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Clamour grows for building industry royal commission

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A building industry reform group has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging a royal commission to restore public trust in Australia’s “broken’ construction sector.

The Builders Collective of Australia cites flammable cladding, Sydney’s Opal Tower “cracks” fiasco and the failure of builders’ warranty cover.

In a paper submitted to the Prime Minister, Builders Collective President Phil Dwyer says a letter will also be sent to Labor Party leader Bill Shorten, adding that support for the move has already been received from the community and building associations.

“There are more interesting stories coming out – this problem is just everywhere,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

Mr Dwyer says people are being “dudded by bad dwelling design, greedy developers who have facilitated the cutting of corners, or builders who work purely on a basis of expediency”.

“One only has to visit the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) building in Melbourne on any given day and look over the schedule for the day’s hearings,” he said.

“The tribunal is virtually under siege from disputes between developers and builders and ‘Mr and Mrs Average’.”

He says failings have been made worse by a lack of action from regulators, and calls for a “properly constituted judicial inquiry, ideally a royal commission with nationwide coverage”.

“Conflicts of interest, poor oversight from regulating bodies and seeming indifference from governments ensure that regulations, standards and expectations are not being met,” he said.

Mr Dwyer says the paper sent to Mr Morrison highlights the following key points:

  • The decline in strict compliance with standards, which began with the deregulation and privatisation of inspection regimes from the mid 1990s
  • Privatisation of building certifiers and surveyors
  • The “virtual collapse” of builders’ warranty insurance in 2001
  • A shift towards higher-density living in the past 15 years.

Mr Dwyer welcomes a recent VCAT ruling on the Lacrosse apartments cladding fire, but wants to see further action.

Apartment owners launched legal action against builder LU Simon, which was ordered to pay them $5.75 million. The vast majority of that would be paid to LU Simon by the project’s architect, fire engineer and building surveyor, who breached contractual obligations.

“[The ruling] is the outcome that we have been fighting for years – to make our practitioners accountable for their inappropriate actions by our regulator,” Mr Dwyer said.

“The judgement is a breath of fresh air and vindicates our long-held position. But this moment must be taken as a chance to move this industry forward.

“Australia needs an urgent royal commission into the national building industry before people start losing lives.”