Assistant Industry Minister Craig Laundy claims that the Turnbull Government is working with the states and territories to protect public safety by stamping out non-compliance with National Construction Code.
Evidence presented to hearings of the Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products in the past two weeks overwhelmingly reveals the opposite.
The National Construction Code is simply not enforced. It is clear from the evidence that thousands of buildings across Australia are unsafe and have been for some time.
This is largely because of the widespread misuse of flammable aluminium cladding with a polyethylene core and other dangerous, non-compliant building materials.
The Senate committee has heard that there are too many instances where sprinkler systems just do not work.
There has been extensive certification fraud, product substitution and counterfeiting of products.
Materials that are not fit for purpose are being declared fit for purpose, often by people who are not qualified to undertake the work of certification.
This is nothing less than a fundamental failure of the regulatory regime: there are so many loopholes in building codes across the country that a squadron of bulldozers could be driven through them.
In the Senate inquiry’s hearing in Sydney yesterday, the Australian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council testified that in an audit of 71 Brisbane hotels taken in preparation for the G20 summit, 68 failed.
And in the hearing in Melbourne last week, the Deputy Chief Officer of the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, Mr Adam Dalrymple, said: “Our organisation and others have been actively advocating for some change since our experience of the Lacrosse fire in Melbourne, which happened on 25 November 2014.
“I want to emphasis our disappointment at the apparent lack of movement by regulators since that time … Lacrosse was for us a bit of a wake-up call.
“Since then I believe regulators have been rubbing sleep out of their eyes.”
The Federal Safety Commissioner, Mr Alan Edwards, told the Melbourne hearing that he has not been given the resources needed to ensure the use of safe and compliant materials.
The Commissioner said that safety audits are being conducted by occupational work, health and safety specialists, not building code or materials specialists.
“They are not equipped,’ he told the hearing. “I do not have the resources or the expertise … I have 25 people but as you can imagine there are thousands of building approvals”
This is what the Turnbull Government has allowed to happen on its watch, yet Minister Laundy blandly assures Australians that they have no need to worry.
The Government has behaved as though there is no problem – no Government senators bothered to attend the Senate inquiry’s hearings in Melbourne and Sydney.
This is despite Industry Minister Sinodinos declaring in the Senate that this issue is a priority for the Government.
The Liberals have sat on their hands since the Lacrosse Tower fire.
Minister Laundy must do more than issue media releases saying “Trust us”. Each day the Government fails to respond to the collapse of effective regulation, Australian lives are being put at risk.