Australia legislates to ban illegal timber imports – what does this mean for your business?

The Australian Parliament has passed legislation banning the importation of illegally-sourced timber, timber products and pulp & paper. The ban on imported timber is effective immediately, but the ban on products containing illegal-source timber will come into effect after 2 years.

Penalties under the legislation include:

  • five years imprisonment, and/or
  • $55 000 for an individual, and/or
  • $275 000 for a corporation or body corporate.

What are importers required to show?

The legislation centres on an established process of ‘due diligence’ by importers of timber and timber products, including furniture. The due diligence requirements are still to be determined, but the Australian Department of Forestry  Agriculture and Forestry (DAFF) has circulated a sample questionnaire which gives an indication of the types of information which will be required for disclosure (see box).

This includes the importer specifying the country where the timber was harvested and, in some cases, the sub-national region or concession of harvest. Importers will also need to specify the type of due diligence system used to verify legality.

What needs to be done now?

As importers of timber, timber products and pulp & paper will not be permitted to claim that a harvest source is unknown, now is the time for importers to establish a simple but trustworthy due diligence system for their sources.

As far as possible, due diligence demands should be placed on offshore supplier or manufacturers. That is, suppliers or manufacturers should be obliged to provide you with basic data around timber supply: in particular, harvest source or sources, and a recognised system to verify legality for each source. This can, of course, be difficult for timber products of mixed origin, or pulp or paper which is comingled from various sources. In fact, mixed source timber products may be more likely to contain timber of questionable origin. For this reason, it is important to reach out to suppliers as early as possible with appropriate data requests.

A simple but clear expectation of suppliers established now will ensure that you are able to comply by the time the due diligence requirements come into force.

For more information, please contact