A Senate Committee will investigate the use of cladding material on multi-storey buildings as a leading senator calls for a full audit of the cladding on all buildings around the country.
Following the Greenfell Tower tragedy in London where it is feared that the death toll could rise to more than one-hundred, the Senate Economics Committee References Inquiry into Non-Conforming Building Products is set to use a special hearing to look specifically at the use of combustible cladding.
Describing the events as a ‘timely reminder’ that Parliament needed to stop a similar disaster in Australia, Committee Chair Chris Ketter there remained a risk that some builders used cladding products which were unsuitable for use in high-rise buildings.
“I’m very concerned by the lack of progress in this area. We do have a patchwork of regulations in this country … so there’s always a possibility that something slips through the cracks,” Ketter is quoted as saying on the ABC.
The move follows earlier calls from Senator Nick Xenophon for a complete audit of all multi-storey buildings.
Xenophon’s call, along with the latest developments, follows not only the London disaster but also the Lacrosse debacle in Melbourne where combustible cladding allowed fire to rip up 23 floors of an apartment building in eleven minutes.
He said the Senate Committee which was set up in 2015 had heard disturbing evidence that the flammable nature of the cladding at Lacrosse had enabled the fire to spread rapidly up the building.
“The evidence we heard at the inquiry from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade was chilling and disturbing,” Xenophon said. “If our firefighters are saying that their jobs are being made extremely difficult from this inflammable cladding, we need to act with urgency.”
“The fact that these products could still be on Australian buildings indicates the need for an urgent audit of all buildings and to look at how this cladding comes into the country in the first place.
“The London building tragedy demonstrates how critical it is to ensure that Australian building products comply with all Australian standards and regulations.”
Xenophon also raised concern that up to 22,000 homes and businesses could be at risk due to faulty electric cable imported from China.
Xenophon’s call comes as policy makers and regulators seek to stop the incidence of faulty building products across Australia.
Recently introduced legislation in Queensland seeks to hold various players throughout the building product supply chain accountable for non-compliant products and gives the Queensland Building and Construction Commission expanded powers to inspect buildings, conduct testing and direct any necessary rectifications.
At a national level, the aforementioned Senate Committee is due to hand down its report in October this year.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Building Authority has undertaken an audit of high-risk buildings for combustible cladding whilst the Building Commission in Western Australia has audited buildings across the state for asbestos containing roofing materials after asbestos was discovered in materials at the Perth Children’s Hospital.
Xenophon is not alone in calling for action.
The Building Products Innovation Council (BPIC) which represents construction product lobby groups says the latest debacle highlights the need for action on the importation of dodgy products.
BIPC chair Elizabeth McIntyre said regulations and safeguards throughout Australia were relatively robust compared with the rest of the world, but adds that we have had our share of issues with faulty products nonetheless.
“ .. BPIC and the building industry in Australia has been warning all levels of governments about the proliferation of dodgy building products, the need for better regulations to ensure that fit-for-purpose products are specifications and used, and of course the need for harsher penalties for those who sell, supply and install dodgy products,” McIntyre said in a statement.
In her statement, McIntyre applauded the Queensland moves and encouraged Opposition parties to back the legislation in that state.