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It seems to be the case that within the very near future the terms of reference for a senate inquiry into non-conforming building products will be generally broadened and will also be expanded to include asbestos.

Presumably, all those involved in the first round of submissions and consultations will be looking forward to finally driving the state and federal governments into action, but the problem is how long it is going to take.

If you look at the timeline and the activities, they are currently moving at a glacial pace:

Industry has been highlighting and raising these issues since the “Building Products: a compliance free zone” industry summit in 2012.

An Ai Group research report The quest for a level playing field: The non-conforming building product dilemma was released in November 2013.

The Construction Product Alliance was formed in March 2014.

The Lacrosse tower went up in flames in late November 2014.

In February 2016, the VBA released an audit report informing the community that “The non-compliance rate found by the VBA was 51%.”

It is now almost five years since industry started to bring this to the attention of governments of all persuasions. Basic risk management tells you the longer it takes for agencies, regulators, politicians and bureaucrats to act, the more non-compliant product gets installed. This increases the risk of a significant event that will disastrously affect the community at large, particularly those who live in apartments. The risk profile continues to increase in a linear fashion as the building industry continues to ignore the issues surrounding compliance to all the standards and regulations.

Can the building industry, the employer of almost 1.1 million people with a supposed industry income of $359 billion, afford any sort of policy paralysis from any quarter?

Can they risk inaction, given the catastrophe of the Lacrosse apartment’s fire with over 300 apartment owners who somehow have to pay for the replacement of the non-compliant combustible cladding?

Can they remain at a standstill considering the Sydney Lidcombe unit owners who have been left stranded with little or no insurance through no fault of their own, who also will have to pick up the tab for the repairs to what they thought was a compliant construction?

The full fallout of the recent collapse of the Huxley Homes and their group of companies has not been felt yet. This catastrophic event will not just affect the home owners who do not get what they paid for but also the sub-contractors who worked on the various sites will not get paid also.

There will be more collateral damage to people either just trying to put a roof over their heads or do a good days work for a good days pay.

Eventually the prospective residential building consumer and the building sub-contracting industry will work it out. They will ask “is it worth the risk” and they will say “thanks, but no thanks” due to lack of trust in the industry and those who govern it.

There is a funny book by Francis Wheen, How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world, which bemoans the loss of reason in modern society. Unfortunately that is what we have here. We have ABCB, BMF, NCC, APCC, SOG, CROSS, EESS and finally NCBP, or non-conforming building product. The ABCB defines NCBP as “A building product that is labelled or described as being (in this case) non-combustible but which is combustible is a non-conforming product.”

Enough of this non-conforming building products mamby pamby, mumbo jumbo! We should call it for what it is!

 
  • Fair comment, Fiona.

    We need action, not words. The guide to compliance put out by the Australian Procurement and Construction Council was useful. There is also some good work being done by the Australian Building Codes Board in terms of their review of evidence of suitability requirements. Bottom line, however, we need real hard action on these things.

  • An American investigative journalist appearing on Q & A last night said that one of the biggest concerns for the American people was corruption. It is no different in Australia. While political donation and lobbyists are permitted our democracy is under threat. The construction industry leads the way. There is not one element of the industry that is not flawed. I honestly believe that our legislators do not know how and do not possess the will to fix it. The first step is for federal regulation of the industry

  • Good article Fiona… and love the glacial pace description.

    I submitted to this senate inquiry regarding another aspect of Building Product generally not mentioned… and that is faulty labour… still 45% of the total deal. I found that the rate of faulty building product including labour content (for new houses) to be somewhere nearer 90% and not the 51% stated by the VBA. I wonder if their audit included a full definition of defect… sadly I think not.

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