The Australian Institute of Architects has thrown its support behind new laws proposed by the Victorian Government aimed at improving safety, accountability and preventing ‘phoenixing’ in the building and construction industry.
Phoenixing is where a new company is created to continue the business of a company that has been deliberately liquidated to avoid paying its debts and other financial obligations.
National President, Professor Helen Lochhead said the Australian Institute of Architects had been at the forefront of calls for reform that puts building safety back as the top priority ahead of time and cost in construction.
‘Architects are regulated to adhere to the highest standards of accountability of any building practitioner and we welcome moves to see this enhanced and extended across the industry with these proposed new laws from the Victorian Government,’ Professor Lochhead said.
‘For years now the Institute has leading calls for all governments to take action and urgently improve how the building construction in this country is regulated.
‘We believe that more and better regulation that puts safety first and foremost is critical to restoring public confidence in the construction industry. This is the only way consumers will be properly protected.
‘There must be increased accountability and that’s why we want to see a nationwide requirement for the registration of all building practitioners, in the same way architects are.’
Under current laws, Architects in Victoria are independently regulated under the Architects Act 1991 and by the Architects Registration Board of Victoria.
‘Phoenixing is not used in our profession but we are pleased to see action being taken in other parts of the construction sector where it is more prevalent,’ Professor Lochhead said.
‘Through our Code of Conduct, architects commit themselves to serving the best interests of the broader community, not just their clients interests.
‘Architects also stake their livelihoods on their reputations and are required to maintain registration, undertake continuing professional development as well as hold comprehensive insurances.
‘Nationwide, architects are governed by strict laws and penalties for failing to uphold these requirements and responsibilities and while rare, the mechanism exists to deregister an architect for professional misconduct.
‘We are pleased to see amendments currently before the Australian parliament aimed at better combatting phoenixing activity. We hope that strong action is now finally taken to stamp out this practice that has been allowed to go on for far too long.’
Victorian Chapter President Amy Muir said measures to enhance the powers of both the Victorian Building Authority and Architects Registration Board of Victoria were welcome.
‘A key plank of our advocacy agenda ahead of the last Victorian state election was regulatory reform in Victoria to improve design standards and bolster the resources and regulatory recourse available to the ARBV in the best interests of both our members and their clients,’ Ms Muir said.
‘We are very supportive of the critical role the ARBV plays enforcing the rules which both govern and protect the integrity of the profession and the interests of consumers.
‘We see this as a mutual win for the consumer and the architectural profession, and commend the Andrews Government for taking action.
‘Governments at all levels must also be accountable for the design standards and planning processes they have either put in place or failed to reform, despite expert advice, research and advocacy by a range of industry participants, including the Institute.
‘We want to work collaboratively with government to address these shortfalls for the benefit of the building and construction sector as a whole.’
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