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Introduction of SAMS Legislation

WO2 Max Bree

Former Australian Defence Force, Defence and Australian Submarine Agency personnel may need approval to work for foreign militaries and governments, following new legislation that came into force on 6 May 2024.

The Safeguarding Australia’s Military Secrets (SAMS) Act has requirements lasts one, five or 10 years after discharge depending on your Defence role and the sensitivity of information you worked with.

There could be exceptions for jobs with Five-Eyes countries, Australian-government activities or UN work and Defence’s Chief Security Officer Peter West encouraged people to read their website.

“There’s a number of exclusions people need to check and if they fall into one, no problem,” he said.

“But if they don’t, you will need to fill in the online form, then we’ll assess if the work raises any national-security issues,” he said.

The assessment team factors in the type of proposed work and the country when determining if there’s a risk.

“I think in most cases there will be no issues, but if we think there’s a risk we may deny the authorisation or give you one with conditions attached,” Mr West said.

The requirement also applies to former personnel working for foreign militaries or governments as a contractor.

Mr West said the focus is the end beneficiary of the work, not necessarily who is hiring someone.

“You could be working for Boeing, a big US company, but if Boeing were employed by the Indian government to do flight training, you would be impacted by the legislation because India is the end beneficiary, not Boeing,” he said.

Known as the Defence Amendment (Safeguarding Australia’s Military Secrets) Act 2024, it also applies to Australian citizens or permanent residents training in military tactics and use of software or technology with military applications.

The Act follows a 2022 review into reports of China recruiting pilots from Five-Eyes countries to train carrier pilots.

While there have long been laws to prosecute those who provide sensitive information to foreign countries, Mr West said the new rules were designed to stop it before it happens.

The legislation doesn’t exclude any specific types of work, so generic services such as cleaning could still require authorisation, according to Mr West.

“It gets very difficult being too specific. We can quickly approve the proposals that are innocuous and worry about the ones which could lead to the exposure of sensitive information,” he said.

The new law doesn’t apply to enlisting in foreign militaries, which is covered by the Crimes Act and has exemptions for officially recognised foreign militaries.

Mr West said Defence didn’t want to stop people using their Defence skills to get jobs overseas and would try to make the process as quick as possible.

He also believed many people would “self-select” and not apply for work with obvious national security concerns.

“Most people with Defence experience understand the types of security threats we are concerned about and will know which applications are going to go through quickly and are going to take a bit more time and be more complex” Mr West said.

For more information on the new law or to apply for an authorisation, go to

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