The Victorian head of one of the most influential building industry groups in Australia has launched a scathing attack on an overhaul of building regulation in his state, saying reforms have been introduced without genuine consultation and there has been ‘failure after failure’ on the part of the state government to recognise the importance of the industry.

Housing Industry Association (HIA) regional executive director for Victoria Gil King says the abolition of the Building Commission and far-reaching changes to consumer protection laws announced by the Victorian government in May are unnecessary and raise significant concerns for builders.

“While we will have to wait and see what the full impact of the changes will be, they will inevitably impose additional costs and red tape on the building industry across the state without any clear benefits for consumers or the industry,” King wrote in the HIA’s August edition of Building News.

“A number of the proposals suggest a lack of clear understanding of the industry, its engagement with clients and consumers and the impact on building costs of delays in the approval and construction stages.”

The central plank of the new reforms involves the abolition of the former Building Commission and creation of a new Victorian Building Authority which the government says will act as a one-stop-shop for building industry regulation. The reforms also include changes to domestic building insurance and building practitioner registration as well as an overhaul of the building permits system.

The changes follow a December 2011 report from the Victorian Auditor General which claimed 96 per cent of building permits issued in the state throughout 2010/11 did not meet building standards as well as a subsequent report from the Victorian Ombudsman which found the Commission lacked accountability and was failing to adequately discharge its functions.

Gil King

Gil King

King says these reports overstate problems and the subsequent reforms go too far.  Findings of the Auditor General’s report, for example, were based on a sample of less than a quarter of one per cent of building permits issued over the year in question, he says.

“HIA does not believe the figure that ninety-plus per cent of buildings were at risk through the outcome of the auditor-general’s report” he said. “No one believes that figure. Not even the government believes that figure.”

“Yes, there are some issues, there are some cowboys out there, there are some things that need to be fixed. But do you need to pull down a whole regime in order to fix that? No.”

King says the reforms raise a number of concerns, including:

  • Uncertainty over the future role of Consumer Affairs Victoria and whether CAV or the new VBA will administer the Domestic Building Contracts Act
  • A new ‘show cause’ investigative model, which will place the onus on builders to demonstrate why they should not be prosecuted under administrative procedures
  • A new dispute resolution model which King says largely does away with judicial review in decision making
  • A lack of practical building industry experience on the recently announced board of the new VBA, though King stresses he is not criticising any individual board member personally

What irks King more than anything, however, is what he says has been a lack of genuine industry consultation surrounding the reforms.

“In the very first paper which came out, we provided our response, and we had no consultation after that – none,” he says, referring to the HIA’s submission to a discussion paper on consumer protection.

“There seems to be this view that if you talk to industry, you are somehow colluding with them. That’s not the case.”

“Unless they [the government] actually sit down with industry and negotiate and work through the major issues, it’s [the new reforms] going to be an absolute failure. It’s going to impact heavily on an already bleeding home building market.”

  • I find it repugnant that Mr King is 'really irked' at the 'lack of genuine industry consultation surrounding the reforms' when he has consistently dismissed appeals for assistance and ignored evidence supplied to him, regarding one of the 'cowboy builders' he and HIA proudly include in their 'professionals you can trust' and 'best in the business' flock.

    I am 'really irked', to put it mildly, at Mr King's 'lack of genuine consultation' and concern where he has repeatedly ignored, dismissed as opinion based, non factual, biased and subjective, the 610 page Building Commission defect report (which he hasn't bothered to request), independent inspection report, documentary and photographic evidence, actual building and a maximum Builder's Warranty insurance payout against his incompetent member's work. (We are only one of MULTIPLE, SUCCESSFUL insurance claims against THIS SAME HIA MEMBER!)

    We, and apparently others, have been left financially and emotionally damaged as a result of contracting this HIA member to 'build' our home, owed tens of thousands of dollars in incorrect and inflated charges and contract penalties which he committed to finalising but never honoured and dealing with costly repairs thanks to Mr King's 'best in the business', trustworthy professional!

    This 'upstanding' HIA member conveniently liquidated but not before establishing a new business, leaving multiple claimants with no hope of recovering monies he owed due to 'insufficient realisation of assets'. Two years later, selling his home for $1 325 000.00!

    Having delivered a defective home to us and others, this builder's new business which is promoted on HIA's Tradebuild site, offers his services as a Building Inspector for which he is not licensed!
    Very professional and trustworthy Mr King!

    Isn't Mr King fortunate that he and this HIA member can go home at the end of each working day, to sound and secure homes while EVERY YEAR, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of trusting Victorians have to retire to 'homes' that are constant reminders of having risked their life savings on this uncontrolled and unregulated building industry. That ninety plus percent at risk buildings Mr King doesn't believe in.

    Some don't even have homes to go to because theirs are incomplete, deemed unsafe and condemned!

    Unless you have money to flush, don't risk your hard earned savings on building under current conditions. HIA membership, builder's registration and regulatory controls are not assurances of competence, knowledge or integrity. The statistics, Auditor General's reports, multiple investigations and staggering number of complaints each year are all evidence of a seriously dysfunctional industry.

    • Trevor, I comiserate with you.

      Like you I have the same issues with my home, the difference being that my builder was a member of the Master Builders Association not the Housing Industry Association. In reality there is "no such thing as a master builder" it is simplly a marketing term, trying to get some differentiation.

      The HIA, , MBA, Building Commisson and the supposedly new VBA is an even bigger sham. Gil King used to be the Compliance manager at the Building Commission!! So he knows exactly how broken the system is.

      The idea that the registration process of the VBA is a relaible indication of a practitoners ability is the biggest sham of all. This has been borne out by the reports of the Victorian Auditor General in 2000, the VAGO in 2011 and the Ombudsman in 2012.

      Both sides of government have failed the community. There have been some 60 reports into the industry in the last 20 years.There is no change and the community has become the ity there is no change in the industry. Self Regulation has failed, the Building Commission has failed and the buildig Associations has failed the "GOOD BUILDERS" continuing to encourge bad builders to participate in thei industry.

      I would ask Gil King & Brin Welch when was the last time that the HIA or the MBA disciplined a member of their organisations under their respective codes of conduct? –they allow the cowboys just roam free with their endorsement.

      Given the breadth of the problem and 12 years betweeBothBoth sides of govenment have failed the community
      They have shuffled the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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