October 01, 2013
The laws require Australian companies to conduct due diligence on timber and wood products they import from overseas. Firms found to source illegal timber will be subject to fines, imprisonment, and forfeiture of goods.
The laws come after the United States and European Union passed similar regulations for timber imports.
Environmentalists generally view the laws favorably as a means to crack down on the illegal timber trade, which is estimated at $10-30 billion annually. Domestic timber producers also support the laws, which may help protect against cheaper illegal wood.
In response to the new regulations, last month Indonesia implemented a certification scheme that aims to ensure the legality of timber exports.
Most illegal logging occurs in tropical forests, especially countries with lax law enforcement, corruption, poor forest management, and underfunded conservation programs. A report published by Interpol last year suggested that large amounts of illegal timber are "laundered" through legitimate forestry enterprises, including the plantation sector.