Australian Illegal Logging Act

FSC supports governmental action to ban the trade of illegally harvested timber

FSC NZ fOREST (© Phil Taylor)© Phil TaylorIllegal harvest can lead to deforestation, forest degradation, and pollution of water and other resources for forest-dependent communities.

It can also include unacceptable working, payment and contractual conditions, and corruption, tax evasion and questionable profit appropriations.

The presence of illegal timber in the market also directly impacts FSC’s mission. It exerts negative pressure on the prices for timber and forest products (estimates are between -7 and -16%), undermining the economic viability of investments required for responsible forest management and forest products consumption.

Legality alone is not a guarantee against forest degradation, biodiversity loss or violation of worker and community rights.

National legislation in timber producing countries is not a guarantee of ecologically and socially sound forest management practices, protection of high conservation value forests, or prohibition of natural forest conversion.

That is why FSC promotes going beyond legality to pursue FSC certification.


The laws establish two major legal obligations

1. It is a criminal offence to import illegally logged timber.
This applies to all timber and wood products (basically anything that includes wood-fibre content).

2. Due diligence must be conducted on the import of certain ‘regulated timber products’.
The regulated timber products are identified using customs tariff codes. The regulated products fit within Chapters 44, 47, 48 and 94 of the tariff codes and relate to specific wood products, pulp, paper and furniture products.


A streamlined process for FSC certificate holders

(© Arturo Escobar, FSC GD)© Arturo Escobar, FSC GDAustralia’s laws already provide for a simplified due diligence process for parties dealing with certified timber products or logs.

In practice, this requires the importer or processor to gather the information required in the due diligence process (eg. species, region of harvest, supplier details).

This then needs to be used, along with the verified certification claims, and any other information the importer ought to know, to assess the product’s risk.

FSC certification can be used in this risk assessment process, which is not affected by the Senate’s decision.

In the past, the guidance provided by the government did not give a clear idea of what exactly needs to be done for certified imports or logs.

However, the government release new guidance in December 2017 spelling out the requirements: (look under “importers” or “processors”).

For more information about FSC’s role and expectations please contact FSC Australia


Summary of the act

On 30 November 2012, the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 entered into force.

It was the result of five years of considerable debate involving both the timber industry (within Australia as well as in the main timber-providing countries) and NGOs.

The official summary of the Act:

  • It prohibits the importation of illegally logged timber and the processing of illegally logged raw logs.
  • It also requires importers of regulated timber products and processors of raw logs to conduct due diligence in order to reduce the risk that illegally logged timber is imported or processed.
  • Importers of regulated timber products must provide declarations, at the time of import, to the Customs Minister about the due diligence that they have undertaken.
  • It provides for inspectors to exercise monitoring,investigation and enforcement powers for the purposes of this Act.

The Australian Government, at that time, considered that “these measures are an essential first step towards a longer-term goal of Australia sourcing timber products from sustainably managed forests, wherever they are in the world.”

[1] One motive for the Act from the side of the Government was that,without such legislation, effective legality policies in the United States (US)and European Union (EU) could lead to Australia becoming an alternative target for illegal timber traders, meaning that Australia’s moral responsibility for the negative impacts of illegal harvesting would increase.

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History of the Australian Illegal Logging Act

The role of forest certification schemes – from 2018
One of the reforms proposed to Australia’s laws at the end of 2017 was to grant FSC certified products a “green lane”, meaning that no due diligence procedure was required.

On the 8th February, the Australian Senate blocked that decision, reflecting views that the new arrangements put too much faith in certification systems and could lead to illegally logged timber being imported into Australia.

As a consequence, as the government confirmed: “Parties dealing with FSC and PEFC products will still need to carry out the full due diligence process described in the Regulation”.

Entry into force
From December 2012, the import of illegal timber and products containing it, and the processing of illegally harvest domestic timber, were forbidden.

A second element of the laws, which required importers and processors to manage the risk of their products containing illegal timber (known as ‘due diligence’), came into force on 30 November 2014.

This allowed the Australian Government time to work with relevant parties to develop the specifics of the due diligence requirements,including the scope of affected products.

However, in June 2014, a new government, concerned about the regulatory burden of the law for companies, announced a period of 18 months after November 2014 in which the focus would be on “helping importers and processors to comply with the due diligence requirements”.

End of 2014 it also launched a review process which led to some reforms. From the 1st January 2018 the “soft-start” of the Act is over and full enforcement, including penalties in case of violation has started.

Contacts and further information

The Australian Government has published the following relevant documents:

  • Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012 presents the latest version of the illegal logging prohibition regulations.
  • A growing number of “country-specific guidelines”, produced by the Australian Government and the countries concerned, explaining the national legislation and procedures to be respected.
  • A set of useful fact sheets, including for processors, importers and exporters to Australia. These fact sheets may be revised or removed.

More information from FSC International

Contacts:

  • about FSC’s role and expectations: Julia Mylne, Policy and Advocacy Manager, FSC Australia

  • or John Hontelez, Chief Advocacy Officer, FSC International

  • Department of Agriculture and Water Resources: Phone 1800 900 090 or if outside Australia +612 6272 3933; Email illegal logging; or subscribe to the illegal logging mailing list to receive new information or guidance materials and details on upcoming information events.
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