Amendments to customs laws regarding importation of asbestos

Date

The Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 and the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 control the exportation and importation, respectively, of asbestos and goods containing asbestos. On 26 March 2019, amendments were made to both of these regulations to align the definition of asbestos with the definition under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011. This is the same definition of asbestos as used in most work health safety laws across Australia.

The amendments to the laws have also increased the penalty for those who knowingly or recklessly import asbestos or goods containing asbestos
without appropriate permissions. Those people could now face up to five years in jail.

The requirement that permission must be granted before asbestos is, or goods containing asbestos are, imported to or exported from Australia will continue under the amended regulations. The power to grant such permission sits with the Minister with responsibility for Commonwealth WHS laws, which is currently the Hon. Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations. The CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (the agency) will continue to be authorised to grant permission to applicants in some circumstances on behalf of the Minister and the agency will continue to have responsibility for processing applications for permission to import or export asbestos.

The amendments will also permit the communities of Australian External Territories to lawfully move asbestos waste to the mainland for disposal in a licensed facility, whereas previously these communities had limited or no disposal options.

For further information, see the joint media release from The Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Home Affairs and The Hon Kelly O'Dwyer MP, Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations.