Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Defence Takes Control over Australian Research

By Brendan Jones

A new law comes into force this month that puts scientists at risk of imprisonment and businesses at risk of losing their intellectual property.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

On 2 April the Defence Trade Controls Act (DTCA) comes into force. This new law controls research into technologies that, in theory at least, could have military applications.

The Department of Defence’s 353-page list of such “dual-use” technologies ( lays claim to just about every field of research, including infectious diseases, biotechnology, high-performance computers, robotics and artificial intelligence, encryption, electronics, manufacturing, and software for these applications.

While there is an exemption for oral communications and formal publication of dual-use research, the Act prohibits communication by “email, fax, telephone, video conferencing, providing access to electronic files, or presentations that contain [Defence and Strategic Goods] technology. The provisions apply equally to the industry, university and research sectors” (

As a result, Australian researchers who send an email about their work to an international colleague without a permit from Defence risk 10 years imprisonment, a $425,000 fine and forfeiture of their research. In violation of international human rights law, those charged are presumed guilty and must prove their...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.