Leadership of the flammable cladding issue has been left vacant at the federal level since a cabinet reshuffle last December, the nation’s leading union for fire fighters has warned.
Prior to last December, assistant industry minister Craig Laundy had been liaising with states and territories in respect of government responses to flammable cladding.
Since Laundy was promoted to small business minister in a reshuffle on December 17, however, United Firefighters Union Secretary Peter Marshall says who is responsible for the issue has been unclear.
“It’s totally irresponsible,” Marshall told the ABC’s AM program.
“This matter needs to be sorted. It needs to be diffused of vested interests and politics and the recommendations from the Senate Inquiry need to be implemented now.”
Marshall fears the issue could be swept aside.
“I’m concerned that with the passage of time, until there is another very graphic fire as a result of this very dangerous product resulting in loss of life, it is potentially out-of-sight, out-of-mind,” he said.
Labor spokesperson Kim Carr says the confusion shows that flammable cladding has taken a back seat in Federal Government priorities.
“It sends a message that this government doesn’t care about the issue,” Carr said.
The government, however, denies there is confusion.
Laundy’s office confirmed that he retains responsibility for cladding despite the change of hats.
It also points to measures announced at a state level, including the introduction of new legislation in Queensland and a pilot program to track flammable cladding in New South Wales.
Since the Grenfell Tragedy last year, state government audits have revealed that thousands of multi-story buildings across Australia are likely to have been clad with flammable materials.
These include aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core and expanded polystyrene.
A Senate Committee last year called for a complete ban on the use of all panels which contain polyethylene.