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So... Night Vision in Australia... What's the story?
I'm not going to tell you what an image intensifier is, or explain generations. That's another article. What I'm writing about here is Night Vision in Australia. This is a bit of a FAQ as best as I know it. Feel free to dispute anything I say. If you can, offer proof of what you're saying if possible, though I will investigate either way to try to determine what is correct. This is especially important since there are some untrue myths about NV down under. The below is OPINION only.
This is a Frequently Asked Questions list for my fellow enthusiasts down under...
Q. Is night vision LEGAL in Australia?
A. Yes. There are no specific laws regarding ownership or use of night vision equipment that I am aware of. Other laws, like surveillance laws, probably apply regardless. I am not a lawyer, so don't take this as legal advice, but I've yet to find NV mentioned anywhere in law with the exception of exports.
Update: As of June 6, the new US-AU defence trade treaty came into effect, and while I can't find specific information specifically detailing the situation, Defence have indicated that they have agreed to apply US laws to Australian citizens within Australia for activities within Australia. This means that *any* US country-of-origin equipment cannot be resold within Australia ( even between Australians ) without US state department approval. I'm not even sure that's legal, but it's clear that the Australian government seems to support it, so I guess the question of legality of even constitutionality is moot. This affects a lot more than Night Vision equipment, so hopefully I can find further information on this as the new laws settle in.
However, nothing indicated to me by Defence suggests any change in status for those using US based equipment and equipment manufactured outside of the US is not affected.
Q. I've been told that Gen3 night vision is illegal to buy/own in Australia unless you're Military/Police/Investigator.
A. Australian law does not distinguish between Gen2 and Gen3 that I am aware of. I personally have owned and have used, Gen1, Gen2 and Gen3 devices. Due to US export restrictions, however, you will find that any legitimate suppliers of US made Gen3 equipment will be restricted in who they can sell this equipment to. Updated: 25/5/2010
Update: 24/08/2013 - You can now approach DECO for support with end-use certificates and obtain Gen3 equipment as a civilian through that process. Expect it to be expensive. Also, companies like Germany's Harder Digital are now manufacturing Gen3 and Russian Gen3 is available, so foreign-made Gen3 is available also. No information at this time who might be able to supply it.
Q. Where can I buy Gen3 night vision from in Australia.
A. At the moment, no known sources of legitimate US made Gen3 night vision equipment exist within Australia. It is possible that some Gen3 equipment may be sold in Australia, however this is likely to have been sources from either privately owned items that exist outside the US ( and hence, are secondhand ) or old stock such as EEV (UK) or Russian Gen3. At this point in time, I do not know of anyone supplying these items retail. Updated: 25/5/2010
Update: 24/08/2013 - At this point, it looks like Gen3 can not be imported from the US or purchased from other countries that manufacture it.
Q. Why can't I import night vision in Gen2 from the US?. Some people won't even sell Gen1.
A. You're buying from the US. ITAR ( American anti-arms law ) stops people from selling a lot of equipment that has military uses. Because of the ridiculous fines, most people won't sell at all, however you can find dealers on some of the main forums who are licensed to sell US kit to Australia. It's fairly low-end stuff, but it's legit. Mike ( Night Vision Forums ) and TNVC ( AR15.com ) are two such dealers. Be polite and respectful when dealing with them. They don't have to help you. That said, they are both helpful to Australians. You can get Gen2+ Milspec at a MAXIMUM. Don't try to convince them to sell you Gen3 or higher Gen2. They can get into trouble if they do, so they won't help you. However they might stop helping others with legitimate purchase requirements if you bother them enough. Australia (public/private use) just isn't an important market for NV sellers.
Update: 24/08/2013 - See above with respect to End Use Certificates.
Q. What kind of NV does the Australian Military use?
A. Some Gen3, but mostly 2nd Generation, from what I hear. This includes VERY high end tubes such as the XD4 and XR5 which are are the leading edge of Gen2 technology. This technology matches Gen3 technology currently in use by the US government. The only difference is the photocathode material, which has a different sensitivity to US tubes. These tubes are superior around cities, while US tubes are arguably better in the country with no moon. The housing most commonly seen mounted on helmets of Australian Soldiers is the Mini N/SEAS. It's an Israeli design. You can buy and own them in Australia - even with the more advanced XR5 tube.
Update - I'm a little behind on updating this - The US has also been exporting Gen3 night vision equipment to the AU Military for some time. I believe the next major decision about the future of Military NV equipment in Australia is due some time in 2014.
Q. Can I import night vision?
A. Yes you can. There are no restrictions in importing Night Vision in Australia that I am aware of, including thermal. Good luck getting as supplier though. The UK is presently the best source of high-end equipment outside Australia if you want to import.
Q. Can I sell Night Vision to people outside of Australia?
A. Yes and no. You can sell Gen1 ( including military grade cascade tubes ) to anyone. However you can't sell Gen2 or Gen3 equipment without an exemption from Customs. This is because both have a Microchannel Plate, which is considered a restricted item. This may even affect you sending Gen2/3 items back overseas to be repaired under warranty - even to the US. Contact Australian Customs for more information. Please exercise some discretion in who you sell used NV equipment to however.
Update: This is now controlled by the Defense Exports Control Office.
Update: Individuals can apply to Customs for a Customs Client ID ( CCID ) so they can request licenses to export items covered by DECO.
Update: Any equipment of US origin may require US state department approval now for sale within Australia also. post 6/6/2013.
Q. Can I go hunting with Night Vision Equipment.
A. I can't see why not, though some states have restrictions on use of any electronic equipment when shooting, especially NSW and Victoria. This is mostly to cover torches, I believe, however might extent to NV. It probably OK on Vermin though. Check with your local police department ( Firearms Branch ) if you're not sure. Tell me what they say. I'd like to make a list of NV restrictions by state if anyone finds them. Some places ban devices based on voltage, eg, higher than 3v, though it's not certain if this would affect use of NV equipment if it was over or under 3v.
Update: Someone sent me an email suggesting that hunting deer with NV may be illegal in Victoria -See: http://www.rurallaw.org.au/handbook/xml/ch03s08s05.php - I've yet to look into this further, but it does appear to be correct.
Got a question? Throw it at me and I'll offer an opinion on it.