Why is Australia lagging so badly in an area where we could and should be leading: compliance within the building industry?

The Australian business sector, however, has an opportunity to take the lead in addressing non-conforming products in the built environment. In so doing, it can raise competitive advantage through responsible supply and procurement.

Earlier in 2016, government, the business community faced challenges due to an uncertain political climate. Today the political landscape is little clearer and our manufacturing base continues to suffer the effects of non-conforming product, substitution and unfair international competition. The consumer continues to pay for poor quality.

There are three components involved that are key to improving the current landscape:

  • The stakeholders – government, business and the consumer. Governments set the rules within which businesses operate, and business creates value for the consumer.
  • The life cycle of building products – design, source, make, supply then build, inspect and deliver to the customer who use, consume, and hopefully recycle. By taking a product life cycle approach, a link is created through all the stakeholders and at every stage, business adds value.
  • The opportunities where businesses may provide competitive solutions for consumer demand and quality product.

Creating opportunities and moving the ball forward

If business has commercial incentive to meet and exceed the established rules and consumers can easily select products based on conformance to these rules, a fair marketplace is created and clear benchmarks are established. Businesses can then compete with clear guidelines and incentives on a level playing field. Importantly, opportunities are created for international competition to compete on the same terms as Australian businesses.

Smart collaboration amongst responsible stakeholders and new business systems could meet the raising demands of informed consumers. We need to devise a lean and efficient system that engages all stakeholders. Can we look to other industries and learn or adapt systems that work?

Mechanisms that demonstrate product provenance and veracity are used to address product non-conformance in pharmaceuticals, food, fashion and wine. Are the manufacturing industry and the construction process so different?

By comparison to other industries, are the existing rules in the construction industry sufficient if adhered to by business and demanded by discerning consumers? Or are we losing the opportunity to incentivize quality product and delivery?

A product verification system on the supply side coupled with a prequalification system on the demand side will go a long way toward addressing these problems and encourages both responsibilities for conformance from business and opportunities for value, to be shared amongst the stakeholder community.

Ultimately, we are all consumers. The government may consume 25 per cent of GDP but that money is our taxes. Our super funds may own trillions of dollars worth of assets but those are our savings. The banks may lend us mortgages, but they are our homes.

Every one of us as stakeholders has a role to play in our built environment, the value of assets and our urban well-being.

Businesses can imagine new systems and the consumer can demand quality across the product life cycle to deliver value.

We can do this in an environment of common laws and regulation and collectively adhere to common values. We can bring international products and services to compete on an equal footing and on a level playing field.

We can’t shirk responsibility any longer. Australian legislation and stakeholder initiative can jump five years ahead of the world by raising the standard of Australian rules.

  • Peter, this is an excellent article – short, sharp and making the most important key points in the debate around conformance and a quality built environment for all Australians. You rightly nominate the core issue, and that is the role of Government in setting the RULES for a fair market place. Additionally, it is so affirming for consumers to hear someone highlighting the truth on stakeholders and the role of all stakeholders, especially consumers. First an acknowledgment that consumers are stakeholders – because officially they are discounted, not included and have no voice. And second that all Australians are consumers, and as such this issue concerns all of us and we should all be shouting from the rooftops over non-compliance and non-conformance. This is life-threatening, truly scary stuff.
    You also raise the issue of playing smart, in terms of delivering conformance, quality and safety and how these can be achieved through looking to how other industries operate and implementing a good, ethical business model, with a level playing field, one that is fair and also competitive in the international market. So sensible, rational and doable. Let's hope someone who makes the RULES is listening!

  • Thanks Anne,
    Great to hear you positive spin. Often we hear of all the doom and gloom but the opportunities for improvement and raising productivity are huge.
    With the construction industry close to 10% of workforce and GDP and AU manufacturing needing all the help it can get, it is a good time for process and rules.
    Thanks for support.

  • Well said Peter,
    On a macro level and to do with commercial developments I wholeheartedly agree. The apartment towers with mega material choice problems are economic disasters for many individuals each time. And there are many hundreds more with similar breaches of the 'rules' we have heard.

    But for the individual home owner, the problems are not materials-based in well over 90% of cases… but are caused by breaches of the rules on labour… poor workmanship sand the lack of experienced supervision that permits it… and this can be cured by just a few tweaks of the lax present 'rules. But governments are not listening… and they are also not listening to the consumer cries for help aided and abetted by their grossly unfair Domestic Building Insurance… and they will not reverse the unfair insurance decisions of 2002, (I think) because of a fear of a deluge of claims that will expose just how unfair their rules have been for over14 years now… and also expose many repeat-offender builders at present protected by settlement gag orders.

  • Great article Peter and it exposes the greatest folly of all "stakeholders" which is the root cause of many of the present problems. The argument is simple:
    We have the criminal law to protect individuals from crime, enforced by police and punished by the legal system and for deterrence.
    We have traffic laws to protect public against errant drivers, enforced by police and likewise punishable by infringements or law penalties.
    We have building control which only looks after health, the safety and amenities but leaves out quality control and contract conformance, which is administered by building surveyors and outside mandatory inspections there is almost zero enforcement.
    Then we have consumer protection in the form of DBCA1995 that is not enforced, building surveyors don't want to know about it, Consumer affairs does not enforce infringements etc.
    What would happen if we had convicted criminals in jail as stakeholders in the administration of justice? Feed your imagination!
    Yet for some inexplicable and corrupt reason building industry lobby (as stakeholders) has influence over how consumer protection is (not) administered. Get my drift?
    So we have the greatest industry in Australia where inmates are running the system corrupting enforcement at every level.
    Forget about stakeholders, we have the law, enforce it!

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