A Senate committee has called for increased penalties for illegally importing asbestos.

The interim report from the Labor-led committee also calls for compulsory recalls when asbestos turns up in consumer products, among more than two dozen recommendations from its inquiry into non-conforming building products.

The committee said there is a concerning lack of enforcement of the ban on asbestos that has been in force since 2003, calling for a greater focus on prosecutions.

“The committee believes that increasing the number of successful prosecutions and reviewing the quantum of penalties would have a significant deterrent effect on the illegal importation of asbestos,” the report said.

The report calls for a new mandatory testing regime and tighter rules for importers to make them check that the products they bring in are safe.

It recommends that the government create a specialist unit within the Australian Border Force to manage illegal asbestos importation.

It also proposes that the ACCC should conduct compulsory product recalls where asbestos is found, unless the issues and risks associated with it are too significant.

Unions have welcomed the call to increase penalties for importers, with the ACTU saying they should be introduced immediately.

But some of the Coalition members of the Senate panel argued that the interim report was “significantly overreaching” in its recommendations, and issued a dissenting report noting that Border Force have already increased their operational efforts towards addressing the risk of asbestos.

Even so, there has not been a commensurate increase in the rate of detections.