Logs that have been recently cut down, lay on the ground in a pile.

Update on Illegal Logging Reforms

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has recently completed a review of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012 (The Regulation) and the associated Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 (the Act) prior to its scheduled sunsetting date of 1 April 2023. The Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) for the Illegal Logging Sunsetting Review has been published on the Department’s Have Your Say Webpage. The RIS explores the costs and benefits of proposed reforms and other options for Australia’s illegal logging prohibition legislation. It also provides details on the recommended option to reform the legislation that Minster Watt considered and agreed to in December 2022.

The Minister considered the RIS and agreed in December 2022 to pursue the recommended option to reform the legislation, over alternate options to either remake the Regulation as is or let it lapse or ‘sunset’ on 1 April 2023.

Provision of Sunsetting Extension

The Department are now progressing reforms to provide a broader range of monitoring, investigation, and enforcement powers, clarify areas of ambiguity, and enable use of emerging timber testing technology under the legislation. This work will continue over the coming months.

In the meantime, a 2-year deferral of the Regulation’s current sunsetting date of 1 April 2023 has been recieved. You can see the deferral certificate on the Federal Register of Legislation here. This means the existing Regulation and due diligence requirements will remain in force until 2 April 2025.

Due diligence

Review of Guidance Material

The guidance material is continuously been reviewed and updated by the Department to help importers and processors comply with due diligence requirements under the illegal logging prohibition laws. Updates will ensure all guidance material on The Department’s website is accurate, clear, consistent, and user-friendly. The Department wants to thank those who have expressed an interest in providing feedback on the revised guidance material.

The Department’s illegal logging website has been updated to clarify requirements in relation to the frequency of conducting due diligence with the following information:

Do I need to conduct due diligence for each consignment that I import or process?

The legislation requires that each time an importer imports a regulated timber product, they complete the due diligence process set out in Part 2, Division 1 of the Regulation. Where an importer has previously imported the product, they must first verify that none of the information relating to the product previously gathered, or required to be gathered under section 10, has changed. This could include the harvest location, product certification number or outbreak of conflict in the harvest region for example. A record of having done this must be created.

Where no changes have occurred, importers can utilise the previous risk assessment and mitigation process undertaken for the product and keep a record of having done this. Where any element has changed, the importer must repeat the risk assessment and mitigation steps at sections 11 and 14 of the Regulation and keep records of having done this.

The same process applies for processors under the respective sections of the Regulation each time they process timber.

Further updates to the website are planned for the coming months and dedicated FAQs pages are being developed to provide answers to common questions in a single location.

Information Gathering Requirements

Following recent fines issued by the Department under the illegal logging prohibition laws, the provided information below as a timely reminder of timber importer’s due diligence requirements, particularly in relation to the information gathering step (Step 2).

The due diligence process involves 5 steps, all of which must be completed to satisfy legal requirements. Each step is outlined below, with further information at the links provided. It is important to complete each step in the logical order below, to avoid jumping to conclusions about risk assessment methods, risk levels or risk mitigation measures.

Step 1 – Establish and maintain a due diligence system
Step 2 – Gather information
Step 3 – Assess the risk using the most relevant of the three methods provided
Step 4 – Risk mitigation
Step 5 – Keep records

Step 2 – Gather information

Before importing a regulated timber product, regulated entities must gather information about the timber in the product. It is important to gather as much information as possible on the timber product and supply chain first, before determining which risk assessment option to use in Step 3. As a minimum, importers of regulated timber products need to seek information that demonstrates:

  • The type and trade name of the product being imported.
  • The name (common or scientific) of the tree/s the timber has come from.
  • The country, region and harvesting unit from where the timber was harvested.
  • The country where the product was manufactured.
  • The product supplier’s details, including name, address, trading name, and business identification numbers.
  • The quantity of product being imported (in volume, weight, or number of units).
  • Documents provided by the supplier in relation to the product’s purchase.
  • Any information or documents demonstrating the timber was legally harvested.

Much of this information can be found in existing commercial documents, contracts, invoices, etc. You can also check the online resources and links to timber legality databases provided on The Department’s website here. But you may need to work directly with suppliers to get more information, documents, or evidence.

How you gather the necessary information is up to you. This could include phone calls, emails, online research, questionnaires sent to suppliers etc. Just remember to make and keep records to satisfy Step 5. Records should be kept for at least 5 years after the date of import. The Department will request these records if your business is audited for compliance purposes in the future.

You need to gather information on products and supply chains so you can perform well-informed risk assessments and draw reasonable conclusions on the risk of products containing illegally logged timber before you import them into Australia. As such, you should not rely on any information or documents that you cannot read or understand as these will not help inform your decisions. For example, if documents are provided in a language other than English, you should seek a translation to ensure you understand the content and what this means for your risk assessment. You should not defer the gathering of this information to after import, and all information used should directly relate to the specific regulated timber product that is to be imported. If you are audited by the department, you will need to be able to show that you understood the content of all documents when you used them to inform the decisions you made during the due diligence process.

If you are unable to gather some of the minimum information above, The Department expects you to create and retain notes that support why this information could not be obtained. It is important to note that if you cannot obtain enough information about the species of timber and where the timber was harvested, it will be difficult to conclude that the product has a low risk of containing illegally logged timber.

For further questions or clarity on due diligence requirements for importing regulated timber products, you can email IllegalLogging@agriculture.gov.au. You can also provide anonymous information and report suspected non-compliance via the online form here.