The following comments are attributable to Sustainable Australia MP Clifford Hayes.
The Victorian Government and the property industry need to clean up the mess created by previous rounds of deregulation and “red tape cutting” before they embark on a new round of deregulation.
Their priorities are hopelessly wrong. They seem unconcerned by the trail of havoc and destruction caused by previous “red tape cutting” in the property and construction industry.
Right now, the Victorian Building Authority is pursuing thousands of home owners in meetings across Melbourne, expecting them to pay tens of thousands of dollars to rectify dangerous buildings which are the fault of a negligent industry and red tape cutting governments.
Right now, thousands of home owners do not know whether their homes are safe, or at risk from fire due to dangerous cladding, and the Victorian Government refuses to make this information public.
Right now, Builders Warranty Insurance is barely worth the paper it is written on, with only a handful of homeowners able to access it.
The Victorian Government has had years to fix the cladding crisis, but has been moving at glacial pace. Rather than acting as a mouthpiece for developers and the construction industry and telling us that the industry is concerned about red tape, it should act as the mouthpiece for those homeowners and consumers who have been treated appallingly, and tell the industry to lift its game and fix homes which have non-compliant cladding.
The failure of measures to cut red tape in this industry is notorious. In 1994 the Kennett Liberal Government authorised the use of private building surveyors to do the work previously done by Council building inspectors. This has been a disaster, leading to massive conflict of interest, and unsafe buildings being built and approved.
In 2002 the Bracks Labor Government exempted builders constructing high rise buildings from the Builders Warranty Insurance scheme. So if you’re living in a defective high rise apartment and your builder goes broke, good luck!
In 2016 the Andrews Labor Government deprived the Victorian Building Authority of the power to order rectification works by builders once apartment owners take possession of a building.
Rather than looking for even more ways to deregulate the construction industry, the Government should be looking to fix up the terrible state of consumer protection in the building industry in general, and the cladding debacle in particular.
Builders who have constructed high rise buildings in non-compliant cladding should be ordered to remove and replace the cladding at their own cost. Furthermore, the Victorian Building Authority should be empowered to compel builders and developers to act on defective building works.
These are the real problems that need to be fixed, not the fantasy problems of an industry and a government which is way too close to it.