Confidence-Building Measure F

Form Declaration

F: Nothing new to declare, year of last declaration is 2020

Declaration of past activities in offensive and/or defensive biological research and development programmes

1. Date of entry into force of the Convention for the State Party
05 October 1977
2. Past offensive biological research and development programmes
Period(s) of activities
Summary of the research and development activities indicating whether work was performed concerning production, test and evaluation, weaponization, stockpiling of biological agents, the destruction programme of such agents and weapons, and other related research.
3. Past defensive biological research and development programmes
Period(s) of activities

See explanatory statement below.

Summary of the research and development activities indicating whether or not work was conducted in the following areas: prophylaxis, studies on pathogenicity and virulence, diagnostic techniques, aerobiology, detection, treatment, toxinology, physical protection, decontamination, and other related research, with location if possible


Between 1946 and 1994, Australia had no research and development program specifically aimed at defence against biological and toxin weapons. However, some methods for protection against chemical warfare agents could also be used to protect against biological agents. As Australia has had a longstanding research and development program to develop protection against chemical agents, it had, though only incidentally, also been involved in the development of means capable of offering some protection from biological weapons.

The position at the end of World War II

During World War II, Australia acquired a protective capability against chemical and biological warfare (CBW), which included the equipping of military units with protective clothing, respirators, detection apparatus and decontamination equipment. This capability was associated with the threat of chemical warfare, as almost all of the major combatants possessed chemical weapons.

Australia had no biological weapons and knew little about them. While a need for some defence against them was generally perceived, no major specific steps were taken to achieve this. The tendency was to regard chemical and biological weapons as a single category of threat, with biological weapons treated as the lesser element.

The situation from 1945 to the 1970s

In the late 1940s and 1950s, Defence committees assessed the need for defence against biological agents. The view adopted was that if biological threats arose, Defence authorities would co-opt staff from public health facilities that were trained in microbiology and biological sciences.

Australia also received limited information on biological defence from the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada through the Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP). Under the TTCP, there is provision for collaborative research on biological defence, but Australia did not participate in that research.

During the 1960s and 1970s, some research was conducted in an Australian Defence laboratory on toxins and venoms from Australian animals and plants. The research had no biological warfare focus, and was undertaken solely for the purpose of developing expertise in toxicology. The results of the research were published in scientific journals, contributing to the open scientific literature.

1970 to 1994

During this period, the policy was to maintain a watching brief on developments in biological warfare defence research so that a competency could be maintained to advise on policy and to give direction to training for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). This competency was derived from open literature and from Australia’s partners under the TTCP. No research on defence against toxins (or other biological warfare agents) was undertaken during this period.

Australia did, however, maintain a research and development program into chemical defence, and the protective aspects of this program had some incidental common utility in biological defence.

1994 – Present

In 1994, it was recognised that Australia’s knowledge of toxins as warfare agents needed to be strengthened if appropriate advice on defensive measures was to be given to the ADF and in support of the country’s arms control objectives. Consequently, the Government gave approval to commence a modest program of research into defence against toxins as warfare agents.

It was also recognised that the Government needed advice on defence against biological weapons if it was to pursue its aims of strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention. Consequently, the policy of maintaining a watching brief on BW defence research was modified to allow research in BW defence that did not involve pathogenic reproducing organisms. This policy allowed research to include activities such as epidemiological studies, computer simulations and studies of the detection of toxins.

In 1998, government approval was given for Defence, Science and Technology Organisation (now Defence Science and Technology Group) to undertake biological defence work with reproducing organisms up to Risk Group 3. The subsequent program of work aims to mitigate the risk of use of biological weapons against Australian Defence personnel or civilians, and is in accordance with Australia’s obligations under the BWC. Australia still maintains its active program into researching protective aspects of defence against chemical agents and has expanded the scope to include defence against biological weapons (e.g. incorporation of antibacterials in carbon absorbents).