Australia's peak building union is calling for the federal government to harmonise construction laws in response to the crisis of confidence in the apartment sector.
The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union says governments could save taxpayers $2.1 billion over four years in remediation costs for defective buildings, as well as lower administration costs if processes were simplified.
But the Morrison government says it doesn’t have the constitutional power to regulate the industry and slammed the “lawless” CFMMEU.
The union says both the federal and state governments have failed to regulate the construction industry, with building defects and remediations costing $6.1 billion in the last decade.
It’s also blamed a lack of expertise with cost blowouts nearing $11 billion over the same period.
The CFMMEU’s comments follow massive problems for residents in various states in the past 12 months who have been evacuated and face millions of dollars in costs after cracks were discovered in their buildings or which were covered with flammable cladding.
It has made three recommendations, including nationally consistent construction laws, to help improve outcomes across Australia.
It’s also recommended each state and territory require building companies to have a history of site safety, timely delivery and paying workers’ entitlements and wages.
State and territory governments should also be required to prove value for money in projects funded by federal money.
All state and territory governments agreed in July to implement the recommendations of the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report.
Industry minister Karen Andrews called out the CFMMEU for costing projects millions of dollars and said if they were “serious” about change they’d engage with state and territory governments.
“What the federal government won’t be doing is taking on the responsibilities of the states,” Ms Andrews said.
“It is a bit rich for the CFMMEU – described by a Federal Court judge as Australia’s worst recidivist corporate offender – to be lecturing governments on ways to improve efficiency in the building industry, when their lawlessness has been estimated as adding up to 30 per cent to the cost of major projects.”
CFMMEU construction secretary Dave Noonan said the federal government had failed the industry, wasted billions of dollars and endangered lives.
“It has left consumers with cracked apartments, flammable cladding and governments that waste billions on delivering projects,” Mr Noonan said.
“Successive federal and state governments have consistently failed to properly regulate the sector, and unfortunately its workers and home-owners who are left to pick up the pieces.
“Australian governments, the private sector and unions collectively owe it to the community to come together and resolve the national crisis in construction.”
The CFMMEU has been embroiled in controversy in recent years and their Victorian construction division boss John Setka was forced out of the Labor Party last month.