I spoke to James Hardie about this a few years ago and they said that in the case of cement sheeting (commonly called 'fibro' ), if you can get to the back of the sheet and you can see a serial number there, they can tell you if it has asbestos in it.
If there is no serial/batch number then it probably DOES contain asbestos as it was used in everything.
Obviously the only way to get to the back of the sheet in most cases is to break it which will produce dust fibres so don't do that.
You can usually pick 'fibro' as the nails used to hold it in place are flat-heads and those are seen on the surface of the wall. They are not sunk into the sheeting material and then filled as normal gyprok screws are.
I sent 3 samples of this type of material off for testing (not expensive) and all 3 came back positive for asbestos. In older houses the fibro is often used in later additions to the house (eg laundries, kitchens, etc)
Out of interest I was in Perth recently and noticed a LOT of corrugated fibro fences between houses. These are quite old and most of them are crumbling or broken. I am sure they all contain asbestos! I can't believe people are willing to live with these very dangerous fences around their houses. One of the doctors who treats mesothelioma ( the agressive form of lung cancer that is caused by asbestos fibre inhalation ) said recently that the formula for getting this fatal disease is " 1 fibre plus 40 years"