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Media release: Enabling critical defence research collaboration will underpin national security

March 28, 2024

The passing of amendments to Australia’s Defence Controls Act will streamline the flow of defence trade between AUKUS partners and support critical research collaboration, underpinning Australia’s national security.

Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said “this legislation paves the way for collaboration in critical defence research with our AUKUS partners. It’s a landmark moment for Australian research, it will facilitate and streamline the ability of the best research minds across the AUKUS partnership to continue to place us at the leading edge.

“It’s a game changer for university research, enabling collaboration in sensitive areas of research to deliver the advanced capabilities identified under Pillar II of AUKUS, including Artificial Intelligence, Undersea Capabilities and Quantum Technologies.

“As the universities who collectively invest $7.7 billion on R&D annually including 52 per cent of the total university sector’s defence R&D investment, the Go8 worked closely with the Department of Defence to ensure the legislation is fit for purpose, that it protects our broader research partnerships while enabling us to pursue our AUKUS goals with the US and UK.

“The legislation successfully walks a finely balanced tightrope of ensuring national security whilst at the same time guaranteeing that ever important international research collaboration is not compromised.”

The Go8 recommended the inclusion of the definition and exemption for ‘fundamental research’ to ensure the ongoing effectiveness and operation of Australia’s research and higher education sector, while enabling our capacity to advance the outcomes of the AUKUS partnership.

“We sought to ensure that the development of the new export controls framework did not impose controls on Australian firms, research institutions and researchers that are more restrictive than those that apply to counterpart organisations and researchers in the US and UK.

“The legislation strikes the necessary balance between taking full advantage of our AUKUS partnerships while not damaging our ability to engage more broadly where it is in the national interest.”

The Go8 acknowledges that the changes to the regime will bring additional scrutiny, and universities will scale up support as needed to assist our researchers navigate the requirements of the new export control regime.

The Department of Defence engaged with universities and industry on key elements of the Bill. We look forward to continuing this collaborative approach and working with Government and Defence to ensure the implications of the changes are well understood and we are all on the same page when it comes to advancing Australia’s strategic goals.

Contact: Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 438 047 155

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