For many reasons, the spotlight is firmly focused on the building industry. Apart from the non-conformance fiasco and dysfunctional ‘governance,’ the industry has distinguished itself for building one of the biggest man-made disasters in Australia’s history.

Once deregulation was evaluated and the consequences for consumers calculated, the decision to proceed determined this would be the disaster we were bound to have.

Government marketing gurus have fed the public misinformation, managing to obscure, confuse and secret away the real causes. Inexplicably, the villain supposedly to blame has been ‘the system.’ Now it is possible to shine a light on the distorted design.

The decision takers

It is key to see how those in charge of the ‘system’ facilitated the decades-long building industry disaster. We have those who seized power in charge of the building system and our accommodating politicians sanctioning their control. The public officials as the policy advisors (think “Yes Minister”) completed the trifecta, supporting the power elite and sustaining the corrupted legal and governance framework. Most disturbing, all were fully cognizant of the harm visited upon millions of unsuspecting, defenceless Australians. The team worked collaboratively, covering up the truth of the ‘problems’, protecting the wrongdoers and hiding their wrong doing.

Their decisions have had calamitous consequences for us all, not least for consumers, who have suffered horrific harm, predominantly because they were rendered powerless to defend themselves. This was/is abuse of power, unadulterated betrayal of trust and unjustifiable, unconscionable conduct.

The widespread use of non-conforming building products has added another devastating layer to the disaster spawned by the industry’s sullied governance. This non-compliance was also authorized by the decision makers, and was not a chance happening. It was predictable and predicted, its impact calculable back in 2000 when Percy Allan warned of the dire effects of ‘no controls.’ His cautionary advice was ignored, the design remained and we were bequeathed the disaster. The cause was simplified for sale: ‘Systemic Failure’ – no persons involved!

How ‘the system’ was stitched up by government

A study of official policy and an analysis of the empirical evidence reveal how this disaster was crafted. As one would expect, at its core was/is bad policy, which generated bad outcomes. And over time, repeatedly worse policy delivered excessively worse outcomes.

  • The economy dominates government policy making, with the building industry used as the primary lever to propel economic growth – a policy that was about profits not people.
  • All Governments agreed to the vested industry interests dictating policy to suit their own commercial interests and the quid pro quo seriously damaged consumers.
  • Two decades ago, government embarked on ‘self-regulation’ (which is code for ‘no regulation’) and while in control of the system, industry facilitated the growth of no controls – the legacy a lawless industry, thence the downhill slope to disaster!

How governance led to further disaster

The ‘governance’ authorities advise governments, which were long ago captured by the vested interests. With money the key motivator, business and bureaucracy forged a partnership and the result is the consumer travesty repeatedly on the public record!

Business and its bureaucratic partners devised a pro-business policy and developed close, mutually beneficial relationships from which both have benefitted enormously.

The ‘corporatocracy’ has total power, the commercial interests moving seamlessly from the private to the public sector and in reverse; many persons hold multiple positions across both sectors, working simultaneously in business and ‘regulation.’

To ensure that self-interest prevailed over the public interest, the Biz-Bureau team had to devise and enact an anti-consumer policy to ensure ‘systemic failure.’ In place of a healthy governance culture based on independence, fairness, meeting statutory obligations and accountability, one centred on conflict of interest, collusion, corruption and much cover up now dominates, entrenched as accepted practice.

The role of vested interests

Building policy was conceived at the behest of the vested interest groups: banks, insurance companies, developers, and the so-called ‘industry associations.’ Formulated out of self-interest, ‘self-regulation’ and carrying favour has worked to deliver unimaginable financial rewards for the beneficiaries. More than having the ear of the pollies, they are the officials, comprising all positions on building committees, boards and advisory groups. Incredibly, instead of being regulated, they are the official regulators.

Those represented run the gamut from large organisations which are ostensibly there to provide oversight and others in the industry, such as lawyers, engineers, planners, and builders. Over-represented are the ‘certifiers.’ Known as private building surveyors, they have played critical roles in the race to the bottom.

There are also many who work in the satellite ‘building dispute industry’ who are enjoying enormous monetary benefits from the ‘no-policing policy’ fashioned to fuel the exponential growth of ‘disputes.’ Under Wynne’s Way, disputes will now skyrocket, more consumers again the casualties. The ‘system’ has worked a treat, enabling businesses to ignore the rule of law, to build third-world buildings while making unmerited mega incomes!

So what of the consumers?

Critical to the success of ‘the system’ failing were the political, legal and governance arrangements. Premised on partiality, imbalance and injustice, the ascendant interests cleverly orchestrated policy to ‘fail’ consumers, making them compliant, subservient victims. Thoroughly insidious, the scam was coated in legitimacy, effectively making ‘legal’ what would otherwise be overtly illegal; the key components biased legislation, unfair contracts, a bent legal system and junk insurance  – all generously doused in deception.

For the ruse to work, consumers had to play their role as ‘cash cows’ and fund the multi-trillion dollar building industry. Otherwise, they had to be silent. From the outset, it was a simple exercise to disenfranchise consumers. Officially deemed not to be stakeholders, they were negated into non-existence. Not consulted and not represented, they were easy to ignore. Consumers’ rights were ‘legally’ assigned to industry, and with consumers silenced there were no protestations as building interests wrongly became the ‘protected.’

In summary, those in positions of influence who engineered policy had no concern for consumers or the community. Thus, building was arranged to benefit business, the quality of buildings and harm to consumers deemed irrelevant. This regardless of the costs to individual consumers and their families and despite the millions of Australians crushed every year! Meticulously strategized, the cause was to be simple ‘Systemic Failure’ with no ‘persons’ implicated.

Under the spotlight, behind the ‘system’ we can see just who fashioned the failure!