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Move for jail time for importers of asbestos building products

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Instead of measly fines for importing potentially deadly asbestos:


 Xenophon to push for reinstatement of Senate Inquiry into Non-conforming building products

Senator Nick Xenophon will call for a substantial increase in penalties for importers of deadly asbestos products - including jail time - in a speech to be given to the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors in Sydney today.

The move follows recent revelations of asbestos in the brand new Perth Children’s Hospital. Currently the maximum penalty for breaches is up to $170,000. Since 2009, only $64,000 in fines, penalties and costs has been imposed for asbestos importation offences.

“Exposure to asbestos can deliver a death sentence years down the track. It’s only appropriate that importing this deadly substance - banned in Australia since 2003 - should bring with it a jail sentence,” Nick said.

Senator Xenophon was an instigator of the 2015 Senate Inquiry into Non-conforming building products. Given the Inquiry has lapsed because of the double dissolution election, Senator Xenophon will move to reinstate it as a matter of urgency when the Senate resumes on August 30.

He will seek evidence from the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency as to the deterrent effect of jail terms for importing asbestos.

The Senate Inquiry in its interim report in May this year said that non-conforming and non-complying building products had led to “compliant companies being disadvantaged and forced to close by other businesses prepared to put profit before safety” leading to “an uneven playing field, which harms Australian companies and destroys local jobs”.

The inquiry was triggered by Melbourne’s Lacrosse Building fire in 2014 as well as numerous complaints of defective steel, electrical cabling and windows and other building products that failed to meet Australian standards.

Senator Xenophon said other possible remedies he would be putting forward included a ‘watch list’ for companies known to have supplied non-conforming building products for import or those knowingly importing non-conforming products, increased resources to allow for greater checking of imports and chain of responsibility laws.


“With free trade agreements lowering tariffs, there is naturally an increase in the volume and range of products imported into Australia, and that means the relevant authorities must be adequately

resourced to ensure non-complying products never make it to a construction site,” Nick said.

“A watch list could also ensure companies known to have done the wrong thing are avoided in favour of those who provide Australian standard products, which would not only be a deterrent but enable buyers to increase their chances of purchasing complying materials.”

Senator Xenophon will be available at 2.30pm (EST) outside Docklands, Darling Harbour, Sydney, to speak to the media. For further information contact Karina Natt on 0433 620 850.