Asbestos Importation Review Findings

Asbestos in importations has been in the spotlight lately with the discovery of asbestos at several new buildings, including Perth’s new Children Hospital.

Recently there has been an Asbestos Importation Review Report to analyse the end-to-end border processes and procedures. Stopping dangerous goods, such as asbestos, at the border is a top priority of the Australia Border Force (ABF).

Please find details of the review here:

The review was commissioned as part of our approach to continuous improvement in our border management practices, and in helping to keep Australians safe from harmful materials entering the country.

The review found that the Department’s management of this border control was effective, while identifying opportunities for organisational and technical improvements. Implementation of the review’s recommendations will further strengthen the Department’s management of Australia’s asbestos border controls and reflect best practice.

The review recognised that the responsibility for the management and enforcement of asbestos regulations and controls in Australia is shared across the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. The Department also works closely with industry and international agencies to mitigate risks of asbestos being imported and to enhance cooperation.

Importers of goods are responsible for ensuring their goods do not contain asbestos and having a thorough understanding of their supply chain. Australia is one of the few countries that has a total ban on asbestos. Many other countries still produce and use asbestos in their products.

Risk assessments are conducted on all cargo imported to Australia, with cargo identified as high-risk being physically examined. Where asbestos is suspected in a shipment, the importer will be required to arrange sampling, testing and certification by an asbestos hygenist to ensure there is no asbestos present. The arrangement and cost of any independent inspection, testing and storage of the goods is the responsibility of the importer.

We are continuing to investigate and prosecute potential breaches of import laws relating to asbestos. If importers seek to import a product containing asbestos, they risk losing their goods, losing money, and possibly receiving a criminal conviction. Offences relating to asbestos can attract fines of up to $180,000 for individuals or three times the value of the goods, whichever is the greater. Companies can face fines of up to $900,000 or three times the value of the goods.

It is important to remember that since 2003 Australia imposed a strict prohibition on the sale, use and import of asbestos.  The responsibility of ensuring that imported goods are asbestos free rests solely on the importer.