Australia's New Controls On Sensitive Research Likely To Drive Academics Overseas
from the unintended-consequences dept
Australia’s Defence Trade Control Act is meant to stop sensitive military research falling into the “wrong hands”. Fair enough — nobody wants potentially dangerous technology being mis-used. But according to this report on Defence News, it seems that rushed drafting and limited scrutiny has led to some serious unintended consequences (via The Register):
this new set of guidelines can also make something as seemingly innocent as a university academic sharing an unrelated email with a fellow academic, who happens to be overseas, punishable by ten years in prison or a AUD 425,000 (GBP 221,700) fine and forfeiture of work.
The key problem seems to be that there is no exception for academics, as is the case for similar laws in the US and UK. Here’s what that is likely to mean in practice:
university researchers would need prior permission from a Minister at the Department of Defence (DoD) to communicate new research to foreign nationals or to publish in any research journals. The logistics, not to mention the time, needed to obtain such permissions without any guarantee they might be granted will probably mean a very large number of students and professors choosing not to undertake research projects.
The article details other problems with the Act, including its very broad nature, and the fact that you need to be a lawyer to understand its details. It notes one all-too-predictable consequence of this over-cautious approach:
Many will realise the opportunities abroad and take their innovative research elsewhere.
Maybe skimping on the legislation’s scrutiny was not such a good idea after all.