“In Australia, we have thousands of buildings and dwellings which are effectively wrapped in petrol” – Senator Nick Xenophon
The Australian Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products has handed down its interim report, in which it recommends a total ban on the importation, sale and use of combustible cladding. It’s estimated that 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.
Senator Kim Carr labelled the material a fundamental failure of public safety and called for it to be “treated like asbestos and banned at the border.” Senator Carr blamed decades of deregulation and privatisation and accused the construction industry of compromising safety in order to save money.
“It’s been more good luck than good management that no one has been burned to death. We banned asbestos because we’ve realised how dangerous it is. There is not a safe use of this product for high rise buildings, it is against the building code, and yet it is on tens of thousands of buildings.”
Senator Xenophon called for the states and territories to speed up the audits of buildings suspected of containing the cladding, and said the process was “taking far too long.”
The committee also handed down further recommendations aimed at the broader issue of improving competency and accountability in the building and construction industry. It wants harsher penalties for breaches of the construction code, and for builders, surveyors, architects and engineers to be held more accountable. The state and territory governments will also develop a national licensing scheme for builders, and the Federal Safety Commissioner will be given more funding.
The Customs Amendment (Safer Cladding) Bill 2017 would be introduced into Parliament next week, and the Federal Senate Economics References Committee is expected to hand down its final report in April of 2018.
The Economics Reference Committee’s interim report can be found here.