Importers who knowingly or recklessly import goods containing asbestos could now face up to five years jail, under increased penalties announced by the Morrison Government.
The Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said the Coalition has strengthened and streamlined existing regulations to further protect Australians from the importation of potentially deadly asbestos.
"From today, unlawfully bringing asbestos across Australia's border is a Tier 1 offence. This means those who import or export asbestos face the prospect of jail time following a successful prosecution," Mr Dutton said.
"These changes will help to ensure our communities are protected from the unlawful importation of asbestos materials into the future."
The Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations Kelly O'Dwyer, said that while Australia has had a strict asbestos importation ban in place since 2003, some importers attempt to bring goods containing asbestos into Australia illegally.
"Tragically, 4,000 people each year die from asbestos-related diseases. This figure is far too high. That's why the Coalition Government is taking action to improve the safety of the Australian community," Ms O'Dwyer said.
"In boosting the regulations we are sending a strong, unequivocal message to importers — we will not tolerate the importation of asbestos."
The changes will also assist the communities of the Australian External Territories by allowing the lawful movement of asbestos waste to the mainland for disposal in a licensed facility.
"This is a small but important part of cleaning up our own backyard of the asbestos legacy that exists in these small, pristine environments," Mr Dutton said.
Other regulation changes will assist industry by simplifying the classification of asbestos-containing materials to better align Australia's border regulations with work, health and safety laws.
The amended regulations can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation website at www.legislation.gov.au, while further information on the border control for asbestos is at www.abf.gov.au/asbestos.