Despite calls from industry leaders and the federal opposition, the Turnbull government is refusing to ban the importation of flammable cladding, saying that “scaring people is not the answer.”
A Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products recommended a total ban on the importation, sale and use of polyethylene cladding in September. The ban is backed by The Property Council of Australia, along with fire authorities, unions, and property developers. However, the federal government called the idea of the ban “silly”, and insisted there were legitimate uses for the highly flammable material,
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Dave Noonan accused the government of “digging in its heels and refusing to act” on an issue they know is putting lives at risk.
“The Federal Government has known for at least two years that this potentially deadly product is in widespread use. Not only have they failed to act, they are actively fighting against a ban that will almost certainly save lives.”
It’s estimated up to 10,000 skyscrapers across Australia contain the highly flammable polyethylene cladding, and that just one square metre of the material would contain the equivalent of five litres of petrol. Last month, Senator Kim Carr said it was more “good luck than good management that no one has been burned to death.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten said if Mr. Turnbull would not act on the recommendations, Labor would implement a ban as a “matter of urgency” if it won the next election. “Each day the Turnbull Government fails to respond to the widespread misuse of these dangerous products, more Australian lives are being put at risk.”
But assistant industry minister Craig Laundy accused Labor of being ignorant of how the industry works, and said a ban was both impractical and impossible. He said it was already illegal for high-rise buildings to be covered in the material, and that it was up to the states and territories to start properly enforcing the construction code.
“This product is made by companies within Australia, so a ban at the border would do nothing about those companies. It’s also used completely legally under the national construction code in shop fronts and outdoor signage. You would be banning across the board something that can be used legally in certain environments.”
“The answer is that the law’s there. If it’s illegal, enforce the law.”
You can read more about the recommendations of the Senate inquiry here.