MilCIS 2024 728x90“A new law to prevent the sharing of sensitive military information that came into force this week is causing confusion among former defence personnel who face a maximum 20-years imprisonment for breaching the Act,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said.

“While the Safeguarding Australia’s Military Secrets Act, or SAMS Act, aims to protect our national security, the Act is in practice illogical, unfair and unworkable.

“The impact of this unguided missile of an Act on the defence industry, former Defence personnel (including veterans), and to Australia’s trade position and international reputation is deeply concerning.

“From this week, one of the offences under the Act means that former Defence personnel (including former ADF, civilians working in Defence and full-time reservists) will need to apply for a ‘foreign work authorisation‘ if they will be performing any work for a foreign military, government or for an organisation (even those unrelated to any military purpose) where the foreign government has control, whether formal or informal.

“Offences under the Act do not need to have a connection with ‘military secrets’, and because working with a foreign ‘government body’ is defined so broadly, the legislation could easily work in absurd ways.

“For example – if an administrative officer works in the Department of Defence, that person will need a foreign work authorisation for at least a year after they depart Defence if they want to work for one of the thousands of companies located in Australia with some foreign government influence or ownership. This is the case, even if the person did not have access to ‘military secrets’, and also if the company is a civilian entity with no connection to national security.

“Bizarrely, this offence under the Act does not apply to other high level clearance holders, including intelligence agencies, other government departments, ministerial staff, or defence contractors and consultants. So, the administrative officer with a low-level clearance will need a foreign work authorisation, but intelligence officers will not, nor will consultants who hold a top secret clearance.

“The SAMS Act will make it manifestly harder for thousands of Defence personnel and veterans to move into new roles after they leave their employment in Defence Department or the ADF.

“Ai Group estimates the Australian workforce potentially captured by the SAMS Act includes 230,000 current and former ADF personnel, and 70,000 civilians formerly employed in Defence administration. This is equivalent to around one in forty Australian workers. Even given the exemptions, the scope of the Act’s potential impact is enormous.

“Overall, the legislation is also likely to create a significant chilling impact on defence exports, which would include exports to support Ukraine. Even if a company has a Defence export licence to export military equipment, all former Defence employees captured by the legislation will need to apply for individual authorisations in support of the program.

“Everyone supports the need to put sensible post-service controls in place for former Defence personnel to protect our national security. But the system needs to be fixed to be practical and workable for industry and employees.

“We urge the Government to sit down with industry experts to determine how to proceed in relation to the work authorisation process, a broad range of exemptions and the communication strategy.

“The SAMS Act comes from a place of good intentions. But alarming outcomes await Australia’s defence capability unless there is a proper reconsideration of the legislation’s remit and scope. Our national security demands it,” Mr Willox said.


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  1. Just when you thought the Government couldn’t possibly get any more illogical and irresponsible, they drop this on us… I’m beginning to think Beijing is making the decisions .im at loss for words.

    • There’s even worse to come. Staff of non-Five Eyes companies will soon all need a second series of security qualifications – because of course Australia can’t trust any of those German, Swedish, Norwegian, French or South Korean entities.

      • This is obviously a scheme designed behind closed doors to irrevocably tie us to U.S. Industry. While U.S. equipment isn’t bad, it very rarely is licensed to be built overseas (unless it’s in the U.S. interests like the Lockheed Martin Deal) at the expense of our own industry and while the U.S. has a stable President the damage might be mitigated but that’s not always the case. (Perhaps we should all hope for Trump to win, have one of his tantrums over something someone said years ago and tear everything up )Sadly Australia will never have a Defence Industry with agreements like this. The real cost of the AUKUS deal seems to higher than we were led to believe. I sincerely hope your working on a Podcast for this.

  2. remember ex fighter pilot in the doo doo for engaging in employment instructing Chinese air force pilots

    • If we are talking of the same person, he’s a U.S. citizen who has been in solitary confinement in Super Max at Goulburn jail for the last year awaiting extradition with no meaningful evidence yet presented.

  3. Legislation drafted under the supervision of Mark Dreyfus seems to have a number of common factors – illogical, unworkable, and without any consideration of the possible downstream effects.


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