A building reform advocate has called for a royal commission into the national industry in the wake of combustible cladding on residential towers and cracked concrete in Sydney’s newly completed Opal Tower.
Advocate group Builders Collective of Australia has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging a broad-based royal commission following “appalling failures within Australia’s residential construction sector.”
The group’s director, builder Phil Dwyer, said alongside more recent disasters like cladding-fuelled fires on Melbourne’s Lacrosse and Neo200 apartment buildings, were issues with builders warranty insurance, privatisation of certifiers and surveyors and a lack of accountability in the industry.
“Conflicts of interest, poor oversight from regulating bodies, and seeming indifference from governments ensure that regulations, standards, and expectations are not being met,” said Mr Dwyer, whose group maintains a data base of 41,000 consumers and industry professionals.
Stephen Goddard, solicitor and the chairman of advocacy group Owners Corporation Network of Australia, said he backed a royal commission but acknowledged new home buyers had been the “victim” of multiple inquiries and “we still don’t have any consumer protections.”
Mr Goddard said deregulation and a lack of accountability from designers, engineers, architects and builders had resulted in a “loss of public confidence” in strata living and purchasing new apartments off the plan.
“If you know you have an 80 per cent chance of buying into a defective building, why would buy off the plan especially if neither the builder or developer owes you duty of care?,” he said.
Australia’s states have agreed to implement major recommendations in last year’s benchmark Building Confidence report by Western Sydney University chancellor Peter Shergold and lawyer Bronwyn Weir that followed the Opal Tower disaster.
The states were due to publish their implementation plans by the end of February.
Chief executive of Master Builders Australia Denita Wawn said the Shergold Weir report made solid recommendations.
“Building ministers committed to delivering an implementation plan for these recommendations and we should encourage them to get on with this as soon as possible, before calling for a royal commission,” she said.
Apartments that fail to comply with building codes and the use of aluminium composite panels – the material with a polyethylene-core that fuelled Melbourne’s apartment fires and the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze in London – have exposed a lack of consumer protection for buyers.
Mr Goddard said the NSW government’s decision to adopt the bulk of Shergold Weir recommendations would require designers, engineers, architects and builders to sign off that the structure conformed with the building code and provide consumers with a statutory duty of care, enabling owners corporations to sue if they don’t comply with plans.
“That to me is the giant leap forward that we have been waiting for for 20 years,” he said.
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