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Australia passes law to boost AUKUS defence trade

New Australian legislation aims to support defence trade between partners working on the AUKUS submarine. A visual concept of the submarine is pictured above. (BAE Systems)

Australia's parliament passed legislation on 27 March that will support the country's AUKUS partnership with the United Kingdom and United States but toughen rules on the transfer of technologies to other foreign countries.

The Department of Defence (DoD) in Canberra said the new Defence Trade Controls Amendment Act 2024 (DTC Act) will enhance the protection of “Australian technology and information as well as that of key partners”.

It added that the law will “fast-track the delivery of high-end capabilities to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) by streamlining trade and collaboration with our AUKUS partners, maintaining Australia's capability edge”.

The cornerstone of the legislation, which amends the existing Defence Trade Controls Act 2012, is the easing of red tape in defence trade between AUKUS partners by supporting the establishment of a “licence-free environment for Australian industry”, the DoD said.

This measure alone is expected to “unlock investment and collaboration opportunities for Australian defence industry under the AUKUS framework” worth an estimated AUD5 billion (USD3.3 billion) in annual defence exports, said the DoD.

To support AUKUS trade and technology transfers, the DTC Act introduces exemptions to UK and US companies from Australia's export control permit requirements.

The legislation also supports additional exceptions to support AUKUS through Australia's Defence Trade Controls Regulation 2013 and Australia's Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL). The latter identifies the goods and technologies prohibited by Canberra for export.

The DTC Act also introduces three new criminal offences within the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012.

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