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Ministers back combustible cladding ban

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Building ministers at federal and state levels have agreed in principle to ban “unsafe” combustible cladding materials in new construction projects.

The proposed ban will be subject to a cost-benefit analysis to assess its impact on supply chains and the building industry, any unintended consequences and the suggested timeline for implementation.

The in-principle ban falls short of what the Victorian Government wants, which includes border control to stop substandard cladding entering the country.

Federal, state and territory building ministers reached consensus late on Friday at the Building Ministers’ Forum in Hobart.

“The building ministers… and, of course, with the Commonwealth Government, have reached a significant milestone in protecting Australians into the future,” Federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said.

“Each state and territory can proceed immediately to implement bans in full, but I would encourage them to bring industry with them – to talk to industry about what the implications are for existing building and also for new constructions.”

The ministers also agreed on the need to enforce the National Construction Code, which bars the use of combustible cladding on buildings three storeys or higher.

“There was a very strong view that, especially with existing buildings, the issue is compliance,” Ms Andrews said.

“It is an issue of enforcement of some fairly strong regulations that already exist in Australia.

“So, where any of that cladding has been installed, it is potentially in breach of the National Construction Code.”

Victoria flagged the proposal days after a fire at a Melbourne apartment building – the second in the city in the past few years that has involved combustible cladding.

Fire Protection Association Australia CEO Scott Williams agrees enforcement of building codes requires greater focus.

“In the building and construction industry, we just don’t seem to have the controls to really ultimately hold the industry to account to achieve the outcomes we need,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“It’s a discipline issue, it’s a people issue, it’s a surveillance and auditing issue and an enforcement issue – let’s fix that.”