Module One - Introduction to Australian Export Controls

  • Why do we have export controls?
  • Controlled exports of goods and technologies
  • Tangible exports of controlled goods and technology
  • Intangible supply of technology
  • The Four Ws of Export Controls
  • International Regimes and Treaties
  • Key Government Agencies

An effective export control system consists of a comprehensive legislative and regulatory framework that controls defence and strategic goods and technologies in both tangible (i.e. blueprints) and intangible (i.e. emails) forms. It also relies on shared relationships between Government agencies and exporters to:

  • support international efforts to stem the proliferation of conventional, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and the systems that deliver them;
  • collaborate with like-minded nations with a global mechanism to stem proliferation;
  • prevent proliferant organisations and UN sanctioned countries from easily accessing these goods and technologies;
  • show transparency in licensing procedures and processes to evaluate licence applications for proliferation concerns;
  • detect, identify and stop transfers that violate export control laws and regulations, as well as the ability to investigate and prosecute export control violators; and
  • develop and promote internal compliance systems to reinforce export controls "best practice" to minimise the risk of further non compliance.

Export controls on both tangible and intangible goods and technology focus on the transfer or export across Australia's sovereign borders.

Controlled goods and technologies include:

  • military items designed or adapted for military purposes or those that are inherently lethal, incapacitating or destructive; and
  • dual-use items which are commercial items and technologies that may be used or adapted for use in a military program or contribute to the development and production of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons systems (these are sometimes referred to as 'strategic' items).

Any controlled goods that leave Australia in physical form, with an intention to be landed outside Australia, are tangible exports. This includes goods sent for:

  • sale;
  • demonstration;
  • repair; or
  • return to the manufacturer.

The export of controlled technology stored on a good - for example related blueprints, plans, technical data - outside Australia is controlled by the Customs Act 1901 and requires a permit.

Such goods may include CDs, USBs, laptop computers and smart phones. If a good containing controlled technology is sent by postal service or is carried in hand-held or checked luggage, a permit will be required.

A supply of controlled technology takes place when technology is transferred electronically (for example, email, text, over an app) from a person in Australia to another person outside Australia.

When planning an export you should consider the following:

  • Are the goods controlled for export – either military or dual-use?
  • Could the goods be used in a WMD program?
  • Are the goods for a military end use?

Where is it being exported?

  • Is the destination of the export a country of concern?
  • Is the destination country a strategic ally or a member of the multilateral export control regimes?
  • Is the destination of the export a county subject to UN sanctions or Australian autonomous sanctions?
  • Does the destination country have its own export control laws and regulations?

Why is the customer ordering it?

  • What is the end use?
  • Do we know that the customer will use the item for the purpose intended?
  • Do we know if the item being exported will be used in a military application or for chemical, nuclear or biological weapons proliferation?
  • Is there a risk that the customer will transfer the item to another person?

Who will be receiving the export?

  • Is this a customer that we have dealt with on many occasions in the past?
  • Is the customer involved in any military or chemical or biological weapons proliferation activities?
  • Is there anything about the transaction that raises a red flag?

Australia is a member of, and is a signatory to, a number of international conventions, treaties, regimes and arrangements.

An important element of export control regimes is information exchange. Participating states agree to exchange general information on risks associated with transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies in order to consider, where necessary, the scope for coordinating national control policies to combat these risks.

Participating states agree to notify other members of denials, to ensure that other like-minded countries involved in the regimes do not allow similar exports to take place.

These international treaties, conventions and regimes underpin Australia's export controls which serve our broad national interests and contribute to the global effort aimed at reducing the risk of arms proliferation.

Defence Export Controls

  • Administers regulations on the export of defence and dual-use goods and technologies.
  • Issues export permits and licences for regulated goods.
  • Facilitates third country transfers of foreign sourced goods and technologies.
  • Administers the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995.
  • Raises awareness of export controls through an industry outreach program.

For more information go to Defence Export Controls website.

Australian Border Force

  • Is responsible for the security and integrity of Australia's borders.
  • Has responsibility to detect and deter unlawful movement of goods and people across Australia's borders.
  • Is responsible for compliance and enforcement of Australia's controls on the export of goods.

For more information go to the Australian Border Force website at:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

  • Is responsible for policy formulation and the administration of sanctions which restrict or prohibit the export of certain goods to particular counties, individuals and entities.
  • Is responsible for international engagement on export controls.

For more information go to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website at:

Australian Federal Police

  • Is responsible for investigation and prosecution of export controls violations.

For more information go to the Australian Federal Police website at: