Australia is poised to enact a new law that imposes stringent regulations on sharing defence technology with foreign entities, with the notable exception of its AUKUS partners, Britain and the United States. This significant move is designed to align with U.S. export controls on defence technology, a critical component of the AUKUS plan to construct nuclear-powered submarines. However, the law has sparked concerns about its potential impact on scientific collaboration with other countries.
Cybersecurity lawyer, EJ Wise, from Wise Law commented,
“We already look on helplessly as technology and innovation pour out of Australia towards foreign markets and investors better able/interested in our new ideas. Defence is no exception.”
The proposed legislation introduces three criminal offences and restricts the sharing of defence technology with foreigners, except for Australia’s AUKUS partners. This exemption is a clear reflection of the strategic alliance between Australia, the United States, and Britain, particularly in the realm of defence technology. The law is a crucial step towards the realisation of the AUKUS plan to build new nuclear-powered submarines, a project that has already stirred international controversy.
However, the law’s potential ramifications extend beyond the confines of the AUKUS agreement. Critics argue that it could significantly hamper scientific collaboration with other countries, including China. This concern adds a layer of complexity to the law’s implications, raising questions about its impact on international relations and the global defence technology landscape.
Ms Wise expanded,
“Anything that reduces the burden that International Traffic in Arms Regulations “ITAR” has created for Australia in the Australian-US alliance would be a good thing. However the proposed Bill appears to achieve this in a way which is possibly contrary to Australia’s national interests: it allows the US to continue to enforce ITAR while reducing Australia’s autonomy internally and externally. Putting all of our eggs into one basket as it were.”
The law’s potential to disrupt scientific collaboration is not the only controversial aspect. Its alignment with U.S. export controls on defence technology is another point of contention. While this alignment is essential for the AUKUS plan, it also underscores Australia’s strategic alignment with the United States, a move that could have far-reaching implications for its relationships with other countries.
The cybersecurity lawyer went on to say,
“Regulation and laws are an inflexible and imperfect answer to any problem, much less a problem that ultimately has its roots in US laws (the ITAR system). Australia’s alliance with the US will in all likelihood remain a priority yet it should not come at the cost of our independence, prosperity, national industries or other perhaps yet unforeseen beneficial foreign partnerships outside AUKUS.”
“A further consideration is that the US and Australia are not always aligned in their international legal obligations such as the treaties we are bound by when it comes to arms manufacture or deployment (see for example the Convention on Cluster Munitions, more relevant than ever in the present Ukraine-Russia conflict, to which Australia is a State Party and the US is not).”
Despite these concerns, the law’s proponents argue that it is a necessary measure to protect Australia’s national security interests. They contend that the law will help safeguard Australia’s defence technology from falling into the wrong hands, thereby bolstering its defence capabilities.
The law’s potential impact on international relations, defence technology sharing, and scientific collaboration makes it a compelling story with high potential for media exposure. Its connection to the AUKUS agreement and the global defence technology landscape further amplifies its newsworthiness.
Australia’s new law on defence technology sharing is a significant development that could have profound implications for international relations and the global defence technology landscape. While it is a strategic move that aligns with U.S. export controls and is crucial for the AUKUS plan, it also raises concerns about its potential impact on scientific collaboration with other countries. As the law’s enactment approaches, these concerns will undoubtedly continue to fuel debate and speculation about its potential effects.