Late last Friday night the Albanese Government snuck out an exposure draft for the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023 with submissions effectively opening on Monday and closing on Friday - that’s less than a week.
The Bill will have serious ramifications for Australia’s scientific and research sectors, introducing new criminal offenses for breaches and creating a new super bureaucracy controlled by Defence that will control export and research permits.
Given the sensitive, controversial and complex nature of the Bill, public consultation is paramount and yet the Government has set up a sham consultation process that will exclude critical input from the University sector, researchers and the broader tech sector.
Senator David Shoebridge, Greens Defence and Science Spokesperson, said:
“This is a ridiculously short period for public comments, effectively opening for submissions on Monday and closing Friday. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“The draft bill, if implemented, will have far reaching impacts on Australia’s international scientific collaboration and that surely deserves more than a week’s thought.
“Australia has some of the brightest scientific minds on the planet, but collectively they account for only 4% of global scientific output.
“Without effective international collaboration we will become an international scientific backwater.
“There are definitely scientific positives by easing cooperation with UK and US counterparts but this must not come at the expense of walling us off from the rest of the world.
“A critical issue is that the boundary of what is and is not dual use military equipment is full of uncertainty and under this draft Bill if a scientist makes a wrong call then they face jail. This is a serious concern already raised by researchers.
“There must be an immediate extension of the consultation period, to a minimum four weeks, because our scientific future is at stake here,” Senator Shoebridge said.