Building ministers must move faster on improving compliance

Public safety and the Australian building industry’s global reputation for quality will be jeopardised if better measures for compliance with the National Construction Code are not adopted promptly by all states and territories.

On Friday 10 August, federal, state and territory ministers met for the Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) to discuss their collective response to the recommendations made in the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report.

The Australian Institute of Architect’s Acting National President, Richard Kirk welcomed the BMF’s commitment to engage closely with industry on the critical issues of public safety and confidence in Australia’s construction industry, however, Mr Kirk said that the BMF’s response to the report was disappointing.

‘Ministers have had more than six months to consider the Building Confidence report, which was produced after careful study and provides excellent, considered advice on the future direction building regulation in this country should take,’ Mr Kirk said.

‘There is real urgency surrounding the need for action by governments to address the failings identified in the Shergold-Weir report, driven by very real concerns around public safety as well as economic imperatives.

‘That Ministers haven’t supported and adopted all the report’s recommendations is hard to understand given the significance of the issues it has identified.

‘We back every single one, and it is disappointing to see that the most the BMF could agree on was the production of an implementation plan that focuses on only 6 out of the 24 recommendations.

‘Industry needs certainty to keep operating and doesn’t want risk issues being poorly managed.

‘Best practice regulation and compliance with the National Construction Code is critical or the whole industry’s reputation, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports, will be jeopardised.

‘Globally, “brand Australia” is seen as having an impeccable reputation for producing safe, quality buildings. Why would we risk that?

‘As it stands, there are unregulated people making decisions they are unqualified to make. This is a huge public safety issue and also leaves business, body corporates and government open to liability.’

Mr Kirk said it would come as a surprise to many Australians just how limited the independent inspection regimes have become on building sites.

‘Public confidence in government and industry to deliver a safe built environment is being eroded by a least cost approach.’

Mr Kirk said the need to make changes to compliance and enforcement measures in state and territory legislation and regulatory frameworks was now at a critical juncture and required prompt action.

‘At the end of the day, the people this uncertainty impacts the most is consumers,’ he said.

‘The insurance industry has already moved ahead of government and the building and construction industry is seeing the impacts of this continued uncertainty through rising insurance premiums and risk around coverage.

‘Look out the window at the number of cranes dotting the skyline in many major cities and the amount of construction underway – this is a public safety issue and the time to implement change is now.

‘Our buildings have lifespans of up to a century or more. We simply cannot afford to have continued inaction and delay embed problems that risk people’s safety and incur long-term costs.’