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.