A key lobby group for building product suppliers in Australia has hit out at what it says is a lack of action on to stop dangerous and non-conforming products being used within construction projects in Australia.
In a stinging rebuke to policy makers across the spectrum, the Building Products Innovation Council says Australia has seen no action from politicians despite the Lacrosse fire having happened three years ago and the London Grenfell Tower having happened two weeks ago.
“Two weeks on from the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London, and nearly three years since the Lacrosse apartment building fire in Melbourne, Australian governments have still not taken effective action to protect the public …” the Council said in a statement.
“For years prior to, and ever since the Lacrosse tower fire, BPIC and the building industry has been voicing serious concerns about non-conforming building materials and building non-compliance generally.”
“Politicians cannot use the excuse that they don’t know about the problems or what is required to sort them out.”
In its statement, the Group acknowledged that the exact cause of the would take months of investigation and inquiry to sort determine, the BPIC said it was clear that the external cladding played a role in its rapid spread as was the case with the Lacrosse fire.
It takes particular exception to the process regarding the Senate Inquiry into Non-Conforming Building Projects, which has taken two years with no end in sight.
Furthermore, the focus of the inquiry has changed from one which started out as a general investigation before becoming about asbestos contamination and now has a focus upon flammable cladding – the second change to the inquiry’s terms of reference and the sixth extension of time since the inquiry began in 2015.
As well as having dragged on too long, BPIC says the focus is now too narrow on specific product types, and should instead look at systematic issues which are seeing products brought into the country.
In addition, BPIC has hit out at government’s lack of interest, acknowledgement and endorsement of industry efforts to development third-party conformance schemes.
Finally, the Group criticises policy makers over knee-jerk reactions in respect of calls for cladding audits around the country.
Following the Grenfell tragedy, The Nick Xenophon team called for an audit of the cladding of all multi-storey buildings across the country.
Given that the Victoria Building Authority has conducted a cladding audit in Victoria and the NSW Department of Planning and Environment has conducted its own internal audit (and estimated that around 1,800 and possibly as many as 2,500 buildings in metropolitan Sydney could contain flammable cladding material), the Group said that more cladding audits would merely tell us what we already know and would ignore other non-compliance issues in buildings which can lead to danger.
Instead, BPIC would like to see a more widespread audit of building non-compliance throughout each jurisdiction.
The organisation would also like to see easier pathways to enable the prosecution of those who are responsible for non-conforming and non-compliant products.
The latest comments come in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.
The latest media reports place the death toll at 80, but a final figure is unlikely to be known for at least six months.
Although the initial cause of the blaze has been attributed to a faulty refrigerator, it is believed that flammable cladding contributed to the fire’s rapid spread.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has revealed that 120 other high-rise buildings in Britain have also failed fire tests on exterior cladding.