An Australia-wide ban on the use of all types of asbestos took effect on 31 December 2003. Work Health and Safety (WHS) and environment laws in all States and Territories prohibit the unauthorised supply, transport, use (including manufacturing), or handling of asbestos.
To support the domestic ban:
- importing asbestos or goods containing asbestos into Australia is prohibited, unless a permission has been granted or a lawful exception applies, under Regulation 4C of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956.
- exporting asbestos or certain goods containing asbestos from Australia is prohibited, unless a permission has been granted or a lawful exception applies, under Regulation 4, and Schedule 1, of the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958.
Australia is one of the few countries in the Asia/Pacific region that has a comprehensive ban on all six types of asbestos. In many countries, despite the known threat to human health, local standards allow low levels of particular types of asbestos to be used for manufacturing. Goods manufactured outside Australia might be labelled “asbestos free” and still contain low levels of asbestos. Such goods will not be permitted for import into Australia, except in very limited circumstances.
The border control for asbestos is not enforced with consideration of the level of risk to the end-user of the goods. Importers must not base their judgement on a perceived low risk, as any risk of asbestos content must be addressed before shipment to Australia.