Ken Morrison, Chief Executive, Property Council of Australia
Denita Wawn, Chief Executive, Master Builders Australia
Australia’s building ministers meet again in Canberra today - almost six months since their last meeting in Sydney where they agreed to the harmonised implementation of the Shergold Weir Building Confidence report recommendations to strengthen building regulation compliance and enforcement across the country.
The Building Ministers Forum meeting is normally preceded by a roundtable discussion with industry representatives. The omission of the industry roundtable from today’s agenda is a lost opportunity for ministers to report back and consult on these critical issues. We would like to see face-to-face industry roundtables reinstated for future meetings.
Our industry will be looking for clear direction from building ministers on three key issues today.
Firstly, building ministers must continue to prioritise the work of the implementation team within the Australian Building Codes Board which is developing the nationally consistent response to the Building Confidence recommendations. This is important work and is being tackled in a detailed and comprehensive manner but is likely to take most of next year to complete.
Secondly, ministers must agree to step up compliance and enforcement efforts in their jurisdiction while the national response on Building Confidence is finalised. Governments should be using the tools already available to them to ensure compliance with the building code. Public confidence in our industry demands effective action by the responsible regulators.
Thirdly, industry is calling for a consistent approach to rectification of existing buildings with combustible cladding. Ministers also need to settle on an efficient cladding rectification pathway for commercial buildings.
The situation around professional indemnity insurance for industry practitioners continues to be critical. In the absence of any national plan to deal with the cladding issue, building surveyors are only able to secure insurance with cladding-related exclusions. These are stopgap measures and insufficient to deliver affordability and certainty to the market.
A professional indemnity options paper, developed in consultation between NSW and Queensland, was to have been released for targeted consultation with insurers and industry and the outcomes reported back to the BMF by September 2019. We are not aware of any progress having been made on this critical matter.
Overwhelmingly, people in our industry are striving to do the right thing, and in many cases, going above and beyond the standard. However, their commitment to quality and excellence is undermined by the poor conduct of a few which in turn affects public confidence and the industry’s reputation.
Governments already have many of the tools they need at their disposal to address building quality concerns. The issue has always been the inconsistent and inadequate enforcement of regulations by the relevant state and territory agencies which have contributed to poor outcomes.
Building ministers have a clear imperative for action coming out of today’s ministerial meeting.
Matt Francis – Property Council of Australia 0467 777 220
Ben Carter – Master Builders Australia 0447 775 507