The Australia Group (AG) was formed in 1985 with the aim of harmonising export controls on chemical weapons (CW) precursor chemicals in the wake of Iraq's use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. The AG charter was subsequently extended to include controls on chemical production equipment and technologies which might be misused for CW purposes. The scope of AG activities was extended again in 1990 to include measures to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons (BW).
The lists of items controlled by AG participating countries are reviewed regularly to minimise the risk of relevant dual-use materials being diverted to chemical or biological weapons programmes. The Group contributes to the fulfilment of national obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). In particular, given the absence of an international organisation to facilitate implementation of the BWC, AG participants' licensing requirements are the only current form of harmonised control over transfers of BW items.
The AG currently consists of 41 countries and the European Union. All AG participants are States Parties to the CWC and the BWC. Australia is chair of the Group and also provides its Secretariat (DFAT's International Security Division). The AG convenes annual plenary meetings and experts meetings on an ad hoc basis to consider issues relating to policy, information sharing, implementation and enforcement.