Under Australian export control laws it is a serious criminal offence to export, supply, publish or broker controlled goods or technology without the necessary authorisations. Penalties for contravening the legislation vary depending on the type of activity and the severity of the offence.

Before you export, supply, publish or broker any military or dual-use goods or technology, you should be aware of the permission requirements under the legislation, and the penalties which apply for not meeting those requirements.

Under the Customs Act 1901 (Customs Act), it is an offence to unlawfully export goods listed in the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL), and to export uncontrolled goods which are subject to a prohibition notice. Those prosecuted face the following penalties:

  • Exporting DSGL goods without a permit: imprisonment of up to 10 years or a fine not exceeding 2,500 penalty units* (or both);
  • Exporting DSGL goods in breach of a permit condition: a fine not exceeding 100 penalty units*;
  • Knowingly exporting goods subject to a military end-use prohibition notice in contravention of the notice: imprisonment of up to 10 years or a fine not exceeding 2,500 penalty units* (or both).

Failure to comply with a permit condition may also result in the Minister revoking the permit.
  
Additionally, goods that are exported unlawfully may be seized and forfeited to the Commonwealth.

The Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 (DTC Act) creates offences and penalties for the following unlawful dealings with DSGL items:

  • Supplying DSGL technology without a permit or in contravention of a permit condition;
  • Supplying DSGL technology in contravention of a prohibition notice or a condition specified in a prohibition notice;
  • Publishing technology listed in Part 1 of the DSGL without approval or in contravention of an approval condition;
  • Publishing DSGL technology in contravention of a prohibition notice or a condition specified in a prohibition notice;
  • Brokering goods or technology listed in Part 1 of the DSGL without a permit or in contravention of a permit condition;
  • Brokering goods or technology listed in Part 2 of the DSGL without a permit or in contravention of a permit condition, where the broker knows, is reckless or negligent as to whether the goods or technology may be for a military end-use or Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program; and
  • Brokering DSGL technology in contravention of a notice or a condition specified in a notice.

Those found to have breached a condition of a permit may face a fine not exceeding 60 penalty units*. Those prosecuted for any other offence face imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine not exceeding 2,500 penalty units* (or both).

Additionally, goods and technology that are supplied unlawfully may be seized and forfeited to the Commonwealth.

Under the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995 (WMD Act), it is an offence to engage in the following actions without a permit or in contravention of a permit condition:  

  • Supplying goods which the person believes or suspects, on reasonable grounds, will or may be used in a WMD program;
  • Exporting uncontrolled goods which the person believes or suspects, on reasonable grounds, will or may be used in a WMD program;
  • Providing services which the person believes or suspects will or may assist a WMD program; and
  • Supplying or exporting goods or providing services in contravention of a prohibition notice or a condition specified in a prohibition notice.

Those prosecuted face imprisonment for up to 8 years or a court-imposed fine. Additionally, goods exported or supplied unlawfully may be seized and forfeited to the Commonwealth.

Please note that an export may be subject to United Nations Security Council or Australian Autonomous Sanctions.

More information on sanctions, including breaches of sanctions, is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

Under section 136.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995, any person who makes a false or misleading statement in an application for a permit or certificate faces a maximum penalty of 1 year imprisonment.

* Note that the pecuniary value of a penalty unit is set out in section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914. As of 1 July 2023, the value of one penalty unit is $313, subject to indexation..

We know that mistakes happen! From time to time people may identify that they have exported or supplied goods, software or technology without a permit, or have incorrectly used a permit.  If this happens, you should notify us as soon as possible.

DEC takes a graduated approach to compliance. It is in our nation’s best interest for Australian exporters to be both willing and able to comply with export controls. Therefore, DEC’s focus is on working with exporters to prevent and address compliance breaches.  

However, repeated non-compliance can result in permits being subject to stronger compliance conditions, revocation of permits, or referral for criminal prosecution.