The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) came into being on 1 July 2013 and has been continually criticized ever since by building consumers, and every facet of the building industry for its complete failure to deliver its basic charter.

The removal of the previous Building Commission, which had been under a cloud of questionable activity for some time, and its demise, was timely. However, it now appears the change may have been in name only as the VBA has not been able to find its feet ever since.

The building industry is a major contributor to the national gross domestic product (GDP), and yet its Victorian management team under Minister Richard Wynne together with the VBA has continually failed, with a revolving door of senior staff at a level not seen in any industry.

People from every facet of the building industry has tried their best to voice their opinions and put forward the best case from their perspective. Unfortunately, the VBA only gives the impression they are listening and ignores all, to the peril of the industry.

Put simply, this is to the total disadvantage of our building consumers, builders, plumbers and a wider view of the public, who believe the building industry has failed to meet its civil obligations.

Minister Wynne is never available to the industry members who work at the coal face, and his door remains continually closed. That may be acceptable if the industry were run correctly without the plethora of damning issues that potentially puts life at risk, such as cladding, carbon monoxide poisoning, legionella, not to mention the inability to deliver its basic charter on a day-to-day basis.

Industry believes a regulator should work with the industry and have a mix of personnel that is expert in their field and understand the workings of their sector, but strangely the VBA prefer to use spin and tokenism to shore up their being. That is a short-sighted view and will deliver ongoing failure.

Recently, the VBA advised of another corporate structuring, with a number of positions ostensibly filled to deliver on their 2018 Minister’s Statement of Expectations. This structure is as  follows:

  • Chief Executive Officer – Sue Eddy
  • Executive Director Operations – Mark Rossiter
  • Executive Director Corporate Governance and Major Projects – Matt Vincent
  • Director Research and Review – Kate Despot
  • Director Communications and Stakeholder Engagement – John Thompson
  • General Counsel – Ronja Laugallies
  • Director People and Capability – Karen Wild

The CEO is supported by a broad expert executive team comprising:

  • Director Strategy and Performance – Stephen Mumford
  • Director Enquiries, Inspections and Complaints – Peter Cairnes
  • Director Licensing and Registration – Jeff Gilmore
  • Director Fire Safety – Tony Enright
  • Director Compliance and Enforcement – Dean Bozinoski (Acting)
  • Director Technical and Regulation – John Gardiner (Acting)

It’s easy to sit back and criticize, but in this case, criticism is well placed as this building industry is funding an entity that does not have the ability to meet its charter.

An assessment of Australia’s compliance and enforcement for the construction industry has just delivered a damning verdict.

This assessment was commissioned by the Building Ministers’ Forum following London’s Grenfell Tower disaster last year. Anyone who read the Shergold/Weir report, titled Building Confidence, must be left feeling very disturbed as to the state of the national industry.

It appears in Victoria we have to wait for more disasters to emerge to at least garner interest from Minister Wynne, as he is the one person who is responsible for the mess known as the VBA.

Further, the coroner is finalising her investigation into the death of a grandmother from carbon monoxide poisoning, and you can rest assured both the VBA and Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) will be pulling out all stops to position themselves as proactive if the coroner finds any fault in their roles.

The matter of faulty heaters appears to be languishing and the rectification appears to have stalled. We see stickers being placed on the heaters instead of rectification of the fault that may cause poisoning by carbon monoxide.

These stickers are red in colour with white text and read:


Switched off your range hood

Switched off your bathroom fan

Opened a window in this room

For further information call 1800148 426

We have to assume these stickers will exonerate the agencies/government in the event of further risk to life and limb.

Back to the cladding issue, which continues to remain untouched other than when it comes to consumers who purchased compliant properties only to find they have now become the target for rectification.

Australian governments appear lost in terms of resolution to this cladding issue that is capable of taking life.

The Queensland government appears to be taking the lead on the issue by issuing a total ban of the questionable cladding on high-rise buildings. This is similar to what the English authorities are considering by banning the use of combustible materials; the UK have just released a consultation paper a year after the Grenfell tragedy, whereas the Victorian Government still has no clear direction after the Lacrosse fire nearly four years ago.

The VBA will continue to fail if the same trajectory is applied, and it appears failure is imminent with the new structure as it is nigh on impossible to manage an industry if you don’t understand that industry and how it operates.

While the persons listed in the new structure may be very good in their field of expertise, they are not industry participants and therefore do not have the ability to manage our industry.

Many who have that expertise have given their time on a voluntary basis to the recent coroner’s investigation, not to mention many meetings with Minister Wynne’s staff, without any result whatsoever. Even though the various meetings suggested an outcome, we were met with spin and tokenism.

For such an important industry, it is being treated with contempt.

Minister Wynne must take a serious look at the state of our industry and understand that the bureaucracy is capable of making mistakes…very big mistakes!