ACT QUICKLY ON CLADDING

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - OPINION -

A SE­NATE in­quiry has rec­om­mended a na­tional sys­tem of li­cens­ing for the build­ing in­dus­try to cover builders, sur­vey­ors, cer­ti­fiers and pro­ject man­agers.

It has also de­manded the polyethylenecore cladding that has been so pop­u­lar in high-rise con­struc­tion, due to lower costs and cos­metic ap­peal, be banned as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

With hind­sight be­ing 20-20, and the hor­ror of the Gren­fell tower fire that killed at least 80 peo­ple still fresh in peo­ple’s mem­o­ries, such a ban of highly flammable ma­te­rial makes per­fect sense, just as a na­tional li­cens­ing scheme would also seem a no-brainer for the pub­lic.

The need for uni­form reg­u­la­tions was summed up neatly by State Hous­ing Min­is­ter Mick de Brenni this week when he said new Queens­land laws en­sured state au­thor­i­ties had the power to act when “dodgy cladding or wiring’’ ar­rived on the wharf in Bris­bane or was brought across the bor­der from NSW. That in­di­cates that no mat­ter what con­trols Queens­land sets in place, dodgy prod­ucts are still able to enter the coun­try.

Huge amounts of ma­te­rial are im­ported, yet when Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cials ap­peared be­fore the Se­nate in­quiry they ar­gued en­sur­ing com­pli­ance with the Na­tional Con­struc­tion Code should be at the point of in­stal­la­tion and not the ports. The In­sti­tute of Build­ing Sur­vey­ors on the other hand said the ACCC and state reg­u­la­tors should have re­spon­si­bil­ity at point of sup­ply or en­try.

The Bulletin cau­tioned in June that with pow­er­ful bod­ies at odds over how ma­te­ri­als should be mon­i­tored, strong lead­er­ship would be re­quired. The dan­ger is that de­spite the Se­nate in­quiry’s rec­om­men­da­tions and calls for bans or uni­for­mity of li­cens­ing, Can­berra will be tempted to or­der an­other probe some time down the track.

The con­se­quences of in­ac­tion could be fa­tal. What hap­pened in Lon­don and what al­most hap­pened in Mel­bourne are lessons in that. But other wor­ries re­main.

An ob­vi­ous one has been the use of foam blocks ren­dered to look like bricks.

In­stead of in­dus­try bod­ies and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments ar­gu­ing over re­spon­si­bil­ity and caus­ing paral­y­sis by anal­y­sis, this Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has to act quickly. Build­ing costs might rise, but what price lives and safety?

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