Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Christmas shoppers warned not to get caught out by prohibited gifts.

Download PDFDownload PDF

Media Release


Minister for Justice and Customs

Senator for Western Australia

E153/03 29 October 2003

Christmas shoppers warned not to get caught out by prohibited gifts

People sending Christmas gifts to Australian residents must exercise great caution when buying goods over the Internet, from mail order catalogues or from overseas magazines so they are not potentially fined or imprisoned under prohibited imports laws, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said today.

Rigorous screening of all incoming international mail means that prohibited imports such as electric stun guns, crossbows and martial arts weaponry will be detected and seized, Senator Ellison said.

“A wide range of prohibited imports are seized by Customs after being purchased as Christmas gifts by people who may not be aware of what is and is not allowed into Australia,” Senator Ellison said.

People may not only lose their goods but they may also be fined or required to appear in court. In some cases, they could face criminal charges or even imprisonment.

With Christmas mail now beginning to arrive in Australia, Senator Ellison said the Australian Government was determined to reduce the amount of prohibited imports sent through the mail compared to 2002.

Around 350 “airsoft” pistols (ball-bearing, or BB guns) coming through the postal system were seized by Customs in the 2002 Christmas mail season, which runs from 1 October to 31 December. These pistols were described by the sender as “toys,” when in fact they are banned under Customs regulations and most State firearm laws. They can only be imported with prior approval from State or Territory Police, and must have a unique serial number and pass safety testing at importation.

Other prohibited imports seized by Customs last year and which require a permit before they can legally be allowed into Australia included aphrodisiacs (containing “yohimbe”), weight loss pills (containing “ephedra” or “ma huang”), “toy” paintball guns, electric fly-swatters, various knives, blades and martial arts weapons, nunchakus, electric stun guns and crossbows.

It is important to note that websites and mail-order brochures are not a reliable source of information on whether goods are allowed into Australia, as many products sold legally overseas are prohibited in Australia.

Increased security procedures and checking measures mean that Customs is better prepared than ever before to detect illegal imports and breaches of importation regulations. Customs is now using a variety of technology and resources such as x-ray, detector dogs, antibody-based trace detectors and physical inspections to find prohibited goods.

“It would be a gross delusion to think that wrapping a prohibited import in carbon paper or aluminium foil, or sprinkling it with coffee beans, will defeat Customs,” Senator Ellison said.

If people are unsure about what is and is not permissible to send as a Christmas gift, information is available by contacting a Customs Information and Support Centre on 1300 363 263 or emailing:

Media Note: Photos of various prohibited imports can be obtained by contacting Merran Teale, Customs, on 02 9213 2009 or through the Customs website in the “Media Room” section.

Media contact: Simon Troeth (02) 6277 7260/(0439) 300 335