, or publishing your research. These controlled activities are referred to as tangible export, intangible supply, publication and brokering.

Intangible supply is likely to be the most common activity affecting the research community. This occurs when a person in Australia supplies or provides access to controlled technology to a person located outside of Australia by any electronic means, including via email, fax, telephone, video conferencing, providing access to an electronic file or restricted access database, or via a presentation (including conference presentations).

Further information about affected activities can be found on What Activities are Controlled.


Who Will Be Affected by Defence Export Control Legislation?

Defence research is not the only area that is affected by export control legislation. A range of ‘dual-use’ research areas are outlined in the DSGL and cover a wide range of research disciplines. Examples might include:

  • A researcher investigating how Chikungunya virus impacts organisms with lowered immunity
  • A researcher investigating methods for developing fibrous carbon-based materials
  • A researcher developing software for testing the functionality of information and communications technology security systems
  • A researcher developing improved software for acoustic seabed surveying

Researchers at Flinders University from the College of Science and Engineering and from the College of Medicine and Public Health are the most likely to be affected by export control legislation. 

Researchers who conduct research in areas with direct military or defence applications are highly likely to be affected by this legislation.

Researchers whose work focuses on development of equipment or technologies designed to meet commercial or research needs, but which could be used or adapted for military or defence purposes, may be affected by export control legislation if they are collaborating with, or supplying goods or information to, an overseas party.

If you believe that your research has or may have military or defence applications or is in a discipline covered by the DSGL, please read the information on this website and consult with Research Development and Support to determine if you are affected.


How Does Export Control Affect Individual Researchers?

Researchers should not be unduly concerned that their work will be restricted or prevented due to requirements under relevant export controls legislation. If you believe that your research may be in an area that is covered in the DSGL, you may require a permit for export, supply, publication or brokering activities relating to the controlled good, software or technology. Once a permit is obtained, your research can continue as planned.

It is the individual’s responsibility to familiarise themselves with their obligations under the relevant legislation and any conditions stipulated on any DEC permits obtained in the course of research. Individuals are personally responsible for compliance with the relevant legislation (including obtaining a permit before any transaction occurs) and any specified permit conditions. Penalties for non-compliance include fines and imprisonment.

In addition to specific export permits, broader Australian General Export Licences (AUSGELs) are also available from DEC. Please contact Research Development and Support to determine if your export controls compliance requirements may be met under an existing AUSGEL held by the University.

The Research Services Office must mediate all licence and permit applications for researchers.


Exemptions to Defence Trade Control

A number of exemptions from requiring a permit exist under the DTCA. For a description of these exemptions, please refer to the information provided on What Activities are Controlled.