Faulty construction products and materials are a serious problem in Australia which is putting families and lives at risk as well as putting legitimate and compliant product suppliers at an unfair disadvantage, a senior government minister says.
Convening a national meeting with construction sector leaders to address what he says was an influx of non-conforming building products flooding the market, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry Bob Baldwin said such materials are a serious problem within the sector.
“These faulty products are not meeting Australian standards and causing significant risk of fire or failing the most basic of stress tests,” Baldwin said, adding that families building or renovating homes should be able to have confidence that products used were safe and up to the task and that he had called the meeting to "develop an action strategy to stop these unsafe practices from occurring."
Around Australia, the issue of non-conforming products used in residential construction caught public attention in August when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recalled around 40,000 electric cables supplied by Infinity Cable Co Pty Ltd after testing found that poor quality insulation coating meant the cables would degrade prematurely and that the insulation could break and expose live conductors if the cables were disturbed, resulting in possible electric shock or fires.
That was not only incident. In 2012, Grocon was forced to replace around half of the glass used on its 150 Collins Street Building after vision panes to the glass were found to exhibit blue streaks in polarised light conditions.
Indeed, in a survey of 222 building industry suppliers conducted earlier this year, the Australian Industry Group found that 92 per cent of respondents indicated the presence of non-conforming products in their sector, with steel, electrical and glass products being particularly affected.
Some industry groups are taking action. The Australian Windows Association, for example, operates a ‘dob-in-a-site’ scheme which enables individuals to report any instances where they believe a builder has installed non-compliant windows or doors on a confidential basis. The AWA forwards any complaints to authorities where the builder concerned is unable to prove compliance.
At a broader level, the Australian Procurement and Construction Council in September launched a procurement guide to help designers and builders to understand Australian regulatory and product requirements when placing products on the market or specifying or installing these products.
Housing Industry Association building spokesperson Kristin Brookfield welcomed the initiative of the meeting, saying a lack of coordination and oversight amongst regulatory authorities was contributing to the problem and adding that consumers should never be left in a position of having to decide for themselves whether individual products are adequate and safe. That task, she said, should rest with manufacturers, suppliers and importers.
Brookfield said it was time for all levels of government to work with industry in addressing the problems.
“This is an increasing problem for the whole building industry, and no one wants to see a significant or catastrophic failure occur,” she said. “It’s time that all levels of government worked together to seriously address the issue.”