On 30 January 2023, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) announced the Australian Sanctions Office (ASO) will lead a comprehensive review of Australia's legal framework for autonomous sanctions which includes the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (the Act), Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011 (Cth) (Regulations) and 18 legislative instruments made pursuant to the Act and Regulations (together, Sanctions Framework). The review has been commissioned as parts of the Sanctions Framework are set to expire on 1 April 2024.
Purpose of the review
The review will evaluate the current Sanctions Framework and suggest potential improvements to support the government's foreign policy objectives. It aims to enhance administrative and regulatory efficiency, as well as ensure compliance with sanctions. Recommendations for legislative amendments will be presented to the government for consideration.
The review's scope will include, but is not limited to:
- Streamlining the legal framework: simplify the navigation of sanctions measures by reducing the volume of subordinate legislation to improve accessibility and making it easier for the public and regulated entities to comply with their obligations.
- Scope of sanctions measures: refine and streamline certain areas to improve clarity and understanding such as the meanings of "asset," "directly" and "indirectly."
- Permit Powers: improving the Minister's power to grant permits for sanctioned activities if it is in the national interest, by detailing the general permit granting powers in the regulations to increase regulatory transparency and better inform the public.
- Preconditions for applying sanctions: clarifying the parameters for imposing and lifting sanctions.
- Compliance tools and offences: broadening sanction compliance enforcement through non-criminal mechanisms such as the introduction of civil penalties and assessing existing regulatory powers.
- Designations and declarations: the current relisting mechanism may be replaced with a streamlined process where the Minister would renew listings every five years and have the option to revoke them.
- Regulatory functions of the ASO: the ASO currently has limited powers including an injunction power and the ability to issue notices for information, but there may be merit in exploring whether the current injunction power is sufficient and aligning it with standard Commonwealth practice.
The ASO and DFAT invites submissions to an Issues Paper and on any matter relevant to the review's Terms of Reference. The closing date for submissions is 26 February 2023 with the review to be completed by 30 June 2023. Any recommendations on possible legislative amendments will then be considered by the Government.
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