The lapsed Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products has finally been reinstated, with expanded terms of reference to look into the illegal importation of asbestos that has found its way into a series of high-profile buildings across the country.

The original committee was to report on the problem of non-conforming materials by 12 October 2015, but was granted a series of extensions and was finally dissolved when the last federal election was called, producing little more than an interim report, the main recommendation of which was to be allowed more time to investigate.

The reformed committee will now have until 25 May 2017 to report.

As asbestos scares in major buildings across the country, including a children’s hospital, have been receiving significant media attention, additional terms of reference have been included, enabling the inquiry to probe into the reasons behind the spike in asbestos importation.

The additional terms of reference state the inquiry will look into:

“The illegal importation of products containing asbestos and its impact on the health and safety of the Australian community, with particular reference to:

a. the prevalence and sources of illegally imported products containing asbestos;

b. the effect of illegally imported products containing asbestos on:

i. industry supply chains, including importers, manufacturers and fabricators, and

ii. workplace and public safety and any associated risks;

c. possible improvements to the current regulatory frameworks for ensuring products containing asbestos are not illegally imported to Australia, with particular reference to the effectiveness of:

i. policing, enforcement, surveillance and screening of imported products, including restrictions and penalties imposed on importers and end users of products containing asbestos;

ii. preventing exposure and protecting the health and safety of workers and other people affected by the illegal importation of products containing asbestos,

iii. establishing responsibility for remediation of sites where illegally imported products containing asbestos has been found;

iv. coordination between Commonwealth, state and territory governments and the role of the Australian Government in coordinating a strategic approach to preventing the importation of products containing asbestos;

d. any other related matters.”

Submissions to the inquiry close on 1 December 2016.

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