Illegal logging frequently asked questions

​​​​​​​​Overview

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When will the laws come into force?

Under the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 it has been an offence to import illegally logged timber into Australia since November 2012. The same prohibition applies to the processing of domestically grown raw logs that have been illegally logged.

The new due diligence requirements, as outlined in the Illegal Logging Prohibition Amendment Regulation 2013, came into effect on 30 November 2014.

Is Australia alone in taking action on this issue?

No. The illegal logging laws complements legislation already introduced by the European Union in 2013 and the United States in 2008. These frameworks are already having a positive impact on the international timber trade. In developing its laws, Australia has sought to learn from the experiences of these governments in implementing effective and streamlined regulatory arrangements.

What is meant by 'illegally logged'?

‘Illegally logged’ timber is defined in the Act as timber harvested in contravention of laws in force in the place—whether or not in Australia—where the timber was harvested.

Who is affected by the illegal logging laws?​

The illegal logging laws affect two key groups:

  • businesses who import timber and timber products into Australia
  • Australian-based businesses that process domestically grown raw logs into another form.

Who is a 'processor' and which processors are affected by the laws?

A processor is a person or constitutional corporation who processes Australian grown raw logs. This includes activities such as processing logs into woodchips, sawlogs, pulp, or other timber products. More detailed guidance can be found in the fact sheet: Due diligence – who is considered a processor? PDF icon PDF [792 KB] Word [2.5 MB]

Are customs brokers affected by the illegal logging laws?

Customs brokers are not directly regulated under the laws. However, if their clients are importing regulated timber products into Australia, they will need to make a declaration to Customs about their client’s compliance with the due diligence requirements. More detailed guidance for custom brokers can be found in the fact sheet: Laws to combat illegal logging – Information for customs brokers.

Will people or businesses exporting timber to Australia notice any changes?

People or businesses exporting timber or timber products to Australia are not regulated by the illegal logging laws. However, importers may seek additional information from their suppliers about the timber or timber products they are purchasing. This may include information about species names, where the wood in the product was harvested, and any forest management certification or third party timber legality assurance.

Do the illegal logging laws affect exports out of Australia?

No, the illegal logging laws do not cover the exporting of any timber products. Timber exports are covered by separate legislation. Further details on these requirements can be found on the Department’s Exports of Unprocessed Wood (Wood Export Licensing) page.

Advice for importers and processors

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What is the prohibition?

Under the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012, it is a criminal offence to import illegally logged timber and timber products into Australia or to process domestically grown raw logs that have been illegally logged. This prohibition applies to all timber and timber products.

This is a passive requirement and doesn’t require businesses to do anything specific, they just need to avoid intentionally, knowingly or recklessly importing or processing illegally logged timber.

Put simply, if a business receives information that the timber they are dealing with was illegally logged, or have good reason to suspect it was illegally logged, they should not import or process that timber.

What is due diligence?

The second element of the illegal logging laws, the ‘due diligence’ requirements, came into effect on 30 November 2014. They require importers of certain regulated timber products and processors of domestically grown raw logs to take positive steps to minimise the risk that the timber they place on the Australian market comes from illegally logged sources. These steps must be undertaken before the timber is imported or processed.

More detailed guidance on the due diligence process can be found in the fact sheets: Due diligence – Guidance for importers PDF icon PDF [765 KB] Word [2.6 MB] and Due diligence – Guidance for processors PDF icon PDF [792 KB] Word [2.5 MB]

Do I have to prove the timber I am dealing with is legal?

No, you are only required to undertake suitable actions to minimise the risk that the timber has been illegally logged. It is important to note that you are only required to obtain information about the timber where it is ‘reasonably practicable’ to do so. The laws do not require you to become ‘amateur detectives’ investigating the legality of your timber in minute detail, only that you take reasonable steps and ask suitable questions about the origin of the timber.

What sort of timber products are captured by the illegal logging laws?

The prohibition applies to all timber and timber products, while the due diligence requirements relate to the processing of domestically grown raw logs and a defined list of imported timber products. This latter group is generally referred to as ‘regulated timber products’ and is listed in Schedule 1 of the R​egulation. This includes most timber and wood-based products such as sawn timber, veneer, mouldings, wood panels, plywood, pulp, paper and wooden furniture.

More detailed guidance on what is considered a regulated timber product can be found in the Due diligence – What timber products are regulated? factsheet PDF icon PDF [404 KB] Word [1.8 MB]

Are there any exemptions to the new due diligence requirements (Importers only)?

Products made of recycled materials and import consignments with a value of less than AUD$1,000 are currently exempt from the requirements. Packaging material used to support, protect or carry another product also lies outside the scope of the due diligence requirements.

More detailed guidance on the exemptions can be found in the Due diligence – What timber products are regulated?  factsheet PDF icon PDF [404 KB] Word [1.8 MB]

How can I tell if the products I am importing are covered by the due diligence requirements? (Importers only)

You should check the customs tariff code under which you are importing the product and compare that to the tariff codes listed in Schedule 1 to the Regulation. The fact sheet Due diligence - What timber products are regulated? PDF icon PDF [404 KB] Word [1.8 MB], also provides a high level summary of the regulated tariff codes.​

If you have imported before, your import documentation should also include the relevant tariff code. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website also provides extensive information on tariff classification and a dedicated advice line – 1300 363 263.

Do I need to lodge my due diligence information to the department?

No. You do not have submit your due diligence information to the department each time you import or process a regulated timber product. However, this information must be available if you are approached by the department in the future for compliance purposes and you must keep a written record of your due diligence process.

Do I need to conduct due diligence for each consignment that I import or process?

This will depend on your individual circumstances. The department recognises that some importers and processors may be able to establish a due diligence system for regularly imported or processed items on a supplier basis rather than an individual import basis. Such an approach would generally be used where you are regularly sourcing a timber product from a consistent and trusted supplier.

More detailed guidance on the due diligence process can be found in the fact sheets: Due diligence – Guidance for importers PDF icon PDF [765 KB] Word [2.6 MB] and Due diligence – Guidance for processors PDF icon PDF [792 KB] Word [2.5 MB].

Will the department be endorsing or signing off on due diligence systems?

No. The department will not be endorsing individual documents or accrediting individual due diligence systems.

Is there a pre-made or government approved due diligence system that I can use?

No. How you structure your due diligence system will depend on your individual circumstances. While the Regulation sets out the key steps you need to undertake in carrying out due diligence, you have significant freedom in how you apply it to your individual business.

You may be able to use existing commercial practices to meet your obligations. The nature of the products you are importing, the complexity of your supply chains and your existing business practices will all play a part in determining how you satisfy your due diligence responsibilities.

More detailed guidance on the due diligence process can be found in the fact sheets: Due diligence – Guidance for importers PDF icon PDF [765 KB] Word [2.6 MB] and Due diligence – Guidance for processors PDF icon PDF [792 KB] Word [2.5 MB].

Are there any industry developed tools or templates I can use to help satisfy my due diligence responsibilities?

Yes. The Timber Development Association, with funding from the Australian Government and supported by the Australian timber products industry, has developed a range of tools and guidance that provide one way of satisfying the new due diligence requirements. These materials are available from Timber Due Diligence​.

My supplier has provided me with a FSC or PEFC certificate. Is this sufficient?

Certification under an approved timber legality framework, such as a standard under Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), is one way of identifying timber or timber products that are at low risk of being sourced illegally. Sourcing from suppliers with such certification should allow you to use the optional Step 2 in the due diligence process – Use of Timber Legality Framework.

More detailed guidance on the use of such certification schemes is included in the fact sheet: Due diligence - Use of Timber Legality Frameworks PDF icon PDF [721 KB] Word [2.7 MB].

My supplier has provided me with a written statement that the product is legal. Is this sufficient?

No. While such a statement can help inform your risk assessment, in most cases it is not by itself sufficient evidence to satisfy you due diligence requirements.

What are the Country Specific Guidelines (Importers only)?

The Australian Government has developed a range of Country Specific Guidelines (CSGs) in collaboration with relevant trading partners to provide information on their timber harvesting and exporting laws. These documents will allow you to identify the information you can obtain in order to be confident that the timber or timber product you import presents a low risk of having been illegally logged.

The finalised CSGs are available on the department’s website: Further information and resources .

More detailed guidance on the use of CSGs as part of your due diligence system is included in the fact sheet: Due diligence – Use of country specific guidelines - importers PDF icon PDF [765 KB] Word [2.6 MB].

What is the illegal logging community protection question? (Importers only)

Importers of regulated timber products are required to make a declaration to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service about their compliance with the due diligence requirements. This needs to be made each time a regulated timber product is imported. The declaration is in the form of a community protection question that is answered as part of the import declaration process.

The community protection question reads as: “Has the importer complied with the due diligence requirements of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 and associated regulations? (if product is exempt or does not contain timber, answer yes)”

More detailed guidance on answering the community protection question is included in the [Due diligence – Answering the illegal logging community protection question] factsheet.

I have answered no to the community protection question. What are the consequences? (Importers only)

You (or your broker on your behalf) will need to answer the community protection question honestly. Answering ‘no’ to the question will not lead to your timber products being held up at the border. However, the department may contact you to ask why you answered ‘no’ and to offer assistance in helping you understand your new obligations.

I am importing a wooden timber product, but it doesn’t appear to fall under any of the regulated tariff codes. Do I still need to carry out due diligence? (Importers only)

No. If a product falls outside the specified tariff codes, then it is not a regulated timber product and the due diligence requirements do not apply. Examples include things such as wooden toys, musical instruments and printed materials like books and magazines.

I am importing a regulated product, but it doesn’t include any timber or timber fibre. Do I still need to carry out due diligence? (Importers only)

No. The due diligence requirements only apply to products that contain timber or timber fibre. For instance, if you are importing a steel chair, which would normally fall under one of the regulated tariff codes, but it doesn’t include any timber elements, then you do not need to carry out due diligence.

I am importing second hand or antique timber goods. Am I affected by the new requirements? (Importers only)

If the timber product falls under one of the regulated tariff codes (as set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulation), then you need to carry out due diligence on the product. This is regardless of the previous history or age of the product (although products that are over 100 years old are generally classified as antiques and listed under non-regulated tariff codes).

The government appreciates that there may be very little information available on second hand products. In this situation, you are only required gather information where it is ‘reasonably practicable’ to obtain. However, your due diligence system must document your effort to obtain information about the product.

What are the State Specific Guidelines? (Processors only)

The Australian Government has developed a series of State Specific Guidelines (SSGs) in collaboration with each of the Australian state governments to provide information on their timber harvesting laws. These documents will allow you to identify the information you can obtain in order to be confident that the raw logs you are processing present a low risk of having been illegally logged.

The finalised SSGs are available on the department’s website: Further information and resources .

More detailed guidance on the use of SSGs as part of your due diligence system is included in the fact sheet: Due diligence – Use of state specific guidelines (processors) PDF icon PDF [722 KB] Word [2.5 MB].

What should I do if timber I am processing is harvested in another Australian state? (Processors only)

You need to consider the relevant harvesting laws in the state where the timber is harvested.

The department has developed a series of State Specific Guidelines in collaboration with the state governments to assist you in identifying the information you can obtain to be confident that the raw logs you are processing presents a low risk of being illegally logged.

The State Specific guidelines are available on the department’s website: Further information and resources .

Compliance and enforcement arrangements

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Who is responsible for managing and enforcing the illegal logging laws?

The Act and Regulation are managed and enforced by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture. Twenty-three inspectors are currently appointed under the Act to monitor, investigate and enforce alleged breaches of the illegal logging laws.

What will the department do if there is a claim that there has been a breach of the prohibition?

The department will continue to treat all claims of breaches of the high-level prohibition seriously.

Depending on their nature, allegations and reports of illegally logged timber or timber products that are referred to the department will undergo preliminary inquiry to ascertain the facts and to decide if the matter should go to a formal investigation. This will be carried out in accordance with the Australian Government Investigation Standards.

See the separate question below for how the department will enforce the due diligence requirements.

Will I face criminal penalties for unwittingly importing illegally logged timber?

No. Criminal penalties are only available for deliberate breaches of the high-level prohibition, ie knowingly, intentionally or recklessly importing or processing illegally logged timber. When importing regulated timber products, the test of negligence may be applied if the product is proven to be illegally logged.

How will the department enforce the new due diligence requirements?

We recognise that it may take some time for affected businesses to adjust to the new due diligence responsibilities that came into effect on 30 November 2014. In the 18-month period following this date, our focus will be on helping affected businesses to comply with the due diligence requirements.

During this period, we will not be seeking to ‘catch out’ businesses who are trying to do the right thing. Instead our focus will be on working with businesses to ensure they have sufficient information to understand and comply with the due diligence requirements.

The department will also be working in partnership with businesses to test and gather feedback on its associated compliance model. This information will be used to ensure that our compliance approach continues to be as efficient, effective and streamlined as possible.

What sort of penalties can be applied for a breach of the prohibition?

Significant criminal penalties may apply if a business breaches the general prohibition on the importation or processing of illegally logged timber i.e. knowingly, intentionally or recklessly imports or processes illegally logged timber. When importing regulated timber products, the test of negligence may also be applied if the product is proven to be illegally logged.

The penalties are ultimately at the discretion of a court. However, the maximum penalties that can be applied for a breach of the high-level prohibition are:

  • five years imprisonment, and/or
  • AUD$85,000 for an individual, and/or
  • AUD$425,000 for a corporation or body corporate.

Are the same penalties applicable under the Act and the Regulation?

No. There are no criminal penalties (e.g. imprisonment) that can be applied for a breach of the Regulation. There are civil penalties (e.g. fines) that can apply to breaches of the Regulation. Those penalties are applied at the discretion of a court.

Further Information

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How can I stay informed?

The Department of Agriculture is here to help you comply with the illegal logging laws.

You can access additional information by:

  • accessing the information provided on our further information and resources webpage.
  • subscribing to the illegal logging mailing list to stay informed of the release of any new information or guidance materials or any upcoming information events.
  • emailing the department with a question related to the illegal logging laws. The department will consider your question and get back to you with a detailed response within 10 working days.
  • calling the department during business hours (8.30am to 5.30pm) on 1800 657 313 or if outside of Australia +61 2 6272 3933.
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