Universities Australia has been working closely with Government and the Society of University Lawyers (SOUL) over the past few years to coordinate a strong and united position in response to the numerous proposed changes to the national security regime in Australia. From the beginning of the university sector’s involvement in this issue, Universities Australia has supported the broad objective to update export controls and autonomous sanctions to better support national security while minimising the administrative and compliance burden on universities and ensuring Australian universities and researchers are not at an disadvantage compared with our major competitors.
Universities and Government share the goal of achieving an appropriate balance between preventing the misuse of sensitive technology in the interests of national security, and allowing Australian university education and research to prosper. Universities Australia considers that a poorly targeted regime would not only impose an unnecessary regulatory burden on universities, but would also be difficult for Government to administer and enforce.
Universities Australia is working with three Government departments on three separate national security matters: the Department of Defence and the Defence Trade Controls legislation; the Department of Foreign Affairs’ autonomous sanctions regime; and the Attorney-General’s Department on chemicals of security concern.
Defence Trade Controls
The first six monthly report of the Strengthened Export Controls Steering Group (SECSG) as presented to the then Minister for Defence on 4 July 2013 was made available publicly on Monday 19 August 2013. The SECSG is chaired by the Chief Scientist and includes Professor Peter Høj as co-Deputy Chair (university) and Mr Ken Peacock AM, co-Deputy Chair (industry). Professor Mike Calford also represents the university sector on the SECSG. The report, which details progress with the implementation of the Defence Trade Controls Act (2012), can be found at: https://exportcontrols.govspace.gov.au/steering-group/secsg-reports/
There has been a notable, positive shift in the nature and extent of engagement with the sector from the Defence Export Control Office (DECO) which is responsible for supporting the SECSG, managing the transition and ultimately for oversighting the administration of the Act. In addition, given the report was provided to the Minister on 4 July there have also been developments which are not detailed in the SECSG report. These include developments in adding to the pilot sites involved in testing the legislation, which included the University of Queensland and Curtin University (as at 4 July) and DECO hosting a meeting of pilot participants on 7 August.
In addition, DECO facilitated the attendance of US university-based export controls expert Missy Peloso (University of Pennsylvania) at a UA hosted meeting of sector representatives on 8 August 2013. The meeting involved around 20 university representatives (researchers, research office staff, university lawyers etc) as well as representatives from DECO and DIICCSTRE. Ms Peloso’s presentation can be viewed here (PPTX 1MB).