Australia’s construction sector is broken, and requires a royal commission to restore public trust, an industry body claims.
Builders Collective President Phil Dwyer cites flammable cladding, Sydney’s Opal Tower “cracks” fiasco, and the failure of builders’ warranty cover in a paper submitted directly to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
He says hard-working citizens 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/builders and ‘Mr and Mrs Average’.”
Mr Dwyer says failings have been made worse by a lack of action by regulators and calls for a “properly constituted judicial enquiry, 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 in modern-day Australia,” he said.
Mr Dwyer says the paper sent to Mr Morrison highlights the following key points:
- The decline in strict compliance to standards, which began with the deregulation/privatisation of inspection regimes from the mid 1990s
- Privatisation of building certifiers/surveyors
- The “virtual collapse” of builder’s warranty insurance in 2001
- A major shift towards higher density living in the last 15 years.
Mr Dwyer welcomes last week’s VCAT ruling on the Lacrosse apartments flammable cladding blaze, 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 sum would be paid to LU Simon by the project’s architect, fire engineer and building surveyor, who were in breach of 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 judgment 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.”