Australia's Illegal Logging Prohibition Act

The illegal logging laws of Australia, like similar legislation in the European Union and the United States, has been designed to support the trade of legal timber products into the Australian market. These laws consist of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 (the Act) and the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012 (the Regulation).

The Australian government is currently conducting a review of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012. Based on general Australian legal practice, subordinate legislation ceases to have effect every ten years unless it is reviewed. In line with this, the Regulation is set to longer have effect beginning April 1, 2023. The review will help the government to decide whether to remake the Regulation and adapt the illegal logging laws. The review is ongoing and will inform the government's future course of action for the legislation.

The Act

The Act commenced on 28 November 2012 and establishes Australia’s framework for combatting illegal logging. The Act makes it a criminal offense to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly import wood, pulp and paper products into Australia or process domestically grown raw logs in Australia that have been illegally logged. It also requires businesses to undertake ‘due diligence’ on certain regulated processes.

Due diligence

The Regulation commenced on December 6, 2012, with substantial 'due diligence' provisions added on November 30, 2014.

Due diligence requires importers of regulated timber products and Australian processors of raw logs to take steps to minimize the risk of dealing in timber or timber products that have been illegally logged.

The due diligence process requires businesses to: 

  1. Gather information about the products being imported, or logs being processed and their supply chain,
  2. Assess the risk that the logs or timber in these products has been illegally logged. Businesses have three options on which to base their risk assessments: 
    1. Certification under either the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) (Timber Legality Frameworks), or
    2. Country Specific Guidelines (CSGs) or State Specific Guidelines (SSGs), which provide key information for identifying legal timber from the given jurisdiction, or
    3. The regulated risk factors, which are indicators of illegal logging to take into account,
  3. Take steps to avoid importing or processing illegal timber where the assessment suggests there's substantial risk of doing so, and 
  4. Maintain a standard process for the information gathering and assessment steps and keep written records.

Each time an importer brings a regulated timber product into Australia, they are also required to make a declaration about whether they have complied with the above due diligence requirements.

Due diligence is exempted for the following three types of products:

  1. Products imported into Australia where the combined value of the regulated timber products in the consignment is AUD$1,000 or less,
  2. Products made entirely from post-consumer recycled materials; and the recycled component of products mixing recycled and non-recycled components. 

The list of regulated timber products can be found here

For more information about the due diligence requirements, see the guidance for importers and processors.

Penalties

Offences relating to importing or processing illegally logged timber attract penalties of up to five years imprisonment and/or up to 500 penalty units (which equates to AUD$111,000 for an individual, and AUD$555,000 for a corporation or body corporate as of April 2022).

The Australian government implemented the due diligence requirements under 'soft-start' arrangements than ran from November 30, 2014 to January 1, 2018. Since then, businesses and individuals who import regulated timber products into Australia, or who process domestically grown raw logs, may face penalties for failing to comply with the due diligence requirements. The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources may issue infringement notices with penalties of up to 100 penalty units (AUD$22,200 for individuals and AUD$111,000 for incorporated entities as of April 2022) per offence.

Civil and criminal prosecution may also be taken against importers and processors who are non-compliant with the requirements of the legislation. 

Further information about the compliance and enforcement process of the Australian government’s compliance process is available at the website of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Further Information

Industry Generated Guidance Materials

The Timber Development Association (TDA) and the Australian Timber Importers Federation (ATIF), with funding from the Australian Government, have developed a guidance package and Legality Compliance Toolkit​. These can help assist the regulated community satisfy their due diligence requirements.

The Australasian Furnishing Association (AFA) has also developed a timber due diligence toolkit.

Due Diligence Tools and Guidance (TDA)

Importer Training Seminars (TDA)

Legality Compliance Toolkit (ATIF)

Other Factsheets

The Australian government has also developed factsheets to provide an overview of obligations for importers and overseas suppliers under the illegal logging laws. Translations of these factsheets are also available in Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Country Specific Guidelines

Country Specific Guidelines (CSGs) have been developed between the Australian government and some of their key trading partners to help importers to better understand the timber harvesting laws in a particular country. CSGs allow businesses to quickly identify the documents they can expect to obtain for legal timber harvested in those countries and use them to assess the risk of the products that have been illegally logged.

Country Specific Guidelines are currently available for Canada, Chile, Finland, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, and Thailand.

Illegal Logging E-Update

For the most up-to-date information on policy developments and implementation related to illegal logging, visit the website of the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. You can also subscribe to their mailing list to receive the latest information on the laws, as well as new guidance materials and upcoming events.

(This page was last updated in April 2022)