Statement on Defence Trade Controls reform 

The Tech Council of Australia welcomes the amendments made by the Government to the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023.

We have always supported the strategic intent of this legislation to drive forward the AUKUS partnership by creating an export-licence free environment between Australia, the US and the UK. This is important to the future security and prosperity of Australia, our partners and our region, and will also provide benefits to our tech sector. 

The amendments made by the Government respond to many of the concerns raised by the tech sector and by the Senate inquiry, and will help minimise potential unintended consequences on Australian critical tech companies.

We note the amendments to the Bill provide new powers to designate countries on the Foreign Country List, which in turn provides important exceptions to the criminal penalties under this legislation. We encourage the Government to review the Foreign Country List as a priority, with a view to utilising these new powers to add other trusted partners that are important export markets and sources of skilled migrants for our critical and defence tech companies. 

There are still some remaining concerns amongst the tech sector regarding the use of ‘absolute liability’ in the legislation for criminal penalties, including for dual-use technologies, which differs from the approach taken in the US. We therefore appreciate the Government’s commitment to further consult with industry on the penalty regime as it implements its response to the review of the Defence Trade Controls Act.

We also encourage the Government to provide adequate resourcing in the Budget to ensure that permits under these new reforms are administered as efficiently and effectively as possible by Defence. This will ensure the new regime does not impede access to critical global talent for Australian tech companies.

We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Department of Defence on the implementation of these important reforms. 


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