Importers who knowingly or recklessly import goods containing asbestos can now be imprisoned for up to 5 years, under increased penalties announced by the Federal Government.
The Customs Legislation Amendment (Asbestos) Regulations 2019 makes it a “Tier 1” offence to transport asbestos across Australia’s border.
Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, said the amendment “strengthened and streamlined” existing custom laws, and that those who either import or export asbestos now “face the prospect of jail time following a successful prosecution.”
From 27 March, “unlawfully bringing asbestos across Australia’s border is a Tier 1 offence. This means those who import or export asbestos face the prospect of jail time following a successful prosecution,” Mr Dutton said.
“These changes will help to ensure our communities are protected from the unlawful importation of asbestos materials into the future.”
Australia has the highest per capita incidence of mesothelioma in the world, with an average of 700 deaths each year. The number of people suffering from asbestos-related diseases is up to five times this number – resulting in approximately 4,000 deaths per year.
A 2017 Senate Inquiry heard that despite an all-encompassing ban on asbestos in Australia since 2003, the deadly material continues to find its way into the country, mostly from China.
Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, Kelly O’Dwyer, who made the statement jointly with Mr Dutton, said the death-rate in Australia was “far too high,” and that importers were now on notice.
“In boosting the regulations we are sending a strong, unequivocal message to importers — we will not tolerate the importation of asbestos.”
Other regulation changes include simplifying the classification of asbestos-containing materials to better align Australia’s border regulations with work, health and safety laws.