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Zero Tolerance of Asbestos

Australia is one of the few countries with an absolute ban on asbestos – ‘Zero Tolerance’ – and the Australian Border Force (ABF) is tightening controls on offending vehicle imports. Many countries still allow small quantities of asbestos (i.e. 1%) to be used but Australia is one of the very few with a zero requirement and a total ban on import and export except under very limited circumstances.

Zero tolerance to asbestos, an Australia-wide ban on the manufacture and use of all types of asbestos and asbestos containing material (ACM), took effect on 31 December 2003. In order to support the domestic ban, asbestos or ACM imports to, and exports from Australia are prohibited, unless permitted by the relevant Minister. Australia signed a Zero Tolerance Asbestos agreement in 2003 and is now enforcing it.

As of Monday 6th March 2017 and without prior notification, The Australian Border Force (ABF) implemented a new community protection question when lodging import declarations for all motor vehicle tariff codes – i.e. “Do the goods contain asbestos?” This may relate to brake linings, clutch linings, brake disc pads, gaskets, seals or any other parts of the vehicle. Most vehicle manufacturers prohibited use of asbestos components in vehicles from 1999.

There is a double standard with new vehicles containing asbestos having been imported into Australia and Russell Manning has provided me with examples breaching the import ban. Recalls were issued but in several cases no action was taken apart from taking back unused stocks of the offending parts.

Anybody considering taking their vehicle out of the country must also be are of this restriction as they will be required to provide the vehicle is asbestos free to bring their vehicle back into Australia. This can be a very costly exercise.

There has been an instance where “destructive means” has been used to investigate for asbestos in a motor vehicle. The vehicle is a very original rare Shelby having a bill of $14,000 from ABF – and that is not including the repair costs and destruction of original vehicle components. Report from the owner is attached. (Annexure 2). This vehicle was en-route when Australia commenced enforcing the aero tolerance to asbestos so the owner did not have the opportunity to remove any asbestos prior to transit.

This article does appear to answer the question whether the vehicle or only the asbestos containing components are seized. It appears there is a provision in the act to permit the vehicle to be taken to a workshop for further work. We are investing the only real solution which will involve refining the inspection and remediation process so it is not too onerous.

I have been speaking Department of Environment in Canberra re the possibility of 1% acceptance for Australia. They are to advise details of the best person to speak with in ABF, Canberra. Even with a 1% tolerance, testing would still be required to know if it could be imported or not.