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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!

 
  • Whilst it is certainly true that Victorians and suffered from poor building industry regulation, I wonder what the specific practical solutions are.

    It would be interesting to see a specific list of actions that the VBA and other regulators should undertake in order to deliver better regulation.

  • If our Goverment is pushed to answer some of your excellent inclusions Phil, how the building industry would improve., perhaps we should ask all relevant builders, plumbers etc., to fill out a form we could pass onto the 'Minister', what are our chances of doing this? And would it work?

  • Phil, sadly your summation is an accurate assessment of what is in actuality much more than a crisis in public confidence. The so-called 'regulators', who as you say are ever-increasing in number – albeit in building, work safety and claims, or sub-contractor control – are engaged to hide the truth as you have stated. With more of our money allocated to spin doctors, legal eagles and to funding more appalling 'legislation' to appease the dominant vested interests and remove our 'rights', they will now be allowed to legally steal more money from those who are the 'key' stakeholders – consumers, workers and small business. Simultaneously, this will further damage these key players who make up the 'real' building and construction industry. The public have been denied the facts. The bent builders' files, along with their histories, are all locked securely out of sight. Many of the scathing Government reports with the 'nasty news' on building practitioners and 'approved' buildings have been decreed 'internal' documents – hence prevented from public release! The consumer catastrophe has been hidden under bushels of gag orders and threats of defamation. The very unsafe truths of 'workers' safety' have been obscured in convoluted summaries of conflicting stats, along with all their stories. And the financial and other losses to small business invisible! All devised to conceal the shocking realities. As for the poor quality of our very unsafe buildings – privately owned and publicly funded – the VBA and its state counterparts have as usual buried the truths from the Australian community. Money is the key driver – and only money matters! The shameful message roars loudly: people, their lives and their families count for nothing.

  • Phil, you are right to keep on with this. I have come to the view that the state based regulation systems are all broken. They are self-serving and infected with self-interest. I have given up on any prospect of their changing. it is time for massive disruption. You may like to have a look at my submission to the current Senate Economics Committee Enquiry into Non-Conforming Building Materials and Products Containing Asbestos. – it is submission 85 now posted on the Senate web site. I do not expect much to happen through that Chanel as Anne Paten rightfully laments . But I am more positive – not about government action, but by the forces at work that now require more and more payment for off-site construction work. Under the current scheme of things the banks are rightfully worried about paying for so much construction created elsewhere. I estimate that 60% of future contract value will need to be paid for before it arrives at site (at least half off-shore). The role of certifiers in this process will change significantly and so will who pays them. The chain of custody of construction material sources, manufactures and assemblies will be game changing – especially as construction's pieces and parts become digitised and that digitisation plays an active function in how buildings engage with users, self monitor and diagnose. This is all just around the corner. Don't worry about neutered state regulators and the the smoke and mirrors of less red tape. Progress payments for work supplied and installed "impairment free' will be the new game in town. The wingers will find international risk and compliance insurers less prone to lobbying than their state based counterparts. Got to love disruption – when old institutions fail.

  • Wow Phil, spot on with your observations of tokenism re stakeholder consultation and input, and the transition of the Authority from a technical (largely regulatory) organisation to another broad based public service organisation. The system is certainly broken but can largely be fixed with astute Act and Reg amendments but I fear the Authority no longer has the expertise to recognise the required actions or the will to reform and simplify the regulatory mire to a building control system that can again be readily understood by the construction industry and administered by the relevant practitioners.

  • The VBA recently asked for input into the "code of conduct" for practioners. The deadline closed off within 7 days Demonstrates what Phil has highlighted. It is tokenism at best & will be stamped by the VBA that the industry was consulted. The solution is get the bloody industry back in control of their industry as promised not the public service from the planning department & insurance companies.
    Its our livelihood, the advisory committees are rarely listened to & sit outside the VBA. The Plumbing advisory council has no government directory, minutes or contact details. It is like a black ops operation. No transparency & building absolutely no confidence for anyone.
    Keep up the fight Phil!!!!

  • Thank you Phil. With the power of the 'peak industry bodies' and other large companies to have such a stultifying influence on the adoption of all that is necessary and common sense, does that mean we are all waiting for a major catastrophe before any real change will occur (rhetorical question)? Disturbing.

  • Until we curtail the power and influence exerted over state based construction industry legislation, policy and regulators by so called " peak industry" associations we are going nowhere. Again – we can talk all we like about a futuristic construction industry but until we rid the industry of institutionalized corruption we are going nowhere – start with peak groups.

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