Coalition Senators are of the view that the majority interim report for
this inquiry regarding asbestos was significantly overreaching in its
Coalition Senators note that the Department of Immigration and Border
Protection (DIBP) and Australian Boarder Force (ABF) already engage with a
range of industry stakeholders to educate and raise awareness of the asbestos
import/export prohibition, and that extensive materials are available online
through the DIBP's website regarding this, and the ways in which importers can
provide assurances to ABF that their goods do not contain asbestos.
Furthermore, Coalition Senators note evidence from ABF that they have
significantly increased their operational efforts towards addressing the risk
of asbestos since the ABF was stood up on 1 July 2015, with a substantial
increase in the targeting and testing of high-risk goods, and that despite the
significant increase in activity at the border, ABF has not seen a commensurate
increase in the rate of detections.
Regarding recommendation 2, Coalition Senators note the funding
increases that have recently been provided to the Asbestos Safety and
Eradication Agency (ASEA) to better undertake its role.
In the 2016–17 Budget, the Government agreed to provide ASEA with
additional funding of $3.4 million over 2016–17 and 2017–18 in recognition of
its significant underspend during its first two years of operation. Without the
additional funding provided by the Government in the 2016-17 Budget, ASEA's
funding for 2017-18 would be $1.4 million less.
The additional funding provided by the Australian Government in the 2016–17 Budget was provided with the expectation that the additional funds
would be used for the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for
Asbestos Management and Awareness (NSP) and research to guide future work. This
work is expected to be completed by June 2018.
Coalition Senators feel that recommendation 6 is not consistent with either
Australia's track record on free trade agreement negotiations or its commitment
to the regulation of dangerous goods.
Australia's Free Trade Agreements and World Trade Organization (WTO)
commitments preserve Australia's ability to regulate dangerous goods. Nothing
in these agreements requires Australia to lower safety standards and
All FTAs contain a Technical Barriers to Trade Chapter (TBT chapter),
which recognise Australia's right to impose product standards and technical
regulations to protect human health or safety. TBT chapter provisions ensure
that trading partners apply technical regulations and standards equally to
products originating domestically or from overseas. Thus ensuring that
technical regulations are used for legitimate policy purposes, and not to
restrict trade. TBT chapters also encourage regulatory convergence among
trading partners, for example through the adoption of international standards.
In addition to the TBT chapter, FTAs include general exceptions which enable
Australia to make measures to protect human health or safety, and animal or
Australia imposes restrictions on hundreds of products. These vary from
import bans, for dangerous goods such as asbestos, to more narrow targeted
measures such as import licensing measures that apply to dual use goods (where
one use is safe but another is dangerous, the measure ensures the good is only
used for the safe purpose), or certification procedures to ensure electrical
equipment conforms to regulations to prevent fire or shock.
With regard to recommendation 21, Coalition Senators believe that the
role of the Federal Safety Commissioner (FSC) in relation to asbestos
containing materials in building products is already sufficiently clear, given
the defined role of the FSC as an accreditor for certain building industry
The Federal Safety Commissioner's WHS Accreditation Scheme criteria
already represent the most stringent requirements in Australia for managing
asbestos hazards on building sites. Companies accredited by the FSC are also
required to comply with the National Construction Code as a condition of
accreditation and undertake appropriate due diligence to avoid prohibited
imports such as asbestos from coming on to building sites they control.
Senator Jane Hume
Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Senator for Queensland
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