The Senate Inquiry’s revelations into the construction industry’s use of dangerous and deadly building products have been truly shocking.

Although focussing foremost on cladding and asbestos, the inquiry has laid bare a lawless industry, one firmly founded on fallacies, with fake products, false certifications and fraud rife across the board. In short, it has uncovered one scandalous construction con!

This scrutiny of non-conforming building products (NCBP) has exposed an industry in defiance of any ‘compliance’. It has confirmed that the ‘governance’ agencies relinquished building control decades ago, with officials reciting the clichéd "systemic failure" as their pretext for sheltering the industry’s rogues. It has spotlighted the spin doctors’ spurious claims of a "compliant industry" and decimated any delusions of governments protecting people. Critically, it has highlighted the core legislative flaws; for the benefit of business, people’s safety was deemed irrelevant and disregarded.

Australia’s building blueprint

Australia’s building and construction industry was deregulated three decades ago. Replaced by pretend ‘governance’, the industry effectively became ‘self-regulated’. As countless independent investigations have established, the blueprint thereafter did not compel meeting even minimum building and safety standards. This was a recipe for disaster.

As those in the industry know, the official policy of non-compliance and its concomitant lack of penalties for rogue operators (regardless of negligent conduct and ignoring public safety) encouraged more to join the ranks. Once delinquency was decreed ‘legitimate’ and the three key stakeholders (consumers, sub-contractors and workers) disenfranchised, the industry quickly spiralled out of control.

In the aftermath of deregulation, another tier of unruliness was sanctioned. Overlaid on top of a totally non-compliant industry, governments endorsed the use of so-called non-conforming building products, a dumbed-down term diminishing the danger of masses of toxic and lethal materials. Just think cladding and asbestos for starters! These and hundreds of other cheap and nasty products (cabling, glass, wood and steel) have swamped the country for 25 years. In every sense, they have helped business to soar to new heights, to ‘con-struct’ more and more hideous and hazardous buildings. But at what cost to our community?

This contagion has debased our building stock. Some have labelled it “industrial disease” while others have declared our buildings to be “ticking time bombs.” Regardless, all informed persons recognize that we have created a beast - a third world built environment. What we don’t know is just how much explosive fire is in the dragon we have unleashed, how many Australians’ lives are threatened and most importantly the ultimate price for our people.

Senate stock take: what, how and why?

The 2014 Lacrosse apartment fire in Melbourne sparked this Senate Inquiry. Beginning in 2015, it initially embarked on taking stock of the variety and quantity of NCBP in Australia. However, over more than two years, its focus has changed. The first shift was in response to the horror of asbestos being installed on the Perth Children’s Hospital in 2016, with the Senate to explore how asbestos, supposedly banned in 2003, could be used in a public building to care for sick children!

Then in June 2017 after London’s Grenfell fire, the Inquiry did a turnaround with its emphasis back on combustible cladding to consider how many Australian buildings were encased in flammable cladding and the potential fallout for human carnage. In the hearings, Senators grilled down on ‘regulation’ with probing questions to public officials as to how NCBP could be so prevalent. They successfully cut through the camouflage, connected the dots and unearthed a ‘regulatory’ regime contrived to protect business - with people entirely nullified!

Combustible cladding: Aussie rules

In an endeavour to comprehend the 'Aussie Rules’, the Senate called countless officials from the many hundreds of state and federal departments and agencies proclaimed as the building, safety and consumer regulators. Some were reluctant to come and others elected not to appear!

By the 2017 hearings, Senators were informed on Australia’ National Construction Code, (NCC) Australian Standards (AS), Building Regulations, Building Acts, and a myriad of consumer and safety laws purported to protect consumers, workers and the community. However they had become suspicious of the regulations and enforcement across the construction industry. They faced a perplexing puzzle: a nation-wide system under Aussie Rules, supported by multitudes of public officials paid to enforce compliance. Yet combustible cladding was installed on tens of thousands of buildings across the country. How could this deadly material be approved to endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians?

Bureaucracy’s ‘Clayton’s cocktail’

Searching for answers, the Senators drilled key governance officials. They discovered the bureaucracy’s ‘Clayton’s cocktail’, a melange of muddled ingredients (standards, codes, regulations and more) mixed to simulate regulation. Prepared for public consumption, Australians were supposed to swallow this cocktail and believe the construction industry was indeed regulated.

In essence, this cocktail was a fragmented regulatory regime comprised of many legislative and administrative parts muddled together and formulated to fail - but with a façade of compliance. This concoction of chaos was in effect a confidence trick to promote public confidence!

The gobbledygook of governance

The gobbledygook of governance was crafted to conceal the official objective of protecting big business. As the Senators learned, the legal framework is not written in plain English. Neil Savery from the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), ex-Building Commission and expert on such matters explained how deregulation removed controls:

“In the early 1990s, we introduced a performance based code which is highly sophisticated ‘regulation’; it is not something that the average individual can necessarily understand.”

Thus we learned that the unintelligible legalese of ‘governance’ was intended to hide the wild west culture and never intended to be unveiled or understood by anyone outside of officialdom!

Savery was asked why the ABCB did nothing when it was first notified about non-compliant external cladding in 2010. He replied that the ABCB “commenced the development of a national advisory note” but decided that it was “beyond the scope” of purely the ‘Code’ and thus it “could not issue a national advisory note.”

Hence fiery cladding was ‘classified’! Savery informed that there was no official recommendation to the ABCB Board until after the Lacrosse fire in late 2014. Then in February 2016, the cladding issue was incorporated into the Senior Officer’s Group (SOG) ‘Strategic Plan’ (whatever that is) where it now sits. Incredibly, Savery said the ABCB was not part of this SOG and that this issue of fake products did not pertain to “the building and control system.” Farcical!

Senator Kim Carr could not contain himself. He recalled the television series "Yes Minister" and exclaimed: “further inquiries and more investigations!” Savery added that an expert review was planned and was “currently being socialized with the building ministers.” Yes, as Savery earlier submitted, ‘regulatory speak’ is extremely sophisticated - ‘socializing’ to pick an expert!

Significantly, Savery informed the Inquiry that the ABCB is not a statutory authority. It has no regulatory, investigatory or auditing powers. Which begs the question as to its raison d'être!

In his scripted statement, Savery said that if a product was not fit for its intended purpose it is not compliant with the Code and elaborated unequivocally that “The Code does not allow this type of cladding.”

Senator Carr was grappling with the concept of an absolute standard for cladding under the Code when cladding that was incomprehensibly combustible had been approved for buildings all over Australia! Savery clarified that ‘absolute’ only related to the ‘Deemed to Satisfy’ pathway. Carr was incredulous that ‘absolute’ did not mean ‘absolute’! Carr got it! The fake products were officially sanctioned and Savery’s testimony verified that the fake legislation was too!

Amid the ambiguous gobbledygook, Carr asked Savery to explain how, in breach of the Code, thousands of buildings could have flammable cladding. Savery’s gobsmacking reply: “Because there is something in the system that is not working!”

The ‘recipe’ revealed

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) had two officials front this Inquiry, both managing to further flummox the Senators. Acting CEO Murray Smith began by attempting to explain how three years on from the Lacrosse disaster, where 600 lives were threatened, no one had been punished. It was a hard gig, but Smith spun as well as the best of spinners. He asserted this a “complex matter”, throwing in an “investigation” and “quickly” to imply non-existent punitive action between 2014 and 2017.

Smith then distracted questioning, shifting blame from the VBA’s ‘no penalties’ policy to the now defunct Building Practitioners Board. Artfully dodging the bullet! Then asked about the number of disciplinary inquiries in the last five years, Smith pleaded dumb - there were so few, it was best ‘not to recall’!

Smith incidentally referenced the ‘recipe’ for disguising the uncontrolled industry. When asked about Victoria’s appalling regulation regime, he deviated to apprise the Senators on the two “tranches” of Victorian legislation, a business term reflecting the VBA’s fundamental function of accommodating businesses. Here, he provided insight into the reason for the ‘recipe’ - Smith alluded to “registration” and “disciplinary action” and then swiftly diverged to suggest that the VBA, which already has extensive powers, required more!

Smith’s strategic digression was to avoid any problematic discussion on the VBA’s lack of controls; hence no mention of its appalling licensing arrangements, nil enforcement or the absence of penalties for reprobates which have effectively legalized fraud.

Similarly, when questioned about the widespread use of fraudulent certificates for building products and the absence of any penalties, Smith laid the blame on Consumer Affairs Victoria and the ACCC. The ‘con-sumer’ agencies are undoubtedly woeful in the whole scam of things, but under the VBA’s jurisdiction all unconscionable cowboys who purchased/installed the contaminated cladding are registered by the VBA. It was a classic case of passing the buck to shift culpability and defend the indefensible!

As to the machinations of systemic failure, Smith deferred to Joseph Genco, a VBA technical regulatory expert who divulged the prescription for deeming non-compliant cladding as compliant:

"The NCC allows a “performance based” path, putting in “safety measures to counteract and lessen other aspects,” he said.

The Senators could not follow how non-compliant combustible cladding, not allowed under the NCC, could miraculously become ‘compliant’! Genco explained that in the context of the ABCB there is “a recipe book” - ingredients magically altered to oblige conforming status! Senator Nick Xenophon was stunned when he heard of the bizarre building ‘recipe’ book!

“It’s difficult to describe to the people outside of the industry,” Genco told the Senators.

Once more the same subtext nuanced by Savery - ‘recipes’ so ambiguous that only business and our paid officials can understand! By this stage, Senator Xenophon was incensed, saying “This is doing my head in!” And he, like many others, was doubtless very insulted!

Senator Chris Ketter fittingly summed up the ABCB, the ‘Code’ and the VBA’s legislative strategy as a “get- out-of-jail free card.” The irrational ‘recipe’ is reinforced by gobbledygook language to obscure the reprehensible reality of duplicitous ‘governance’ - and to deliver mega riches for the cowboys!

Real industry review

A number of witnesses from industry, unions and the fire services sector came forward to speak honestly at the Inquiry. Sincerely seeking genuine regulation and concerned about community safety, they injected some realism, including how the constructs underpinning the combustible cladding fiasco are symptomatic of a corrupted industry.

Graham Attwood from the Expanded Polystyrene Australia group (EPA) highlighted the loopholes in the Australian Standards and the NNC for non-fire-retardant cladding, saying that contractors “look at ways and means to minimize cost in the construction phase” whilst still “supposedly compliant.” He declared that it is a “voluntary code” with a “disincentive” to conform.

Rodger Hills from the Building Products Innovation Council (BPIC) concurred with Attwood on Australian Standards. He confirmed that the NCC does not ensure products are only used for their intended purpose, and as for Standards he said people don’t buy them, don’t read them and don’t comply with them.

“Generally people don’t use the Standard because it’s a cost burden,” he noted.

So we have the NCC and Standards taking years to write, yet no one reads them and there’s nil enforcement!

Hills informed that products and buildings become “certified” without any inspections. Attwood explained the absence of inspections as a “significant gap” with no “chain of protection.” Senator Carr added that the Senators were now aware of inspections being undertaken by totally unqualified people such as “Pizza Hut managers!” Hills agreed. In relation to the state regulators, Hills informed that these agencies do not actually inspect buildings, saying products are installed but “nobody checks.”

Then the bombshell: with regard to fraudulent certificates, Hills said it was absolutely common practice and added an example.

“The Australian Window Association has literally thousands of documents that are fraudulent,” he said.

Hills confirmed fraud was a “massive issue” across the industry and related the many attempts by the BPIC to the states about endemic fraudulent certification over years. But like hundreds of others, its persistent pleas for real rules to ensure quality, compliant and safe buildings were ignored.

Clear and present disaster

Despite the determination by the bureaucracy to hide the truth via its indecipherable legislation, the Senate Inquiry has cracked the code of falsification. It has established the facts. Residents, owners, workers, subcontractors and the community are in the midst of a devastating disaster. The ‘governance arrangements’ are riddled with fallacies and fakes, and underscored by fraud across the board. One almighty con has been visited upon all Australians. But absurdly, no one is to blame!

  • Excellent expose of the circus mentality of our authorities Anne,

    And isn't it strange that nobody has stated any specifics, when IF THEY HAVE READ the National Construction Code, it is so clear where the loopholes are. Clause 1.0.5(c) Assessment Methods for building products permits EXPERT JUDGEMENT as one method to arrive at an 'approved' Performance Solution, when clearly the judgement was not expert at all, by those who had a say in the use of such materials in the decrepit buildings, building surveyors and specifiers included. And almost always, these materials are selected purely to save money. What is so staggering is that no authority has actually stated this obvious fact.

  • Building and construction is now the largest Industry in Australia. Our building stock will remain with us for decades and underpins our financial stability as a nation. The reason we pay for governance, and in Australia (we pay a fortune for three tiers of government) is so as we the people can remain safe and secure. Our governments have created regulatory bodies to ensure the safety and security of our nation through the rule of law. The regulatory bodies responsible for the integrity of our building stock, our largest asset are the consumer regulatory bodies, we do have a department of consumer affairs in each state with a minister attached but the Federal Minister who is responsible for Consumer Affairs is called the Small Business Minister, the Hon Michael McCormack a National who is not a member of cabinet. To add to this pea soup the ACCC is an independent agency who is responsible to Parliament but not to any individual minister.
    Without a Federal Minister for Consumer Affairs who is a member of cabinet, one has to ask as a member of the Australian voting public, is our federal government genuinely concerned about our families and our communities who are citizens of Australia.
    The responsibility of this building fiasco sits at the very top of the tree and yet when you search for a real human who can be held to account, it is impossible to find one.

  • Anne, a good article and like the subject you have done well to refresh, only the sides are touched. No mention of fundamentally flawed construction contracts that start out with an anticipation of non-compliant work (and materials) being paid for, certified and covered-up. The subject needs to be put in a global context as well. Australia and New Zealand together will soon only represent less than 3-percent of global construction turnover. The folly of trying to negotiate a global construction future in an increasingly digital and industrialised industry through the domain of state's sovereignty shows how out of touch our policy makers are. We compete against countries in this game, not states. What a mess. The senate enquiry has been interrupted by one election, and now there must be the prospect of another, given we are unsure if some of our senators and members of parliament may be secret emissaries of other countries. Ha Ha. If it wasn't so serious we could just shrug and move on. But there are so many issues that will progressively slow construction in Australia. The decline in the skills base, the waste, the out of control wages and cost, un-measured lousy productivity and ongoing industry deaths and safety calamities portray and industry that is treated as a bottomless 'cash cow' for some, and a nightmare for others. Using construction as a tool to stimulate the economy is now not a real option. Massive construction projects especially high rise offices and apartments, schools and hospitals and civil projects such as bridges and construction plant are just as likely to stimulate other economies, not ours. It is highly probable that over 40-percent of current construction and engineering project inputs now come from off-shore. And that means fewer construction jobs at home, and fewer construction jobs has wide implications for the whole economy.

  • An appalling situation that we find ourselves in, thank you for giving it prominence here.

    '“Generally people don’t use the Standard because it’s a cost burden,” he noted.
    So we have the NCC and Standards taking years to write, yet no one reads them and there’s nil enforcement!"

    There was a time when the Standards were freely available but once the Departments realised that they could "privatise" the documentation, produced at taxpayers expense in the first place, and then sell it to the intended audience (taxpayers) for that product, the product quickly lost desirability as a Standards reference. So much for "Standards" !

    Turning attention to 'innovative' materials, we're constantly bombarded to innovative, it is not surprising to learn that developers and contractors re-engineer fire safety (mostly legitimately with proper alternative design) when the time and cost incurred to get a new material tested and certified by the relevant authorities is considered … it is horrendous and negates the desire to achieve certification when the construction implementation need is on a very short time frame and the cost would consume the profitability of the development.

    No doubt there are building practitioners who have been extremely lax with professional diligence and they need to be dealt with … the failure of the system lies with the bureaucracy who have rubbed their hands in glee at the opportunity to do less for more.

  • Anne, I like your description of the Clayton's Cocktail. Very apt! Those of us who have been damaged for years, in our case it is now 8 years and no end to our miserable lives, know the con cocktail all too well. We have lost our life savings, we barely manage to put food on the table and we almost lost our marriage. As for our health that went a long time ago. This has to stop. It is killing people – my husband almost died because of the horrid and constant stress over so many years. We hope you can spark something among those decent people in the community and get more people on side.

    My suggestion is to begin with firing the officials behind this con.

  • Diarmuid, thats precisely how this system works. Any one trying to pin a tail on a donkey will not find the animal responsible as nobody is. Its clearly designed that way like a business with a complaints department you can NOT find or contact. Job done.

    Now try to do that with the health industry. If you think the building industry is big have a look at the totality of the health system. Same deal with a twist as the sorry tale above about the building industry. And of course our governments and their departments are there to protect us and ensure the safety of our health system. Yep right!! Though I would not suggest you trust your life to it. Do your own homework and trust an individual if you can find one willing to take responsibility legally. That last word is chosen carefully.

  • True, construction has become an incredibly technical and competitive industry. Which can also have benefits for consumers, I mean if it were left up to industry groups and the unions it would cost $600,000 to build an average 4 bedroom family home. In reality Australia's building standards are exceptionally high. Despite the grim picture painted by this article, amazingly not a single life has been lost as a result of "Deemed to Comply" building materials. Whilst last year 1300 people were killed on our roads. The only reason this is an issue is because 'Advocates" are receiving "Funding" to push the agenda's of those who stand to profit from a few legislative tweaks. all the while wasting more of our tax payers money.

    • Steve. You state that Australian building standards are "incredibly" high. Since we are a first world nation we all expect our building standards to met our needs. The problem we have as a nation is that many buildings that have been constructed during the past twenty years are not meeting those building standards and a large number of products used in our buildings that used to be made in Australia and did meet the standards are now being imported and do not meet our standards. Our regulators do not have an effective process of inspection of these imported products that are now used in the construction and home building industry. As far as your comparison of buildings with motor cars, it appears as if you are confused. Motor cars are part of a dynamic system where as buildings are very much a static system which is the reason why we have Mechanical Engineers who deal with very complex dynamic systems and civil engineers who specialise in static systems. For both systems to operate in the public interest we require our regulators to perform to a high standard. Unfortunately that is not occurring in Australia. Buildings only become dynamic when they fall down or bits fall off them, however they can poison people or cause them to die through the stress of having to live in a defective home particularly when they attempt to resolve their consumer issues through our inefficient and expensive dispute resolution process which is controlled by lawyers who protect the financial interests of those who have not followed the standards. .

  • Thank you David for your comment. You are right in saying that I did not touch on the fundamentals of the favoured business class and the inherent unfairness in relation to the 3 key stakeholders who pay for our buildings and arrange and do al the work. Another time perhaps – a big subject. We now know that the systemic failure was arranged in the interest of big business – for, of and by big business. Government and bureaucracy (pollies and our public 'servants') directed on 'policy' by the big end of town, and our 'servants' happy to serve the 'self-interest' and NOT to serve in the public interest. The framework – legislation, loopy laws, nonsense codes and standards (none of which are purchased, read or employed by many in the industry) as the Senators heard from numerous witnesses in this Inquiry – is the basis for non-compliance across the industry. No penalties, no deterrence, no stick to force conformity or compliance. We have the hundreds of official agencies whose role it is NOT to enforce, NOT to punish.
    As for contracts, as you no doubt know, in building these contracts are full of unfair contract terms – this all ok'd – as such contracts are exempt from being UNFAIR under our Australian Consumer Law! We know why – again thanks to the Senate Inquiry, and a review of who are on all Boards and Committees, this has been confirmed as directed by the vested interests who are the only ones with a voice. And of course, everything is biased to advance the commercial interests with unfairness the bedrock of the contracts as stated. Then in addition, we have the nil enforcement and the no penalties as the conduit to continuing negligence and unscrupulous conduct. Then we have the mega 'dispute industry' because of such woeful building practices, the new Vic dispute arrangements just the latest creation to worsen the plight of the innocent consumer victims – the 'law' in the interest of 'consumer protection' has taken away consumers' Human Rights! We have the scam insurance, this not claimable by the majority (junk insurance in the words of Choice), etc. This without the builders having no credentials, no experience, many unable to speak English or read plans and yet they become 'registered'! Then the 'Inspectors' in the thousands across the country 'inspecting' without any building background at all! Then we have the Surveyors/Certifiers in the pocket of the builder who are accommodating in their own business interest. Then we have the 'Experts' appearing at 'disputes', again many so-called building con-sultants with no registration in anything, let alone anything 'building', and not 'independent' if they knew anything – all hired guns to get the cowboys "out-of-trouble". Senator Carr referred to the industry practices by saying: "This is a crime school." He is on the money! Then we have ….. All for another time. What we do know is that it is indisputable that this industry is full of fakes – fake products, fake buildings, fake certifications, fake Building Permits, fake Occupancy Permits, fake 'con-sumer protection', fake workers' safety practices and fake non-payment subcontractor legislation. And most of all, fake news spun by the many spin doctors to hide the truth from the 3 key stakeholders and our whole community.

  • This article articulates the issues that building consumers are exposed to day in day out. If you are building or buying a new home or doing a renovation you are playing Russian roulette with your future personally and financially. The financial detriment that people across Australia are suffering from due to not fit for purpose and or non conforming building products is a disgrace. Not to mention disreputable builders and tradespeople and poorly trained so called skilled labourers. We all must also ask the question are the so called standards fit for purpose or have they been compromised for financial gain of some at the expense of others? Self regulation does not work in any shape or form! Along with consumers what about the harm done to the reputable manufacturers, tradespeople and builders who suffer as a result of the disreputable operators. What we have is a classic case of systemic regulatory failure, the system is broken, there is no cop on the beat. Keep up the fight Anne, nothing good is easy ! Best Wishes John Madigan Former Senator for Victoria.

  • Another well researched article Anne. In Victoria we have three ministers 'responsible' for the building industry, and just watch them juggle that hot potato like a choreographed circus act once a problem arises! I will fall off my chair if anyone ever puts up their hand and becomes accountable for this fiasco. Someone in a position of power needs to stand up and become accountable before a large scale deadly event occurs here in Australia.

  • John, thank you for your ongoing, heartfelt and humanistic interest in supporting this 'hot potato' cause which is at its core is about ‘people’. And for your tireless work in trying to help all of us who are disenfranchised and damaged in this country because BIG BUSINESS runs the country. BB controls everything and including this 'game of thrones' – where so many of us lose our homes – and too many of us lose our lives. It's called "Construction in the commercial interest” as the Senators were informed! A very one-sided, no rules, no referees 'game' – and with no punishment regardless of the frightful conduct – all set up without any opposition from the 3 key stakeholders who have been silenced into obscurity. This is the ‘game’ that places all our lives at risk in every way, the ‘no rules’ cowboys and all their buddies causing horrendous devastation to individuals and families across the nation – the nation absurdly mythologized as being one premised on the primary value of a 'FAIR GO' for all Aussies!!! In truth, this too fake and built on lies. Beyond despicable.

    You are such a great supporter of the 'people'. When a Senator you came, you looked, and after seeing first-hand the plight of consumers and Australian manufacturers, you acted. You bothered to read, to understand and you uncovered the injustice. You stood up for all those locked out and voiceless – all of us 99% of Australians – and on other issues too. You are a truly fabulous human being. We desperately need a few more good men like you – actually more than a few! We know the problems – 4 Corners last night touched on one of the myriad of issues in its story 'COMBUSTIBLE', focusing here only on cladding! BUT this just the TIP of one almighty ugly and very destructive ICEBERG! A good beginning. Much more needed by MSM – and I hope the ABC will pick up the baton on the ‘Big Building picture’ – our buildings, and most of all examine the consequences for our ‘people’, our number one top priority.

    This leads me to wonder: "Where are all the decent people in Oz?" Obviously MIA, or Missing in Action – off spinning for the Big Business team! However, the tide is clearly turning! Let's hope that those decent people in industry now speaking out continue to do so – certainly many more are surfacing to speak out on behalf of all the damaged pawns in this ‘game’, the number growing daily. Keep on 'coming out' good people and we can speak with ONE LOUD VOICE! We can return to some kind of 'democracy', instead of our 'demonocracy' which currently rules.

    As you say 'self-regulation' does not work and cannot work. We all know this to be true. The FACTS provide the evidence – and we have them in abundance! If we want the so-called 'rule of law', the key stakeholders must be active participants in the decision-making – they cannot be now as under the definition of 'stakeholder' they have been excluded and disqualified – NULLIFIED! Then when sensible, rational, inclusive and FAIR laws have been enacted (not as in the case of Building, Con-sumer law, Safety) they must be ENFORCED.

    We know the recipe for our current massive disaster – the officials informed the Senate Inquiry, albeit not very eloquently! Their irrational recipe now on the public record! It is time for real solutions, genuine 'democracy' and way past the time to end the horrific suffering inflicted upon our 1.5 million Australians who are the innocent victims of this corrupted industry every year (each one worse than the previous year). Just their financial loss alone a staggering $80 Billion! This without the human carnage left by the wayside.

    It’s TIME, as Gough Whitlam would no doubt agree if he were here. It's time to end the biggest man-made human disaster in our history. It's time to stop killing people. It's time to have more people like you John in politics. I PRAY!

  • Anne I am absolutely blown away but not in any way surprised. I think we all know how it works, or doesn't work and for the one reason that the big end of town runs the show. It is about them not the majority of us ordinary good guys. But it is still mind blowing that the public officials like Savery confessed that the nonsense was devised to be gobbledygook to confuse everyone and even the smart senators. Good they were on the mettle. Then there was the VBA and Smith 'tranches' – who would have heard of this? Is it a new term to confound those to be taken as fools when they pay the wages for these from the public purse and to do us harm. Then there was Genco and his cooked up recipe and Nick faced with the doin the head in stuff. I guess they think its funny.
    Best bit was to see some decent blokes in the industry speaking out, we obviously need more like Hills.Come on boys, step up to the plate!

  • This is a very good summary of what is as you say scandalous. It seems the inquiry has discovered the big gap in our laws and found the reasons. Making money for the big companies and this the con upon those who support, work and pay for the building industry. This is so unfair. How can those who build have any chance when the system is so stacked against them?

  • Anne, amazing how simply put this article is. Not so amazing is how the bottom feeders of the VBA including Murray Smith who was and still is the loyal Lieutenant of Prue Digby and of course the Minister for blubbering Richard Wynne quickly deflects attention away. Why dont we just sack the whole lot and start again. We have a PUBLIC SERVICE full of INCOMPETENCE leading us to rack and ruin. No one cares. Mr Turnbull, is this what you call an entrepreneurial environment. Mr Shorten, how about standing up and making a fair-dinkum comment about how you would fix this disaster. Tell the mum and dad true believers how a Labour Government would really protect Australians, Industry and their jobs. The ACBC, what is its purpose other than sucking resources like leeches from the Taxpayers of Australia. The NCC, does it have any real impact or is it like the ACBC, a total waste and distraction to any form of regulation.
    Australians are the laughing stock of the world. Stand up for Australia and sack the Current Regulators, the Current Public Servants in these decision making departments and get some real Australian balls and put back people who know what they are doing. Stop pandering to the likes of CHINA who have absolutely no regard for anyone else in the World as is demonstrated by their dumping of non-compliant products on everyone. Stand up Australia and do what is right. Remember, POLITICIANS are supposed to be employees of Taxpayers, start making them accountable

    But then again as Prue Digby so famously said, "Lets form another Committee and look into it".

    Ignorance and Apathy – Don't know Don't care.

  • Murray, you are spot on. I gather you are not related to the other Murray Smith? The policy of 'systemic failure' was of course no accident. It was "perfectly planned" and "perfectly executed". Shamefully, the incredible harm to all of us was known and calculated.
    We now have the supporting evidence in abundance from the Senate Inquiry – to add to that collected by the Victorian Building Action Group over the last 10 years and spanning the last 25 years – and we have paid the price.
    This term 'systemic failure' is a misnomer because it was not some inanimate object (i.e. system) that failed us – consumers, subcontractors and workers alike. Rather it was the 'people' behind the 'system' – those at the top, the power plebs who contrived it to fail us the key stakeholders, and the wider community. This comprised of the big business beneficiaries of ignoble self-interest working together with their high-ranking bureaucratic partners as the BIZ-BUREAU team. They the makers of 'policy' and 'rules'. In this case the 'no rules'. And so they deigned themselves to be the winners – the corollary that we the community decreed to be the losers!
    Be it the ABCB, the VBA, CAV, the OFT, the WA Building Commission, etc., all their lowly officials are trained in complication, obfuscation and FRUSTRATION – the single goal being to lock out and depress the 1 million consumers whose lives they seriously damage each year. Often the officials’ damage and ‘legal system’ worse than the reprobates who delivered the massive detriment initially to those attempting to 'build'.
    Take a recent example of experience with officialdom. Just picture yourself on the phone for 1 hour and 17 minutes to the VBA 'officials' – all of whom have been superbly trained to get you to want to jump off a cliff (VBA 101) during and after any exchange. Imagine getting off the phone having wasted so much time and got nowhere. Imagine this not being able to speak to anyone with a 'title', not being able to access documents pertaining to the property owner's case, and then being told that such documents are subject to 'privacy laws' which of course is nonsense. Then imagine being told that this is just the VBA WAY, its blocking procedures called 'business rules' and informed that this was devised to "protect the practitioners", the cowboys. And then imagine being educated in ‘compliance’, told that 'compliance certificates' are commonly not filled out, commonly details are incorrect, and commonly they are not signed! And then more, being informed that 'compliance certificates' are self-certified and that any such certificate "doesn't mean a thing"! As if we damaged consumers, who now number in the millions, did not know this from personal experience. Nonetheless, think of these 'truths' so blatantly blurted out ‘officially’! To learn that what has been lodged with the VBA as non-compliant 'compliance certificates' is the norm and as such all are meaningless! And hence why the VBA will not provide to the owner what a registered, licensed cowboy has lodged (and what the VBA has accepted) as “non-compliant” 'compliance'. This beyond balderdash – a reflection of the insidious system, the contempt of all complicit in treating us so appallingly, and for the officials involved in manufacturing and perpetuating such a scandalous system, this is utterly unconscionable on every level. The affront to the largely decent, hard-working Australian community is a national disgrace. I rest my case with Senator Carr's comment on the industry (and equally applicable to those responsible in senior official positions) when he deduced: "THIS IS A CRIME SCHHOL!" The Government has sanctioned gross misconduct under the auspices of ‘legalized fraud’, with far too many gangsters having ‘graduated’ with honours from the officially approved crime school and now they are fully-fledged criminals under the ‘protection’ of the state across our community.

  • Anne you should be put in Prue Digbys job. Prue doesnt have any qualifications like you do to do the job properly. I dont know how these useless twits are given this important job to do in the first place – it makes me shudder. SACK THE LOT.

  • An excellent article Anne, and with big thankyous, to Senators Nick Xenophon and Kim Carr, within this Inquiry, for comprehending both the actuality, and consequence of the huge, shameful fraud that's being perpetrated on the Australian public; standing by principle, and totally exposing, with the aid of a tsunami of shocking revelations, the full extent of the complicity between our Building Industry and all our so-called Governing Building Authorities, in their complete lack of care regarding satisfying Any building standards and regulations, beginning with the regular "Passing" of non-compliant products, and continuing throughout the governance of every stage of builds.There is no governance, regulation or consumer protection at any level, to the extent of utter disregard for the base safety of consumers paying over huge sums of money, often our life-savings for, what are, apart from our first needs, our desires in life, our shelters, our homes, our very bases, from which we do All of our Life with family, friends and then servicing the wider community. As we amongst VBAG (Victorian Building Action Group) have been repeatedly requesting, Consumers, who are the Biggest Stakeholders must be seriously consulted, heard and represented in these "governing bodies"! As Diarmuid Hannigan points out Consumers need a sincere Federal Cabinet posting! And I second the proposal of yourself Anne, to be appointed an executive directorial role within the VBA! Shame on the long list of those public officials who've ignored repeated calls for overhaul in Victoria! Matthew Guy, Robert Clarke,Ted Bailleau, Dennis Napthine, Daniel Andrews, Prue Digby, Claire Noonan And now the response from Richard Wynne? Either continued complete spin or a a resounding and deafening silence! And Consumer, Worker and Subcontractor harm in the many Billions! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!

  • Steve, thanks for your comment on con-struction which I have just read. In my view, whilst there are some technical aspects, it is not so technical that one needs to be a rocket scientist. I just think of what the Romans built all those centuries ago – and think about the pyramids!! Rather con-struction is about making lots of money, especially for those at the top end of the tree – and for the reprobates when there are NO PENALTIES they can, and do have no regard for quality, safety or the harm they deliberately cause to consumers, workers and subcontractors.
    As for 'competitive', not so – no real truths ever appear in the public domain – hence minimal chance of reputational damage for the majority of the cowboys. They are all the 'protected', their interests served by our 'public servants'!
    As for Australian Standards, no-one buys them, reads them or complies with them. See the Senate Inquiry transcripts! Sadly we have a third world built environment and NIL con-sumer protection! Again just have a read of the Transcripts from the Melbourne and Sydney Senate Inquiry Hearings – from which the above quotes were taken. I can give you the facts on consumer damage – 256,000 Victorians in 2011 and it would be higher now. Conservative estimate for the loss to Australian consumers this year, a staggering $40 Billion!!! This "grim picture" is real. It is not one that I or anyone else painted and all the evidence is referenced by solid and irrefutable Inquiries, Reports and lengthy research.
    This is a reality check for you Steve – and if you have no knowledge of the industry as few in the community do (all hidden), I can appreciate why you might find the facts confronting. Truly incredible, but disconcertingly absolutely true! Now to your incorrect information on the loss of lives as a result of "Deemed to Comply" building materials. Just for starters have a look at my past articles on workers – take one example on the asbestos deaths and diseases. To take your road death stats, try looking at 200 workers killed at work each year, 500,000 on average seriously injured (80,000 in construction), and 190 construction worker suicides annually and…..
    As for your "this is an issue is because 'Advocates" are receiving "Funding" to push the agendas of those who stand to profit from a few legislative tweaks", our organization receives NO FUNDING Steve – never has and never will. As for "all the while wasting more of our tax payers money", there is NO TAXPAYERS' MONEY. The money, time and commitment from myself and all of our VBAG Members has been self-funded, the time donated, and the commitment is because we care about people, families and the whole Australian Community. I wish we could get some funding and if you can point us in the direction of same, we would be grateful. Thus far, not one company has offered a cent!
    This cause and 'advocacy' Steve is about self-interest versus public interest – the big con-struction players the 'self-interested' and we are standing up in the interest of the public good! This issue at its core is about people, who we value more than profits. It is because we believe that people matter and that they should count that we are doing what we do. It is because we care about the dignity and worth of human beings.
    Right now we have a massive human tragedy on our hands. It is man-made – with the number of people damaged each year worse than the last.
    Finally Steve, if you want accurate and truthful information, visit our website or contact me – phone contact details are on our website. Whatever you decide to make your 'opinion', please base it on the evidence and don't make up stories – we have enough of make-believe stories manufactured by the government agencies who employ millions of 'officials' to mislead and deceive via their creative and untruthful spin. I would welcome a discussion, but it must be based on empirical evidence or otherwise it is simply irrational ramblings. Opinions are not valid unless rational and truthful – if not, any case just doesn't stack up and therefore such opinions don't count.

  • Thank you Anne and Sourceable for researching and publishing this disturbing article about the appalling state of the building industry. I am shocked that such a 'progressive' first-world nation as Australia can be putting peoples lives at such risk.

    • It is inconceivable to me how a govmt can identify and promote itself as progressive yet at the same time sit back and allow outdated regulation to define the Australian Building industry. Whilst the ' combustible cladding' is a serious and urgent agenda to be investigated, it is one of many deficiencies that exist within the governance of the building industry.

  • Anne this is certainly scandalous. No wonder that we have so many damaged people who just set out to build a home but lose a fortune and have their lives turned up-side down in the process. Those in the industry on the other hand have the "get-out-of-jail-free card" arranged by the officials! it is most worrying to learn the truth. How can our governments stand by, or worse actively allow this to happen and for so long? You mention the clear and present danger. Obviously this needs the right fix and now. Thank you for speaking up for the community. Let us hope more brave people will start to do so and pressure our governments to work in our interest and stop the harm and risk to our lives.

    From my reading it seems that the has been arranged

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