That an important area of the building industry can be treated with such contempt over such a long period of time is shocking.
Our industry pays tens of millions of dollars every year to deliver consumer protection to our clients in the event something goes wrong, but only a few ever benefit while most who have a problem are put on a merry-go-round of loss and despair.
Yet again we now have to endure another series of reviews/enquiries in virtually all jurisdictions to appear to be rectifying the broken and fundamentally flawed consumer protection known as Builders Warranty Insurance (BWI) or its multitude of name changes to give the impression of a new product that in fact remains the same.
The continual round of reviews to satisfy the critics and or government agencies now number some 56 in 14 years, again at a further cost of tens of millions of dollars to be added to the overall consumer protection bill.
The Government of Tasmania has been the only jurisdiction that has been brave enough to stand up to those who support these current arrangements, and they removed the Last Resort BWI back in 2008 to the benefit of its consumers and the building industry.
There is no builders warranty insurance in Tasmania. Its wider industry has benefited and consumers rely on their research in their builder selection, which results in builders who misbehave losing the opportunity to find clients.
In the event of a dispute in Tasmania, Consumer Affairs run a dispute and resolution program for the building industry.
The Builders Collective congratulate the Tasmanian Government for their fortitude in the face of adversity, and their foresight in understanding the Last Resort BWI consumer protection regime was benefiting only those who were marketing the product, and most of the intended recipients were unable to access what they thought was their consumer protection.
So now we have reviews in nearly all states and territories. Victoria is leading the charge with some fiddling of the existing regime and the promise of some further change in the future in the hope this will silence the critics, including the Auditor General’s Office, who have been extremely critical of the Building Commission/Victorian Building Authority in the three investigations they have undertaken to date.
New South Wales’ consultation period of their review has just closed, and they have put forward a number of proposed solutions for consideration which include fiddling with the same regime and/or consideration for a voluntary scheme and or a part mandatory/voluntary process. It appears, however, that the basis will be the same fundamentally flawed scheme.
The Northern Territory had the right idea with the current (Cureton Review), which recommended a raft of changes, including the removal of the Last Resort BWI in its entirety. Unfortunately, political forces have been at work, and it appears these proposed reforms may not see the light of day.
The Western Australia review is a strange one, and they are currently soliciting the services of private insurers to re-enter their market and provide the Last Resort Product. One can be assured it will be on the insurers’ terms, which will be extremely costly and deliver little. Back to square one!
When will our governments stand up for and on behalf of the building industry and its consumers instead of fiddling to try and satisfy those who market this fundamentally flawed product and then pretend the fiddle will satisfy all?
This recent proposed fiddle in Victoria will do nothing other than ensure our industry remains a mess, as the proposed changes are too limited and nothing short of a holistic regime as discussed with all governments will deliver appropriate industry management and consumer protection.
It appears governments know better, yet nothing they have done over the last 14 years has even remotely worked, and in fact has only stalled for more time amidst the scathing reports delivered by the government agencies who have oversight over this disgraceful product that continues to takes our industry further into disrepute.
The escalation of severe criticism by government agencies that have this oversight over the past few years can no longer be avoided as the spotlight of shame is focused squarely on the governments and those it has chosen to administer the consumer protection regime on behalf of the wider building industry.
The building industry is suffering on many fronts, but there is no equal to the Last Resort consumer protection regime that has languished for the past 14 years with no serious attempt to remove it, only tokenism to create a further illusion.
Governments must step up to the plate, take charge and resolve this matter, as the industry can no longer be exploited by bad government policy.