Federal authorities have prosecuted just two companies found to have imported Asbestos containing material since 2008 and extracted a meagre $64,000 in fines, despite mounting evidence thousands of contaminated products are slipping past border controls.
As business groups and unions call for urgent action after recent Asbestos scandals at building sites in Brisbane and Perth, it has emerged that the maximum fine for illegally importing Asbestos — $180,000 — has never been imposed.
Michael Shepherd, the president of the Asbestos Industry Association which represents businesses engaged in abating the hazardous material, said Asbestos was entering the country from China because Australian Border Force was checking less than 5 per cent of all products imported. He said products containing Asbestos were only detected by “pure chance” and nobody knew the full extent of the problem.
Mr Shepherd said companies importing cheap materials were unconcerned about being fined because of the rarity of Australian prosecutions.
Companies knew they could save millions of dollars by taking a chance on importing cheaper materials from China — where Asbestos is common — rather than sourcing them in Australia.
“The maximum penalty is $180,000 but the true cost of rectifying these issues is going to be in the multi-millions if we have to pull out Asbestos and shut down buildings,” he said.
It is believed that authorities have prosecuted only two cases of importing Asbestos-contaminated material since 2008: one involving Chinese machinery, the other industrial equipment from Vietnam.
There have been no prosecutions for the importation of building products containing Asbestos, despite rising fear of contamination at construction sites around the country.
In its interim