Australians could face jail time for exporting masks or hand sanitiser under new regulations by the Federal Government.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Wednesday said the government has enforced a ban on exporting “essential goods” like gloves, gowns, goggles, visors or alcohol wipes, as well as more commercially-available products like masks or hand sanitiser.
The new regulations fall under an amendment to the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 Act called ‘COVID-19 Human Biosecurity Emergency’.
Under the new measures, authorities have amended customs regulations to “stop exploitative exports of essential goods”.
This is to ensure that all surrendered medical supplies are redistributed to the national stockpile. Violating the customs law is punishable by a fine of up to $210,000, and those found guilty of violating the Biosecurity Act could face up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $63,000.
The Federal government said in a statement that these measures have become necessary because we have seen a small number of individuals engaging in the bulk purchasing of essential goods from retail outlets in Australia, with the intent of profiteering from exploitative exporting and price gouging.
“These measures have become necessary because we have seen a small number of individuals engaging in the bulk purchasing of essential goods from retail outlets in Australia, with the intent of profiteering from exploitative exporting and price gouging,” The coalition said in a statement.
Anyone who has bought essential goods on or after January 30 cannot sell them for more than 120 per cent of that price and where people are found to be price-gouging, they’ll also be required to hand over the items to the National Medical Stockpile.
The measure doesn’t apply to manufacturers or legitimate business activities, ensuring that it does not apply to key suppliers that are vital to maintaining Australia’s supply chains.
The moves come as a Chinese-backed company that recently sent 10,000 masks, 30,000 protective gowns and 68,000 disposable gloves from Sydney to Shanghai earlier this year when the coronavirus was affecting China and not Australia at that stage.
According to News Corp, the business says it is now amassing supplies that it will donate to Aussie doctors and nurses.