Government take action on combustible cladding, building defects

Government take action on combustible cladding, building defects

19 July 2019

The building industry faces a period of re-regulation – and consequently higher costs – following an agreement by federal and state ministers this week amid a crisis of confidence in the building industry. They agreed to co-operate to prevent the recurrence of problems such as combustible cladding, crumbling buildings and lax self-regulation.

Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews and her state and territory counterparts adopted a Queensland proposal to co-ordinate much-needed construction industry reforms by beefing up an existing agency, the Australian Building Codes Board, rather than creating a new layer of bureaucracy, a move Victoria had also resisted.

The souped-up ABCB, funded by the states and territories, and on which industry also has representation, will co-ordinate efforts by all states and territories to make changes specified by the Building Confidence report they commissioned in 2017.

“Today the jurisdictions have agreed to the implementation of our report being facilitated through a dedicated team overseen by the ABCB,” construction lawyer Bronwyn Weir, a co-author of the Building Confidence report, told The Australian Financial Review.

“This will not slow down the progress of reform under way in some states. It will not result in a single set of laws … A centralised implementation effort will drive greater consistency and enable improved communication about what governments are doing to bring confidence back to the sector.”

“This is a very welcome and important step towards addressing issues around building regulation compliance and enforcement at a national level,” said Ken Morrison, Chief Executive of the Property Council.

“We are pleased that ministers have listened to the concerns of the building, construction, insurance and property industries about the inconsistent approach that has been taken to date, particularly on issues such as combustible cladding, as well as building standards and professional integrity,” Mr Morrison said.

“There is still a lot of hard work to be done – particularly around a consistent approach to addressing cladding issues and in resolving insurance problems – but this has been a big and welcome step forward today and we congratulate the ministers on taking it,” Mr Morrison said.

Professional indemnity insurance premiums have skyrocketed following the discovery of severe defects at a string of apartment buildings in NSW and Victoria’s flammable cladding problems.

The chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia Rob Whelan said: “Today’s agreement between the states and territories on implementing nationally consistent building standards is a step in the right direction, but action is now urgently required to restore confidence in the building and construction sector.”

“Today’s agreement by Building Ministers to establish a national approach to the implementation of the Shergold-Weir Report will assist the building industry, governments and the community to move forward with greater certainty and provides a significant recognition that a nationally consistent approach to improve community confidence in the building system is needed,” said HIA Chief Executive Industry Policy, Kristin Brookfield

The Australian Financial Review commented that Thursday’s agreement ends the political finger-pointing that preceded the meeting, but only applies to future buildings and offers no relief for the slew of high-profile current problems such as at Sydney’s Opal, Mascot and Zetland residential buildings, combustible cladding nationally or the increasingly apparent crisis of building defects.