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Sailor board a vessel in the Persian Gulf

Sanctions restrict or prohibit the export of certain goods to some countries, individuals and entities. They are administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Sanctions are implemented principally by the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945, the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 and the Customs Act 1901, and through regulations made under these Acts.

Where permissible, authorisation to supply an export sanctioned good or to make an asset available to a person or entity designated as being subject to targeted financial sanctions, must be obtained from DFAT prior to exportation.  Sanctions are distinct from other forms of export controls, for example, controls in respect of goods subject to the defence export control regime. 

Restrictions or prohibitions that arise under sanctions laws apply to all persons and bodies corporate in Australia, to Australian persons and bodies corporate anywhere in the world, and to foreign bodies corporate that are owned or controlled by Australians.

Therefore, the prohibitions on Australians supplying, selling or transferring export sanctioned goods and providing assets to, or dealing with the assets of, persons and entities subject to targeted financial sanctions, apply extraterritorially. Significant penalties may apply if a transaction contravenes sanctions laws, even if the goods or services are provided from outside of Australia.

Sanctions implemented in Australia generally involve the prohibition of:

  • the unauthorised supply of export sanctioned goods, such as arms and related materiel, and, in specific instances, dual-use goods which could contribute to weapons of mass destruction programs
  • the unauthorised provision of sanctioned services, which are usually services that are related to export sanctioned goods
  • without authorisation, making an asset available to, or dealing with an asset of, a person or entity subject to targeted financial sanctions

In addition, sanctions can apply specific prohibitions or restrictions targeting particular actions of concern in a territory or a by a regime.  Such measures include controls on the export of luxury goods to North Korea, and on dealings in stolen cultural property from Iraq.  Measures restricting commercial activity in sensitive sectors such as energy, in Iran and Syria, have also been introduced.

Exporters need also to be aware that all financial transactions of $20,000 or more that involve Iran require prior authorisation from DFAT. Specific details of measures currently applying in respect of each sanctions regime can be found on the DFAT website.

Sanctions change regularly.  Those engaged in international trade should regularly consult the DFAT sanctions webpages. If goods to be exported to a country subject to sanctions appear also in the DSGL , a separate permission will also be required from Defence Export Controls.

Inquiries and applications related to sanctions can be directed to DFAT via the Online Sanctions Administration System (OSAS), which can be accessed from the DFAT website.