The Australian Border Force (ABF) has recently signalled a crackdown on the illegal importation of asbestos through the issue of Notice No 2016/30, which sets out revised procedures for customs brokers to follow in order to show that Australia’s prohibition on the importation of products containing asbestos is being observed.
It is also an offence under the Customs Act to make a false statement to Customs.
Customs brokers will be required to make a declaration in relation to a large number of tariff classifications confirming that goods being imported under these classifications do not contain asbestos, through being required to answer a Community Protection Question (CPQ) which directly asks: ‘Does this imported product contain asbestos?’.
Goods of Chinese and Russian origin are considered a significant risk (though there are others) and the ABF has advised that they have widened the range of goods for profiling for containing asbestos.
This means that imported goods entered under categories deemed ‘high risk’ by the ABF will be subject to Redline processing and importers may be asked for evidence demonstrating that the relevant goods do not contain asbestos. Broad examples of goods that may be profiled include base metals, imitation jewellery, rubber gaskets, nuts and bolts, washers, electrical connectors, automotive components, ceramics, toys and pencils.
To make a declaration that the goods are asbestos free, customs brokers will need to carry out due diligence, as they will need confirmation from the importer/supplier that they are certain that the goods are free of asbestos. In some situations satisfactory evidence of asbestos free certainty may require testing and certification from a NATA approved testing body or equivalent.
To enable custom brokers to provide information confirming the asbestos free status of imports and to also be able to demonstrate due diligence undertaken, brokers should keep records of all due diligence enquiries with their customers and should request their customers to do the same. Customers should also be routinely reminded of Australia’s ‘zero-tolerance’ for asbestos, which could include providing a copy of the relevant ABF notice and fact sheet or providing a link to that information.
Brokers and other people involved in the importation of goods should also review current insurance coverage to ensure that insurance covers any potential liability if the wrong declaration is provided to ABF. Consideration could also be given to revising Terms and Conditions with customers.
For further information on this article and how this may impact your operations, please contact a member of our team.
This article was written by Anthony Highfield, Partner, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers.