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Thursday, 26 February 2015
Page: 1399

Mr ANDREWS (MenziesMinister for Defence) (09:45): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 to address concerns about its impact on Australian industry and research institutions.

This bill will strengthen national security by enabling Defence to focus its regulatory attention on higher-risk activities with respect to the non-physical supply and transfer of Defence controlled goods while dealing more efficiently with lower-risk activities.

The original act established a two-year transition period during which offence provisions did not apply. This gave stakeholders an opportunity to work with Defence to address concerns with the act through the Strengthened Export Controls Steering Group.

Chaired by Australia's Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb AC, the steering group has tested the legislation and advised government over the last two years on these legislative amendments.

The steering group established a pilot program to test the regulatory impact of the act across different types of organisations, including universities, defence industry, government research agencies, small to medium enterprises, cooperative research centres, and medical research institutes.

The results of the pilot program and wider stakeholder engagement provided a strong evidence base to inform the amendments that are contained in this bill.

These amendments will:

better target persons who are supplying sensitive technology commensurate with international practice;

adopt a more balanced approach by only requiring approvals for sensitive military publications and removing controls on dual-use publications (that is, technology with both civilian and potential military applications);

only require permits for brokering of sensitive military items and remove controls on most dual-use brokering, subject to international obligations and national security interests;

introduce obligations to regularly review the operation of the legislation to ensure it maintains an appropriate balance between the regulatory impact on stakeholders and the need to protect Australia's national security; and

delay the commencement of the offence provisions by 12 months to ensure that stakeholders have sufficient time to implement appropriate compliance and licensing measures.

The work of the steering group has been invaluable, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Professor Chubb and the steering group members for their work and leadership. Their reports have provided the government with critical stakeholder perspectives.

I would also like to acknowledge the significant investments from the pilot organisations and the broader stakeholder community that have led to the development of these amendments.

Subject to the passage of this bill, my department will work with stakeholders to help them prepare for the commencement of the offence provisions in 12 months' time. During this period, assistance will be provided by Defence through a number of aids to be developed in collaboration with the steering group and stakeholders.

It is important that this bill is passed before the offence provisions of the act come into force on 16 May 2015. This will enable industry and research organisations to implement sensible, balanced approaches to export controls within a better balanced regulatory system that protects our national security interests.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.