USA-Australia defence trade treaty would censor Australia’s researchers
Defence treaty to ‘censor’ research http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/defence-treaty-to-censor-research-20121009-27bao.html#ixzz28xGXeEc9 October 10, 2012 Bianca Hall UP TO 90 per cent of academic research could be affected by an Australian-US trade agreement that would make it an offence for academics to communicate findings on research, the University of Sydney has warned.
A Senate committee is examining proposals to join Australia in a defence trade treaty with the US.
The Department of Defence says joining the treaty would ”remove the administrative delays associated with existing Australian and US export-licensing systems … and increase opportunities for Australian companies to bid on eligible US contracts”.
But a by-product of signing up to the treaty, under the proposals before the committee, would be the introduction of export controls, that would restrict the ”intangible transfer” – or communication – by Australian researchers about a wide range of items except with a Defence permit.
Researchers would be prohibited from communicating – in emails,
research papers or speeches – information on goods listed on
Australia’s Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL) in prohibited
circumstances without a permit.
The DSGL list falls into two parts: one covers defence-related goods,
and the second covers so-called ”dual use” goods, which could be
adapted for civilian and military uses, like computing technologies
that could be used for military purposes. University of Sydney deputy
vice-chancellor Jill Trewhella said the US-imposed conditions could
lump elements in the periodic tables into the dual use category. ”It
can cover everything from vaccinations and treatments for cancers to
mining research,” she said.
”We think it’s in the interests of Australia not to rush through
legislation that could have such an impact on research that’s for the
public good, and is publicly-funded.”
Universities Australia says current laws regulate the movement of DSGL
goods, but universities are not generally affected. But the new permit
regime would cover everyday research. Universities Australia chief
executive Belinda Robinson told the inquiry the DSGL listed thousands
of items. ”Many goods are routinely held by universities as they are
needed to teach students and to conduct research in the fields of
science and technology.”
University of Sydney policy analysis and communication director Tim Payne said, ”it’s an unprecedented incursion into universities’ independence”. ”It’s an attack on Australian sovereignty and an attack on academic
freedom,” he said.
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