‘No time’ to stop asbestos imports 

Companies importing goods ­riddled with deadly asbestos are not being fully investigated by Australian Border Force due to “time and resources” constraints and the uncertainty of prosecution, a review of Australia’s asbestos border controls has found.
Amid revelations that authorities have prosecuted only three companies for importing asbestos since 2008, the report calls on the federal government to more forcefully pursue the offence and to work with China to educate suppliers about Australian laws.
The independent review by Swedish firm KGH Border Ser­vices – completed in March – will be released today by the Department of Immigration. ­
It recommends the ABF move to “prioritise” prosecutions, noting asbestos had recently been detected in Australia in building materials, children’s crayons, motor vehicle gaskets and spare parts.
But it reveals the ABF’s investigation division has decided against fully ­investigating several recent referrals it received for asbestos-­related offences due to the “time and resources implications” ­needed to pursue them and the “uncertainty of outcomes”.
The release of the review comes amid an outcry led by ­unions and ­business groups over the rising incidence of Chinese-made building products contam­inated with asbestos slipping through border controls. The ABF last month halted 21 containers sourced from Chinese-owned company Yuanda after its building materials at the $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital and the 1 William Street office tower in Brisbane were found to contain white asbestos, or chrysotile. Work to rectify the problem is expected to cost millions of dollars.
The Australian reported last week that a South Australian company had imported more than 8000 cement sheets laced with asbestos from China in 2010 and 2011, triggering an investigation by the ABF and Safework SA.
It has emerged in recent weeks that the maximum fine for ­illegally importing asbestos — $180,000 — has never been ­imposed in Australia.
The Asbestos Industry Association, which represents bus­inesses engaged in abating the hazardous material, says the ABF checks less than 5 per cent of all products imported into the country. The rising concerns over ­asbestos come as the peak nat­ional welding body also demands a new certification regime to ­ensure compliance with Australian standards amid claims that about 85 per cent of imported fabricated steel coming into the country failed to meet Australian standards.
The KGH report noted that it was often difficult for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to prosecute against a “mistake of fact” defence, in which an importer argues it took all reasonable steps to prevent the infringement.
An overseas laboratory testing certificate showing goods were “asbestos free” could convince a court to find in favour of an importer even where the testing did not comply with Australian standards.
But the review found the department could contribute to more successful prosecutions by gathering more evidence at an earlier stage. “Lack of available evidence, which can only be gathered by undertaking a full investigation, makes it difficult to develop strong prospects of successful prosecution,” it said.
The report found that a lack of available technologies had limited the Department of ­Immigration and Border Control’s ability to keep asbestos out of the country.
“Non-intrusive inspection equipment currently used by the DIBP, such as X-Ray scanning equipment, does not detect asbestos content,” it said. “There are currently no proven field asbestos detection devices available on the market.”
Most of the government’s processes for managing the importation of asbestos were found to be “effective” but the department should:
● Engage with countries such as China by working with Australian chambers of commerce and Australian diplomats to ensure foreign suppliers complied with Australian laws;
● Target more high-risk goods by enhancing risk profiling processes to ensure importers cannot change trade habits and reporting practices to avoid matches on existing profiles;
● Establish a dedicated customer service charter that outlines the department’s service standards and expectations of importing industries;
● Promote voluntary compliance through better engagement with industry, the public and other stakeholders.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Kevin H Victor says:

    There is absolutely no reason for the need to buy shit from China.


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