Old Hat

Editorial

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - www.face­book.com/old­bikemag

Aus­tralia has had a to­tal ban on all prod­ucts con­tain­ing as­bestos since 2004, but a reg­u­la­tion orig­i­nally aimed at Chi­nese, Rus­sian, In­done­sian and US build­ing prod­ucts, has re­cently be­gun to bite im­porters of vin­tage and clas­sic mo­tor ve­hi­cles. The Se­na­tor Nick Xenophon has been par­tic­u­larly vo­cal with re­gard to the im­por­ta­tion of prod­ucts con­tain­ing as­bestos, telling the

Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald ear­lier this year, “Any coun­try with­out a zero tol­er­ance to as­bestos should be banned from im­port­ing into Aus­tralia, un­less ev­ery one of their prod­ucts is tested prior to ar­rival on Aus­tralian shores… Aus­tralian Bor­der Force (ABF) must be specif­i­cally re­sourced to prop­erly mon­i­tor all im­ports and bet­ter pro­tect peo­ple from this dan­ger­ous ma­te­rial.”

Re­cently, the ABF has taken the zero-tol­er­ance in­ter­pre­ta­tion to the full ex­tent, catch­ing many un­sus­pect­ing pri­vate im­porters of ve­hi­cles in their net. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the im­porter to as­sure ABF of­fi­cials that ve­hi­cles con­tain no as­bestos, and this can be tricky. In older ve­hi­cles, fric­tion ma­te­rial in brakes and clutches, in­su­la­tion, gas­kets in en­gine/trans­mis­sion and ex­haust sys­tems and even wir­ing har­nesses have been found to con­tain as­bestos, and are there­fore pro­hib­ited, and all costs as­so­ci­ated with the de­tec­tion of the sub­stance must be borne by the im­porter. A spokesman for the ABF re­cently told the me­dia, “It doesn’t mat­ter how old the ve­hi­cle is, or what type it is – if we sus­pect it may con­tain as­bestos, we will re­quest as­sur­ances from the im­porter to en­sure that it doesn’t.”

Th­ese costs can be sub­stan­tial, and can even lead to con­fis­ca­tion of the ve­hi­cle. The ABF web­site states, “If the ABF sus­pects that goods ar­riv­ing at the bor­der con­tain as­bestos, the goods are de­tained and ex­am­ined. Doc­u­men­ta­tion that pro­vides suf­fi­cient as­sur­ance must be pro­vided. The im­porter may be re­quired to ar­range test­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by a ‘com­pe­tent per­son’ to en­sure there is no pres­ence of as­bestos. The ar­range­ment and cost of any in­de­pen­dent in­spec­tion, test­ing and stor­age of the goods is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the im­porter/ex­porter in Aus­tralia in ac­cor­dance with sec­tion 186 of the Cus­toms Act 1901 (the Act).” In other words, watch out, be­cause the ABF is not known for a char­i­ta­ble at­ti­tude, and has a strict regime of penal­ties in place. From the web site again, “Bor­der of­fences re­lat­ing to as­bestos can at­tract fines for in­di­vid­u­als up to $180,000 or three times the value of the goods (if the court can de­ter­mine the value of the goods), which­ever is the greater, pur­suant to the Cus­toms Act 1901 (Cth).”

Steve Leem­bruggen, owner of Old Gold Mo­tor­cy­cles in Lon­don­derry, west­ern Syd­ney, has been im­port­ing used mo­tor­cy­cles for years and is highly crit­i­cal of the stance taken by the ABF. “No­body can show me a sin­gle case where any form of ill­ness can be at­trib­uted to as­besto­sis caused by a mo­tor­cy­cle or mo­tor­cy­cle parts, yet we are tar­geted con­stantly. In Ja­pan re­cently, I had to dis­man­tle ev­ery bike in our ship­ment and re­moved the brake shoes, and I can prove this, but we still have to go through the process when the bikes ar­rive here, which adds con­sid­er­ably to the costs. One tiny com­po­nent, such as a brake pad, can, and does, lead to a heavy fine. It makes me se­ri­ously con­sider whether the whole thing (im­port­ing used mo­tor­cy­cles) will be vi­able in the fu­ture. The gov­ern­ment says they are all for small busi­ness, yet all they do is make it im­pos­si­ble for small shows like us.”

Ob­vi­ously we have not heard the last of the as­bestos de­bate, or should that be de­ba­cle! REN­NIE SCAYSBROOK Guest Ed­i­tor

OUR COVER Elvis Cento­fanti’s 1974 Laverda 1000 3C. See fea­ture story on P58.

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