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Australia and sanctions

About sanctions

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Sanctions: What you need to know [PDF 190 KB]

Who are we?

The Australian Sanctions Office (ASO) is the Australian Government’s sanctions regulator. As the sanctions regulator, ASO:

  • provides guidance to regulated entities, including government agencies, individuals, business and other organisations on Australian sanctions law;
  • processes applications for, and issues, sanctions permits;
  • works with individuals, business and other organisations to promote compliance and help prevent breaches of the law;
  • works in partnership with other government agencies to monitor compliance with sanctions legislation; and
  • supports corrective and enforcement action by law enforcement agencies in cases of suspected non compliance.

The Australian Sanctions Office sits within DFAT’s Regulatory Legal Division in the Security, Legal and Consular Group.

What are sanctions?

The Charter of the United Nations does not expressly define 'sanctions', but Article 41 is generally understood as providing a definition. It refers to:

'measures not involving the use of armed force', including a 'complete or partial interruption of economic relations.'

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Autonomous Sanctions Bill 2010 defines 'sanctions' as:

'measures not involving the use of armed force' imposed 'in situations of international concern', including 'the grave repression of the human rights or democratic freedoms of a population by a government, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery, or internal or international armed conflict.'

Sanctions impose restrictions on activities that relate to particular countries, themes of conduct, goods and services, or persons and entities.

Aims of sanctions

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Autonomous Sanctions Bill 2010 provides that the aims of sanctions are:

  • 'to limit the adverse consequences of the situation of international concern (for example, by denying access to military or paramilitary goods, or to goods, technologies or funding that are enabling the pursuit of programs of proliferation concern);
  • to seek to influence those responsible for giving rise to the situation of international concern to modify their behaviour to remove the concern (by motivating them to adopt different policies); and
  • to penalise those responsible (for example, by denying access to international travel or to the international financial system).'

Two types of sanctions regimes

Australia implements United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions regimes and Australian autonomous sanctions regimes.

UNSC sanctions regimes are imposed by the UNSC and Australia is obliged to implement them as a matter of international law.

Australian autonomous sanctions regimes are imposed and implemented by the Australian Government as a matter of Australian foreign policy.

Australian autonomous sanctions regimes may supplement UNSC sanctions regimes, or be separate from them.

Australia currently implements the sanctions regimes shown in the diagram below:

A text version is available https://www.dfat.gov.au/international-relations/security/sanctions/sanctions-regimes-currently-implemented-under-australian-sanction-law

Alternative text version

Australian sanctions laws

Australia implements UNSC sanctions regimes and Australian autonomous sanctions regimes under Australian sanctions laws.

UNSC sanctions regimes are primarily implemented under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 (the United Nations Act) and its sets of regulations. There is a separate set of regulations under the United Nations Act for each UNSC sanctions regime.

Australian autonomous sanctions regimes are primarily implemented under the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (the Autonomous Act) and the Australian Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011. There is only one set of regulations under the Autonomous Act.

DFAT administers the United Nations Act, the Autonomous Act and their regulations.

Types of sanctions measures

Different sanctions regimes impose different sanctions measures.

The United Nations Act, the Autonomous Act and their regulations use common terms to describe sanctions measures.

Using those terms, sanctions measures may include general prohibitions on:

  • making a 'sanctioned supply' of 'export sanctioned goods'
  • making a 'sanctioned import' of 'import sanctioned goods'
  • providing a 'sanctioned service'
  • engaging in a 'sanctioned commercial activity'
  • dealing with a 'designated person or entity'
  • using or dealing with a 'controlled asset' or
  • the entry into or transit through Australia of a 'designated person' or a 'declared person'.

For detailed information on the sanctions measures imposed by each sanctions regime that Australia implements, go to sanctions regimes.

DFAT maintains a Consolidated List of all persons and entities listed for the purposes of sanctions regimes implemented under Australian sanctions laws.

Sanctions permits

The Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister's delegate may be able to grant a sanctions permit authorising an activity that would otherwise contravene Australian sanctions laws.

Different sanctions regimes impose different criteria which must be satisfied before the Minister or the Minister's delegate may grant a sanctions permit. The Minister or the Minister's delegate may attach conditions to a sanctions permit.

You can submit an application for a sanctions permit by registering as a user of Pax.

DFAT responds to applications submitted on Pax as quickly as possible, subject to the current Pax caseload. DFAT may need to consult other Australian Government agencies, other countries, or a Sanctions Committee of the UNSC.

DFAT is committed to administering Australian sanctions laws diligently, but also in a way that facilitates trade wherever possible.

Sanctions offences

Contravening Australian sanctions laws can be a serious criminal offence. Penalties include up to ten years in prison for individuals, and substantial fines for individuals and bodies corporate.

Australian sanctions laws apply broadly, including to activities in Australia, and to activities by Australian citizens and Australian-registered bodies corporate overseas.

For detailed information on sanctions offences, go to sanctions offences.

In addition to considering Australian sanctions laws, we encourage you to consider whether your activity may be subject to other Australian laws or the sanction laws of another country. If so, you should consider seeking legal advice as to how those laws may impact upon your activity.

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