How far you can cut the red tape and still meet expectation is in the eye of the beholder. It's a matter of measuring public outcry versus economical savings whilst maintaining the charade that all is well.
When does reality of the situation become too much? Does the government realize if and when they have gone too far? Is it the mounting costs of litigation and ongoing insurance claims that clue them in?
Is it when public outcry turns to civil disobedience, like the recent demolition of a beloved heritage hotel in Carlton?
Are the savings worth the pain to the innocent minority? Because some never recover.
Recently, the VBA have employed more spin doctors and legal eagles to quell the uprising preventing real transparency of the situation.
Many of the festering problems have previously been recognised via VAGO 2013 and the Ombudsman’s reports. Promises were made by each government and by re-badging our building regulator the VBA would begin a new era of regulatory reforms.
We all had expectations!
In reality, nothing has changed. If anything, with the shift from experienced technical building regulators to experienced public servants whose skills are in spin and legal leverage, the previous shortfalls have become more profound.
So-called “key stakeholders” from the building industry are divided and conquered via dodgy orchestrated VBA forums normally held over multiple days with numbers stacked to never impose any real challenge to the poorly thought though VBA initiatives.
We will all then read in our next VBA flyer that their latest dodgy initiative was introduced after close consultation with key stakeholders.
The rubber stamp is used again and again, and the wheel continues to go around and around with no real dialogue or appropriate consultation.
The VBA’s recently formed Internal Building Appeals board is once again being occupied by peripheral chair members ignoring any input from the key stakeholders within our industry. This alone has frustrated many who have suffered under the VCAT regime and feel the whole complaints process has been hijacked once again.
This change effectively has given autonomous power to a group that has shown very little technical prowess across the broad spectrum of building regulatory control.
The recent code of conduct of licensed practitioners rolled out with a short public response is testament to the rough justice we will find if any of us dare to speak out.
If you don’t like it, you have to go to the Supreme Court and once again justices will be available only for the rich and large players.
There is no doubt the lack of proper inspections and proactive regulatory control we have yearned for could prevent most disputes ever getting too far.
Our expectation was the VBA would work from the base of the pyramid upward, improving regulatory controls in the field and placing more of an onus on compliance during the build via surveyors and auditing rather than reactive processes trying to unravel disputes after they occur.
Recent reviews of VBA staffing confirm this is not the case, with experienced technical staff disappearing from the building industry. This trajectory will only bring our industry into further decline with the kind of spin and tokenism which we are seeing more and more of every day.
So at what point do we reach the threshold of public outcry as we approach third-world building controls? What will it take for the public to join the dots?
We have had some real near misses in recent years that only by luck have not resulted in fatalities. We continue to see long-standing building and plumbing firms disappearing every day, unable to compete with the latest batch of inexperienced players who come and go after completing their Corn Flake packet licenses.
So how is this so called cost cutting exercise benefitting anyone?
With skewed data capture, it shows a short-term saving – one that unravels when most projects reach their six-year mark and consumers start to realise their defects are not minor. Once they realise they have real problems, they head off to the legal fraternity to spend what little money they have left.
About that time, the government of the day will be blaming its predecessor, rolling out another rebadged regulator and employing another batch of public servants who have excelled in spin and tokenism whilst continuing to feed the legal industry more innocent victims.
It beggars belief given what the building industry has suffered over the last two decades and the promises made after multiple government inquiries and reports clearly stated the regulation of the building industry was in disarray.
A recent Ministers letter together with a Statement of Expectations from Treasury clearly show a dichotomy. On one hand, we are promised reforms to improve our building regulator and yet on the other hand we have a generic order stating further cut backs of regulations across all regulators in Victoria.
At some point, we must meet the public threshold of expectation but clearly that time is yet to arrive.
Due to the consequence of the slow burn of building defects, we will eventually wake up sometime in the next decade, and the expertise of our building trades will be third-world quality.
We expected so much more!