The Australian Border Force (ABF) is undertaking a targeted period of action against imported building products at risk of containing asbestos. Asbestos is a prohibited import.
Asbestos is a Tier 1 good under the Customs Regulation 2015, and carries significant penalties for its unlawful importation. Offences relating to asbestos importation by individuals can attract fines of up to $222,000 or three times the value of the goods, whichever is greater, and/or imprisonment for up to five years. For a body corporate the same border offence attracts a higher penalty of up to $1,110,000 or fifteen times the value of the goods, whichever is the greater, in accordance with the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth).
Asbestos has been detected in building materials such as cement fibreboards and panels, pre-fabricated housing kits, cut stone and tiles. Parts, components and structural goods designed to resist heat or flammability may be of particular risk.
Australia is one of the few countries in the Asia/Pacific region that has a comprehensive ban on all six types of asbestos and the ABF operate year round to guard against the importation of asbestos.
Australian Border Force Assistant Secretary Brett Cox said importers and customs brokers must be aware of Australia’s asbestos import prohibition.
“Before goods are imported into Australia, importers must have adequate documentary evidence to be able to show the ABF that their goods, if at risk, do not contain asbestos. This can be achieved by engaging with their overseas suppliers before purchase. Importers must not assume that goods contain no asbestos. An asbestos-free declaration, on its own, is not evidence,” Mr Cox said.
The ABF expects importers to be able to demonstrate that they have undertaken adequate assessment for their goods that are known to be at risk of containing asbestos, or are supplied from countries with asbestos-using industries.
If importers are not able to provide the ABF with appropriate evidence and assurance that their imported goods do not contain asbestos, the importer will be directed under the Customs Act 1901 to have the building materials sampled and tested for asbestos, prior to release, at their expense. Goods that test positive for asbestos are seized and disposed of.
Images and information sourced from abf.gov.au.