Friday, May 08, 2009

There's some good news and there's some bad news

Last week I asked if there were any good words starting with 'F' because I wanted to change the name of my Friday posts from 'Flaunt It Friday' to something more appropriate. Well, the overwhelming silence on your part has meant I've had to go and get down my own Dictionary and check it out myself. Thank you for that! There are lots of good words starting with 'F' as it turns out. So from now on my Friday posts will be tagged with the label 'Friday' and each one will have its own excellent 'F' word as a descriptive, starting today with:
Frontier Friday

Do you know Simon? Simon first attracted my attention with his blog title Paper Curious ~ I love it! I makes me giggle every time. He blogs about bookbinding and paper making and if you are curious, he makes some really interesting stuff, including little bank note books and shredded bank not paper. So clever! I know how clever he is because he generously sent me a little book and some paper. That's the good news.

The bad news is that my parcel was opened by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and three of the pieces of paper Simon sent were 'ordered into quarantine' (ie confiscated) for having plant material in them. When my parcel arrived it contained a letter from the AQIS, some forms and a brochure. It seems I have 3 possible courses of action a) pay $42.50 to have the papers irradiated (there is a warning that this may cause damage), b) pay $42.50 to have the pages returned to Simon and c) pay nothing and they will be destroyed after 30 days.

All this has brought our uniquely Australian 'problem' into my mind again, so I thought I'd remind you too. We need to think about this more now that our community is ever more global every day and the handmade revolution has us buying and sending goodies all over the place.

What can't be mailed to Australia? is the title of the brochure they sent and inside it has a long list including: meat and meat products, dairy, eggs and egg products, fruit and vegetables, plants and soil, seeds and nuts, plant material, live animals and animal products and laboratory material. It is the plant material section that got my paper 'removed'. It states you can't send these things to Australia: tea containing seeds, fruit skin and fruit pieces, remedies and medicines containing herbs, seeds, bark, fungi and dried plant material, dried flower arrangements and potpourri, dried herbs or leaves, handicrafts -including wreaths and Christmas decorations- containing seeds, raw nuts, corn, pine cones, grapevines, bark, moss, straw or other plant material, wooden items with bark or signs of insects present. I've looked longingly at many items on Etsy that would have been confiscated on arrival if I had bought them. It is something we need to think of before we buy.

But we also need to be careful when we buy things that do comply with the AQIS because how they are packed can also lead to problems. The brochure advises people mailing items to Australia to:
  • Fill out the declaration label clearly and correctly. Make sure you itemise everything inside the package, including any packaging materials you've used.
  • Do not pack items in egg cartons, wooden boxes or cardboard boxes that have been used to hold fruit, vegetables or meat/smallgoods
  • Do not pack with straw or dried plant material. Use newspaper or foam to wrap fragile goods.
There is even a section on "cultural and seasonal events and quarantine." Don't send:
  • New Year - ornaments made with straw, seeds and conifer sprigs
  • Valentines Day - fresh and dried flowers
  • St Patricks Day - shamrock plants and seeds
  • Easter - hardboiled eggs, painted eggshells and straw or hay
  • Chinese Moon festival - mooncakes containing egg yolks or meat
  • Spring - seeds and bulbs (northern and southern hemisphere)
  • Sukkot - etrog, branches of palm, myrtle or willow
  • Halloween - pumpkins, corn husk dolls
  • Christmas - decorations containing pine cones, vine wreaths, spruce; hampers containing prohibited foods
And let's not forget to mention the fines of over $60,000 for a breach. There is more information here.

Simon has taken the fate of his handmade paper well. I explained to him that because Australia is an island nation there are many pests and diseases common elsewhere that haven't reached our shores and we are determined (obviously) to keep it that way. His response was gold!
That's a shame. Something I'll have to bear in mind in the future. Don't worry, they're certainly not worth 43 bucks. Let them destroy them. Quite funny in a way, me producing items that could potentially bring down a whole continent!!!!

And if that wasn't enough the whole issue brings me to worry about the Community Sketchbook book I made Something of Value which I only just finished and blogged about last week. I'm kicking myself now because I did something I don't usually do and included some handmade paper in it that does contain plant matter. I know it is not a problem as I can send that to the US which is its next stop, but it probably means the book can not return to Australia (because how can they tell that it originated here?) and what if it comes up against the quarantine laws of other similar countries on its journey? I think I have only one option and that is to pull it apart, remove the offending paper and rebind it again. Now that is a shame too.


Gillian said...

Such a shame about your parcel Jan, still at least you got that cutie-pie little book!

Very good reminder for us all ~ Thank you :)

SCB said...

I like your F-words! Good idea, after all, you might want to Flaunt it one Friday and Flee the next! Sara x

Duk said...

Ouch! Australia quarantine sucks.

They're always so messy when opening up stuff too, especially those postbags that are filled with that padding stuff, they'll cut right through the bag getting the padding stuff everywhere then tape it back up >.<

melanie said...

that happened to me probably two or three years ago in an art swap. They kindly gave me a photocopy of it.

The price hasn't gone up since then which could be seen as good or bad, since it could mean that it might go up soon, but do they seriously think people can afford to pay $42.50 to get possibly damaged items?

chunkychooky (Cath) said...

how devastating!!!!good to be aware of these things though. Mnay years ago I was conned in holland and told it would be fine to send these tulip bulbs to my dad for fathers day!!! I learnt a big lesson.

Jan Allsopp said...

Yes, I did know before too as I sent myself a huge parcel of stuff from France once to save lugging it all around. There must have been 50 items in it or more. It was opened by AQIS and they confiscated a tiny plastic bag of ochre pigment I'd got in a small village and their letter said it was an 'unknown spice.' I didn't see the point in arguing with them because they would probably have said pigment = dirt anyway.

carina said...

yes it is a shame but......simons response hit the nail on the head

"items that could potentially bring down a whole continent!!!! "

living in a rural area you become much more concious of these issues....remember the horse racing industry a while ago....remember the poor orange farmers....AQIS stuff ups... ! and being in western australia we have the extra border quarantine from the rest of australia as well, no honey or fruit amongst a whole host of other things, they even checked our dogs feet ?? :) !!

i have stopped myself a few times when something on etsy appealed to me but then i thought.......AQIS

Jo Horswill said...

Hi Jan, it is a shame about the paper.
Love the little bank note book!

Sara said...

Hi there, discovered your blog through twitter.

What a shame about the paper! I didn't realise that our government was so stringent regarding these matters. i had no idea. I'm so sorry for you lovely paper and book...

how do they even know something has plant matter in it?!

Jan Allsopp said...

Nice to meet you too Sara! Yes they are a bit tough. I believe from Simon that the paper obviously contained plant material - it was the look he was after!

clare said...

Been there, done that! I guess it's the price we pay for living in such a beautiful country.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jan. A while since I read your blog(too busy!), but it's timely. I've just linked to this entry on my blog (today,May 27)as I also face possible confiscations.

Carol said...

I too use handmade paper with plant inclusions but so far haven't made the mistake of sending them out of the country. It's a timely warning so thanks. Makes me wonder though about all those Asian papers with petals that have flooded the Australian market - how do they get in? And the books with leaves on the covers?

Jan Allsopp said...

I have made paper where the plant inclusions have been cooked to remove all bar the cellulose fibres and these would be fine I'd say as there is no viable plant material (or nasties still attached) after this process. My guess is these types of papers would come into Australia reasonably easy (or would they?) but I'd say the papers that obviously haven't had that treatment, like Indian papers with petals etc must actually go through quarantine and be fumigated.

I heard a story recently about an office where all the staff became ill shortly after a delivery of a palette of paper. Turned out the paper had come straight from quarantine without the withholding period and was still letting off the fumigation chemicals! Maybe all imported paper is fumigated?