DFAT announces review of Australia Autonomous Sanctions Framework



Australia Publication February 2023

2022 saw the largest increase in the number of sanctions imposed by Australia, demonstrating the important role that international sanctions can play in furthering Australia’s strategic aims.

Within this context, the Australian Sanctions Office, the entity responsible for administering international sanctions within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has released Terms of Reference for a review of Australia’s autonomous sanctions framework (the Review). The purpose of the Review is to provide recommendations on possible legislative amendments to Government for its consideration.

The Review will consider whether the Autonomous Sanctions Framework “remains fit for purpose and will seek to identify administrative and regulatory efficiencies for government and the public, with a view to ensuring continued robust sanctions administration, regulation, and compliance.”

The Terms of Reference note that the Review will consider (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Streamlining the legal framework to reduce the volume of subordinate legislation and to make it easier for the public to navigate the Autonomous Sanctions Framework;
  • The preconditions for applying sanctions measures, such as how sanctions are imposed and lifted;
  • The existing categories of sanctions measures and whether they are fit for purpose;
  • Refining the authorisation powers with respect to permits to ensure they are comprehensive, reduce administrative obligations and enable more balanced restrictions on activities;
  • The existing sanction offences, including the introduction of civil penalties to enable flexible enforcement options, including non-criminal mechanisms for less serious contraventions of autonomous sanctions; and
  • Key concepts, terms and definitions, including the criteria for the imposition of targeted financial sanctions and travel bans, to clarify the operation of sanctions prohibitions.

The legal framework for autonomous sanctions comprises the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (Cth) (the Act), the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011 (Cth) (the Regulations), and 18 legislative instruments made under the Act and Regulations. The Review will consider the legal framework for autonomous sanctions ahead of the automatic expiry on 1 April 2024 of the Regulations and associated instruments.

Having regularly advised on the scope and application of the Act and Regulations across the various sanctions regimes, we see the Review as providing an opportunity for:

  1. adopting international best practice, using the approach taken by the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union;
  2. clarifying issues like ownership and control, as well as whether an activity has a direct or indirect connection to a sanctioned person or entity; and
  3. the development of guidance, clarifying the operation of the Act and Regulations.

For those entities who regularly engage with the Act and Regulations, we see this review as an opportunity to provide input on making the legal framework more efficient and effective, particularly in areas such as sanctions screening.

A copy of the Issues Paper is available here.

If you wish to make a submission, the closing date for submissions is 26 February 2023. The Review will be completed by 30 June 2023.


Global Chair and Global Co-Head of Restructuring
Senior Advisor - Risk Advisory
Senior Advisor - Risk Advisory
Senior Advisor - Risk Advisory
Senior Advisor - Risk Advisory
Head of Canberra; Partner

Recent publications

Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest legal news, information and events...