Export control legislation generally only applies in circumstances where goods or information crosses Australia's sovereign borders. The goods may be tangible or intangible, and the process of exporting or transferring them may involve physical export or transfer by electronic means. Defence export controls apply to activities involving goods and technology which are listed on the Defence Strategic Goods List (DSGL). There are four key types of activity that are controlled:
Tangible items are exported when sent overseas by ship, aircraft, post, courier, or as checked-in or hand-held luggage. Software and technology, such as diagrams and notes, are treated as tangible items if they are sent overseas in a medium such as CD, DVD, USB, computer hard drive or on paper.
Exports can be permanent (e.g. for sale to a foreign buyer), or temporary (e.g. for demonstration, exhibition, use at a conference or workshop, repair by the original equipment manufacturer, or for competition and sporting activities).
Supply is the act of sending, communicating, or providing access to, technology to a person outside Australia in an intangible format.
For example, a person who emails instructions on building a nuclear reactor to a person overseas is supplying technology. If the person provided access to a database that contained that same technology to that same person overseas, this is also supplying technology, no matter where the database is located.
Brokering is when a person acts as an agent or intermediary in arranging the supply of goods and technology between two or more people and places located outside Australia. For example, a person located in Australia who arranges for the sale of weapons from one country to another country, and receives a payment for this activity, is brokering.
Brokering controls apply even though the goods in question do not cross Australia's borders, and they also apply to Australian citizens and residents who act as brokers, no matter where in the world they are at the time. However, brokering does not include activities such as freight forwarding, providing financial services, insurance, reinsurance, promotion or advertising.
Publication is the act of placing military technology or software in the public domain. For example, a person who publishes academic research into kinetic energy weapon systems included in a scientific journal would be publishing, and so is someone who releases software under open-source licensing conditions.