Illegal logging frequently asked questions

​​Overview

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When did 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 due diligence requirements, as outlined in the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012, came into effect on 30 November 2014. From 1 January 2018, businesses and individuals may face penalties for failing to comply with the due-diligence requirements.

Is Australia alone in taking action on this issue?

No. The illegal logging laws complements legislation already introduced by the European Union in 2013, the United States in 2008 and several economies in the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia (2016), Malaysia (2016) and Republic of Korea (2017). These frameworks are having a positive impact on the international timber trade.

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 and individuals 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, saw-logs, pulp, or other timber products. More detailed guidance can be found on the Information for Processors page.

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 the Department of Immigration and Border Protection about their client’s compliance with the due diligence requirements. More detailed guidance for custom brokers can be found on the Information for Customs Brokers page.

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. More detailed guidance for these businesses can be found on the Information for businesses exporting to Australia page.

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.

Importers and processors must 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 ‘due diligence’ requirements came into effect on 30 November 2014. This requires 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 for these businesses can be found on the Illegal Logging – Guidance for Importers and the Illegal Logging – Guidance for Processors pages.

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.

What 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 referred to as ‘regulated timber products’ and are described in Schedule 1 of the Regulation. 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 on the Regulated Timber Products page.

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 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 on the Regulated Timber Products page.

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 Regulated Timber Products page 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 requirements can be found on the Illegal Logging – Guidance for Importers and the Illegal Logging – Guidance for Processors pages.

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 to undertake 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 requirements can be found on the Illegal Logging – Guidance for Importers and the Illegal Logging – Guidance for Processors pages.

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

Yes. The Australian Timber Industry Federation, with support from the Australian Government, has developed a range of tools and guidance that provide one way of satisfying the new due diligence requirements. These materials can be found on the Guidance Materials and Resources page.

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 sufficient evidence to satisfy your 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 the timber harvesting and exporting laws. These documents allow you to identify the type of information and documents you can source from these countries to assist in your due diligence.

The CSGs can be found on the Guidance Materials and Resources page.

More detailed guidance on the use of CSGs as part of your due diligence system can be found on the Illegal Logging – Guidance for Importers page.

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

Importers of regulated timber products are required to make a declaration to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection 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 the product is exempt or does not contain timber, answer yes)”

More detailed guidance on answering the community protection question is included on the Illegal logging laws explained for Importers page.

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 seek clarification on why you answered ‘no’.

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 wooden toys, musical instruments and printed materials—books and magazines. If you are unsure, you can direct questions to the Illegal Logging Compliance Assessment inbox: (ILCA) or by phoning 1800 657 313.

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

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 provide information to help you undertake due diligence.

These can be found on the Guidance Materials and Resources page. More detailed guidance on the use of SSGs as part of your due diligence system can be found on the Illegal Logging – Guidance for Processors page.

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 help you undertake due diligence

The State Specific Guidelines can be found on the Guidance Materials and Resources page.

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 and Water Resources. Inspectors are 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 referred to the department will undergo a 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.

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

No. Criminal penalties are applicable for deliberate breaches of the high-level prohibition—for example, knowingly, intentionally or recklessly importing or processing illegally logged timber. When importing regulated timber products, negligence refers to a product that is proven to be illegally logged.

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

Significant criminal (imprisonment and/or financial) penalties may apply should a business breach the general prohibition on the importation or processing of illegally logged timber i.e. knowingly, intentionally or recklessly importing 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.

Are the same penalties applicable to breaches of the due diligence requirements?

No. There are no criminal penalties (e.g. imprisonment) that can be applied for a breach of the due diligence requirements. 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 assist you to comply with the illegal logging laws.

Additional information is available 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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