Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011

Summing Up Speech

Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011

Customs Amendment (Military End Use) Bill 2011

Mr Speaker

I thank the honourable Members for Fadden, Chifley, Patterson, Blair, Solomon and Canberra and for their contribution to the debate and for supporting this very important piece of legislation.

Mr Speaker

This Bill gives effect to the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty between Australia and the United States.

It also strengthens Australia’s export controls to align them with international best practice.

The announcement by the Prime Minister and President Obama last week highlights the importance of military cooperation between Australia and the United States. Military cooperation is fundamental to our national security.

About half of Australia’s war-fighting assets are sourced from the United States, and we will spend $150 billion replacing or upgrading up to 85 per cent of our military equipment over the next 10 to 15 years.

Strengthening this area of our Alliance cooperation is therefore very clearly in our national interest.

Mr Speaker

The Treaty removes the requirement for companies to seek individual licences for each export from the United States, allowing for the licence-free movement of eligible defence articles within an Approved Community.

For companies that join the Approved Community, this will save time and money.

It also has the potential to open up improved business opportunities for Australian companies to participate in US contracts.

Mr Speaker

The potential benefits of this Bill to the Australian Defence Industry have been well reinforced during this debate.

The Government recognises that for these benefits to be realised, the Treaty process must be easier to use and more commercially attractive than using the current system, otherwise it will not be a success.

That’s why there has been extensive consultation with Australian industry during the development of the Bill.

That consultation has been conducted over three major stages:

1. Stage 1 was meetings with industry in eight capital cities and regional centres in December last year.

2. Stage 2 was the establishment of the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty Industry Advisory Panel in May this year.

The Panel includes experts from major Australian Defence companies, small-to-medium businesses and the Department of Defence and has provided important advice on the development of this Bill.

3. Stage 3 was the release of the exposure draft of the Bill for broader industry and community feedback in July this year.

This Bill is the result of that consultation, and I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Mr Ken Peacock who led the consultation process with Australian industry.

I would also like to thank the members of the Advisory Panel who donated their time and expertise to ensure the Treaty is a success.

I have been impressed by the frank feedback from the Panel, which has resulted in important changes to the Bill and Explanatory Memorandum.

I would also like to thank the officials in the Department of Defence and elsewhere who have put in a lot of work into the preparation of the Bill:

  • Strategic Policy executives Mr Michael Shoebridge and Mr Murray Perks, and their team in the Defence Export Control Office;
  • Defence General Counsel Dr David Lloyd and his team in Defence Legal and Legislation areas;
  • the drafting team in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel; and
  • the Export Controls Systems area and the Defence Industry Security Directorate in the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Their effort and dedication to the development of this Bill is greatly appreciated.

Mr Speaker

I noted some concerns raised by the member for Fadden which I would like to address.

The Member for Fadden raised the issue of the Government’s record of first, second and other pass approvals.

The facts are that this year the Government has approved 30 defence capability projects worth more $5 billion.

This takes the total value of project approvals since the Government came to office to over $11 billion, and there are more to come before the end of this year.

Mr Speaker

The Member for Fadden also raised the issue of the Defence Export Control Office’s IT system.

As I said in my Second Reading Speech, a procurement process to select a partner to develop and implement a new system is underway, and a contract is expected to be signed early next year.

The new system will be set up and tested before the Treaty enters into force.

Mr Speaker

The Member for Fadden also raised the issue of the Regulations to this Bill.

He is right to say that many of the important details of this Bill will be included in the Regulations.

The Regulations are currently been drafted and will be released for public comment and extensive consultation before the end of the year.

It is planned for this consultation process to include:

  • consultation and feedback from the Defence Industry Advisory Panel chaired by Mr Ken Peacock;
  • engagement with peak industry groups – the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Industry & Defence Network;
  • website release of the draft Regulations and explanatory statement;
  • email notification to approximately 400 industry members and government representatives who attended the Treaty Roadshow events in December 2010 and August 2011;
  • distribution of material to all industry members who are provided with export permits or licences during the exposure period;
  • a DMO E-portal banner which redirects industry to the Defence Export Control Office website;
  • DMO distribution via the Business Access Office network; and
  • the Defence Export Control Office 1800 number will have an option for industry to seek further information about the Regulations.

Mr Speaker

I understand there has also been some concern about the impact the Treaty processes will have on small to medium enterprises.

Defence has already made decisions which will particularly assist SMEs as they transition to operating under the Treaty’s Approved Community:

  • there will be no membership fee for joining the approved community; and
  • Defence will not charge for security clearances where they are required.

In addition, to minimise the initial impact on SMEs operating under the Treaty, Defence will:

  • tailor free training programs upon request to address specific issues and provide assistance in understanding the application process and compliance requirements (including for specific security responsibilities);
  • ensure a streamlined, case-by-case facility accreditation process which means that some small-to-medium enterprises may not be required to have their facility accredited or will be accredited based on needs, subject to certain conditions;
  • put in place flexible ICT arrangements, whereby ICT system accreditation is only required on a case-by-case basis when an identified business need is demonstrated;
  • produce an Approved Community manual to assist industry in understanding the requirements of operating under the Treaty;
  • seek SME involvement in the Pathfinder program, which will assess the effectiveness and efficiency of processes and policies under the Treaty prior to implementation; and
  • continue active communications with industry through outreach activities including extensive distribution of flyers, website publication of frequently asked questions, an ongoing freecall enquiry line and extensive representation at defence industry events and a number of trade shows.

Mr Speaker

I am advised that if the Bills are passed by the House they will be considered in greater detail by the Senate Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Legislation Committee.

I understand that Committee has commenced its inquiry and has asked for submissions in relation to the proposed legislation to be received by 31 January 2012.

I thank the members of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade for their recommendation that both Bills be passed without amendment.

This will ensure quick passage of the Bills through the House and avoid duplicating the examination being conducted by the Senate Committee.

Mr Speaker

As I said in my Second Reading Speech, this is important legislation. It will:

  • strengthen our Alliance with the United States and the relationship between our defence industries;
  • improve interoperability of the Australian and United States armed forces;
  • help to deliver equipment to our troops faster and cheaper;
  • provide opportunities for the Australian defence industry to win work in the US defence market; and
  • enhance Australia’s defence export controls to bring them in line with international best practice.

I commend the Bill to the House.