Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act

Context, response from FSC, and impact on FSC Certificate holders

Fallen trees in forest – Image credit 蔡 嘉宇, UnsplashOn 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.


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

Illegal 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, as 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 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 and PEFC 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 the FSC and PEFC 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”.


The impact on FSC certificate holders
Australia’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.

Both the FSC and PEFC schemes 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, new guidance was released in December 2017 which spells out what is required: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry/policies/il […] (look under “importers” or “processors”).


Scope of legislation
Australia’s illegal logging laws establishes two major legal obligations.

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

2. The second obligation, to conduct due diligence on imports, only applies to 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.


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.


Further reading: The Australian Government has published the following relevant documents:

Further information:

[1] Mr. Kelly,Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, at the Senate debate, 19 November 2012
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UPDATES - Reforms to Illegal Logging Laws and Impact on FSC Certificate Holders

February 2018

In October 2017, the government announced several reforms to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012. These were intended to streamline and clarify the Regulation’s due diligence requirements. The key reform was the establishment of a new 'deemed to comply' arrangement for products certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for Endorsement Certification (PEFC) schemes.

On 8 February 2018, the ‘deemed to comply’ arrangement was debated in the Australian Senate and the associated amendments were disallowed. This means the new streamlined ‘deemed to comply’ arrangement for FSC and PEFC products will no longer be implemented. Parties dealing with FSC and PEFC products will still need to carry out the full due diligence process described in the Regulation.


Further information about the due diligence requirements is available at Illegal Logging – Guidance for Importers and Illegal Logging – Guidance for Processors.


FSC Certificate Holders, please read the document attached below for information on how the laws will impact your organisation.


Previous Illegal Logging Communications Updates

29th August 2017

One of FSC’s primary principles of responsible forest management is to ensure that instances of illegally harvested timber are prevented. All countries with forests have rules to manage ownership and harvest rights, but the level of enforcement of these rules varies across the globe. For this reason, several governments have, in the last decade, adopted ‘legislation for timber legality’ laws that ban the trading of timber that is harvested illegally anywhere on the planet. To prevent purchase and sales of timber products connected to illegal harvesting, these governments require companies to apply ‘due diligence’.

FSCA worked closely with the Australian Forest Products Association and Australian Forestry Standard to inform the Australian Government of the importance of certification schemes in combating illegal logging. Specifically, FSCA encouraged that illegal logging legislation reflects how third party certification schemes can be used as a tool by the government to fulfil the due diligence requirements for import products. In this way, direct certified suppliers will satisfy the ‘deemed to comply’ provisions of the legislation.

In response to the legislation, KPMG led an independent review of the impact of the illegal logging regulations on small business and developed a report to the government with their recommendations. One of the key recommendations was that the department should develop clearer and more easily understood guidance materials on the illegal logging laws. Since the report was released, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has published a refreshed set of illegal logging web pages providing an understanding of the laws, as well as other new due diligence guidance materials.

These new materials are available on the department’s website here. However, those suppliers already FSC accredited can rest assured that the relevant due diligence requirements have been met. As such, FSC certification ensures that the organisation is compliant with the relevant laws.


16th May 2017: Illegal Logging Legislation – Letter to the Australian Government


How Third Party Certification can be ‘Deemed to Comply’
FSC Australia submitted a joint letter with the Australian Forest Products Association and Australian Forestry Standard to the Australian Government regarding Illegal Logging Legislation.
Together the two certification schemes and the national industry body united to make a joint submission to encourage the Government to continue to make progress on tackling the problem of illegally logged timber entering the Australian Market.

The FSC system monitors the source of origin of material with the Forest Management and Controlled Wood standards and the movement of forest products through the supply chain with the Chain of Custody standard.

Under the FSC system, direct certified suppliers are obliged to go back through the supply chain until they have obtained the original forest management certificate indicating both country/concession of harvest or species and provide this information to the importer.

The letter highlights how third party certification can be a tool adopted by the government to fulfil the due diligence requirements for import products. Download the full letter below.


5th April 2017: FSC Australia meet with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to discuss Due Diligence


Following the submission late last year by FSC to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR), FSC Australia was invited to present to the Department further information about how the FSC system works. FSC Australia CEO Bill Royce, meet with officials and provided assistance in their assessment of the integrity of the FSC system with a focus for the ‘deemed to comply’ option for due diligence.
It was a fantastic opportunity to present how our system works through all three certifications (FM, CW, CoC) and each of our types of permitted labels; on the role of the CBs in ongoing engagement with CHs; and the role of ASI in quality controlling the CB network.

Highlighted was one of the principal benefits for importers relying on FSC certification is that our system (from foresters to manufacturers, and through the third-party audits conducted by certification bodies licensed by ASI) comprehensively assesses and mitigates risk.

We actively support Australia’s legislation combating illegal logging and specifically endorse the ‘modified approach’ for due diligence for timber legality frameworks.

FSC Australia would look forward to working together with DWAR in educating and providing guidance to importers.

The Australian Forest Products Association is preparing a submission to be sent to the Minister co-signed by prominent forest certification schemes and NGOs operating in Australia on the matter.

Attached below for stakeholders reference, is the full letter of advice FSC Australia has provided to DAWR prepared with the assistance of global Chief Advocacy Officer, John Hontelez.


Revised April 2015: FSC and the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012


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 considers 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.”

One motive for the Act from the side of the Government is that, without such legislation, effective legality policies in the United States (US) and European Union (EU) may 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.


For more information Download the full statement below.


Thursday 5th October: Illegal Logging Legislation Update


Tthe Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston announced the government had taken steps to cut red tape whilst ensuring illegally logged timber does not enter the Australian market.
Specifically, the government is establishing a new deemed to comply arrangement for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified products under the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012.

In practice, the amendments will streamline and simplify arrangements for those businesses and individuals importing or processing timber products certified under the FSC.

Read more about the changes in our newsroom here.


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