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The Customs Act 1901

A Customs officer inspects cargo

The Customs Act 1901 is the legislative basis for controls on the export of tangible defence and strategic dual-use goods and technologies . As the administrating agency for the Customs Act, the Australian Border Force (ABF) has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that exports of regulated items are in accordance with the legislation.

Like all goods, the export of defence and strategic dual-use goods from Australia is controlled by laws and Government policies that:

  • prohibit the export of certain goods absolutely, or
  • restrict the export conditionally, and
  • require that Australia's international trade is recorded.

Goods may be prohibited for export unless all necessary export permits are obtained from the relevant permit issuing agency. In addition, goods may not be exported, or loaded on a ship or aircraft for export, unless they have been entered for export (some exemptions apply) and the ABF has given approval to export. Further controls may stop vessels or aircraft from departing unless the ABF has issued a Certificate of Clearance – this may be withheld if all export requirements for the cargo have not been met.

The Department of Defence is responsible for administering Australia's export controls on defence and strategic dual-use goods, with the exception of nuclear fuels and special fissionable material which are administered by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Controls are executed through the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958, Regulation 13E. This Regulation allows the Minister for Defence, or authorised person to grant a permission to export goods listed in the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL).

The DSGL is Australia's list of regulated goods and technology. It is updated regularly and the current version is always available on the Federal Register of Legislative Information website.

It is important to remember that Australia's export control regime seeks to strike a balance between the interests of legitimate users of sensitive goods and the risks that these goods may be diverted for illicit uses.

DEC is responsible for issuing export permits and licences to individuals and companies seeking to export regulated goods and it assesses approximately 4500 export applications annually.