New legislation goes into force in Australia on 7 May 2024, requiring former defence personnel to seek approval from Australia’s Ministry of Defence before entering into work for that could foreign militaries and governments, including work for defence manufacturers contracted to work for other nations.

The passing of the legislation followed reports of China recruiting pilots from Five-Eyes countries to train carrier pilots. 

Approval would be focussed on the beneficiary of the work, in a manner that could affect human resource officers at major prime manufacturers. “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,” said Defence’s Chief Security Officer Peter West.

West explained that while there has long been laws against providing sensitive information that would result in protection, the Safeguarding Australia’s Military Secrets Act 2024 would work to prevent such breaches taking place. The requirement to seek approval does not amount to an outright ban, and roles considered ‘innocuous’ would be likely to be approved quickly, added West. 

“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 to seek approval last a number of years after leaving the services, with the exact mount varying by the sensitivity of the information the person has dealt with, and the exact Defence role. The duration of the requirement can last one, five or 10 years depending on the particular circumstances of the individual. 

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The new legislation does not extend to joining foreign military forces, as this is addressed under the Crimes Act, which includes provisions for officially sanctioned foreign militaries. West also emphasised that there might be exceptions for roles involving Five-Eyes nations, activities sponsored by the Australian government, or work related to the United Nations, and advised individuals to explore their specific situations through the Defence website.