Researchers slam Defence Department’s ambit gambit

The Department of Defence’s suggestion that the government should decide access to any technology under the defence export control scheme (CMM Monday and Tuesday) will qualify as ambit gambit of the year if the research community has anything to do with it. Supplementary, and scathing, submissions to the Thom Review of the Defence Trade Controls Act, were released yesterday.

Universities Australia: “Should Defence be given the power to unilaterally prohibit or control supply of any technology, irrespective of whether it has been included on the defence strategic goods list, this could make the confident conduct of research very difficult. If research cannot be published, nor supplied for commercial or non-commercial use, it cannot be effectively employed. Researchers and institutions would, rightly, refuse to conduct research where the spectre of such a wide-ranging control system looms.

Group of Eight: “DoD’s proposals have the potential to significantly impact not only the course of researcher activity, affecting choices as to which research our universities and researchers engage in, but the fundamental academic freedoms upon which the quality and diversity of our research is reliant.

Australian Academy of Science: “The Defence recommendations amount to the unilateral ability to prohibit, control or regulate any technology … and the ability to suppress publication of any given research activity. Such a regime would create enormous uncertainty, with no ability to determine whether a technology would be allowed to be developed, deployed, communicated or exported.

Australian Academy of Technology and Science: “These changes would make compliance with the Act burdensome and challenging for Australia’s industries, researchers and institutions…. the Department’s submissions proposes warrantless entry and search powers, which also do not appear to be adequately justified.”

Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes: “This could potentially cripple international research collaborations …. Such unprecedented power would threaten research progress, improved health outcomes as well as the commercialisation of research.”

There is more, much more, from other institutions, but you get the idea. Last night UA’s Catriona Jackson said “we are engaging in discussions with Defence and we are hopeful of a good outcome.”


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