On 2 December 2021, the Australian Parliament passed the Autonomous Sanctions Amendment (Magnitsky-style and Other Thematic Sanctions) Act 2021 (Cth) (“Act“). The new laws are intended to modernise Australia’s autonomous sanctions regime by creating a framework to facilitate the establishment of a thematic sanctions regime to enable Australia to respond flexibly and swiftly to a range of situations of international concern.  A key difference to the current sanctions regime is that the new laws will not be restricted in their operation to any particular country / jurisdiction. A person or entity meeting the required listing criteria under a thematic regime, can be sanctioned regardless of where the relevant conduct occurred.

The new laws highlight increased government focus in several jurisdictions on these thematic issues, in particular, in supply chains.

The Act amends the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (Cth) to:

  • clarify that autonomous sanctions can be imposed to address particular issues (called thematic sanctions) as opposed to being only country-specific; and
  • set out the decision-making process for imposing targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on designated persons and entities under thematic sanctions regimes.

An exposure draft for amendments to the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011 (“Regulations“) has been released which contains the details for the new measures.  The regulations will see four new thematic sanctions regimes established under which an entity or individual can be declared a designated person or entity if it is determined that they:

  • contributed to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • caused, assisted with or were complicit in significant cyber activity;
  • engaged in serious violations or serious abuses of human rights; or
  • were involved or complicit in serious corruption (including bribery).

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade will be able to designate a person or entity under the above categories after following the stated consultation and decision process.

It is an offence under the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (Cth) to in effect do business with a designated person or entity other than in accordance with a permit.  That is, it is an offence to directly or indirectly make an asset available to or for the benefit of a designated person or entity or to deal with a designated person’s or entity’s assets (other than in accordance with a permit).