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Go8 Media Release: Review of Defence Trade Controls Act heeds Go8 concerns

The Group of Eight Universities (Go8) which represent Australia’s leading research-intensive universities is pleased that the Review into the Defence Trade Controls Act conducted by Dr Vivienne Thom AM has understood the damage that could have been inflicted and the impossibility of complying with the Defence Department’s demands for increased controls over university research.

Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson says the Go8’s advocacy against the overreach had been firm. “The Go8 was dismayed and concerned with the Defence Department’s submissions for extended powers.” she said.

“Notwithstanding our support for adequate safeguards for the trade in defence related technologies, the Department’s proposals would have impacted upon our capacity to carry out research integral to Australia’s future, our community’s well-being and our international reputation and competitiveness.

“It went against everything that made the Defence Trade Controls Act such a sensible and workable piece of legislation. The Go8 was in fact instrumental in the extensive consultation process that had ensured that workability.”

Ms Thomson said she was therefore gratified to see the Go8, and the many other stakeholders who felt disenfranchised by that overreach, had been listened to. “Importantly, today Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has supported Dr Thom’s considered views,” she said. “For the Go8 that is a win for common sense. Successful research is global. It has no borders. But, at the same time we always take national security seriously and this report reflects that view.”

The Go8 would now work constructively with the Government’s established working group to address Dr Thom’s identified gaps in the Act. “The Go8, as it has been, will do everything it can to assist deliver well-advised solutions to mitigate any risks for Australia and we understand the need to further look at the emerging “dual-use” technologies for security reassurance.

“We live in a fast-changing geo-political climate; one of amazing technological advances and that does bring with it challenges, not least the need to continually ensure we have the correct controls, and support, in place for university research and research collaborations,” she said.

“We work hard to ensure that occurs and so we welcome Dr Thom’s recommendation that the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Act 2014 to effectively govern the breadth of monitoring and investigating powers are properly administered. The Go8 will always seek to operate within such a framework.”

Media contact: Vicki Thomson Go8 Chief Executive on +61 417 808 472