Australia's National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention

Introduction to the Chemical Weapons Convention

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an international treaty that bans the development, production, possession or use of chemical weapons, and requires the destruction of existing weapons. The CWC entered into force on 29 April 1997. Currently there are 192 member countries to the CWC.

Australia signed the Convention in January 1993 and ratified in May 1994.

Each CWC member country must provide assurance that it is honouring its commitments not to engage in prohibited activities by:

  • destroying all chemical weapons in strict accordance with the treaty's specifications;
  • declaring information on certain chemical activities to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international implementing agency; and
  • permitting inspections of relevant chemical facilities by the OPCW.

Australia is an active player in ensuring that the treaty is effective in promoting international security.

Australia does not possess chemical weapons but occasionally old, unusable chemical weapons remaining from WWII are discovered and reported to the OPCW.

Role of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office

The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is the National Authority responsible for implementation of the CWC in Australia. Amongst other responsibilities, ASNO is the focal point in Australia for liaison between stakeholders, such as operators of facilities regulated under the CWC, the OPCW, and the national authorities of other member countries on issues relating to implementation of the Convention.

ASNO's role is primarily one of liaison and facilitation, that is, to ensure that Australia's international obligations under the CWC are met while at the same time making certain that the rights of regulated companies and facility operators are protected.

ASNO also promotes effective implementation of the CWC, particularly in Australia's immediate region, by hosting and attending workshops, providing practical implementation advice and by giving presentations on its experience.

ASNO has an extensive Australian on-site consultation and outreach program aimed at raising awareness of affected parties of CWC obligations, collecting information necessary for declarations and preparing sites for routine compliance inspections by the OPCW.

ASNO is responsible for administering the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994 which is the implementing legislation for the CWC. ASNO officers have the right to conduct compliance inspections of relevant chemical facilities.

ASNO is also responsible for administering Section 5J of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 by regulating the importation of CWC-Scheduled chemicals through the operation of an import permit system.

How the CWC Affects Industry

A Guide for Australian Industry Producing, Using or Trading Chemicals [PDF 2.20 MB]

A number of chemicals produced or used for normal industrial, medical or research activities can also have applications in the manufacture of chemical weapons. Moreover, the types of chemical processes involved in the production of chemical warfare agents are also very commonly used in the legitimate production of commercial chemicals.

To provide assurance of compliance with the treaty, Australia must declare the following information to the OPCW (summarised in Table 1):

TABLE 1: Summary of Declarable Activities
Schedule Declarable Activities Example Industries

Schedule 1

  • Small-scale production
  • Small-scale consumption
  • Acquisition, retention, use and/or domestic transfers
  • Import
  • Export
  • Medical and diagnostic uses
  • Defence research purposes (testing protective clothing)

Schedule 2

  • Industrial-scale production
  • Industrial-scale consumption
  • Industrial-scale processing
  • Import
  • Export
  • Textiles (flame retardants)
  • Agriculture (pesticides)
  • Photographic (dyes)
  • Pharmaceuticals (anticholinergics, tranquilisers)

Schedule 3

  • Industrial-scale production
  • Import
  • Export
  • Cosmetics (surfactants, buffers, scents)
  • Pharmaceuticals (surfactants, active ingredients)
  • Agriculture (soil fumigants)

Other chemical production of Discrete Organic Chemicals (DOCs), including those containing phosphorus, sulfur and fluorine (PSF-DOCs)

  • Industrial-scale production
  • Agricultural goods (pesticides, fertilisers, soil fumigants)
  • Cosmetics (surfactants, buffers)

Chemical Warfare Agents

A summary of the CWC-Scheduled chemicals and their relevance to chemical warfare may be downloaded here (Table 2): [PDF 19.5 KB] | [DOC 45 KB]. The OPCW has also produced a comprehensive Handbook of Chemicals which is available for all to use.

The Scheduled Chemicals Database is a tool developed by the Technical Secretariat to facilitate the identification of scheduled chemicals by National Authorities, customs authorities, and the chemical industry for the purposes of implementing the declaration and transfer provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention. This database has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union.

The Scheduled Chemicals Database contains information on over 1,400 scheduled chemicals declared to the OPCW that are contained in the Handbook on Chemicals 2009, as well as all scheduled chemicals that had been assigned Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Numbers as at 13 January 2009, amounting to an additional 28,000 chemicals. Although the database contains more than 29,000 scheduled chemicals, it does not contain all possible scheduled chemicals. Owing to the nature of the families of chemicals covered under the schedules, it is not possible to provide a comprehensive database of all scheduled chemicals.

The Scheduled Chemicals Database provides information on chemical identifiers such as CAS Registry Numbers, International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and CAS chemical names, synonyms, and World Customs Organization (WCO) Harmonized System (HS) codes. Please note, however, that Australia has extended these six-digit WCO HS codes.  The Australian tariff and/or AHECC codes can be obtained from the ASNO publications posted on this website, namely: A Guide for Australian Industry Producing, Using or Trading Chemicals [PDF 2.20 MB] and Information for Importers of Chemicals [PDF 4.11 MB].

The database is accessible via the Internet, through the OPCW website. Owing to licensing issues, the Secretariat will not be able to provide copies of the database, and access will be provided to registered users only. Registration is free and open to all. New users are required to provide a valid e-mail address in order to receive confirmation of registration. In accordance with the privacy statement on the OPCW website, information requested during the registration process will be used only for statistical purposes in order to improve the database in the future, and will not be published for general access.

Civil Uses of CWC-Relevant Chemicals

Examples of commercial activities that are affected by the CWC may be downloaded here. This table is not exhaustive and is updated regularly (Table 3): [PDF 11.2 KB] | [DOC 49 KB]

Australian Legal Obligations: Permits and Notifications

Australia's CWC obligations are implemented through the:

These documents can be accessed through ComLaw which is the legal information retrieval system managed by the Australian Attorney-General's Department.

Production, Consumption, Processing, Research and Development

The Chemicals Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994 bans activities connected to the development, production and use of chemical weapons, including assisting anyone else engaged in these activities, whether intentionally or not. Such offences are punishable by life imprisonment.

Under Article VI of the CWC, member countries have the right to produce or use certain toxic chemicals and their precursors for activities not prohibited by the treaty. However, in order to deter diversion of such chemicals to clandestine weapons programmes, the CWC provides for a stringent verification regime of such activities which involves making declarations to and hosting inspections conducted by the OPCW. Under the Chemicals Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994, a system of permits and notifications has been established to collect information required to ensure Australia meets its CWC obligations.

The permits issued under this Act simply provide a mechanism for ensuring that the particular requirements of the CWC as they relate to a facility or site are met. They are also a means for gathering information that is relevant to Australia's declaration to the OPCW. There are no charges for the issue of permits under this Act.

There are several types of permits issued under this Act, depending on the Schedule involved, the purpose for which it is to be used and the quantity of the chemical/s. A facility requires a permit if:

  • it produces, acquires, retains, uses, consumes or transfers any amount of Schedule 1 chemical;
  • it produces, processes or consumes a Schedule 2 chemical above the Schedule 2 permit threshold; or
  • a plant within the facility produces more than 30 tonnes of a Schedule 3 chemical.

Applications for permits must be made to the Director General ASNO who has been designated by the Minister to approve permits. Applications must be made at least 21 days prior to activities commencing at the facility. Permits may be granted for one year but may be renewed, subject to permit conditions being met.

Australia is also required to declare to the OPCW all chemical facilities producing above threshold quantities of discrete organic chemicals (DOCs). In fact it is this aspect of the CWC which probably has the most widespread impact for Australian industry. Rather than requiring a permit, other organic chemical production facilities (OCPFs) are subject to simpler annual notification procedures.

Summary of activities requiring permits and notifications for all CWC-relevant activities, including trade, are presented in Table 4.

Application forms and information guides can be downloaded from this table.

TABLE 4: Summary of Permit and Notification Requirements
Activity Schedule 1 Schedule 2 Schedule 3 DOC/PSF

(for research only)
Guide to Form 1.2 [DOC 94 KB] | [PDF 34.3 KB]

S1 issues for research and medical institutes [DOC 96 KB] | [PDF 23.8 KB]

Permit Application: Form 1.2 [DOC 60 KB] | [PDF 22.3 KB]

Guide to Form 2 [DOC 126 KB] | [PDF 60.4 KB]

Permit Application: Form 2 [DOC 116 KB] | [PDF 41.5 KB]

Guide to Form 3 [DOC 82 KB] | [PDF KB]

Permit Application: Form 3 [DOC 46 KB] | [PDF 35.5 KB]

Guide to DOC notification [DOC 49 KB] | [PDF 36 KB]

Notification: Form 4 [DOC 79 KB] | [PDF 35.7 KB]


As for production

As for production




(for research only)
Guide to Permit Application: Form 1.3 [DOC 94 KB] | [PDF 34.5 KB]

Permit Application: Form 1.3 [DOC 64 KB] | [PDF 23.1]

As for production




International Chemical Trade Control - Information for Importers and Exporters of Chemicals

Guidelines for importers [PDF 4.11 MB]

S1 Import Permit Application Form [DOC 52 KB] | [PDF 13.9]

Guidelines for importers [PDF 4.11 MB]

S2.S3 Import Permit Application Form
[DOC 285 KB]
| [PDF 107 KB]

As for Schedule 2



International Chemical Trade Control - Information for Importers and Exporters of Chemicals

Application form to export CWC and Australia Group chemicals

 As for
Schedule 1

As for Schedule 1


Security Measures advice for all permit applications excluding those exclusively exporting CWC goods  

Security Measure Advice Form [DOC 66 KB] | [PDF 30 KB]


Security Measures

ASNO introduced in January 2002 new permit conditions for producers, processors, consumers and importers of CWC-Scheduled chemicals to strengthen measures that restrict access to CWC-Scheduled chemicals.  It is in the National security interest to avoid diversion of regulated chemicals that may be used for hostile purposes. These conditions include the following:

The permit holder must provide ASNO:

  • Immediate notice of any unexplained loss, theft or suspicious incidents that involve CWC‑Scheduled chemicals;
  • Where possible, written advice prior to any alterations to contact details, ownership, company name or address;
  • Where closure of the company is proposed, written advice in advance and disposal details for excess stocks of CWC-Scheduled chemicals, including quantities transferred or destroyed; and
  • A description of security measures in place for the physical protection of CWC-Scheduled chemicals.

A copy of the one-page security measures advice pro forma can be downloaded from Table 4. Brief annual updates are required in subsequent years for the lifetime of the permit.

Security measures advice must be provided for all submissions excluding DOC producers and those exclusively exporting CWC-Scheduled chemicals.

The Inspection Process

Officers from ASNO or the OPCW may inspect relevant facilities.

The Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994 provides for inspection of facilities either by officers from ASNO or from the OPCW, the international implementing agency for the CWC. The OPCW is based in The Netherlands.

Role of ASNO

ASNO inspectors focus on compliance with the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994 and its regulations, and assist facility representatives to prepare for possible OPCW inspections. During an OPCW inspection, ASNO officials act as intermediaries between the OPCW inspection team and the site representatives to ensure Australia's international treaty obligations are met, while protecting the rights of the facility.

Role of OPCW

OPCW inspections are conducted by a small team from the Organisation's Technical Secretariat, but all OPCW inspectors are accompanied at all times by ASNO officers and site representatives. OPCW inspectors are employed full-time by the Organisation and they work under strict rules governing the protection of confidential information. They are chemical and chemical engineering professionals drawn from a range of CWC member-states.

Inspection Intensity

The intensity of the inspection process depends on the nature of the chemical and the activities undertaken at the facility. The intensity is reduced from Schedule 1 through Schedule 2, Schedule 3 and DOC facilities. Australia has hosted a number of OPCW inspections since the CWC's entry into force.

Information to help relevant DOC facilities prepare for a possible OPCW inspection may be downloaded here: Inspection information for producers of chemicals [PDF 646 KB].

Challenge Inspections and Non-Compliance

The CWC includes mechanisms for addressing issues of non-compliance of CWC obligations through OPCW:

  • Clarification requests for lesser concerns;
  • Challenge inspections at any facility or location in CWC-member states.

Challenge inspections are intended to resolve questions of serious non-compliance with CWC obligations. None have taken place worldwide since the treaty's entry into force. It is unlikely that any individual Australian facility or location would be the subject of a challenge inspection. The chemical industry should nevertheless be aware of this possibility.

Status of CWC Implementation in Australia

Australia was the sixth country to ratify the CWC, in May 1994. The Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994 was enacted on 25 February 1994, and entered fully into force with the Convention on 29 April 1997.

Since 1995 ASNO has surveyed over 3000 companies and organisations in Australia, to identify activities to be declared to the OPCW. Around 150 companies or organisations were identified as having had relevant facilities, and information provided by them has been used to compile Australia's initial and subsequent declarations to the OPCW. Table 6 provides a summary of the current status of Australia's declarable sites:

TABLE 6: Status of Implementation in Australia - as at May 2018

Sched. 1

Sched. 2

Sched. 3


Declarable Facilities

1 *









OPCW Inspections





* Protective purpose facility as declared under paragraph 10 of Part VI of the CWC's Verification Annex. This facility is subject to frequent inspections.

All inspections went smoothly and demonstrated Australia's full compliance with the CWC. There were no disruptions to the facility activities, or problems associated with disclosure of commercially sensitive information.

For further background on the approach Australia has taken to CWC implementation, the following papers may be of historical interest (some information may be superceded: Please contact ASNO if you have any queries related to these documents):

Publications and documents

Links to other websites

Chemistry and related organisations

Chemistry Resources

Non-Proliferation Resources

Contact details

Director, Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Section
Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R.G. Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221

TEL: +61 2 6261 1914 / +61 2 6261 1920
FAX: +61 2 6261 1908

Last Updated: 7 August 2017