When arranging your shipment, it’s important to be aware of what you can and can’t import into Australia. You must also be aware of what you’re allowed to export, which has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australian Border Force has published a comprehensive list of everything prohibited in Australia as well what restrictions apply to particular goods. We strongly recommend reviewing this list, as importing prohibited goods may lead to the imposition of penalties and possible prosecution.
Below, we’ll look over what goods are prohibited imports into Australia. We’ll also look at the new 2020 export regulations introduced after the spread of the Coronavirus. Finally, we’ll encourage you to engage an expert freight forwarder such as ICE, to manage your shipments into and out of Australia.
What you cannot import
Australia has strict import and biosecurity regulations, closely monitoring the movement of goods in and out of the country.
Some of these laws include the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, which declares the goods that are prohibited from entering into Australia, and the Biosecurity Act 2015, which addresses external biosecurity threats to the health of Australian people, animals and plants.
There are also several government departments involved in ensuring the proper, lawful and safe importation of goods into Australia. These include the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, who are responsible for inspecting declared goods that may present a biosecurity threat, and the Australian Border Force (an agency of the Department of Home Affairs), who will examine cargo for prohibited goods.
Below, we’ll look at some items that are not allowed or might require permission:
1. Imitation firearms and Firearms
Imitation firearms, as defined by the Firearms Act 1996, are objects that substantially duplicate the appearance of a firearm but aren’t actually a firearm. It doesn’t matter what the colour, weight or composition of the object is and it does not matter if it doesn’t include any moveable parts. As long as they substantially duplicate the appearance of a firearm, they’ll likely be classified as ‘imitation’ firearms.
Nevertheless, you can receive permission from the police to import these goods by completing a police certification test. This requires the completion of a B709B Police Certification form which you can obtain from your local state police registry.
Firearms includes rifles, shotguns, handguns, revolvers, pistols, muzzle-loading firearms and black powder firearms. Blank firing firearms, deactivated firearms and soft air firearms are also considered firearms. To import these goods an appropriate firearms licence is required. You need permission from your state or territory police or from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.
The import permission must be presented to the Australian Border Force at the time of importation.
When the firearm enters Australia, the Australian Border Force will undertake serial number checks and safety testing.
You are required to declare lighters if you import them into Australia.
“Lighter” is defined in the Regulations to include “a disposable lighter, novelty lighter or refillable lighter”. The Regulations go on to define each of those terms as follows:
- Disposable lighter means a “flame-producing device” designed to light cigarettes, cigars or pipes which can be discarded when its fuel supply is exhausted or designed to incorporate a separate container of fuel designed to be discarded when empty.
- Refillable lighter means a “flame-producing device” designed to light cigarettes, cigars or pipes, that can be refilled with fuel and has a customs value of $5.00 or less.
- Novelty lighter means a “flame-producing device” designed to light cigarettes, cigars or pipes and either has an entertaining audio or visual effect (like playing music or displaying flashing lights) or depicts an article commonly recognised as appealing to, or intended to be used by, a young child (like a cartoon character, for instance).
You are able to bring into Australia up to five lighters if you’ve arrived into the country by plane or cruise ship and you’re over 18 years old. However, for a commercial shipment of lighters over this amount you’ll need permission by obtaining a certificate of compliance. This certifies that your lighters comply with what’s called the “American Standard”.
Importing asbestos or products containing asbestos into Australia is unlawful under the Regulations unless an exception applies. It is your responsibility to ensure your goods do not contain any asbestos before they are imported into or exported out of the country.
The exceptions include if:
- the importation is of raw materials that contain naturally occurring traces of asbestos;
- the Work Health and Safety Minister or the CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has given you permission to import the asbestos;
- a confirmation exists from a State or Territory authority stating that the proposed use of the asbestos is for research, analysis or display in accordance with a work health and safety law; or
- the importation is of a ship or resources installation of at least 150 gross tonnage, the asbestos was fixed or installed before 1 January 2005 and it won’t be a risk to any person unless the asbestos is disturbed.
It is important that your goods contain an Asbestos Declaration, which demonstrates to customs authorities that your goods do not contain any asbestos.
If you aren’t sure if your goods contain asbestos, you can get your goods tested by an accredited laboratory. You can find an accredited authority on the National Association of Testing Authorities’ (NATA) website.
4. Automatic knives
Only permitted for police/government use or ‘specified purposes’ such as for filming a movie.
5. Blow pipes, blow darts, darts, shark darts
Only permitted if you have state/territory police approval on a B709B form you may be required to get a state/territory licence.
6. Cats and dogs
Can only be imported to Australia under strict conditions designed to manage biosecurity risks. For the import conditions applicable, view the step-by-step guides.
7. Pet food and treats
All pet food, treats and chews made from, or containing, animal or plant-derived material, require an import permit. There are no small quantity or personal pet exemptions. Examples include rawhide chews, pigs’ ears, biscuits, kibble, canned pet food, jerky strips and ‘chocolate’ drops for pets.
8. Concealed blades and Daggers
Concealed blades are items that don’t look like a weapon at all, such as a walking stick, a pen or an umbrella, with a knife, blade or spike hidden inside. They are not allowed into Australia.
9. Hand-held electric shock devices and Pepper spray
Examples of prohibited shock devices are Tasers©, stun guns, items disguised as mobile phones or torches used for self-defence.
10. Fake designer goods
Fake (counterfeit) goods including things like brand name or designer clothing, handbags, shoes, cosmetics, perfume and hair straighteners are not allowed.
11. Paintball firearms or Soft air firearms
Paintball firearms or markers are firearms that fire paintballs by compressed gas.
To bring soft air firearms into Australia you need approval from your state or territory police or permission from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. An appropriate firearms licence is usually required.
Fireworks are considered ‘dangerous goods’ and are not allowed to be taken on board aircraft (in the cabin or in the hold with the luggage).
13. Illegal pornography
Publications, films, computer games and any other goods that express offensive fetishes, bestiality, child pornography and sexual violence.
14. Live plants
Most live plants are not allowed unless the importer has a valid import permit from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and comply with the post-entry quarantine period. More details here.
15. Nunchakus, Knuckle-dusters and Throwing blades
Knuckle-dusters are not allowed. This includes items like knuckle-duster purses and handbags and knuckle-duster phone cases.
Nunchakus are weapons with handles made of any hard material and are joined by chain or rope. These may be allowed provided you have state/territory police approval on a B709B form.
16. Pirated DVDs
Pirated copies of movies or TV shows (including boxed sets) are forbidden.
17. Soil mud or clay
Don’t track dirt back to Australia. Make sure your shoes and other equipment is free from soil, mud, clay, animal faeces or plant material like leaves and bark.
Anabolic and androgenic substances, also known as steroids, are prohibited from import into Australia. Permission to import these substances is required from the Office of Drug Control.
You do not need a permit if you are a passenger on a ship or aircraft and you:
- carry a copy of your prescription or a letter (written in English) from your medical practitioner as evidence that the medicine is required as part of your medical treatment
- carry no more than three months’ supply at the maximum recommended dosage for your personal use, or a person under your care
- carry the medicine in your accompanied baggage
19. Chewing tobacco or snuff (more than 1.5 kilograms)
Most tobacco products are ‘prohibited imports’. To import prohibited tobacco products for both commercial and personal use, you will need a permit issued by the Australian Border Force (ABF) before your tobacco arrives in Australia.
Importers must pay the relevant duty and taxes for tobacco when it arrives at the border in order to receive their items. It is no longer possible to import tobacco and store it in licensed warehouses before paying duty and taxes.
As a traveller, you can bring in tobacco products into Australia if you’re aged 18 or older:
- one unopen packet of up to 25 cigarettes (or the equivalent of 25 grams of tobacco products), and
- one open packet of cigarettes.
You can bring in up to 1.5 kilograms of smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco or snuff) for personal use, but you will have to pay duty on any tobacco above 25 grams (only 25 grams is allowed duty free).
COVID-19 regulations: restrictions on Exporting goods
On 29 March 2020, the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Amendment (COVID‑19 Human Biosecurity Emergency) Regulations 2020 came into effect. These new regulations declare a range of prohibited exports that you now must be aware of when exporting your goods.
Exporting the following goods out of Australia is not permitted:
- disinfectant products like alcohol wipes and hand sanitiser; and
- certain equipment that can limit the transmission of organisms to humans including disposable face masks, gloves and gowns as well as goggles, glasses or eye visors.
There are, however, a range of exceptions to these restrictions. This includes where:
- you’re leaving Australia and taking a “reasonable quantity” of those items for personal use;
- you’re exporting the goods to a relative for their personal use and the export is not by international mail; and
- they are exported by a humanitarian organisation, and the export is not by international mail.
For a more complete list, see the Australian Border Force website.
Final tip – engage an expert freight forwarder
The above prohibitions and restrictions can be complicated, and mistakes can very easily be made.
At International Cargo Express, we can help you navigate these complexities and make sure that your import or export is compliant with Australian law.
Our expert freight specialists have decades of combined experience assisting importers and exporters alike. We’ll take a detailed look at your cargo and make sure that, if it falls under a restricted or prohibited category, the proper steps are undertaken to minimise potential conflicts.