There were high expectations after the formation of the VBA over three years ago, and while it was hoped this new authority would consider, aspire and strive, instead it has failed to listen and consider – a fact which now questions its very survival.

The VBA’s revolving door of key personnel adds to its inability to function credibly as a regulatory authority simply because the personnel lack the technical prowess to understand the industry needs and requirements. In all organisations, there must be balance.

Furthermore, the insurance industry appears to have significant sway in how the building regime operates, as their concern of water ingress claims has seen change without consultation over a very short period.

In fact, the VBA’s formation was based on the findings of this KPMG document titled Establishment of the Victorian Building Authority Final Report. Sadly, this report and its findings were not followed, and it seems it was fundamentally flawed from the outset due to lack of understanding of the building industry.

The building industry cannot sustain more years of trial and error as many consider it a basket case even at this time.

It is time the Andrews Government took stock, and the time to listen to those at the coalface who fund the continual misadventures before it’s too late to redeem the existing framework.

In a recent end-of-year message, the VBA presented platitudes of achievements to support their position, which included the fact that they are working closely with the warranty insurer. This position can only be seen as a direct conflict of interest to the building industry.

If the current last resort warranty system introduced in 2002 that manages the industry and dictates the course of action for both builders and consumers was in fact replaced with a genuine warranty and management regime, we would see a marked difference in the outcome in the event of a dispute.

The current regime’s claims criteria are narrow enough that the regime itself only represents a minor percentage of building disputes, leaving the vast majority in the wilderness without a shred of protection.

An appropriate warranty regime is fundamental to a compliant industry, as it would make all builders – including commercial builders – accountable from the outset. This in turn would make those builders consider their actions in terms of quality, the products they use, and the subcontractors they employ. In other words, many of the woes we face today would become self-regulating.

Dividing the industry between the commercial and domestic builders as the current regime allows only provides a “divide and conquer” regime. This suits the trade associations, but it is devastating for domestic builders and their consumers. The consumers of commercial builders, meanwhile, are left with absolutely nothing in terms of a warranty.

The commercial builders do not contribute a cent to consumer protection, which is an appalling situation by any measure.

Every major jurisdiction except Victoria registers its subcontractors, but HIA the believe they would lose membership if that were the case. As a result, government sits on the path of redemption and does nothing.

Recently, without any consultation with the plumbing or building industry, the VBA forced stupid changes to overflow relief for fascia gutters.

Fascia gutter installation has been installed in the same manner for well over 100 years in Australia. With this change, we now have to clip the gutter 10 millimeters off the fascia board, once again missing the root cause and bypassing the technical prowess of the industry at the coalface.

The root cause is in fact non-complaint installation, a lack of regulatory auditing, and poor licensing regimes.

This whole change took place in a covert process driven by misinformed insurance industry heavy hitters.

The issue of legionella in solar hot water booster systems, which has potential to threaten lives of residents in apartment buildings thoughout Melbourne, remains a low priority for the VBA and will continue to languish for another three years before any change occurs. Once again, this clearly illustrates who is wagging the dog and demonstrates the skewed processes the VBA engages in.

There is reason to be very concerned with the legislative changes that took effect on September 1, 2016 regarding show cause notices. Show cause notices are serious documents that need to be treated as such, and one would be well advised to seek legal advice on point if a notice is received.

So is the VBA beyond redemption or can its culture change to present a regulatory regime that will benefit a pleading industry and support our consumers with a warranty they can rely on in the event of a failure?

  • Obviously, it appears from the above that there is some dissatisfaction about the VBA certainly from some quarters within the industry.

    It would be interesting to hear what the VBA say in their defence. There are usually two sides to most stories. Not disregarding the legitimacy of the complaints outlined above, we really should hear whatever the VBA would say in its defence.

  • Don't know which rock you have been under Joel but name one thing the VBA has done to protect consumers or regulate the building industry. It has gone around in circles for 3 years wearing all of us out with spin and consultation they never listen to. I personally have spent hours, days & weeks trying to get conclusive resolutions with the VBA. Each time we get close the staff member is either moved on or resigns. The money they have pumped into these people in all the junkets and education goes straight out the door with them. I have now been told I need to meet with the new public servant and start my lobbying again with someone who has never worked on a building site in his life. They are a complete circus – Look up the Plumbing advisory Council (PAC) and see if you can see who is on it or any of its agendas, minutes or meeting dates – hardly transparent or meeting any of the government charters. The CEO comes in & out of the bunker it suits her.

  • We live in a democratic society so everyone has a right of reply. Yes Joel, we would dearly love to hear a response from Prue Digby, isnt that what she is supposed to do as the head of the Victorian Building Authority. Given the latest report on the Lacrosse Building whereby the whole case is corrupt we welcome a response. Unfortunately Prue Digby has been quiet except when she comes out and says things like "Buyer Beware" when looking at buying into inner city apartments, not to mention domestic residences. There is such a conflict of interest inside the Victorian Building Authority it begs belief that Minister Wynne and his boss, Premier Dan Andrews are wearing rose coloured glasses. The revolving door culture. Look at the recent report released with Prue Digby sprouting off about how open and transparent they are, how many investigations and god help us, resolutions and disciplinary actions have been achieved. Look at how much money was spent on Labour Hire Agnecies. Corruption was the opening line in a recent article in another media forum. We challenge Prue Digby and anyone else in the Victorian Building Authority to dispute this claim. This is another example of Dan Andrews and the MFB/CFA debacle. Soon the truth will come out and the Mum & Dads, just like the CFA Volunteers, will start to see. Oh, and any employee of the Victorian Building Authority can come here and write whatever they want to muddy the waters, that is your democratic right. Beware, however, we only speak the truth which Prue Digby and Co dont seem to want to deal with. A waste-watch Senate Committee should be set-up to look into this Victorian Building Authority.

  • The only ones who are praising the Victorian Building Authority are those employed in this Government Authority. Most are so highly paid and in fear of not finding employment elsewhere, especially in the real world where there is true transparency and disclosure. The Public Service has always been a haven for massaging the truth, but until now it has never been as bad and corrupt. Prue Digby surrounded by soldiers of fortune peddle absolute tish day in and day out. Richard Wynne, the "responsible Minister" has been asleep at the wheel. However, unlike the former emergency services minister, lacks the backbone to stand up and tell his leader, Danial Andrews, exactly what is going on. This Minister, along with the Premier, Prue Digby and all those other Public Servants are destroying the futures of every Victorian and future Victorian Resident by allowing the corruption of the Building Industry to continue. The Victorian Building Authority has a charter, someone needs to interpret that to Prue Digby, one of Victoria's highest paid Public Servants so she can understand that we are not paying her good looks. Oh yes, before we play the Julia Gillard misogynist card of you dont respect me because I am a Woman, Prue you said you could do the job, just do it.

  • Nice hard-hitting article Phil and a good follow on from the article from Emily Martin who wrote on Show Cause Notices. It's a great shame then that unprofessional conduct under the Act do not seem to cover negligent acts which abound on nearly every job I've been associated with… namely:
    1. The failure of a Builder to supervise adequately to avoid defects being built into the new home or unit he is building,
    2. The failure of the Certifier Building Inspector to discover (at least) structural defects in new homes and units,
    3. The failure of the Building Consultant employed by the home owner to discover these defects in the home at any stage.
    4. The failure of the Soil Report Writer and the Structural Engineer to ensure compliance with AS2870 Appendix D.

    I ask this question purely because most RBP's have been negligent in this manner on most house and unit projects.

    • Mark, good response. Yes there is distinct lack of competencies across the board with every trade in virtually every industry. However, in the case of the Victorian Building Authority what are they actually doing other than go on junkets, waste money, have a revolving door of staff with less or even no competency whatsoever. We ALL know that the regulatory Authority is dysfunctional and a total waste of time and resource and yet it is allowed to continue lying to the Community that it professes to be looking after. Why does the Government refuse to meet with real Industry Stakeholders instead of the puppets. Why why why….????? How many people will need to die before the Minister and Premier wake up. There is a solution but the snouts in the trough would be put out in the cold. The junkets would cease. God help us, we would need to get rid of inefficient and incompetent over-paid PUBLIC SERVANTS(god I love this term) and replace them with a system that is fair and equitable. The Plumbing Industry Regulator was hijacked by the old Building Commission and the Corruption just kept on going. There is a solution but the VBA must be flushed out and sanitised. Until this occurs Minister Wynne and Premier Dan Andrews are guilty of encouraging, condoning and partaking in this corruption. How can anyone justify saying to a consumer that they must do their due diligence on a builder. Some of us know what we are looking at because we are in the Industry, unlike Prue Digby and Co, but Mum and Dad buying into the Lacrosse apartments for instance, are you for real.
      Another CFA debacle.

  • Murray, you have accused the VBA of corruption. Yet you were employed by the VBA until recently. Do you have information that you should be disclosing to IBAC or Victoria Police?

    • Steve, you have no idea. The head of the VBA is running a smokescreen, lying to everyone including the Planning Minister who isnt the sharpest pencil in the case. The Minister is showing us that he is all about retaining his portfolio, similar to Justin Madden when he held such. The changes in Chairman only came about due to Conflict of Interest with a leading Town Planner who should never have been appointed. So to Brian Welsh who has an agenda. Yes we need to get rid MBA and HIA. We also need to get proper regulation back in place. We need more accountability and the Government needs to be more involved instead of running scared because of the Legal Sue Grab and Run ambulance chasers. We have to stop deregulation and self certification, it doesnt work and it actually penalises the Consumers. We need to get rid of the do nothing, know nothing public servants that are appointed to positions where decisions on our industry are made and replace them with actual Qualified representatives. Back to the VBA. Look at the rotation of staff. Ask why Jarrod Edwards recently shifted to another PUBLIC SERVICE position. Is it so as to protect the DO NOTHING Prue Digby and Minister Wynne. Is it because the Age Newspaper has started to expose their lies and corruption. Why have we in Industry and as honest everyday taxpayers INVESTED so much in Jarrod Edwards, educating him in many areas only to have him move where….???? What about the round door where the VBA spent over TWO MILLION DOLLARS($2 MILLION) last year with hire agency HAYS for temp staff. Why is the VBA full of ex-Policemen and ex-Worksafe Inspectors. What qualifications do they possess other than head-kicking. Why wont VBA proceed against a practitioner when they Lawyer-up. Why is it only when the Newspapers expose issues that the VBA then does something. Yes Steve there are many things corrupt about the VBA that wont come to light because they expose too many high ranking individuals like Minister Wynne for not doing their job. I wonder how Minister Wynne feels knowing that the head of the VBA is earning at least twice what he is. We kick up about Australia Post, at least he is doing something instead of nothing. Finally look at the quiet payouts given to individuals who have been forced out of the VBA. Makes a mockery of the lessons on schoolyard bullying that we are teaching our kids. Individuals forced out and gagged. Unlike the Minister and the Premier we can handle the truth. The VBA has to go, the Minister HAS TO GO, the Premier has to "DO HIS JOB".

  • The first act to clean up the industry is to access the registered organizations law associated with the ABCC legislation and deregister the MBA and HIA . Until these 2 associations have their influence over the industry removed, we are confined to what we have now . Corruption is something only ordinary folk do and we are not equal before the law .
    The QBCC in QLD are also a very flawed organization that are a major sponsor of the MBAQ. It is all a very cosy arrangement that should be stopped.
    Licensees in QLD have every right to ask for their money back . Read what Anne Paten has to say – she is right.

  • It would be ironical wouldn't it if after their all their public moral outrage and support for the ABCC Bill , the MBA were the first mob charged under the registered organizations law .

  • Thank you, Phil. The VBA is well past ever considering 'salvation'. I endorse all the comments, with the exception of Joel’s view. The VBA is so silent because it has no rational defence for its conduct. The key to achieving ‘beyond redemption’ status is the denial of any ‘democratic’ process. I would submit that the word ‘dysfunctional’ suggests that the VBA is flawed or broken. Of course, that is definitely true. However, in my view the VBA is well beyond ‘broken’. In fact its charter is to function to be ‘dysfunctional’ as was always intended – unless we believe the SPIN – or fake news devised to hide the truth. I think there is sufficient evidence to prove that the VBA is effectively corruption central. I can cite just a few of the recent reports VAGO 2015 (Building Consumer Protection), VAGO 2011 (Building Permit system), VAGO 2013 (Consumer Protection), Ombudsman’s Report 2012, Senate Inquiry (Insolvency) 2015, Ombudsman’s Report 2016 (Work Cover) etc., etc.
    Money drives the industry and the ‘regulators’ deliver dysfunction in order to allow the beneficiaries of its ‘dysfunction’ to prosper. This essentially requires the so-called ‘regulators’ not to regulate. And instead to ‘control’ consumers, sub-contractors and workers by ensuring they are locked out and voiceless. Yes all who fund our buildings (consumers and taxpayers), those who employ workers and those do all the building work are stifled, muted through a lack of any voice. It is the protected 1% and the NOT protected 99%!
    Wynne, Dan Andrews and all those before them, together with the bureaucrats in charge of building regulation, consumer law and sub-contractor ‘security of payment’ (as well as those controlling ‘workers’ unsafety’) have operated to protect big business and the vested interests (HIA and MBA the two supremely advantaged beneficiaries). This the ‘strategic policy’ no matter the damage to the three real stakeholder groups. The bureaucrats were captured long ago and hence Govt ‘control’ was hijacked; with the key beneficiaries in charge of dictating policy and the bureaucrats in control of implementing ‘practices’ to secure an unregulated industry. Thus, mega money is ‘legally’ defrauded from those who provide the funds and organize and do all the work. Only enabled in Victoria by the VBA, CAV and Dept of Finance. Beyond 'redemption' and definitely beyond a national disgrace!

  • A builder was shoddy enough to have a house be demolished yet no disciplinary action was taken. This was in my opinion, unlawful and unfair to any and all who are victim to this type of non-compliant builder. Through this process I have uncovered undeniable evidence of back room deals being cut with certain large domestic builders. As part of the unlegislated process, the builder recieves 'immunity' and free consultancy to help the practitioners avoid the conduct register and a formal inquiry process. Seems the VBA have even axed their FOI officer after the FOI Officer gave me full copies of particular documents, which the VBA lawyers continue to try to pretend don't exist or are 'Out of date and therefore not relevant'. The documents were published on the VBA website as current policy, yet the VBA still denies they are 'relevant'. VAGO is well briefed, as is the Ombudsmans office. Re: First comment – I could show you what the VBA thinks and how they respond to disputes. I am currently working on having information published, but need to be careful not to put myself in jeopardy due to confidentiality implications. Pretty sad to think the Authority offer a practitioner a safe place to talk about offences and avoid scrutiny, while I am offered warnings about keeping record of such dealings confidential. I have recently been warned not to share evidence that shows the VBABPB (let's face it, they were never independent) or particular members, used their position on the board to engineer a situation where; as part of a 'confidential undertaking', A board member negotiated a deal where a private organisation which he is also a board member of, was tasked to complete training which was deemed necessary. i suggest the HIA is very grateful for having an 'inside person' to help them pick up some extra business and also help shield their members and their own reputation. A builder/member biased HIA board member, working for the independent BPB, involved in 'confidential meetings' that allow builder/ HIA member to avoid accountability and disciplinary action….am I the only one who sees a conflict here?

    I could go on for hours……. anyone want to publish an 'expose'?

  • Just reading the VBA's website re an issue with my current builder and i dont know why i wasted my time.
    Another waste of my taxes with an "authority" which actually has none and offers nothing but advice which being a government authority will probably be flawed anyway! No responsibility for their advice and no power to do anything to anyone to enforce repairs etc. What a joke.

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